By Erin Weaver
When asked about his drink of choice, Sir Patrick Stewart cited a Pinot Noir from the Willamette Valley — and if you’re going to trust anyone when it comes to drink recommendations, it might as well be Captain Picard. In order to take advantage of all the great vineyards that this valley of ours has to offer, we’ve assembled three tours with wineries in some semblance of order — be that to do with location or specialities — so you can go forth and get liquored up in style.
Junction City Circuit
The Brigadoon Vineyards are perched high on a hillside that is bordered by towering trees and an unnamed creek, and the owners assert that the “cooler temperatures” produced by these conditions result in the grapes staying longer on their respective vines — thereby creating wines with complex flavor profiles that highlight the fruity, developed flavors of the grapes that make them. The tasting room is generally open between April and December, and even when closed, the sight of the sprawling lines of vines down the hillside seemingly cascading toward the water is worth the trip.
25166 Ferguson Rd, Junction City, OR 97448
Known for its Pinot Noir, the High Pass Winery is owned and operated by just a few people, meaning that every step of the winemaking process is carefully overseen by some of the best in the business. Their wines often have undertones of raspberry or cherry, and each are made from grapes grown with sustainable, eco-friendly practices. The tasting room is open from April until December, and a wine membership is available for sommeliers and other Pinot-enthusiasts.
24757 Lavell Rd, Junction City, OR 97448
Located on the sprawling foothills with gorgeous views of the Cascades, the Walnut Ridge Vineyard devotes most of its acreage to Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris grapes and sells much of its harvests to wineries across the state. The primary goal of Walnut Ridge is to grow grapes in the most environmentally-conscious way possible, and the winery has even been certified sustainable since 2005. Perched at the top of the vineyard, the quaint tasting room offers panoramic views of much of the estate, and is open Saturdays and Sundays throughout the spring.
94739 Turnbow Ln, Junction City, OR 97448
Sweet Cheeks Winery and vineyards sprawls across gently rolling hillsides just outside of Eugene, their expansive tasting room settling atop the slope. The estate creates complex Riesling, Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay varieties, but the winery has partnered with vineyards across Oregon to produce wines that would not otherwise be possible with grapes solely in the Willamette Valley. Open every day, the tasting room invites guests to settle down at one of the many tables scattered around the patio with their favorite wine and one of Sweet Cheeks’ famous cheese plates.
27007 Briggs Hill Rd, Eugene, OR 97405
Nestled among copses of oak trees and fields of idyllic sheep, the King Estate covers over 1,000 acres, making it one of the largest vineyards on this tour — if not in the Willamette Valley itself. The winery is famous for its Pinot Gris but also offers developed Pinot Noir, Riesling, Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon wines, along with a brimming “wine library” that offers past signature wines. If that wasn’t enough, the estate also features an entire acre devoted to lavender, makes its own honey and grows apples and pears in its dedicated orchards.
80854 Territorial Hwy, Eugene, OR 97405
The Iris vineyards are just about 20 minutes outside of Eugene and is known for its flavorful Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir, and Chardonnay. The owners postulate that the Willamette foothills’ climate gives grapes as much time as possible to mature on the vine, thereby creating full-bodied, complex wines, and they utilize what they deem an “Oregon Attitude” in wine making in order to stay as true to the grapes that the alcohol is made from. The tasting room is open Thursday through Sunday.
82110 Territorial Hwy, Eugene, OR 97405
The Foothills Circle
Founded in 1999, the Noble Estate vineyards feature one of the largest selections of wine in the tour, ranging from famed Pinot Noirs to the rarer Muscats or Malbecs. The estate favors precise thinning and pruning over a larger, less careful harvest in order to ensure the highest quality wine possible, with workers apparently going so far as ensuring that leaves on a vine are upturned to take in the sun in order to achieve ultimate flavor in their grapes. The tasting room is open from 12 to 5 daily, and is situated in a perfect picnic locale that overlooks the expansive vineyard.
29210 Gimpl Hill Rd, Eugene, OR 97402
Abbelone focuses solely on the production of its Pinot Noir, and this concentration on just wine results in high quality, complex varieties of Syrah, Gris, and Rosé. A family-owned establishment, Abbelone harvests a small crop of grapes each year — and with such a small yield, each vine can be carefully nurtured and trimmed in order to produce the highest quality grapes possible. The tasting room is open during the last weekends of each month and every weekend in the coming summer.
85505 Christensen Rd, Eugene, OR 97405
Sarver is another small, family-owned vineyard, and is reportedly the site of some of the first Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris grapes of the Willamette Valley. Currently, the vineyard has acres devoted to White Riesling, Pinot Noir, Early Muscat, Pinot Gris and Gewürztraminer grapes. Their tasting room is open Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays until Memorial Day, and features knowledgable staff that can help you pair the perfect cheese with whatever you’re sipping; the venue also often showcases live music and the schedule for which can be found on the winery’s website.
25600 Mayola Ln, Eugene, OR 97402