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Oregon wine/food/beer road trip

Hi everyone - long time reader, first time poster here. I'm looking for any input on restaurants, wineries, microbreweries, scenic little towns, hotels, etc. that I should experience on a road trip from Northern California all the way up through Oregon wine country. I am from Cleveland so I really have no knowledge of this area besides what I've researched.

The vacation starts in Northern Sonoma Co. where my family and I will spend six full days experiencing the wonderful food and wine of Sonoma and Napa, and hopefully make it down to the Central Coast. I'm pretty familiar with this area because I spent a week there 2 years ago, but any input would be appreciated.

From there, my girlfriend and I are going on a road trip through Northern Cali and up through Oregon wine country. The plan is to leave from San Francisco (where we're picking up the rental car) and hit some of the Mendocino Co. wineries, then stay in Eureka or Trinidad that first night. We will hopefully have time to visit the redwoods and other cool coastal towns. The second day, we will go to the Rogue River Valley area in Oregon and visit some wineries and hang out in that area for the day. We will then drive from the Rogue River area all the way up through Oregon and out to the coast, ending up in Astoria. I have reserved a room at the Cannery Pier Hotel which looks pretty amazing. The final two nights will be in the Northern Willamette Valley at a bed and breakfast so we can focus on the wineries, food, etc. in that area. I'm hoping to make it to Portland as well and have a nice dinner downtown one of those two nights.

I have the following questions:

1) Again, suggestions on restaurants (seafood especially), wineries, microbreweries, and any other attractions we should make an effort to see.

2) Am I trying to jam too much into this road trip? We are leaving San Francisco on Friday morning and flying out of Portland the following Wed. at noon. I'm just worried I'm trying to do too much.

3) If I am planning too much, what part of the trip should I eliminate? Should I skip spending time in Eureka/Trinidad/redwoods area and go straight up to Oregon? Should I skip the Rogue River Valley and drive all the way up the coast to Astoria? Should I keep the current itinerary and leave Sonoma a day earlier?

I really appreciate any input. It's not too often a teacher from Cleveland gets to experience the Pacific NW and I want to make sure I so as much as I can.

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  1. That does sound a little exhausting. San Fran to Trinidad is going to be around a 5 hour drive and if you continue up the coast on 101, look at another 8+ hours to get to Astoria. 101 is a beautiful scenic drive that you're not going to want to speed through. I would skip the redwoods for another time and hit Interstate 5 for awhile to cut some time off. Maybe cut over near Roseburg and stay your first night in Bandon. It's a very cute coastal town with a world-famous golf course. There should be a good restaurant or two there- my husband and I ate at a great place several years ago that I can't remember the name of. If you can leave Sonoma a day earlier, I would do that but still skip the redwoods. If you only have to drive 4 or 5 hours total per day, at least you'd be able to stop where you want and get to your destination in daylight.

    Astoria is a cool town with a good microbrewery and several good places to eat. Rogue Brewery has a restaurant there in an old cannery on the water that's very cool - good lunch spot so that you can enjoy the view. There's also a new restaurant just behind the Cannery Pier Hotel called Bridgewater Bistro. It looks good but I haven't tried it yet- would be walking distance to your hotel.

    You don't say where you're staying in Willamette Valley. There are great restaurants in the Newberg/Dundee/McMinnville area - if you've only got 2 nights and are staying in that area anyway, I'd skip the drive into Portland and eat locally instead. You'd have more than enough choices... although Monday night several are closed. The Painted Lady, Nick's, La Rambla, Joel Palmer House, Tina's... all good choices that you can look up on the boards for more info.

    Have a great trip!

    3 Replies
    1. re: Sushiqueen36

      Thank you for the info...it helps a lot.

      We were actually going to go from Trinidad to Grant's Pass, OR and spend the day and that night in the Rogue River Valley area. The following day we were going to drive to Astoria for a night and then back to Willamette for the last two nights.

      Just to clarify....You think we should skip the California coast trip and shoot up I-5 to save time? Is the Rogue River area worth a day to stay and check out the wineries? How is the drive from Bandon up the coast to Astoria?

      We are staying at the Dundee Manor B & B in Dundee. It had great reviews on Trip Advisor.

      1. re: Sushiqueen36

        I'm exhausted just reading this!
        Sounds as if you are way shortchanging Portland itself.
        For dining ideas on Portland and Dundee/McMinnville area, scroll back a little and you will see a wealth of visitor ideas on this board.
        I would skip Rogue area wineries and just enjoy Yamhill county wine country and more of Portland.

        1. re: Sushiqueen36

          Check out the Blue Heron Cheese Factory in Tillamook OR (not the Tillamook Cheese Factory). They make their own smoked and peppered brie, and have wine tasting for a nominal fee. Its charming and easy to find.
          Also novel is the Flying Dutchman Winery by Devils Punchbowl. They are the only working winery on the coast and sits right next to Mo's Chowder (delcious and a charming story) and are in the same parking place as the punchbowl.

        2. I grew up in Central California, went to grad school in Eugene, Oregon, have relatives in Seatlle, and a retirement property east of the Cascades in Oregon. I don't know about the current restaurants and wineries, but based on having driven everywhere many times over several years, I would agree with SushiQ's advice in terms of redwoods later. Really plan on enjoying 101 heading out of the bay area up to about Fort Bragg and then from the California-Oregon border northwards. I would try to have some meals in Portland--the food scene there is fantastic!

          1. I agree with the others. You'd be shortchanging Oregon AND the Redwoods by trying to combine them. Here are some things I might do if I were you:

            1. Drive straight to Ashland the first night. Great town with some great food and beer. Leave the next morning and stop at the Abecela winery - maybe two or three hours north of Ashland. See if you can score a bottle of the Reserve Tempranillo, one of the greatest wines in the world I kid you not. May cost you $75 but worth it if you can afford it.

            2. Maybe stop in Eugene for lunch. Marche is a nice place. It's a nice college town.

            3. Since you seem interested in wine, spend the second night in Mcminnville. Not sure your tastes, but they have a lot of bed and breakfasts there. Personally, I'd stay at the Hotel Oregon, part of the large Mcmenamins brewery chain. I like their beers, but others like to criticize them. If you stay there, you're right by Golden Valley Brewpub. Haven't had their beers, but they make a very nice affordable pinot last I checked. They probably don't distribute to CA, so a bottle of that might make for a good purchase too.

            3. If you like wineries, some of my faves are Ken Wright, Panther Creek, Domaine Serene, Tori Mor, Sokol Blosser, Penner-Ash...

            4. Get to Portland. Search posts here are CH for Portland.

            1. I have to chime in and agree -- you've got a killer schedule. It would be a long, hard, cranky day driving from grant's pass to Astoria all in one go. Takes me 4-5 hours to get from Portland to Medford -- on I5, going 70+. You won't be getting above 55 much if even that high on 101. It's gorgeous and worth it but slower going especially if you get stuck behind an RV. (it's two lane without many passing lanes around all those bendy windy curves). You've also got to figure in slowing down through all the little coastal towns along the way.

              S OR is definitely the next region in Oregon and it's gorgeous country. If you love wine you have to stop at New Sammy's country bistro where there are some stunningly priced older bordeuxs and burgundies... good food too. Though they grow fabulous grapes I think most in the industry would agree there isn't particularly a standout winery down there that anchors the region yet. which isn't to say you couldn't find some great gems -- you maybe could, I haven't been out tasting there. But I'd say you're just as likely not to. S OR would be an adventure. We're pretty {boringly?} predictable up north. Of course, there's the Rogue Creamery down there, and Henry & David... and Ashland and Jacksonville are SO cute. if you make the time for it going up over to the coast through Jacksonville is a great idea.

              Up in Yamhill for food I second Nick's in McMinnville. Martha's taqueria in Lafayette splits honors with Panaderia Gonzalez in Newberg for most-likely-to-hit-a-winemaker-with-a-coin-toss. Red Hills in Dundee never seems to get mentioned with everyone babbling (rightly so) about Tina's and the Bistro but does a great job and had a wonderful list last time I was in. But I must strongly push for my city -- If you want standout Pac NW food you must come to Portland. Even come in just for dinner -- it's a 45 minute drive from Dundee. I'm sure there's a wealth of information on Chow about PDX but Higgins gets my vote for if-i-must-choose-one-pacNW-restaurant-to-visit.

              HAVE FUN!!

              1. Ok...revamped the schedule a bit, but still have a few questions.

                1) Should we stay in Rogue River Valley area on the first night or drive to the coast so we have an extra night in Portland? Are the wineries and restaurants in the RR Valley worth spending th night there?

                2) Where should we cut over to the coast off of I-5? What are some restaurants between Newport and Astoria that should not be missed?

                1 Reply
                1. re: pedro32

                  I, personally can't speak to whether it's worth staying in RRValley area or not- Abacela is great, though. There are a variety of places you can cut over to the coast, I would probably do the Eugene cut to Florence. I-5 just isn't that interesting of a drive and the coast is gorgeous.

                  Not to be missed between Newport and Astoria? There are some good stops but I don't know if any of them fall into the "not to be missed" category. I like the Bay House in Lincoln City- I think they're just dinner - Pelican Brewery in Pacific City is great beer and pub food. Not much that I can think of north of there though. Inn at Spanish Head in Lincoln City has a great view and pretty creative menu... again tho, it "can" be missed. South of Astoria, everything is pretty casual (not that that's bad...).

                  And on the Portland or Dundee/Mac debate: I agree that Portland has AMAZING restaurants. I'm just thinking that with all of the driving you'll be doing, wouldn't it be nice to not worry about drinking too much and finding your B&B again. Joel Palmer, Dundee Bistro and Tina's all do a great Pac NW menu - you don't have to go to Portland to get that. But if you feel that you do, I definitely second the Higgins rec.

                  Being from Cleveland, I don't know how often you get to see the ocean. I can't get enough of it, myself. I think you'll find yourselves wanting to pull over more often than you think- there are some breathtaking views about 20 miles north of Tillamook (where you will probably want to stop and get an ice cream at the cheese factory). I'd give yourselves as much time driving 101 as you can - it never gets old.

                2. You might just want to skip the coast altogether. Do Ashland/Rogue Valley on one day, then Yamhill Valley/Mcminnville the next, then spend the rest of your time in Portland. That's what I say...

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: AlbertaHound

                    You might have to choose a bit between wine-food and scenery. The coast from the border to Florance (the turn off to Eugene) is fantastic, not to be missed. The wineries are all more accessible via I-5 (although even going up I-5 is well worth the drive).

                  2. Hi ya pedro, Midwestern boy far from home here. Let me help you.
                    I'm assuming you are valuing food over sightseeing, though both are excellent.
                    First the Central coast is a long ways from Napa/Sonoma. Consider just hanging in the North Bay area. Take one of those days to explore the Sonoma Coast and the Redwoods and food around those parts. I'd cut down to 4or 5 days in N/S.
                    Skip the drive up the Long Ca. coast and hightail it up thru Calistoga, (take in a soak in the Hot Springs) and head over Hwy 20 to I-5. Head North and you'll soon be in the Mountains. Stop in Dunsmuir and check out Sengthong's store/bar/restaurant. Check out Mt. Shasta, then head North to Ashland for the night. Get into New Sammys if you can, or there are lots of other excellent places to gorge. We are the other food center of Oregon at the south end of the State. If you want scenic wonders, you're in the middle of them. Rafting, Crater Lake, oh yeah! Add a day here(I would, to hit rogue creamery, lillie belle chocolates, Dagoba, and the Bear Creek area wineries+ several small brewers) , Next, or after next morning, head up thru the Applegate past many emerging and tasty wineries. sort of like Napa in 1970. You'll come out on 199 and head for the coast, stop at Taylor's sausages in Cave Junction. You'll hit Jedadiah Smith State Park, which has better Redwoods than the Eureka to Crescent City strech anyway. Drive halfway up the coast thru Bandon to spend the night in Yachats. breathtaking. Next morning, head north and hit Newport and the Rogue Brewery, the aquairium,the Seafood Shack at the south end of the bridge, etc. Then just keep heading North. Otis Cafe is worth a stop., as is Pelican Brewery in Pacific City. The Oregon Coast is really a 3 day trip, but it is acceptable to do it in 2. 1 is a crime. Astoria is wonderful. Hit Josephson smokehouse's for canned Salmon, Lindstrom's Bakery for Scandinavian treats. Listen to the Portland folks from there. Sound good?
                    here are a few links, with more if you want them:

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: bbqboy

                      hey bbqboy-liked your view/attitude.
                      My Mom and I are doing the Portland thing in September. I am a huge slow food, drinking, innovation, unusual, farmy, really open food person and she is a child of the 50's. Though, to her credit, she smuggled weed from Mexico to SF during the 60's. Electric Purple Church is her aged reference, in SF. She lived next door. She does love good food and has a great palate that has to be convinced it should venture out.

                      I live in Major a food town, Oakland, she lives in Mentone. She is weight conscious where I don't care, she does like wine tasting & having a good time. She definitely has the spark of adventure in her. This is_our_weekend.

                      I was thinking I would take my time and drive up to Portland and pick her up from the airport. i am open to any suggestions about the drive. I would love recommendations for great Artisinal food and wine near Portland/wine country. I might stay longer on my own, so feel free to do wish lists based on what I have described.

                    2. You did mention beer and I want to restrict my comments to beer.

                      There are over 40 breweries in Oregon. Many of them won't even require a detour. From south to north (taking I-5 and going Eugene to Florence does make some sense so that is the beer trail we will follow for our purposes) here are some that you might encounter--with comments.

                      There are a couple microbrewers in Ashland. I have not been to any of these but I have had Caldera and it has been good.

                      Grants Pass--Wild River--skipable. Ditto Umqua in Roseberg.

                      In Eugene I have been favorably impressed with the upstart Ninkasi. Steelhead is respectable--you can pass on the others.

                      Newport is the home of Rogue. Rogue has some good marketing --almost a cult following--and a couple of good beers. Alas some of the beer is mediocre and most of it is overpriced.

                      I want to mention Lighthouse in Lincoln City because you may see it and wonder--don't. This is part of the McMenamins empire. McMenamins is a quintessential Oregon experience. I don't know why this is. The beer is mediocre at best and the food (save the fries) is worse. The food, however, is better than the service. If you walk into a brewpub and see the hippie art you know you are in one of these places--get out.

                      Continuing on your journey north--Pacific City is home to Pelican. Few brewpubs in Oregon have the location that Pelican does--right on the beach. Eliot Glacier Public House has a great view of Mt. Hood but that is for your next trip. Worth a stop if it is lunch time.

                      Bill's Tavern in Cannon Beach--you won't need to stop here after Pelican.

                      Haven't had any Astoria beer--sorry. Though come to think of it there might be a Rogue there now.

                      McMinnville is home to Golden Valley--they do a good job as well. I haven't had Trask.

                      Any hey if you can take wine home you can take beer home. I might suggest a Hair of the Dog --Adam or Fred. Deschutes is another favorite.

                      Happy Trails

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: portpig

                        Trask is now closed in McMinnville. Unless they're brewing somewhere other than where the restaurant was, I don't think you'll be trying Trask anytime soon.

                      2. It takes me about eleven hours to get from Portland to the Napa/Sonoma area. The plan I like best is to spend the night in Ashland and then make your way up to Portland. I understand that you might want an ocean view, but it's easier to get that as part of a side-trip either in Mendocino or in Portland, rather than re-routing your whole trip for it.

                        1. I would aim for a visit to Eyrie Vineyards in McMinnville, the winery that put Oregon pinot on the world map. Right next door is the small and intimate Heater Allen brewery. You won't make a better stop. Think small town road's end across the tracks, rather than estate. Fabulous!

                          1. On the wine front--Food and Wine mag Apr 08 had an article on some Willamette Vly. Pinot Noir. A good place to start and some good recs.

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: portpig

                              We were down in the Oregon Coast last fall. We stayed in Seaside and drove down to see various cities in the area. I found that most meals includes salads and clam chowders which is a bonus. Another thing I noticed was that the meals were huge so most days we didn't really have to have dinner so we just snacked on things at night.

                              My all time most memorable place is Pig'n Pancake. Now, I'm not a huge greasy spoon diner gal but their food was amazing. Mind you it's probably got a thousand calories per bit (basically a heart attack on a plate) but it was so delicious! http://www.pignpancake.com/

                              Norma's is known for her clam chowder (baconless), I personally find it way way better than Mo's. The crab cakes and fish'n chips were very tasty and fresh and the meal was quite inexpensive.

                              Mo's, I find them overrated. Their clam chowder quite tasteless and watered down. Although their ocean views are amazing so it compensates for their expensive pricing on not very good quality/tasty food.

                              Tillmook Cheese Factory, a cheesy tourist place but their ice creams are amazing! So creamy =) Cheap diner food there too.

                              1. re: gourmet wife

                                There are two micro breweries in Astoria and a Rogue Ale outlet. In addition to the Bridgewater Bistro, which is essentially at the Cannery Pier Hotel, there are a number of fine restaurants in downtown Astoria, one of which I own. I, of course, think we are the best choice. We make handcrafted Italian food and have halepd is some ways to set the standard for the area, which has risen significantly in the last five years.
                                Drina Daisy, a Bosnian restaurant, Silver Salmon, an upscale American grill, Urban Cafe,, a funky fun place with fresh food, Baked Alaska and Cannery Cafe, NW Cuisine places with stunning views on the river. Fort George brewery, cool place with decent food and great beer, as well as The Wet Dog Cafe, the oldest micro brewery in town with burgers and such. Pick one, you'll have a blast.

                            2. The sound you hear is all our hearts breaking over your rushed schedule. If you can get more time, the coast is so worth it. In case you can carve out time, here are Random items: ice cream at Ici, in Berkeley, The Big Artichoke, in Castroville, the Pigeon Point lighthouse at Pescadero (home of Duarte's for breakfast) http://www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=533, the Oregon Coast Aquarium, Shark's in Newport. By the way, I see the poster above is the proprietor of Fulio's, where my new wife and I very much enjoyed our evening (thank you again, Peter - eric and aspen/seattle).