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Mar 16, 2011 09:51 AM

Oregon Wineries not to be missed

Hi everyone,

My family is need of a serious vacation this summer, so we'll be driving up to Oregon to do some camping and visiting. Our friends live in Oakridge, southeast of Eugene, the campsite is northeast of Salem and I'm hoping to make it all the way to Portland.

This is what I'm looking for:

Small to medium local producers that I might not see if the SF Bay Area
Free or low-cost tasting rooms with friendly, knowledgeable, no pressure staff
Reasonably priced offerings: Under $30 (Mama's gotta pay for gas)
Unusual geeky varieties (especially whites) that are delicious
And a good, balanced Pinot might be nice ; )

I also don't want to drive more than 30 minutes from my base camps as this is a major road trip and the 8 year old is already not going to be physicked about being stuck in the rolling box for long periods.

As always, I greatly appreciate any and all information.

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  1. Maybe a good stop when you travel from Eugene to Salem:

    Airlie Winery
    15305 Dunn Forest Road
    Monmouth, OR

    Nice folks, couple of friendly dogs your 8 yo would probably love, and overlooking a lake with a dock. Great spot to kick back and relax for a bit, some unusual varietals as well.

    1. St. Innocent is near Salem and has excellent whites and pinot noir.
      How far north are you going? It's more target rich around Carlton and Dundee.

      10 Replies
      1. re: SteveTimko

        We might make it as far as Portland/Beaverton depending on how bad I want to visit Powell's Books and if my friends are in town. Anything within target that's not terribly far? Things look promising on the map, especially if try to make it out to Tillamook country.
        Ah, so much to see, so little time. ; )

          1. re: PolarBear

            Haven't been to visit Owen Roe, but their wines are great. (They're sold in the Bay Area at Blackwell's on Geary.)

            1. re: Windy

              Sadly I missed them also on our trip last year due to the person scheduling things being gone for a week, but did manage to find a wine store to stockpile some bottles near a lunch stop in Portland.

              1. re: PolarBear

                What's good besides the 2008 Sharecropper's blend?

                1. re: Windy

                  I've really enjoyed the 2008 Sinister Hand, 62% Grenache, 35% Syrah, 3% Mourvedre, haven't yet tried the 2009 blend which is 70% Grenache, 25% Syrah, 3% Mourvedre, 2% Counoise.

                  Also like the 2008 Abbots Table, 14.1% abv, 24% Zinfandel, 22% Sangiovese, 15% Cab Sauv, 12% Syrah, 10% Merlot, 7% Cab Franc, 6% Blaufrankisch, 4% Malbec

                  Again haven't yet tried the 2009 which is 25% Zinfandel, 20% Sangiovese, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Syrah, Grenache 13%, 7% Blaufrankish, 2% Cabernet Franc, 2% Malbec, 1% Merlot

                  1. re: PolarBear

                    Thanks PB. Will see what I can do to locate these. Blackwells had the Sinister Hand (I think). You can't accuse Owen Roe of going with the flow.

                    1. re: PolarBear

                      Blaufrankish grown on the West Coast?!? OK, now I'm intrigued.
                      Might have to put the Abbots Table on my Shopping List : )
                      Thanks again for all the suggestions!

                      1. re: BigWoodenSpoon

                        I'm just looking at some of the profiles for Owen Roe on KLWines, and they seem to be growing a lot of grapes in WA too.

                        I meant to add a nod for the Rogue wineries near Jacksonville. I'm looking forward to another trip to Wooldridge Creek. They only sell direct and to their (full) wine club. Very talented and ambitious winemaker. And the wineries in that area cater to families more than most in Northern California. Probably forty minutes' detour from 5. There are closer wineries near Ashland and Medford, but this was my favorite. Or just stop in at Liquid Assets for glasses, and figure out what you like.


                        Don't forget to pick up Oregon berry jam since you're driving. Pennington Farms is my favorite.

                        Liquid Assets Wine Bar
                        96 N Main St, Ashland, OR 97520

                        1. re: BigWoodenSpoon

                          I have a bottle of Wild Horse from the Paso Robles area I've yet to try. Also just discovered that Ritchie Creek Vineyards in Napa produce a small amount.

                          In WA you can find it at Shooting Star Winery.

          2. Have never been, but just had an amazing Pinot Noir from Bethel Heights, Willamette Valley winery, apparently 1 hour south of Portland.
            The wine I had (at a tasting) was 2008 West Block, Eola Amity Hills and retails between $40 and $50 a bottle, if you can find it. The wine surprised the tasting instructor who mostly thinks Oregon pinots suck in comparison to California pinots, which suck in comparison to Burgundy pinots. The Bethel Heights pinot might not have been quite as good as the $150 burgundy we had at the same tasting, but then it was three times less expensive and was still an excellent wine, and one I would be happy to drink with dinner any night.

            This winery also does Chardonnay, Pinot gris and Pinot blanc, none of which I have tried. I did see on their website, however, that a few years ago the Wall Street Journal rated one of the winery's Pinot Gris the best of a tasting and said it showed what great things can be done with the pinot gris grape.

            1. Brick House makes some aMAZing biodynamic Pinot Noirs. I was SO impressed when I visited there last April.

              Loved the Viognier at Penner-Ash, too. And we're long-time fans of Eyrie wines.

              Ditto Chehalem, Adelsheim and Domaine Drouhin.

              Oregon wine folks in general are very friendly and welcoming. If you have special wines you like, look them up and go visit there.

              1 Reply
              1. re: ChefJune

                Thanks for all the feedback.
                My husband wants to visit his sister in WA as well, so I'll need to maximize my tasting time.
                Airlie, St. Innocent and Adelsheim peak my interest and stay within my budget and I might hit Bethel Heights if I can.
                Unfortunately, Penner-Ash's Viognier is sold out, Chehalem was a little pricy and Domaine Drouhin will have to wait for another day.

              2. It sounds like you have a very full schedule already, but if you are driving up I-5 from California there are two sourthern Oregon regions that have many small, little known wineries. Many of them are easily accessible from the freeway and won't take you too far off your route.

                The Umpqua Valley is the region around the town of Roseburg:


                And the Rogue River Valley is just north of the California-Oregon border, around the towns of Ashland and Medford: