Swirl a glass of lucious red at Sarver Winery, then stick around for the tasty food pairings. (Photo credit: Eugene, Cascades & Coast)
Sarver Winery sign by Thomas Moser
Though considered a small and intimate vineyard, Sarver Winery has big, bold wines. (Photo credit: Eugene, Cascades & Coast)
Iris Vineyards is a hidden gem with a gorgeous tasting room overlooking the entire valley. (Photo credit: Pamela Frye)
Here at Iris Vineyards, you'll get a good sense of the style of pinot noir grown in the middle of Oregon. (Photo credit: Pamela Frye)

Eugene wine tasting is a little bit of country, a little bit of city and a whole lot of fun.

Located two hours south of Portland in the verdant Willamette Valley, Eugene is Oregon’s second largest city, known for its eclectic mix of arts, recreation and culinary pursuits. Just as this vibrant city has a variety of activities, there’s plenty of choices when it comes to wine tasting in Eugene. Take your pick from urban wineries near the city center to off-the-beaten-path vineyards hidden in the hills outside of town; grand chateaus to small, intimate houses; darker, heavier reds to light, fruity whites; and classic varietals to unique takes on pinot noir.

Around the city

Whenever I’m looking for new selections for the Cellar 503 wine club, I start with Eugene’s active urban winery scene.  The Eugene Urban Wine Circuit has six wineries in Eugene’s urban core: Eugene Wine Cellars, J. Scott Cellars, Territorial Vineyards, Capitello Wines, Oregon Wine Lab and Noble Estate Winery. The Oregon Wine LAB features wines by multiple small producers and is a production facility for William Rose Wines; they have weekly events and food carts parked right outside. Another favorite is J. Scott Cellars, whose astonishing range of excellent wines and fun weekend music make it a great place to visit with friends. Check out the upcoming events on the Eugene Urban Wine Circuit. For extra incentive, play Eugene Pinot Bingo.

At the vineyard

Looking to sip outside of the city? Begin your country tasting trip at Iris Vineyards. This hidden gem will astonish you with stunning views once you trek over the river and through the woods to their gorgeous tasting room overlooking the entire valley. Here you’ll get a good sense of the style of pinot noir grown in the middle of the state, but don’t overlook their hearty reds — and keep an eye out for a new sparkling wine coming soon.

Move on to the smaller and more intimate Sarver Winery with an equally breathtaking view of the valley from their expansive deck.  It’s worth sticking around to enjoy their nice list of food items to be paired with their wines including an unusual Arneis and luscious red blend, Melange.

And if you’re looking for something really fun and out of the ordinary, check out Chateau Lorane. This expansive resort area was once home to a corporate retreat center and is now the scene for many summer weddings. Their extensive tasting list shows off the winemakers talent for seeking out highly unusual grapes.

The Eugene area is a wonderful place to explore the breadth and depth of Oregon wines and to experience the best of both urban and rural wineries.

Where to stay

There are a host of mid-range hotels in Eugene catering to students visiting the University of Oregon and their families.  But in the last five years there has been an uptick in visitors who are looking for a higher end experience and the Inn at the 5th is just the place. Centrally located, this upscale boutique hotel has a variety of accommodations and is surrounded by the Fifth Street Public Market where guests can shop, dine,and relax.

Where to eat

Eugene definitely has a burgeoning foodie scene and whether you’re looking for good brew pubs and pizza or innovative upscale dining, there is something for everyone.  Check out Belly Restaurant which serves a creative, amazing but affordable combination of American and European farmhouse cuisine with a Southern soul twist.  If you’re staying at the Inn at the 5th, look no further than Marché Restaurant, a Parisian style café right in the Fifth Street Market. And if it’s seafood you’re craving, a short drive across town will take you to Fisherman’s Market, where you can get local fish right off the boat grilled, fried or cooked however you like it.

about author Carrie Wynkoop

Carrie Wynkoop is the founder of Cellar 503, a wine club featuring unique, high quality, affordable wines that represent the full range of great Oregon wine. Cellar 503 is for anyone who loves Oregon wine and wants to explore.

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