Road Trip: Veneta

December 23, 2016 (Updated December 23, 2016)

Just 15 miles west of Eugene, Veneta is located at the intersection of Highway 126, a direct path to the scenic Oregon Coast, and the Territorial Highway, one of the oldest roads in Oregon and the gateway to Willamette Valley Wine Country. As such, Veneta is a fitting locale in which to explore both the outdoor beauty and the culinary scene that make Oregon famous.

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Named for the daughter of the town’s founder, Veneta vaulted to broader consciousness as the home of the Oregon Country Fair, a counter-culture celebration founded in 1969 and held every second weekend of July. Thousands of visitors leave the “real world” for the three-day spectacle of musicians, magicians, jesters and jugglers, while exploring hundreds of food and craft vendors, 12 scattered performance stages and a outlandishly costumed crowd. On the other 362 days of the year, Veneta earns destination status as the hub of several great road-cycling routes and five wineries. A stone’s throw from the banks of Fern Ridge Reservoir, it routinely hosts overflow boaters, anglers and swimmers hungry for a juicy burger or a pint of organic beer. Build your own Veneta itinerary from the following menu.

Flex Time: Bicyclists are drawn to Veneta for the biking. The Poodle Creek Metric Century rolls through 62 miles of beautiful terrain to the west, then south and east toward Eugene. The network of back roads routinely attracts groups of cyclists from the Greater Eugene Area Riders (GEARs). Check out the ride calendar to find a group to join. Prefer water? With 9,000 acres of surface, Fern Ridge Reservoir is the largest reservoir in the southern Willamette Valley and provides plenty of room for water skiing, kayaking, stand-up paddle boarding and — when the wind blows — kiteboarding and windsurfing. Its numerous coves lure anglers eager to hook crappie, catfish, bass and the occasional trout.

Wine and Beer: Like points on a compass, wineries surround Veneta. To the west of town sits the recently rebranded Valhalla Winery. Owner Lorrie Normann says she and husband Eric picked the new name to celebrate his family’s Norwegian roots. “Valhalla is the grand hall to celebrate life with food and wine,” she says. “That’s what we want to be.” They bottle pinot gris, pinot noir, riesling and syrah, plus a couple of sparklers. Continuing around the wine dial, sippers can find LaVelle Vineyards to the north and a cluster of “S” wineries — Sarver Winery, Silvan Ridge Winery and Sweet Cheeks Winery — to the south. Closer in to Veneta, locals rave about the beers produced by Charlie Whedbee and Norm Vidoni at hyper-local Plough Monday Organic Hops Farm and Brewing. The brewery grew out of the partners’ desire to grow and sell organic hops. Word on the street is that a tasting room is in the offing. Meanwhile, to taste their brews, try local restaurants.

Meal Time: Speaking of Plough Monday, it’s on the tap line at Our Daily Bread. You could spend the whole day eating — and recuperating — there. Start with oat bran or marionberry pancakes, nail the noon hour with the Double Decker Cajun BBQ Bacon Burger and relax into a selection of seafood entrees for dinner. Not far away, the relatively new Broadway Grill is earning raves of its own. Monster burgers, other sandwich classics and grilled steaks keep ’em coming back.

Extend Your Stay:  Book a room at Lulu’s Villa Bed and Breakfast, set in 2-acres of tranquil grounds and gardens, or the Catbird Seat Bed and Breakfast, located on the scenic shores of Fern Ridge Reservoir.

About The
Author

Stuart Watson
A freelance writer based in Hood River, Stu Watson spent nearly 30 years writing and editing for newspapers and magazines in Medford, Anchorage and Portland. After moving to Hood River in 2000, he and his wife also owned and operated two restaurants. He loves to windsurf.

Featured in this story

Valhalla Winery
LaVelle Vineyards
Sarver Winery
Silvan Ridge Winery
Sweet Cheeks Winery
Our Daily Bread Restaurant