Stephanie Pearl Kimmel has been inspired by the bounty of the Willamette Valley for more than 40 years. Considered by many to be the godmother of Northwest cuisine, Stephanie is a pioneer in the local, seasonal food movement, and has been an active restaurateur in the Willamette Valley since the 1970s. Her nationally-celebrated Eugene restaurant, Marché, turns 17 this year. Stephanie put together this two-day adventure to give you a taste of the fabulous food, wine and landscape that you’ll find up and down the valley.
Start your day
The Lane County Farmers Market is a hive of delicious activity every Saturday morning in the heart of Eugene. I like to pick up a pastry from Hideaway Bakery, maybe a pint of berries from Groundwork Organics and a cup of great coffee from the Noble Coffee shop on the corner.
Get out the camera
After you’ve had lunch at King Estate Winery overlooking the Lorane Valley south of Eugene, it’s impossible to keep your camera in your pocket. The winery, the gardens, the food and the view make fabulous photo ops. The winery has an active partnership with the Cascade Raptor Center, so keep an eye out for birds of prey swooping through the vineyards and nesting on perches along the drive.
Meet the maker
In the north end of the valley, drop in on talented winemaker Remy Drabkin of Remy Wines in McMinnville. She has a tasting room where you can chat with her about the unique varietals she grows: sangiovese, lagrein and barbera. McMinnville also has some really fine restaurants and shops.
You’ve gotta see this
Just southeast of the sweet community of Amity, a winding country road abruptly stops on the banks of the Willamette River. You’ve arrived at the Wheatland Ferry, a functioning link between the Amity area and metro Salem. It’s a quick trip that will set you back just a few bucks.
Can’t miss meal
Whether you stay and linger with your lunch or pack a picnic, the Red Hills Market is not to be missed. It combines the tradition of a rural market with everything that’s fresh and fun about the Oregon food scene. Grab a glass of wine and hit the bocce ball court — you could very well be competing against an Oregon vintner.
At the south end of the Valley, the new Inn at the 5th in Eugene has wonderful spacious spa rooms and is right next to the 5th Street Public Market. Up north, the Allison Inn & Spa is an ultimate Oregon wine country experience, and chef Sunny Jin of JORY restaurant does wonderful things with the products grown on and around the property. Or relax and take in the vineyard views from the exquisite suites at the Black Walnut Inn & Vineyard.