A wine tour that happens to be on a bike ride
Just the words “wine country” tend to evoke a certain imagery, a terrain, a certain feel… and maybe the best part is that all of that is equally appealing to cyclists – whether they like wine or not. Plop yourself down in a region that features rolling hills and open countryside, family farms dotted across the landscape, and soil so rich and fecund that you can almost smell it in the air… if you’re a cyclist, you’re loving it. If you’re a winemaker, you’re loving it. And that’s why both groups are innately drawn to this area.
As a ride, this route is best for riders comfortable sharing the road with traffic; while these are country roads, they’re also well-traveled roads. And there’s about a mile of gravel in the middle of this “double lollipop” loop (look at the map) – rideable gravel, but e long enough stretch that you should prepare for it mentally (and also possibly with your tire choices).
Begin your adventure in lovely Forest Grove, a leafy college town that has a taste for good beer, wine and food. You can get any last-minute bike supplies or advice you need at Olson’s Bicycles, right in town. If you’re interested in hanging out overnight, McMenamin’s Grand Lodge is a fun and funky option for lodging, food and drink, all in one sprawling location.
Starting from Elm St. and 17th Ave. in FG, head west out of town. One of the joys of small cities like this one is that you can pedal out of them quite quickly; next thing you know you’re riding rural and loving it. Passing over meandering Gales Creek on the edge of town nearly catapults you into the countryside.
As you pedal along, it’s pretty easy to see why more than the soil convinced a multitude of winemakers chose to settle in here. Anod, not one bit coincidentally, it’s less than 5 miles in when you pass the first winery, Montinore Estate, a biodynamic vineyard that’s been producing wine from grapes grown on the east-facing slopes of the Coast Range’s foothills for more than 35 years.
But not everything is wine-centric on this ride. Right about 10 miles in, you’ll roll into the tiny burg of Gaston, where you’ll find potential stops like Scoggins Creek Coffee (a two-location business you can also find in Yamhill); The One Horse Tavern (burgers, chili and other hearty fare, popular with the local wine-workers); and the Gaston Market (drinks, snacks and convenience items).
Just after you leave Gaston (and again on your way back to the start) you’ll ride a stretch of Springhill Road that abuts Wapato Lake National Wildlife Refuge, once a winter settlement for the Tualatin Indians (“wapato” means elk). This preserved wetland teems with 179 different species of birds, some seasonal and some year-round.
But, back to the wine. Between miles 16 and 20, you’ll either pass by or be in close proximity to seven different wineries:
• Beacon Hill Winery & Vineyard
• Fairsing Vineyard
• WillaKenzie Estate
• Roots Wine Company
• Saffron Fields Vineyard
• Soléna Estate
• Gran Moraine Wine
When you reach Roots, it’s a great spot to stop and soak up the tranquil views displayed from the high-elevation-point of the route. Then, just after Saffron Fields, the next winery, enjoy a quick descent on Laughlin Road and on into the more developed – but still small – community of Yamhill.
When you leave Yamhill, the route as mapped makes a scenic loop out to the west, which includes the gravel section between miles 24 and 25; you can avoid this by staying on Highway 47 north out of town; the mapped route rejoins Highway 47 at around mile 26. Riding the longer loop does take you right by Yamhill County Mushrooms.
After rejoining Highway 47, you’ll take a little veer over to and back on Springhill Road, and a different final path back into town.