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Eugene Weekly : Wine : 8.28.08




Coup de Grapes

Wrap up summer with a fine wine tour

By Lance Sparks

Stay-cation. Cute new term that puts a dab of lipstick on the pain of soaring prices, falling wages and job losses that add up to postponing a real vacation this year. It’s what to do this Labor Day, when working people — the folks honored by this holiday — are pinching pennies and squeezing dimes while trying to celebrate the end of summer amid the joys of Bush-onomics. If we can’t afford to fuel the flivver for a long trek, we can pop for a few gallons to cruise home country.

And that’s a very good change: remembering and re-experiencing the beauties of our waters, hills, farms and fields. Just a few minutes outside Eugene/Springfield in any direction we can rediscover the wonders of our place, why we chose to live here. And as we take our pleasures, we can also savor the liquid essences yielded by local vineyards, a time-honored tradition in parts of the world where grapes are grown and pressed into fine wines.

Saginaw Vineyard
Territorial Winery

We’ve got the wines, and we’ve got the views, and on this weekend many local wineries — including some rarely opened to the public — are holding open houses, pouring tastes of their libations, even adding special events — live music, art shows, picnics. In short, there’s a lot of there, there.

Before you launch, check open times: Most open around noon, but all have websites. Also, designate a driver, someone who’ll enjoy the show but won’t drink the wines.

But there’re many ways to get there from here. We offer two loops — a two-day road-cruise — each with its own charms, in the journey and the destinations:

 

Day I. Valley of Delights

Actually, we begin in Saginaw, near Cottage Grove (if you must, I-5 to Exit 176), in Delight Valley, with …

 Saginaw Vineyards, 80247 Delight Valley Rd., 942-1364. Lovely place with 100-year-old barn as tasting room. The Byler family produces pinot noir and gris, a very nice pinot noir blanc (rosé), chardonnay, but savor the Marechal Foch, a big, dark, juicy red that won Best of Show at this year’s Lane County Fair.

Roll along Old Lorane Highway, through forested hills and lavender fields, to …

Chateau Lorane, 27415 Siuslaw Valley Rd., 942-8028. A beautiful tasting room overlooking manmade Lake Louise, with great picnic area. Owners Linde and Sharon Kester urge winemaker David Hook to experiment with 15 wines, some traditionals, some unusuals (Huxelrebe, malbec, baco noir). Don’t miss their honey mead and late harvest Gewürztraminer.

Quick loop to Territorial Road, couple clicks, hang a left into …

King Estate, 80854 Territorial Rd., 942-9874, the Castle on the Hill. Beautiful tasting room, terrific wines from a thousand organic acres, fine dining with outside tables and breathtaking views, tours of the state-of-the-art winery, just a knockout. For Labor Day, visit the Marketplace for local foodstuffs and crafts.

Slooow roll downhill, back to Territorial, hang left, a few miles, turn right …

Hinman/Silvan Ridge, 27012 Briggs Hill Rd., (866) 5-SILVAN. Jonathan Oberlander makes some tasty vins for the Chambers family; among the best are Early Muscat Semi-Sparkling and Silvan Viognier. Live music for the weekend from Bryan Reed and the Just Say Yes Band.

Sweet Cheeks, across the road from Silvan, 249-9463. Dan Smith’s venture has been getting buzz for their picnic area (picnics much encouraged for the weekend), fabulous views and fine wines, especially the Estate Riesling.

Now, you can back-road home on Briggs Hill, through lovely and rather secret valleys, but be sure to stop at …

Noble Estate, 29210 Gimpl Hill Rd., 338-3007: Owners Mark and Marie Jurasevich scored a bagful of gold medals from Lane County Fair (yummy Estate Pinot Noir Reserve), keep a pretty tasting room, nice western views. Open Sat.-Mon., 12-5.

 

Day II. City Mouse/Country Mouse

Start in the heart of the city at …

Territorial Vineyards and Wine Co., 907 W. 3rd Ave., 684-9463. No Labor day hoopla, just regular hours (4 to 8 pm) on Friday and Saturday, but tasting room is stylishly urban and the wines are terrif, esp. pinot gris, Capital T Pinot Noir, delish rosé. Live music Thursday nights, 5 to 11.

Now, zip out W. 11th to Veneta, through the light, to …

Secret House, 88324 Vineyard Ln., 935-3774. Patti Chappel has taken the helm, created a venue for music (esp. blues), art, even faeries, of course wines. Sample the vinos, walk the gardens, cool your jets.

Drive back to the light, head north, toward lovely Elmira, wheel in at …

LaVelle Vineyards, 89697 Sheffler Rd., 935-9406. Beautiful site, cool and lush, just right for the Great American Picnic, noon to 5 pm, with live music Sunday and Monday, tickets $7. Taste an array of well-made wines but don’t miss the Estate Riesling and, for the picnic, the 2007 Dry Rosé of Gamay.

Back to Territorial, north, to Cheshire and …

RainSong Vineyards, 92989 Goldson/Templeton Rd., 998-1786. Michael and Merry Fix are making a go of bottling their juice in clients’ personal labels — good juice, too.

Territorial again, then left on High Pass Rd., weave into the foothills to …

High Pass Winery, 24757 Lavell Rd., Junction City, 998-1447. Dieter Boehm is owner and winemaker of this small operation nestled among the trees, but the wine is fine, particularly the Walnut Ridge Pinot Noir.

Drop down to the flatlands, go left on Turnbow Lane, follow signs, to …

Pfeiffer Vineyards, 25040 Jaeg Rd., 998-2828. Generations of the Pfeiffer family have transformed their sheep ranch into a successful winery. At its center Robin and Danuta Pfeiffer have built a fantasy Italian villa where they host multi-course gourmet dinners by special arrangement, of course adding selections of their pinots noir and gris, chardonnay, “blush.” We’ve heard rave reviews for the 2005 Blue Dot Reserve Pinot Noir.

Following that brief sojourn in Tuscany-on-Jaeg, back to Turnbow, left (north) to Ferguson Road. right (east) to Territorial, roll (about 7 miles) through farmland arriving at …

Benton Lane Winery, 23924 Territorial Rd. 847-5792. Steve and Carol Girard produce some fine pinot gris and pinot noir, and their tasting room is cozy, with a pretty patio for easy lounging and sipping.

Back to Territorial, left into beautiful downtown Monroe, pass by …

Broadley Vineyards, 265 S. 5th St., 847-5934. If they were open — and they’re not, Craig and Claudia Broadley, son Morgan and his wife Jessica comprise the family that grows and bottles some of the finest pinot noir in Oregon—or anywhere. You’d tipple, if you could — and you can’t, until Thanksgiving — Claudia’s Choice and Marcille Lorraine, the tops.

There’s a quick road home through Junction City, Hwy. 99. Take Territorial instead, linger in the light; it’s the same road, but coming back is a whole new journey.