Travel the back roads that meander between the fields, orchards, and farms of Oregon’s Willamette Valley, and the expanse of the area’s agricultural abundance becomes apparent. Hops are lined up high, manicured hazelnut plantations stretch to the hills, and rows of berries, vines and corn fill the landscape. Vegetables thrive here. For foodies – or anyone who likes their food fresh and flavorful – the Willamette Valley’s tasting trails bring them closer to the source.
That South Willamette Valley Food Trail offers a road trip that highlights the farmers and ranchers who provide this abundance and the winemakers, brewers, bakers, and chefs who make the most of it. Start at any of the 58 stops along the way, cruise at your own pace, and see what delicious discoveries await. Remember to check the opening times on the websites. Some farms only receive guests in summer or on weekends.
Can’t make up your mind where to start? Here are a few highlights, both urban and rural, from the South Willamette Valley Food Trail.
Noisette pastry shop
The confectioners at Noisette pastry shop Turn locally sourced ingredients into irresistible treats like cookies, muffins, tarts, cupcakes, and other delicious products. They also bake fresh bagels and whatever is on the daily bread schedule. Baguettes are available daily. Noisette also serves frittatas, hand pies, and other lunch specials at its bakery in downtown Eugene.
Have craft spirits in surprising flavors – like Cocoa Bomb Chocolate Whiskey, Spiced Rum, and Lavender Vodka Traditional distillery on the map. The company’s only Oregon tasting room is in Eugene (four other tasting rooms are in Washington state). Try flavored bourbon, whiskey, gin, vodka and rum in the spacious tasting room or enjoy a cocktail or mocktail. Can’t decide on a favorite? Bring home a mini sample package or put together a customized gift basket. The tasting room offers indoor and outdoor seating.
Pro tip: Along the way, stop at the Aragon alpacas Farm where you can pet the animals, not eat them. Located about 20 minutes south of Eugene, the alpaca farm raises the calm and curious animals for their silky and soft fur, which is appreciated by spinners. Bring carrots to feed the alpacas. You love them! Visits are only possible by appointment.
King Estate Winery
It is enthroned on a hill and resembles a castle King Estate Winery offers panoramic views from the terrace, fine food from the farm to the table and award-winning wine in the spacious tasting room. With a total of 1,033 acres – including 465 acres of Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris and other grapes – the property is the largest biodynamic certified vineyard in North America. The winery also has 26 hectares of greenhouses, vegetables, berries, lavender and a 14 hectare orchard that fill guests’ plates in the in-house gourmet restaurant (reservations recommended).
Located 35 minutes south of downtown Eugene, the King Estate Winery bottles almost 20 types of wine, including Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, Riesling, Chardonnay, sparkling wines and many more. Please leave dogs at home.
The buzz is all about the flavorful honey in the Queen’s Bounty. Most of the 600 beehives are dotted around two dozen farms in the area, but roughly one group of beehives is at the honey producer’s headquarters, about 30 minutes south of downtown Eugene. Visits to the beehives, the processing warehouse and tastings are only possible by appointment. The honey is sold online and in the region.
From his legendary cinnamon rolls to roast beef sandwiches on homemade bread, everything is in Creswell Bakery is made from the ground up with fresh, local ingredients. Bacon, for example, is smoked in-house, and beef comes from the bakery’s yard. In addition to pastries, rolls and bread, the bakery also serves breakfasts and sandwiches made to order. Don’t be surprised if there is a queue at the door; Sunday brunch is particularly popular. There is seating inside or outside at picnic tables. Orders can be placed online or on site.
Brigadoon Wine Company
The tasting room at Brigadoon Wine Company feels like a place out of time, a secret oasis tucked away in the countryside among the vines 10 miles from Junction City. The family-run winery offers its guests a warm welcome in the tasting room with a view of the vineyard. Sip Pinot Noir, Pinot Blanc and Riesling from the vineyard right outside the window. Tables in the terraced garden invite you to relax with a glass of wine and a cheese board with the artisan cheese factories of Oregon. The tasting room is ADA accessible.
Inspired by French cuisine and with fresh ingredients from the northwest, Brands serves refined farm-to-table dishes in downtown Eugene. Located on 5th Street Market in Eugene, the Marche’s menu changes with the seasons. Expect a variety of starters like Pacific halibut, chinook salmon, and beef tenderloin, as well as starters, salads, and desserts. Reservations are strongly recommended.
Camas Country Bakery
Camas Country Bakery is not your typical bakery. The cinnamon rolls, biscuits, dumplings, spelled rolls (type of wheat), loaves of bread and whatever the baker likes to bake on a particular day are all made from whole grains that are ground in the Camas Country grist mill. The bakery is part of the mill shop, which sells bags of stone-ground flour and flakes made from old and modern grains such as rye, barley, spelled, oats, wheat, buckwheat and emmer. Dried beans, cereal and pasta are also available at the store, which is 12 miles from downtown Eugene.
Pro tip: Shop for the best selection of baked goods early in the day. they are gone in the late afternoon!
Euphoria Chocolate Company
For more than 40 years the Euphoria Chocolate Company has made chocolate lovers swoon with its creamy, foil-wrapped pralines, decadent truffles, and chocolate-covered confections. Wine, spirits, berries, and other Northwest delights fill truffles, while the chocolate sauce (sold in jars) makes anything you have at home irresistible. Euphoria sells its sweet creations in three of its own retail stores and in stores across town, including the Made in Oregon store on 5th Street Market.
Fresh, certified organic potatoes, various peppers, berries, old tomatoes, eggplants, onions and other vegetables and flowers fill the baskets and boxes of the Groundwork Organics Hofstand just 15 minutes from Eugene. The company also has a booth at the Lane County Farmers Market in Eugene. Production depends on the season, from May to November. The current opening times can be found on the website.
Bennett Vineyards & Wine Company
Bennett Vineyards & Wine Company offers two locations for wine tasting: the no-frills vineyard warehouse in Cheshire (near Junction City) and the tasting room near 5th Street Market in Eugene. Both serve Bennett’s Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, Riesling and other grape varieties. Live music and food trucks draw crowds to the Cheshire tasting room on summer weekends. The 5th Street Market is part tasting room and part art gallery for local artists and also offers music on the weekends. Dates and further information can be found on the website.
Brewing falling skies
Make award-winning beer and burgers from fresh, local ingredients Falling Sky Brewing’s Pub a tasty place for a casual farm-to-table meal. Stouts, ales, pils, and other craft brews are available at both Falling Sky Deli on Blair Boulevard and Falling Sky Brewpub on Oak Alley. Both places in Eugene offer sandwiches, salads, and burgers, but the pub menu is more varied and includes favorites like fish and chips and poutine. The deli menu includes a variety of sliders and fries.
From June to January there is always something going on Chilling orchards. The family business operates U-Pick orchards and a farm stall for those who prefer someone else to harvest the produce. The farm stall also sells spices, snacks, canned goods and other goodies. But the real appeal is the family-friendly entertainment that ranges from a mechanical bull (ages 3+) to cow train rides, a corn maze, saloon, and more. The farm is located 26 km north of downtown Eugen, near the city of Coburg. You can find the current activity plan on the website.
Ninkasi Brewings better living room
Handmade beer is just the beginning Ninkasi Brewings better living room in the Blair neighborhood of Eugene. The Better Living Room was conceived as a brewery and meeting place and promotes the community through high-quality beer (IPAs, stouts and pils) and dishes made from ingredients from the region. Guests can enjoy a flight or a pint with a burger or sandwich inside or on the patio, where dogs are welcome. Reservations recommended.
Pro tip: Ninkasi is the name of the Sumerian goddess of beer and brewing (in case you’re wondering).
Oregon is gaining a reputation as a wine and food destination: