Travel the backroads that wind between the fields, orchards, and farms of Oregon’s Willamette Valley, and the vastness of the region’s agricultural bounty becomes apparent. Hops are strung up high, tidy hazelnut orchards stretch to the hills, and row upon row of berries, grapevines, and corn fill the landscape. Vegetables thrive here. For foodies — or anyone who likes their food fresh and flavorful — the tasting trails of the Willamette Valley bring them closer to the source.
The South Willamette Valley Food Trail offers a road trip highlighting the farmers and ranchers who supply this abundance and the vintners, brewers, bakers, and chefs who make the most of it. Start at any of the 58 stops along the trail, tour at your own pace, and see what delicious discoveries await. Remember to check websites for open hours; some farms welcome guests only during the summer or on weekends.
Can’t decide where to start? Here are a few highlights, both urban and rural, from the South Willamette Valley Food Trail.
Noisette Pastry Kitchen
The pastry artists at Noisette Pastry Kitchen turn locally sourced ingredients into irresistible treats such as cookies, muffins, tarts, cupcakes, and other delectable items. They also bake fresh bagels and whatever loaf is on the daily bread schedule. Baguettes are available daily. Noisette also serves frittatas, hand pies, and other lunch fare at its downtown Eugene bakery.
Heritage Distilling Company
Craft spirits in surprising flavors — such as Cocoa Bomb chocolate whiskey, spiced rum, and lavender vodka — have put Heritage Distilling Company on the map. The company’s only tasting room in Oregon is in Eugene (four more tasting rooms are in Washington state). Sample flavored bourbon, whiskey, gin, vodka, and rum at the spacious tasting room or enjoy a cocktail or mocktail. Can’t decide on a favorite? Bring home a mini sample pack or put together a custom gift basket. The tasting room offers indoor and outdoor seating.
Pro Tip: Along the trail, 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 fleece, prized by spinners. Bring carrots to feed to the alpacas. They love them! Visits are by appointment only.
King Estate Winery
Perched on a hill and resembling a castle, the King Estate Winery offers panoramic views from the patio, farm-to-table fine dining, and award-winning wine in the spacious tasting room. With 1,033 total acres — including 465 acres of Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, and other wine grapes — the estate is the largest biodynamic-certified vineyard in North America. The winery also boasts 26 acres of greenhouses, veggies, berries, lavender, and a 14-acre orchard, which fill diners’ plates at the onsite gourmet restaurant (reservations recommended).
Located 35 minutes south of downtown Eugene, King Estate Winery bottles nearly 20 styles 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 at the Queen’s Bounty. Most of the 600 hives are scattered around two dozen farms in the area, but about one cluster of hives remains at the honey producer’s headquarters about 30 minutes south of downtown Eugene. Tours of the hives, processing warehouse, and tastings are available by appointment only. The honey is sold online and around the region.
From its legendary cinnamon rolls to roast beef sandwiches on homemade bread, everything at the Creswell Bakery is made from scratch with fresh, local ingredients. Bacon, for example, is smoked in house, and beef comes from the bakery’s farm. In addition to pastries, rolls, and bread, the bakery also serves made-to-order breakfasts and sandwiches. Don’t be surprised if there’s a line out the door; Sunday brunch is especially popular. Seating is available indoors or at picnic tables outside. Orders can be made online or onsite.
Brigadoon Wine Company
The tasting room at Brigadoon Wine Company feels like a place out of time, a secret oasis hidden in the countryside among the grapevines 10 miles from Junction City. The family-owned winery offers guests a warm welcome to the tasting room overlooking the vineyard. Sip Pinot Noir, Pinot Blanc, and Riesling made from the vineyard just outside the window. Tables in the terraced garden invite guests to relax with a glass of wine and a cheese board showcasing Oregon’s artisan cheesemakers. The tasting room is ADA accessible.
Inspired by French cooking and using fresh ingredients from the Northwest, Marche serves up refined farm-to-table dining in downtown Eugene. Located in the 5th Street Market in Eugene, Marche’s menu changes with the seasons. Expect a variety of entrees, such as Pacific halibut, Chinook salmon, and beef tenderloin, as well as appetizers, salads, and desserts. Reservations are highly recommended.
Camas Country Bakery
Camas Country Bakery is not your typical bakery. The cinnamon rolls, cookies, turnovers, spelt (type of wheat) rolls, loaves of bread, and whatever pastry the resident baker is excited about on a given day are all made with the whole grains ground at the Camas Country grist mill. The bakery is part of the mill store, which sells bags of stone-ground flour and flakes from ancient and modern grains, including rye, barley, spelt, oats, wheat, buckwheat, and emmer. Dried beans, cereals, and pasta noodles are also available at the store, located 12 miles from downtown Eugene.
Pro Tip: Shop early in the day for the best selection of bakery goodies; they’re gone by late afternoon!
Euphoria Chocolate Company
For more than 40 years, the Euphoria Chocolate Company has been causing chocolate lovers to swoon with its creamy foil-wrapped chocolates, 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 at three of its own retail stores and in shops around town, including the Made in Oregon store at 5th Street Market.
Fresh, certified organic potatoes, a variety of peppers, berries, heirloom tomatoes, eggplant, onions, and other vegetables and flowers fill the baskets and boxes at the Groundwork Organics farm stand, just 15 minutes from Eugene. The company also hosts a booth at the Lane County Farmers Market in Eugene. Produce depends on what’s in season, from May to November. Check the website for current open hours.
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 varietals. Live music and food trucks draw crowds to the Cheshire tasting room on summer weekends. Part tasting room and part art gallery for local artists, the 5th Street Market location hosts music on the weekends, too. Check the website for dates and more information.
Falling Sky Brewing
Award-winning beer and burgers made from fresh, local ingredients make Falling Sky Brewing’s pub a tasty place for a casual farm-to-table meal. Stouts, ales, pilsners, and other craft brews are on tap at both the Falling Sky Deli on Blair Boulevard and the Falling Sky Brewpub on Oak Alley. Both locations in Eugene offer sandwiches, salads, and burgers, but the pub menu is more varied and includes such favorites as fish and chips and poutine. The deli menu includes a variety of sliders and fries.
From June to January, there’s always something going on at Detering Orchards. The family farm operates U-pick orchards and a farmstand for those who prefer someone else to pick the produce. The farm stand also sells condiments, snacks, preserves, and other goodies. But the real draw is the family-friendly entertainment, which ranges from a mechanical bull (ages 3 and up) to cow train rides, a corn maze, saloon, and more. The farm is located 16 miles north of downtown Eugene, near the town of Coburg. Check the website for the current activities schedule.
Ninkasi Brewing’s Better Living Room
Handcrafted beer is just the beginning at Ninkasi Brewing’s Better Living Room in the Blair neighborhood of Eugene. Designed as a brewpub and gathering place, the Better Living Room fosters community through quality beer (IPAs, stouts, and pilsners) and food made from locally sourced ingredients. Diners can enjoy a flight or 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 were wondering).
Oregon is gaining a reputation as a wine and food destination: