Where to eat, drink, and play for two days in wine country
By Michael Alberty
This swath of Southern Oregon is home to a patchwork of forested mountain ranges, clear blue rivers and valley after rolling valley. Whether exploring the region’s family-owned wineries, fly-fishing the Umpqua River, or simply sightseeing through the windshield, the Umpqua Valley has an Oregon character of its own.
This journey begins in Elkton, a small town nestled in the foothills of the Coast Range. The nearby Pacific Ocean’s cooling maritime influence makes the climate in this part of the northern Umpqua Valley well suited to cool-climate and high-acid wines like Pinot noir and Riesling. Brandborg Vineyard & Winery and River’s Edge Winery brought the spotlight to Elkton with their high-quality Pinot noirs. There’s also a newcomer in Elkton: It’s easy to while away the hours on Lexème’s outdoor patio, where a Swiss-trained winemaker and her Oregon-raised partner apply Old World finesse to grapes like Pinot noir, Gamay and Malbec.
Be sure to stop by Tomaselli’s Pastry Mill & Cafe for a hearty meal. The locals might even offer up their fishing tips for the Umpqua River, which flows just two blocks away. Afterward, enjoy a stroll through the Butterfly Pavilion at the Elkton Community Education Center.
Drive south on Oregon Route 138 for a scenic tour along the Umpqua River. Within 30 minutes, you will be in Oakland’s historic downtown district, surrounded by 19th-century brick buildings. No password is necessary at Oakland’s Secret Wine Society, a wine lounge and bottle shop with a gracious host and an excellent selection of local wines. Triple Oak Vineyard’s Wine Vault tasting room, located in a historic bank building, is known for its award-winning Tempranillo and selection of Umpqua Valley wines.
Roseburg is where the late Richard Sommer launched the modern Oregon wine industry by establishing HillCrest Vineyard in the early 1960s. (Sommer is credited with being the first person to plant Pinot noir in the modern era of Oregon winemaking.) Grapes like Tempranillo and Syrah thrive here in the warm, dry climate. White wines like Albariño and Viognier are equally compelling. In downtown Roseburg, Paul O’Brien Winery resides in the historic Hansen Chevrolet building. The spacious tasting room and full throttle red wines are as plush as the interior of a 1958 Chevy Impala Sport Coupe.
Delfino Vineyards offers beautifully balanced wines in a peaceful countryside setting. Their charming vineyard-side rental cottage offers a cozy spot to unwind. Ten miles away, Cooper Ridge Vineyard makes excellent wines, including a Merlot worth hunting down. Their guest house also has a stunning view overlooking the vineyard and the Umpqua River.
Try The Parrot House for dinner and its wine list teeming with Oregon gems. After dinner, warm yourself with something higher proof at the restaurant’s well stocked bourbon bar, hidden away in a quaint little shack off the patio. Looking for a bit of exercise to work off that meal? The Callahan Mountains just west of Roseburg offer hiking trails and more than 100 rock-climbing routes.