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We just got back from wine country out in Oregon and even though I kinda wanna keep this place all to myself, it’s too good not to share. Especially now that it’s officially Cellar Season! All the grapes have been plucked from the vines and the award-winning wine-making is underway, so it’s an ideal time to experience the Willamette Valley and its 700 wineries with fewer crowds and exponentially more coziness. Serious oenophiles know that the time from December through February offers priceless one-on-one insights on what’s fermenting and how different vintage wines are maturing–all while escaping wintery weather.
And there’s so much more than just good vino. Farm-to-fork meals crafted from the Pacific Northwest’s yummiest ingredients pair with local wines in ways our taste buds are still dreaming about. (DM me to discuss how many magical beets we ate on our trip – who knew beets were so good?!)
If you’re into wine, food and being impossibly snuggly by the fire, a Cellar Season trip to Oregon needs to be on your travel bucket list.
Where to Stay During Cellar Season
The 5th Street Public Market was our home base for cellar season in Oregon. Expanded in 2021, it is a place of community pride with over 30 years of history. There are often fun holiday events, pep rallies for the University of Oregon Ducks and movie nights inside the covered market area. From the gourmet food hall to the balconies of Inn at 5th, Eugene’s market feels like a European city dropped into the PNW. It’s a ton of fun and really a one-stop shop that draws just as many locals as it does visitors. A real jewel in Eugene’s crown!
It’s more than just a bustling urban market filled with funky shops, gourmet grub and tasting rooms though. There are two gorgeous boutique hotels bookending the market, the cozy, intimate Inn at the 5th and the sociable, fun, artsy Gordon Hotel. We experienced both and couldn’t pick a favorite if we tried, so we’ll share some of the highlights of each so you know which one to choose when you visit. And if you can’t decide? You can always split your time between the two Eugene Oregon hotels for a whole different experience just a few minutes walk away.
The Inn at 5th
Vibe: Cozy, intimate, quiet, organic/neutral tones
Oh how we loved The Inn at the 5th! There’s a fireplace in every room – a must for Cellar Season snuggling and watching Twilight from bed. (I mean, what else are you gonna watch when you’re The Jet Sisters in the Pacific Northwest?!) Many rooms have balconies overlooking the courtyard. Each room is uniquely designed and themed – we stayed in a craft beer-themed room with local taps as a headboard. There’s also a spa room that has a shower that can fit 12 people. Now, that’s not recommended of course, but holy moly was it impressive.
We were looking forward to trying out the Pendleton Blanket room service menu Rob from 2TravelDads told us about. Yes, you can (and you MUST) have a famous Pendleton blanket delivered to your door. And speaking of room service, in the spirit of privacy and comfort, each room has a locked cabinet near the door where any deliveries are dropped off. You never have to open the door for room service or DoorDash, it’ll just be there in your little cabinet when you’re ready. There’s also a private elevator to take guests to the Gervais Spa so you don’t have to wander around the lobby in your bathrobe. The Inn at the 5th is pet friendly, there’s a complimentary airport shuttle and free bikes to explore the area, and there’s free wine at check-in and free snacks anytime. For more info, check out the hotel’s website here.
The Gordon Hotel
Vibe: sociable, bright, artsy, fun, energetic
The Gordon is an artist’s dream hotel, with creative installations in literally every room, corner and floor. The 82 unique guest rooms feature lots of natural light, signature plush king beds and cozy robes, plus views of the area and the 5th Street Public Market below.
The lobby is incredible! In addition to a restaurant and lounge, there are cozy areas to stop and have a glass of vino or two. There are hundreds of bottles sparkling on the ceiling (apparently there’s a Where’s Waldo situation going on up there but we couldn’t find it) and a digital art display behind reception that students from the University of Oregon help to populate with images and video. GOR-GEOUS.
We loved the Art Bar in the lobby, a 24/7 spot for creativity stocked with art supplies. Feeling inspired after a night out at a tasting room, the taqueria on the top floor (or, shhhh, the Gordon’s secret speakeasy)? You can stop at the Art Bar before heading up to your room for the night to create a masterpiece. For more info, check out the hotel’s website here.
6 Wineries / Tasting Rooms to Visit During Oregon’s Cellar Season
There are two main ways to experience the wineries in this region – either in person onsite, or at tasting rooms throughout the valley. Winemaking is such a fascinating, historic, scientific and passionate pursuit, so I love chatting with the winemakers to learn everything about how they got into the industry and what they’re working on. The region offers award-winning wines that truly reflect the area’s unique climate and soil composition – both reminiscent of France yet distinctive. Each bottle is crafted by talented winemakers who have invested decades into honing their skills here at this special place. There’s nothing like being expertly guided in your wine tasting by the folks who actually made the wine, you know?
TIP: Leave space in your suitcase for bottles. You’re sure to find a favorite or two along the way that you want to take home. You can check one whole case of wine from participating wineries for free when flying on Alaska Airlines out of Eugene Airport (EUG).
Silvan Ridge Winery
Silvan Ridge has the vibe of a small European winery and it’s an easy 15-minute drive from downtown Eugene. The tasting area is super cozy with a fireplace and really great service. Instead of a charcuterie board, we went for the chocolates and paired them with a wine flight. That was the best decision of the day. YUM.
Springfield’s first tasting room! Iris Vineyards has an exquisite Pinot Noir, vibrant Pinot Gris and classic Chardonnay. We tasted flights of them all as well as their famous wine-based cocktails at the intimate wine bar in downtown Springfield, a quick drive from the heart of Eugene. There’s a cute little courtyard with cafe lights – it’s all very romantic. Don’t forget to get a charcuterie board to go along with the drinks.
What a gorgeous drive! A must visit in-person vineyard. It feels like you just drove up to an Italian villa. There are vineyards as far as the eye can see. King Estate has grown to become the largest Biodynamic certified vineyard on the continent. Home to an integrated ecosystem within Oregon’s renowned Willamette Valley, the winery puts its commitment to sustainable farming into practice – and these efforts have created memorable wines along with it.
J. Scott Cellars
Opened in 2020, J. Scott Cellars on 5th is located in The Market District. It’s an upscale wine bar and tasting room with 18 vintages that have all earned 90+ Pts rating from Wine Enthusiast Magazine – a feat few can match. (Am I still sipping on my 2015 dessert riesling from this visit? Yes, I am!) This is also a delightful spot for sweet and savory waffles on the weekends.
We visited Pfeiffer’s tasting room at the 5th Street Public Market. Loved that you can have an al fresco wine tasting experience in the covered Market Alley. The whole place has such fun energy! Of course, we left with a few bottles to take home. They also have a winery you can visit, guided by owner and winemaker Robin Pfeiffer.
The Oregon Wine LAB
With a vast selection of libations, The Oregon Wine LAB is a casual oasis in Eugene. From William Rose Wines produced onsite to curated local and international wines. And don’t forget the full tap list of beers and ciders for our the non-winos. Also check out Da Nang Vietnamese Eatery close by – voted one of EugeneWeekly’s Best Food Cart selections.
There are far more wineries and tasting rooms than we had time to visit, so check out more Eugene tasting trails and food tours here.
5 Restaurants You’ve Got to Try During Cellar Season
One of the most fun parts of wine tasting is learning what pairs best with each varietal and vintage. The flavors of Oregon’s South Willamette Valley are ideal for this kind of culinary adventure! The bounty is diverse around here from valley farms to forests to vineyards to the Pacific Ocean. Here are some of our favorite restaurants for Cellar Season.
The Restaurant at King Estate
We had our most elaborate meal of the trip at the King Estate. It’s a must-do! The views! The roaring fire! The service! Not to mention, we ate all the food they had. Oysters from the coast. A charcuterie board that will go down in history. A beet salad that would make Dwight Schrute cry tears of joy. Steak and lamb and duck. I should not be writing this while hungry! I recommend a long leisurely lunch here with a table overlooking the vineyard. What a treat.
Jazzy Ladies Cafe & Club
Just a few minutes’ walk from The 5th Street Public Market, Jazzy Ladies Cafe and Club is a hot brunch spot known for gluten free options and adorable lattes with music notes swirled in the foam.
Located at the 5th Street Public Market, Marché is one of Eugene’s best restaurants and a James Beard Award nominee. We weren’t terribly hungry by the time our reservation rolled around, but did that stop us from trying the most incredible steak frites? You know the answer. A must visit when you come to Eugene.
Great for breakfast and coffee on the go, Magpie is just steps outside the lobby of the Gordon. This woman-owned coffee shop has excellent avocado toast, ginormous cinnamon rolls and pastries.
Tavern on Main
Just next door to Iris Vineyards’ Wine Bar, we grabbed dinner at Tavern on Main. All I can say is: Golden Beet Dip for the win. And mussels. And fried Brussels sprouts. Are y’all hungry yet?
NOTE: Weather can be unpredictable in the winter months, so be sure to check hours of operation before you visit any of these locations. That way you won’t be left out in the cold if there are any closures due to changing weather conditions!
Bonus Cellar Season Activities in Oregon Wine Country
- There are lots of skiing/snowshoeing adventures nearby. We didn’t get to check them out because there was no snow yet, but that’s on the list for next time.
- Catch a show at the Hult Center for the Performing Arts, easy walking distance from the 5th Street Public Market.
- Waddle around on a tour of the University of Oregon campus. #ScoDucks!
- If it’s nice out, rent an electric bike and explore downtown.
- Take a day trip out to the coast to feel the cold Pacific Ocean breeze!
- Check out a sommelier-hosted wine tasting tour in the Willamette Valley.