Amtrak Cascades is a great way to get from the Puget Sound area to Eugene, Oregon. From Seattle, there are several trains daily. There are plenty of ways to relax and enjoy the view during the six-and-a-half-hour ride. What if you don't want to stay on the train for 6.5 hours? One easy solution is to get off in Vancouver, WA, at about the halfway point. The Vancouver waterfront, a short five-minute rideshare away, is a great place to stroll among wine-tasting rooms, shops, and restaurants. Alternatively, you can stop in Portland, Oregon, where the Pearl District is just a short ten-minute walk to more great wine and food. After the break, you can catch the Amtrak Cascades or Coast Starlight to your final destination of Eugene. From Portland to Eugene is about 2.5 hours on the Eugene Amtrak.
The Inn at the 5th
We were tempted to check out the restaurants across the street from the Eugene Train Station. (There was a really fun-looking bar!) Instead, we took the five-minute walk to our home for the next several days, Inn at the 5th. We were greeted with a warm smile and a glass of pinot noir from J. Scott Cellars. The Inn at the 5th is a luxury boutique hotel known for its exemplary hospitality. Each of the rooms is decorated with authentic local art. Ours was chicken-themed and was delightfully whimsical.
The Inn is adjacent to the 5th Street Public Market, which has many dining options. The next day, our immediate focus was breakfast at Provisions Market Hall.
Just a short two-minute walk from our hotel room, we found delicious offerings such as the Breakfast Sandwich (bacon, egg, aioli, and cheese), Avocado Toast (avocado, chili salt, and a squeeze of lemon), a scrumptious pastry, and of course, lots of fresh coffee.
Pedego Electric Bikes was across the street, so I grabbed an e-bike rental. I was mainly interested in a paved path without vehicle traffic, and the Ruth Bascom Riverbank Path System was just the ticket. The bike path is 12 miles along the scenic Willamette River.
One stop I made was at Hayward Field at the University of Oregon. It was constructed in 1919 and is named for the father of Oregon track and field, Bill Hayward. Coach Hayward also served as an athletic trainer and basketball coach. But make no mistake, during his 44-year tenure, and he brought many track awards to the school. Today the stadium hosts numerous international track meets and has recently undergone a significant facelift.
After your tour here, you should walk across the street to the Museum of Natural and Cultural History. You will find the world's oldest shoe (10,000 years old!) and many other exhibits, from the dynamic volcanoes to the archaeology of the first Americans. The museum also offers an award-winning youth outreach program with many hands-on activities for the kids.
I returned to the bike path and continued along the river to some of the parks along the way. Skinner Butte Park is just one which offers panoramic views of Eugene along with historical markers, playgrounds, and a rose garden. There were many more miles of bike paths and many more beautiful parks, but it was time for some wine.
The first stop for our wine tasting was across the street from our hotel, J. Scott Cellars. We had already sampled one of their fine pinots the night before at the Inn at the 5th. Winemaker and owner Jonathan Scott Oberlander was fortunate to begin his career in the 1990s at California State University Fresno. Students were able to grow grapes, make wine, and then sell it. This background has served him well. We enjoyed many of these award-winning wines, which have received high praise. We enjoyed Bradshaw Vineyard Pinot Noir and the Avante Red Blend, made from interesting varietals. Along with grenache and tempranillo, this wine also has several Portuguese varietals – a total of 14 different grapes.
We were getting hungry, and luckily, they offered some tasty options. We enjoyed their "build your own" flatbread which paired very well with the wine. If you are there over a weekend, they also offer brunch options.
You know you will sample some superb pinots in Oregon, but we discovered that Capitello Wines has some New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. What some folks call the flying winemaker Ray Walsh makes the delightful wines possible. Ray has vineyards in New Zealand that he flies to from his home in Eugene, Oregon, every spring to work the harvest. Ray was born in New Zealand and learned winemaking from some of the great NZ icons, Kim Crawford, for one.
Then we tried the Umpqua Valley Sauvignon Gris from Oregon. This delightful wine had light lemon notes and a refreshing taste. We later learned that this unusual variety is grafted from the sauvignon blanc grape. Then we switched to some reds and enjoyed their flagship red, Classy Lady Pinot Noir. This wine is aged for 18 months and has an excellent structure.
We had one more winery to visit today. The best part of all the wineries we visited is that they are all within walking distance. Fifteen minutes later, we arrived at Territorial Vineyards & Wine Company. We were interested to learn that Ray Walsh of Capitello Wines is also their winemaker. Of course, Ray is making completely different styles of wine for Territorial.
Territorial is housed in a former coffee warehouse that has been converted into a tasting room with live music. Also in the back is a contemporary winemaking facility and a crush pad. This is such a cozy setting with everyone chatting with old friends and newly found friends. We sampled several of their wines and enjoyed them all. Here are our three favorites. The Stone's Throw Pinot Noir was marvelous, with a light touch on the tannins. We also enjoyed the bold Mongrel 5.0 Generation Non-Vintage Red Blend. This is a blend of six different grapes. The last wine was an exceptional riesling. The Equinox Vineyard Riesling is not your everyday riesling. It is done in such a way that there are very light sweet notes of peach and a drying finish. What a great way to finish a delightful tasting experience.
Territorial is located in an older neighborhood called Whiteaker Neighborhood, the heart of Eugene's artsy community. You can call this neighborhood funky or eclectic, but you will not be bored strolling through the "Whit." It is also called the Fermentation District because of all the breweries, distilleries, and wineries located here.
Dining You Will Not Forget
There are many options for dining, but the Lion & Owl is a standout. What is so unique?
Partners Kirsten Hanson and Chef Crystal Platt first met at a local restaurant and hit it off. Kirsten's expertise in wine and Chef's excellent food skills make a great paring. When they started their restaurant in 2017, it consisted of an Airstream camper that served as their kitchen. The customers enjoyed their brunch sitting on an outside covered patio. After several seasons of this, they moved to a brick-and-mortar location. The airstream is still with them, sitting inside the building, and currently serves as the bar area.
They now serve excellent dinners along with their famous brunches. Their wonderful culinary delights have earned Chef Crystal a nomination for the 2023 James Beard Award as one of the best chefs in the Pacific Northwest. After our dinner, we could see why, and we would vote for her as the winner.
The salmon I had was honestly some of the best! Grilled with a toasty and crunchy finish, served on a spring beet hummus bed. How did they get the top so crunchy? It was topped with golden whitefish roe. This golden whitefish caviar was such a fantastic finish. My wife ordered the chicken. It was tender, crispy, and juicy and was served with spring vegetables and potato puree. The chicken was seasoned with lemon and herbs – and was delicious!
Like so many of our trips, we spent several hours chatting with the hosts about what we wanted to do when we return next year.
Editorial disclosure: food, beverages, and lodging were generously provided.