Looking for a relaxing trip to Oregon Wine Country? Here are a few wineries within walking distance of the Portland and Eugene train stations. Sample some of our favorite wines we discovered while exploring Oregon Wine Country via Amtrak.
Amtrak Cascades is the ticket to enjoy traveling from the Puget Sound Area to Portland and Eugene. Find out how to best enjoy your train ride, what types of wines are special to the area, what are the best tasting rooms, and how close they are to the train station. Can I do this in one day, or should I do it in two days? Read on and enjoy Oregon Wine Country via Amtrak.
All Aboard for Oregon Wine Country
Amtrak Cascades offers four trips daily from Seattle to Portland. We jumped on the early morning train and 3.5 hours later arrived in Portland at 11 am. On the way, my wife indulged in coffee enhanced by some Baileys Irish Cream (it’s vacation!) while I enjoyed a locally sourced breakfast burrito with several rounds of fresh coffee.
Insider Tip: we like to grab our seats, then head to the café before others start to line up. If it is a sunny day, sit on the left side of the train to get the views of Mount Rainier and Mount St. Helens. You will know you are close to Portland after you cross the Columbia River and then the Willamette River.
Portland Wine Tasting #1
We arrived at 11 am, and our first wine-tasting appointment was for noon, so we decided to grab a bite to eat. There is certainly no shortage of restaurants near the train station in the Pearl District of downtown. We wandered around a bit, then enjoyed a delicious brunch at Verde Cocina.
Battle Creek Cellars, our first wine-tasting stop, was just a ten-minute walk from the train station (or five minutes from our lunch spot). The creek in Battle Creek is south of Salem and is the location of one of three vineyards owned by Battle Creek Cellars. These vineyards are part of the extensive Willamette Valley AVA, one of the over 20 wine regions or AVAs (American Vinicultural Area) found in Oregon.
We started our wine tasting with the refreshing lemon notes of the sparkling Blanc De Noirs 2017. Another enjoyable wine is the Yamhela Chardonnay, with light fruits and a solid mineral structure. We can see why this is one of the favorites of Battle Creek’s Winemaker, Sarah Cabot. Cabot has been making wine in the Willamette Valley since 2008.
Pinot Noir is a cool climate grape that thrives in the cool marine air of the Willamette Valley and comprises over 55% of Oregon’s wine production. We had two of Battle Creek Cellars’ pinots: Roe Pinot Noir and Yamhela Pinot Noir. My favorite was the Roe Pinot, with its light tannins and smooth taste.
Battle Creek Cellars is part of Precept Wine, one of the Northwest’s largest private wine producers. Starting this spring, Browne Family Vineyards, also part of the Precept Wine family, will offer some of their wines at Battle Creek Cellars tasting room.
Portland Wine Tasting #2
Our Oregon Wine Country via Amtrak Tour continued with a short five-minute walk to Erath Winery. Their vineyards are part of the Willamette Valley AVA and are in the sub-AVA of Dundee Hills. The winery is named after founder Dick Erath, a pioneer in the Oregon wine industry. Erath planted pinot noir in the 1960s and, along the way, won the Best American Pinot Noir Award.
Erath began making wine in his garage in 1965 and produced his first commercial wine in 1972. He sold the winery to Ste Michelle Wine Estates in 2006, and they continue to win awards. Dick Erath recently passed away, but his wines and name are legendary.
We tasted six of their delicious wines. My three favorites were Knight’s Gambit Pinot Noir (Dundee Hills), Bishop Creek Pinot Noir (Yamhill Carlton), and Battle Creek Pinot Noir (Willamette Valley). Dundee Hills is one of their higher elevation sites (1000′), and the Bishop Creek vineyard is dry-farmed, with no irrigation. But the Battle Creek Pinot was my number one favorite. Erath sources the grapes for this one from the vineyards of Battle Creek Cellars (our earlier stop).
Stay or Go?
Should we go to the third tasting room or have more wine and some food here? We had another 80 minutes before the second leg of our Oregon Wine Country via Amtrak Tour to Eugene. Thus, we decided to stay and enjoy the Oregon Cheese Board with local cheeses, chocolates, and other local foods. Our tasting was concluded with the Sweet Harvest Pinot Blanc. What a great way to finish the tasting before we headed for the five-minute walk down Marshall Street back to the Portland Union Station. Back at the station, we discovered the Metropolitan Lounge. This staffed lounge area, with comfortable seating, complimentary snacks and non-alcoholic beverages, and free Wi-Fi, is a comfortable place to relax before your train arrives and is available for a small fee or at no extra charge if you are traveling Business Class.
Portland Wine Tasting #3
When we were at Erath, one of the employees told us she was a member of the wine club at Fullerton Wines and liked their rosé. We did not get a chance to visit them, but they are definitely on our list for next time, as they are only a 20-minute walk from the train station. One other place we intended to visit (but we ran out of time) is the Oregon Wines On Broadway. You can find some Willamette Valley pinot noirs there. The staff suggests wines from Cameron Winery and Belle Pente Vineyard and Winery.
Eugene Wine Tasting #1
After a busy day of wine tasting in Portland, we took the just-under-two-hour train ride to Eugene via the Amtrak Cascades, and our Oregon Wine Country via Amtrak Tour was proceeding to round two. However, the train arrived at 9 pm, so we checked into the hotel for a good night’s sleep so that we would be fresh for round two of tasting the next day.
We looked at Eugene’s Top Urban Wine Bar List. The list includes 14 establishments, but the ones numbered 1 through 9 are within one mile or less from the train station. That helped us narrow it down.
Capitello Wines was our first stop, and we found learning about winemaker Ray Walsh interesting. Originally from New Zealand, Walsh worked with wine icon Kim Crawford (among others), and his work was soon noticed. King Estate recruited Walsh to work as a winemaker in Eugene. After ten years there, he started his own winery in 2003. Some people would call Walsh a flying winemaker. He has his wines in Eugene and then flies to New Zealand in the spring to work the harvest at his vineyard in the Marlborough region.
My favorite (and most popular) is the New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. I have enjoyed many wines of this varietal, and winemaker Ray Walsh has hit a home run with this. Complex structures with light fruits and very refreshing. Then we tried the Umpqua Valley Sauvignon Gris from Oregon. This is another very popular wine in the tasting room. Similar light fruits as the New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, but not as complex. However, certainly refreshing with subtle lemon notes. Sauvignon gris is not a common grape and is considered a progradation of the sauvignon blanc grape.
The Classy Lady Pinot Noir is excellent and is considered their flagship wine. This was aged 18 months, and it is a zesty red with smooth notes of cranberry.
Eugene Wine Tasting #2
Our next stop was a 15-minute walk through the eclectic Whiteaker Neighborhood. This neighborhood is also called the Fermentation District because of the many wineries, breweries, and distilleries. We were ready to taste wine at Territorial Vineyards & Wine Company in a former coffee warehouse. We were pleasantly surprised that the winemaker is Ray Walsh, also the winemaker at Capitello Wines. However, Walsh is doing completely different styles here. The Stone’s Throw Pinot Noir should be a required tasting. It was delicious with a light touch on the tannins. Equally delicious is the bold Mongrel 5.0 Generation Non-Vintage Red Blend. This is a blend of six different grapes.
Our Last Wine was Special
The last wine was a very pleasant surprise, Equinox Vineyard Riesling. This riesling has a nice mix of citrus and tree fruits. The light acidity balanced perfectly with the nuanced sweetness.
Eugene Wine Tasting #3
We walked the short distance back toward the Eugene Amtrak Station and were at our last tasting at J. Scott Cellars. Jonathan Scott Oberlander is an excellent winemaker, and thanks to his wife, we get to enjoy the wines. In the 1990s, Oberlander quit his job to follow his then-girlfriend Bonnie, who was getting a degree at UC Davis in Enology. Oberlander took wine classes at UC Davis and Fresno State. He then worked at wineries in California before settling in Eugene in 2013 to start his own winery. He opened his tasting room in 2020. Oh, by the way, we were rather hungry, and they had a comprehensive menu. Check out the flatbread; it is excellent!
I enjoyed the Avante Red Blend, a blend of 14 varietals, primarily grenache, tempranillo, and a Portuguese grape called touriga nacional. The 2018 Pinot Noir from the Bradshaw Vineyard was also nicely done. This vineyard is near the cooler coastal region, so the wine has light tannins. Cooler conditions tend to bring us less bold reds and generally lighter tannin development. However, the 2018 Pinot Noir has a little more body and was my wife’s favorite.
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Heading Home After a Day in Oregon Wine Country via Amtrak
We finished our two days of Oregon Wine Tasting via Amtrak, and the time had just flown by! Finally, it was time to take the Amtrak Coast Starlight back home to Seattle. We sat in the upper-level lounge and enjoyed the views of the vast farmland and beautiful forests.
Once we got to Portland, we enjoyed the views of the Willamette and Columbia Rivers. We finished it off with a delicious three-course steak dinner in the dining car, and before we knew it, the train arrived in Seattle a full 45 minutes early.