wine pioneer

Reustle-Prayer Rock Vineyards

Less famous than Willamette Valley wines, the Umpqua and Rogue valleys’ vintages have been earning points with warmer-climate grapes such as tempranillo, malbec, and even gewürztraminer. The trip to taste them may take longer, but there’s the added reward of the scenery—grassy knolls, wheat fields, and picturesque farms, complete with red barns—even from I-5.



Leave Portland by early afternoon, and you can be sipping your first Umpqua Valley wine before 5 at Brandborg, where Terry and Sue Brandborg specialize in pinot noir at the valley’s northernmost tip. But with their vineyards located just 45 minutes from the coast, the cooler microclimate results in very different versions from the Willamette Valley. Not-to-be-missed tastes include the Scarlet Cuvée, a dry rosé made from pinot noir grapes that’s only available on-site, and the ’07 gewürztraminer, which New York Times critic Eric Asimov recently singled out for its “rich, floral” taste. 11–5 daily; 345 First St, Elkton; 541-584-2870;; no fee for two pours; $5 for five

In 2005, Reustle-Prayer Rock Vineyards became the first US winery to produce the Austrian varietal Grüner Veltliner. Four years later, they had it perfected: their 2009 reserve won the silver award at both the Monterey Wine Competition and the San Diego International Wine Competition. You can snag a taste—and hors d’oeuvres like chicken flautas, avocado crostini with chevre, and manchego with fig jam—in their barrel cave. Tue–Sat 10–5; 960 Cal Henry Rd; 541-459-6060;; $10 tasting fee

Check In

Located 30 miles east of Roseburg in the Umpqua National Forest, the quirky Steamboat Inn is worth the drive for its idyllic setting and fantastic family-style supper ($50 per person). A motley collection of streamside cabins, forest cottages, and three-bedroom houses, the inn also has a library (where hors d’oeuvres and wine are served) and a grassy terrace. 42705 N Umpqua Hwy, Steamboat; 541-498-2230;; streamside cabins from $175

Closer to Roseburg (and to wine country) is the CH Bailey House, a 1905 farmhouse that Jay and Sherry Couron converted into an upscale four-room bed-and-breakfast three years ago. In addition to a full breakfast, the Courons serve complimentary local wines—Abacela, Brandborg, and Henry Estate—as well as Eugene’s Ninkasi beer. Guests can do their stargazing from the hot tub out back. 121 Melton Rd, Roseburg; 541-672-1500;; doubles from $125