Tippling in Track Town

A guide to Eugene's urban tasting rooms.

Pfeiffer Winery produces estate-grow Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, Merlot and Muscat.
Visitors to Oregon Wine LAB are surrounded by art as they sip wine, beer and cider.
Be sure to drop by Territorial Vineyards & Wine Company during one of their many live concerts.
Civic Winery provides guests with convenient flights comprised of individual samples of wines.
A couple enjoying Terra Pacem s sidewalk seating while sipping wine flights.
J. Scott Cellars offers an art-filled space in which to sample their wines.
SIP Champagne and Dessert Bar co-owner Sierra Andrews suggests a glass of sparkling wine and avocado toast topped with goat cheese, tomatoes and micro greens drizzled with a balsamic reduction.
When weather allows, taste outdoors at Capitello Wines.

Story by Sophia McDonald / Photos by Andy Nelson

Those planning a wine country crawl frequently visit McMinnville or Newberg, or spend a day among the urban wineries in central Portland. But people looking for something different— both in geography and wine types should consider Eugene.

No longer limited to a few tasting rooms, the winery scene in Eugene’s urban core has flourished over the past years. Between downtown, the trendy Whiteaker neighborhood (known to locals as “The Whit”) and the posh Oakway Mall, there are now nine establishments dedicated to wine tasting— not to mention several restaurants with spectacular wines and food. While most pour Pinot Noir, consumers will enjoy the tremendous variety.

1 Capitello Wines, 540 Charnelton Street

Capitello Wines was founded in 2003 by New Zealander Ray Walsh, the former long-time winemaker at King Estate. Walsh focuses on Willamette Valley Pinot Noir, though he makes one with grapes from his family’s Marlborough vineyard for comparison. The winery has also gained acclaim for its brut sparklings and Sauvignon Blancs, two of which are made with Oregon fruit and one vinified from Marlborough grapes. For something really different, ask about the Sauvignon Gris; Capitello is the only West Coast producer.

Jen Hilliard-Walsh runs the business with her husband. A proud Southerner with a decades-long background in hospitality, she says, “Visitors get warmth and wine knowledge without stuffiness,” she says. Tastings take place in the building’s cozy interior or under the tent-covered patio. Capitello offers charcuterie boards and a Mediterranean platter. Alternatively, visit when a food truck parks outside. Beloved local favorite Pizza DOP regularly drops by.

2 Civic Winery & Wines, 50 East Eleventh Ave.

Craig Weicker opened Civic Winery as a mecca for natural wine lovers. The site is home to an urban winery, wine bar, bottle shop and charming event space that can hold more than 100 people. As a winemaker, Weicker focuses on low-intervention wines made primarily in earthen vessels with grapes from organic or sustainable vineyards. While he makes some Pinot Noir, including a Pét-nat made with both Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, guests can also taste sparkling Dolcetto rosé, still red Dolcetto and a skin-contact white wine made with Gewürztraminer, Pinot Gris and Riesling.

In addition to his own products, Weicker collects natural wines from around the world to sell in the bottle shop and serve in the tasting room. “We have about 500 different wines that people can buy off the shelf to enjoy with a meal here or at home,” he says. Some are fairly unique, like the $500 Italian Montepulciano he’s been serving folks who ask. Sip inside the shop or on the street-facing outdoor patio, with or without snacks from the snack bar.

3 Elizabeth Chambers Cellar/Silvan Ridge Winery, 105 Oakway Center

When Elizabeth Chambers suddenly died in 2018, Julia Stiltner inherited her mother’s iconic wine brand. Stiltner, with husband Andrew, owns Silvan Ridge, Eugene’s initial winery, where the Chambers family made its first investment in Oregon Pinot Noir. The Stiltners desire to bring Elizabeth Chambers Cellar “home” led to an exciting new venture: Elizabeth’s Wine Lounge, a chic tasting room opening later this month at the popular Oakway Center.

“The experience is something new to Eugene,” says Silvan Ridge general manager Angela Jaquette. “We’re creating an elevated experience with a dose of hometown hospitality.” Guests can expect seated tastings in an elegant space with caring staff who make you feel part of the family. Small plates are also available.

Visitors to Elizabeth’s Wine Lounge can sample a few selections from Silvan Ridge Winery. Argentine winemaker JP Valot, best known for his Malbec and Cabernet-based blends, produces a wide variety of reds and whites with estate-grown and fruit purchased from southern Oregon.

4 J. Scott Cellars, 207 East Fifth Ave., Suite 105

Jonathan Oberlander moved from California to Oregon in 2004, he intended to make Pinot Noir. During his 10 years as winemaker at Silvan Ridge, Oberlander discovered many incredible grape varieties throughout the state. At J. Scott Cellars, open since 2013, “I want to educate people that there’s a lot of other stuff out here besides Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris,” he says. He works with more than 30 different grapes, including; Albariño, Chenin Blanc, Grenache, Petit Verdot and Cabernet Sauvignon from Oregon and Washington.

J. Scott Cellars opened its tasting room as the COVID-19 pandemic hit, yet the small welcoming business has thrived in downtown Eugene. Oberlander’s wife Bonnie creates small bites, including flatbreads, sandwiches and desserts. Enjoy them alongside the brand’s wines, Prosecco or other hand-picked wines and hard ciders.

5 Oregon Wine LAB, 488 Lincoln Street

Mark Nicholl opened the Oregon Wine LAB with three goals. The casual space is home to his own label, William Rose Wines, made with grapes from around Oregon that showcase vintage and place. Nicholl is committed to helping other small Oregon brands grow in size and reputation. Oregon Wine LAB sells wines produced by wineries without tasting rooms of their own. Visitors can also sample from the “winemaker’s select” series. “These epitomize styles of wine I’ve enjoyed over the years that have helped shape my winemaking style,” he says. They include anything from White Bordeaux to wines sourced from Nicholl’s home country, Australia.

“We are a low key, unpretentious venue,” Nicholl explains. “We can fill you with information about the wines or you can sit on the wonderful patio with your friends and catch up.” The Da-Nang Vietnamese Eatery food cart— voted Eugene’s best food cart on multiple occasions— is permanently parked in front. Visitors who need a break from wine can choose among beer, hard cider, kombucha or, in summer, a glass of fresh sun tea.

6 Pfeiffer Winery, 590 Pearl Street

Pfeiffer Winery planted its first grapes in 1983, becoming one of the oldest vineyards in the southern Willamette Valley. Robin and Danuta Pfeiffer grow Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, Merlot and Muscat grapevines on its hilly site outside Junction City. From powering the winery with solar panels to allowing wildlife to roam the property during the dormant season, wines are made with the planet in mind, which shines in the end products. “Our wines are earthy and silky. You can almost taste the fresh clean soil,” says Danuta Pfeiffer. They’re also handmade in the truest sense of the word; the Pfeiffers do almost everything themselves, including the winemaking, corking and labeling.

In 2021, the brand opened its first urban tasting room at The Alley, a new European-style covered shopping plaza adjacent to the boutique Gordon Hotel. Expect to find some of the brand’s wines in the tasting room, including the award-winning Blue Dot Reserve Pinot Noir. On cooler days, savor a glass at the indoor bar. If people-watching is your priority, take a seat in the Market Alley.

7 SIP Champagne and Dessert Bar 488 Willamette Street

Sierra Andrews and Ashley Buonarroti met through Pinch of Salt Bakery on Wheels, a food cart run by Andrews and her husband, and a shared love of macarons. In January, they opened Eugene’s only bubbles-focused wine bar in a historic building near the train station. Drinks include Champagne, sparkling rosé and a few still wines from around the world. There are also cocktails, mocktails and coffee for those in a need of a pick-me-up. Nearly all the food, from the bread for the popular avocado toast to desserts such as cream puffs and crème brûlée, is made from scratch and in-house. Brunch is served until 4 p.m. every day. SIP has a “coupe club,” where members receive three curated bottles of sparkling wine four times a year.

“SIP offers a really calm atmosphere,” says Andrews. “We have lots of students who come here to study. At night, we have book clubs that come in and they do their book reviews and have Champagne.” Whether it’s a café vibe or the opportunity to laugh with friends over a glass of wine, SIP has something for everyone.

8 Terra Pacem, 590 Pearl Street

University of Oregon professors Amy Lobben and Andrew Marcus, founders of Terra Pacem, share a mission to create amazing wine from the best grapes they can find. After sourcing fruit from the Rogue Valley, the grapes are expertly crafted into wine by Nichole Schulte, assistant winemaker and partner of Barrel 42 Custom Winecraft in southern Oregon. Choices include the usual Oregon suspects, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, as well as wines the family enjoys at home: Tempranillo, Syrah, Sauvignon Blanc and Bordeaux varietals.

Terra Pacem also fulfills a vital social mission— to create a working, learning, social community by and for people with disabilities. One of Lobben and Marcus’s sons has intellectual and development disabilities, and they are passionate about supporting the local disability community. This intention manifests itself in several ways at the business: employment and internships opportunities, Braille menus, goods for sale produced by those with disabilities, and wine and business donations benefiting charities that support these individuals.

Visitors always find a family member in the tasting room, either pouring wine or bussing tables. “In this venture, we wear our heart on our sleeve. We really want our guests coming into our tasting room to be welcomed by our family,” says Lobben.

9 Territorial Vineyards and Wine Company, 907 West Third Ave.

As the name suggests, Territorial showcases the southern Willamette Valley— specifically two unique vineyards. Alan Mitchell owns and farms a parcel of land in the Lower Long Tom AVA. His partners, Jeff and Victoria Wilson-Charles, operate a vineyard several miles away with a different and distinctive expression. Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris and Riesling are made to reflect site and season. Winemaker Ray Walsh crafts several wines in different styles. There’s both dry and sweet Riesling, along with a Pinot Gris white or rosé. Mitchell also has a vineyard management company and buys fruit from sites he manages for the “big red” blend.

The tasting room, with its eclectic décor, includes knowledgeable and welcoming staff. “Our wine room is a serious place, but it has a reputation for not being a snooty, snobby kind of place,” says Mitchell. “We think of wine as an agricultural product and not something that has to be fetishized. We frequently offer live music in a very intimate setting; it’s like having a concert in somebody’s living room.”

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