Friends pose for a photo before starting their wine country ride. ##Melanie Griffin/
Cyclists enjoy some post-ride relaxation outside Lower Fern Ridge School by Camas Country Bakery and Store. ##Melanie Griffin/
Riders visit Pfeiffer Winery north of Eugene.##Melanie Griffin/

Cycling Series: Part 3

South Willamette Valley

Editor’s Note: This is the third of six monthly guides exploring places to cycle in Oregon wine country. Cycling can be a safe activity as long as riders continue to practice social distancing, officials say. Research suggests cyclists extend spacing as far as 20 yards when riding single-file to accommodate extended airflow or the slipstream. Wineries are determining how to safely welcome visitors now that most counties can expand operations. Check websites or call for the most current information.

By Dan Shryock

Riding along Jaeg Road in northern Lane County feels idyllic. Tall trees provide cooling shade from the afternoon sun. A small herd of sheep dash across a field. The pavement is smooth, traffic minimal.

After only a mile, Pfeiffer Winery’s vineyards materialize.

The Southern Willamette Valley’s wine country is not necessarily an easy cycling experience. Winery owners and skilled cyclists agree most roads leading to and from vineyards lack adequate road shoulders for bikes. Winding roads also limit visibility. And yet, the paved road to Pfeiffer, about 15 minutes by car outside Junction City, offers a pleasant exception.

Another two and a half enjoyable miles up the road are Brigadoon’s winery and vineyards. Owner Chris Shown says he fell in love with this land 30 years ago and little has changed since. A cozy tasting room and operations building nestle against the hillside of sloping vineyards. Day-use picnic tables and lawns make this an ideal place to relax.

“When we first saw this property, our impression was that this was a part of Oregon that had not changed in 100 years,” Shown says. “It’s the start of the coastal foothills. We’re removed from the rest of the world.”

Some Pfeiffer wine club members ride up Turnbow Lane and onto Jaeg Road, says winery events coordinator Brianne Ricketts. Local residents visit on bikes. GEARs, a Eugene-based bicycle club, occasionally routes its annual Blackberry bRamble ride along these roads. But don’t expect a steady stream of bikes.

Those who make the effort, however, discover quiet roads leading to three wineries within six miles. Gravel driveways may require some people to dismount and walk, but the views and wines are worth the extra exertion.

Start at the Camas Country Mill

These six miles from Turnbow Lane to Jaeg and then Ferguson roads provide refuge. The minimal distance may be plenty for some riders but too short for others who want to stretch their legs. Here’s a route that may appeal to those searching for distance as well as scenery.

The Camas Country Mill Bakery and Store, a popular stop for area cyclists, serves as a starting point for this ride. The store, at 91948 Purkerson Road, is a retail outlet for the third-generation Hunton family farm and its Camas Country Mill.

The bakery property doubles as the current home of the Lower Fern Ridge School house, a once-dilapidated structure purchased by the Huntons and moved to the farm for restoration. Now ready for use, the white building once again serves the community and remains a landmark for cyclists and motorists alike.

The ride from the bakery north toward the vineyards is flat with few turns. Traffic is light in this rural part of Lane County, but narrow shoulders make safety rules a must. Wear a helmet; use a rear-view mirror; ride single-file; and attach the brightest flashing taillight possible. No matter the brightness of the day, any additional warning to drivers helps.

With nearly nine miles behind you, watch the landscape change from decidedly flat to attractively hilly. Vineyards are not far away. Vines on Fitzpatrick Vineyards property soon appear as they stretch up the hillside. Turn right and Turnbow Lane leads to the wineries.

Three Winery Stops

The first destination is Walnut Ridge Vineyard, a hilltop setting with 360-degree views of vineyards, forests, and farms. Ride the bike on gravel to the gate intended to keep out deer, not cyclists, and wait for it to open automatically. If nothing happens, slip in when the next vehicle triggers the sensor or call the tasting room phone number. Then ride or walk up the remaining steep path.

Walnut Ridge produces several varietals and, like many Oregon wineries, concentrates on Pinot. “We love our wines equally and uniquely,” says owner Jim McGavin, “but we grow more Pinot Noir than anything else.”

Back on Turnbow Lane, turn left on Jaeg Road, passing Antiquum Farm’s vineyards and tasting room. Antiquum Farm is open by appointment only, but Pfeiffer is only a few more pedal strokes down the road.

After some tasting and vineyard gazing at the sprawling Pfeiffer estate, there’s one more destination: Brigadoon. Chris Shown says the family sold their Napa Valley winery and moved here decades ago “with the idea of being a happy grape grower the rest of my life.” Fifteen years later, they started producing wines again.

“We’re proud of our pinots and our Alsatian-style white wines. They are dry and acidic, a very bright and crisp white wine,” Shown notes.

With the winery visits complete, there’s yet one more peaceful glide along Turnbow Lane before the ride back to the Camas Country Store.

Downtown “Wine Country”

Here’s an option for casual cyclists wary of longer distances with rural traffic. Eugene is blessed with an extensive network of paved trails — the Ruth Bascom Riverfront Path System — along the Willamette River. These shared-use paths represent a comfortable, safe, scenic way to ride.

There are no vineyards along the way, but a short detour to Fifth Avenue leads to three tasting rooms — Sweet Cheeks on 5th, Capitello Wines and Oregon Wine LAB — within a six-block stretch. Locate the Peter DeFazio pedestrian/bicycle bridge on the riverfront path system map. There are easy ways to navigate from the bridge to Fifth Avenue.


The Maps

A customized map for the Jaeg and Turnbow route, named Lane County Wineries, is available via Ride with GPS. Download it to a mobile device for voice turn-by-turn directions. 

The City of Eugene produces an easy-to-follow map of the Ruth Bascom Riverfront Path System.

Travel Lane County supplies tourist information, including additional bike and winery maps. 

GEARs, Greater Eugene Area Riders bicycle club, stages its annual Blackberry bRamble each August. Routes vary and sometimes extend to wineries. The fate of the 2020 event has not been determined. Check the website for updates. 


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