The Rochester Covered Bridge is a short detour on a ride to Oakland. ##Photo courtesy of Betty Tamm
A hiking trail at Reustle-Prayer Rock Vineyards makes a good mountain biking trail. ##Photo courtesy of Reustle-Prayer Rock Vineyards

Cycling Series: Part 5

Umpqua Valley

By Dan Shryock

Editor’s Note: This is the fifth 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, so check websites or call for the most current information.

Betty Tamm knows where to ride in the Umpqua Valley. The owner of Triple Oak Vineyard in Oakland, Tamm is an experienced cyclist. She’s ridden across the United States and knows good roads from bad.

She has high praise for the Umpqua Valley: “The roads and the scenery here are stunning,” Tamm said. “They don’t have heavy traffic. We have gentle rolling hills, scenic valleys and the vineyards here are always pretty.”

Vines have been growing in the Umpqua Valley for more than 50 years. Abacela Winery produced Oregon’s first Tempranillo and Albariño grapes here, not to mention Reustle-Prayer Rock Vineyards planted and produced the first commercial Grüner Veltliner in the nation.

Visit most tasting rooms in the Roseburg area to discover a dizzying variety of wines, both white and red. Once back on the bike, enjoy views of the Umpqua River, the hills and the expansive vineyards.

“The main focus is the Umpqua Valley and the river you’re riding along,” said Ron Hilbert of the Umpqua Velo Club, the local cycling group. “There are so many rides here.”

The Melqua-Garden Valley Loop

Wineries in this region of Oregon are primarily located west of I-5, from Elkton south to Winston. One popular route starts at Melrose Vineyards and heads north along Melqua Road, a tree-lined stretch with limited road shoulders but few vehicles.

The Melrose winery remains a frequent destination for local cyclists drawn to both the wine and amenities. A large parking lot, vineyard views and patio seating combine for a good place to begin a ride or relax at the end of the day. Organizers of the annual Vineyard Tour cycling event make this a regular stop.

Eight miles along, Melqua Road sweeps to the left, revealing a panoramic view of vineyards and distant hills. Another two miles lead to Henry Estate Winery. Enjoy the tasting and shady seating outside for rest and recovery.

The tour then quickly turns south on Garden Valley Road. Watch for signs to Reustle-Prayer Rock Vineyards. The 200-acre vineyard and winery are highlights of this route, both for the quality wines and stunning grounds. A half-mile gravel driveway leading in and out of the property should be daunting for many, specifically one very short, very steep hill. There’s no shame in walking the bike; this is a good time to do it.

Betty Tamm, with husband and cycling partner Geoff Faraghan, outside their Triple Oak Wine Vault tasting room in Oakland. ##Photo courtesy of Betty Tamm

Once there, sit on the patio, enjoy a tasting and savor the views.

“Once bike riders get into our parking lot, they park their bikes and say, ‘We hated the gravel road, but this is worth it,’” explained owner Steve Reustle. “We probably see at least two groups of bikers each week. When people come and experience our wines, our hope is that they will come back and join our wine club.”

The Reustle-Prayer Rock property also includes a dirt trail that visitors are invited to enjoy as a hike or mountain bike ride. Road bikes with thin tires are not advised here.

“There’s a hidden lake and the views up there are magnificent,” Reustle added. “It’s steep in areas, but a mountain bike can do it.”

Leaving the Reustle winery, simply retrace the route and turn south on Garden Valley Road for an effortless journey back toward Roseburg. “Shade is my friend, and there’s plenty of it along the way,” Hilbert said.

Traffic starts light and the shoulder widens with each mile toward the city. Wineries dot both sides of Garden Valley Road. Some are easily accessible; others take more effort to reach.

The route ends in River Forks Park at the confluence of the North and South Umpqua rivers. A return to Melrose means another eight miles on busy roads — see sidebar for website with detailed route.

Riding to Oakland

Eleven miles from Henry Estate Winery to downtown Oakland and Triple Oak Vineyard’s Wine Vault, stop at a tasting room inside a 118-year-old former bank building. Follow Fort McKay Road east to S.W. Church Road; take quick left-right turns on and off Highway 138 and follow Stearns Lane into Oakland. Along the way, look for the Rochester Bridge, a covered bridge over the Calapooya Creek just north of Highway 138.

Once in Oakland, visit Betty Tamm to talk about wine and her cross-country cycling adventures. She also has an Airbnb vacation rental in the same building.

Umpqua Valley wines

Reustle believes the Umpqua Valley fails to receive the recognition it deserves. He recalls visits around the world where otherwise knowledgeable wine experts expressed little understanding about the AVA and wines produced here, despite the competition honors his and other wineries collect.

That fact doesn’t discourage him. “We want to produce wines that will rival the best wines on the planet and show that the Umpqua Valley is a wine region to reckon with,” Reustle explained. “It has the appropriate climate, an adequate supply of water, diverse soil and a great labor force. Those are the things that make the Umpqua Valley a great place to grow grapes and make great wine.”

As Umpqua wineries continue “to make quality wines and win (awards), that all brings awareness to us. It’s going to take a while, but we’ve been making pretty good strides,” he said.

Abacela and pizza

Cycling the Umpqua Valley should include a visit to Abacela Winery in nearby Winston. Load the bikes after the ride and savor a tasting at the end of the day. Earl and Hilda Jones are well known for their wines and hospitality. Wood-fired pizza on the patio, paired with Abacela vintages, can be a rewarding treat after a day on the bike. Reservations are advised.

The Vineyard Tour

The Umpqua Velo Club stages its Vineyard Tour each Labor Day weekend with a series of course options to suit riders’ varying skill levels. The 2020 ride, however, has been canceled out of concern for the COVID-19 pandemic.

About 200 riders attend each year, the club’s Ron Hilbert says. The rides typically begin near River Forks Park and the Melqua-Garden Valley Loop is featured in most of the event routes, ranging from 15 to 100 miles.

Umpqua Valley Resources

Abacela Winery: 

Ferraro Family Vineyards: 

Henry Estate Winery: 

JosephJane Winery: 

Melrose Vineyards: 

Reustle-Prayer Rock: 

Triple Oak Vineyard: 

Cycling Route: 

Southern Oregon Travel Info: 

Roseburg Travel Info: 

Umpqua Velo Club: 

The Vineyard Tour:  


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