By AVA Executive Director Jimmie Lucht
*This trail is designed primarily for those 21 and older; however, if a (c) appears after the attraction, it is suitable for children.
Albany is located in the heart of Oregon’s wine country, but it is also known for the agricultural products that are grown here—and has been historically called “Oregon’s Bread Basket.” This self-guided tour offers tastings of wine, beer, cider, root beer, distilled beverages, handcrafted chocolate, and berries. In addition to the places mentioned below, when you explore the backroads of Albany, make sure to stop at our bountiful roadside stands bursting with farm fresh produce.
Your trail begins in historic Albany. To fully understand the ‘backbone’ of the region, a visit to the Albany Regional Museum (c), at 136 Lyon Street S, 541-967-7122 is a must. Next stop, Monteith House (c), at 518 Second Ave SW, 541-974-7603. You’ll see culinary arts in action—1800s-style during Monteith’s open season, mid-June through September each year.
For an ice cold glass of root beer or a bite of a “Class V Burger” and famous chili beer, Calapooia Brewing Company will accommodate. Located at 140 Hill Street NE, telephone 541-928-1931.
After your burger, take a small backroads trip to Springhill Cellars, at 2920 NW Scenic View Drive. The tasting room is open May through November (with appointment scheduled tastings December through April). Springhill is a small family-owned winery producing award winning Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris. Mark your calendars for the annual Federweisser Festival in November. The event pairs new, still fermenting Riesling (the Federweisser) with specially made bratwürst and Zwiebelkuchen, a sweet onion tart. The oom-pah-pah music drifts through the air during the day for a nearly normal German flavor, and at night, a floor-stomping barn dance with a live rock-n-roll band helps work off the extra calories.
Heading west on the trail, your next stop is 4 Spirits Distillery, at 6040 NE Marcus Harris Ave, in Adair Village, 541-760-0696. This small craft distillery specializes in award-winning small batch vodka, American whisky, bourbon whisky, rum and single malt whiskey.
Going south on Highway 99W towards Corvallis, turn east onto Granger Avenue and discover Vivacity Spirits, 720 NE Granger Ave, 541-286-4285. Meet the founders Caitlin Prueitt and Chris Neumann, and taste their signature Turkish Coffee Liqueur—no dessert should be without it!
Returning to Highway 99 heading south, turn east onto Highway 34 (NW Van Buren Ave), and stop at Nectar Creek Mead, 33848 SE Eastgate Circle, 541-760-1343, in Corvallis. Their specialty is craft mead created from local Willamette Valley honey. Nectar Creek was started when two brothers pursued their dream to sustain traditions-old mead recipes and their desire to preserve honeybees and the agricultural heritage of the Valley. In the same complex as Nectar Creek, Mazama Brewing awaits. Located at 33930 SE Eastgate Circle, Suite A, Mazama is a family owned and operated production microbrewery. Jeff and Kathy Tobin started home brewing in 1984 and recognized they had found a passion in their new hobby. In 2011 they traveled to Belgium, which provided the inspiration to start the brewery. Telephone 541-230-1810. Before you leave the complex, make sure to pop into 2 Towns Ciderhouse, 33930 SE Eastgate Circle, 541-357-8301. Three childhood friends who lived in two different towns, banded together with meager savings and a love of craft brewing and cider to launch their dream business. The philosophy is to advance the cider craft industry through a mix of both old and new cider techniques and experimentation.
Whether you choose to head north, south, east or west, culinary treats are to be found in every direction. A visit to Ankeny Vineyard (c), at 2565 Riverside Drive South, in Salem, 503-378-1498, is filled with opportunities to taste fine wines, or side-trips to neighboring historic Cox Pioneer Cemetery (c) and the Ankeny National Wildlife Refuge (c).
Few buildings in Oregon were more important to settlers than flour mills. In 1858 Thompson’s Mills State Heritage Site (c), at 32655 Boston Mill Drive in Shedd, 541-491-3611, began processing local farmer’s summer grain harvest. Thompson’s Mills is a unique survivor of times past, chronicling 150 years of Oregon rural life and honoring the owners who adapted the mill to the changing world around it. It is the oldest water-powered mill in the state and its turbines can be seen in action on guided tours. A water-right that predates statehood produces the water flow that still runs the milling machines for demonstrations today.
Marks Ridge Winery, at 29255 Berlin Road in Sweet Home, 541-367-3292, is the pride and joy of Jay and Janet Westly, who look forward to sharing their handcrafted wines with you in the dramatic setting of their winery. Their tasting room is said to have one of the best views at an Oregon winery.
Continue on Berlin Road to Springbank Farm (c), 32264 Berlin Road in Lebanon, 503-819-6209. Springbank is home to blueberries, wine, and even a farm camp. The camp’s amenities include horse riding, creek-play, straw castles, pigs, bunnies, goats, sheep, chickens, herding dog, and barn cats.
And finally… who doesn’t like chocolate? To finish your tour, head over to the Victorian Chocolate Company (c), at 959 Grove Street, in Lebanon, 541-401-3765. Let Kelly Reetz, chocolatier extraordinaire, tempt your taste buds with his delicious confections and in particular, his truffles.
There’s a little something for every person in your party along this culinary trail, as well as a few surprises. Stop at the historic sites, take a walk in a garden, visit a local museum, but most of all, enjoy the wonder-filled Willamette Valley and the graciousness of Albany.