My family in Eugene, Ore., has long been taunting me with pictures and stories from their favorite Willamette Valley winery, King Estate. The wine is among Oregon’s best, and the winery itself rivals any well-established estate – sprawling and stunning. And the restaurant, well, the fact that Eugene residents will drive 30 minutes outside of town on a two-lane windy rural highway to eat there speaks volumes.
So on a recent clear and brisk December day, my sister, brother-in-law, husband and I escaped the pre-Christmas madness of Grandma’s house and drove out to King Estate for lunch.
We arrived a little late, but the kind hostess pushed back our lunch reservation so we could squeeze in a wine tasting first. A flight of, um, I lost count, was $9, I think. And that was refunded when we bought a bottle of wine, which of course we did!
King Estate is really known for its pinot noir (this is Oregon, after all) and most
of the grapes are estate-grown, the rest sourced from Northwest vineyards and all sustainably grown. We tasted a riesling that was surprisingly dry and refreshing, not syrupy sweet as so many rieslings tend to be. The gentleman pouring our wine called it a “patio wine,” something you a can drink all day on the patio, with or without a meal. And he was right!
We ordered lunch (I had the KE Burger, which is delicious, but the surprise was the homemade ketchup that came with the fries!) and shared a bottle of pinot noir. The restaurant atmosphere relaxed yet refined – in other words, you feel fine in whatever attire you arrive in, whether you’re out for a casual weekend drive or dressed up for a special occasion.
I can see why this is my sister’s favorite winery in the Eugene area. Oregon is proud of its wine and its own wine culture – this is not Napa – but King Estate raises the bar for what Oregon’s wine country can be.