Umpqua and the Oregon Coast

Today is Sunday, and as usual, I find myself patiently waiting for thirsty customers to pass by the tasting room. The climate is muggy and boring, and the tourists that make up my customer base haven’t been given the green light to head for the mountains just yet.

Last week, Frank and I returned from an all-too-brief excursion to Southern Oregon. We chose the Umpqua Valley because we were curious about Oregon wine beyond Willamette Valley Pinot, and Frank has been a longtime fan of the Roseburg winery, Abacela. With us both being overworked the last few weeks, we were ecstatic to load up the bikes and the dog, Tater, into the van for four days of riding, camping, and drinking.

Midway Break at Willamette Valley Vineyards

We knew it was going to be too late by the time we arrived to do any tasting in Roseburg, so we stopped at the Willamette Valley vineyards for a quick dose of refreshments. Located close to I-5, it made for a nice break in the middle of our road trip. The view from the estate was well worth the stop.

We enjoyed their daily flight and their reserved flight. The reserve flight featured their ’19 Tualatin Estate Chardonnay, which showcased vibrant citrus notes with balanced acidity, a refreshing example of Chardonnay that I was eager to drink again. The Pinots were all quite different and intriguing in their own right, but the ’18 Griffin Creek Grenache from the Rogue Valley proved to be my favorite, with plush tannins, dark cherry, and rich cocoa notes.

The estate also offered a robust food menu, but with our bellies full from a pit stop at In-n-Out, we skipped the food and bought one each of the Chardonnay and Grenache before continuing onto our campsite.

Day One: Camp, Bike, Drink, Repeat

We chose all of our campsites with the help of the iOverlander app, which you can find here. This app proved incredibly useful, and we will definitely use it whenever we are in need of camping or overnight parking. This app allows you to see everything from nearby campgrounds, to warm showers, to free overnight parking. Fellow overlanders that use this app can leave reviews and add helpful information.

Our first campsite was at Whistler’s Bend Park, where we paid $25/night and had plenty of spots to choose from. In the morning, after sleeping in, we took the dog on a short walk to the Umpqua River. The view of vibrant green hilltops meeting the river’s deep blue waters was so refreshing that we opted to drive the van back to the river and enjoy our breakfast in the quiet park alongside the water.

modest breakfast of frozen hashbrowns, eggs with chimichurri & toast

After breakfast, we parked at the Discovery Garden and rode a 33-mile route Frank had sorted out ahead of time here. The route took us through Roseburg’s diverse and enchanting landscape. Between densely packed forests, there were wide open spaces with tons of livestock, including emus, turkeys, and even dwarf sheep! We passed the barren Norris blueberry farms and multiple vineyards. When we returned to Discovery Garden, Tater was happy to see us, and we enjoyed a long walk around the nearby River Forks Park. The park is off-limits for four-legged friends most of the year (how unfortunate), but we lucked out and were able to take her through the park.

For dinner, we headed to Roseburg’s downtown, which might have only been quiet because it was a Tuesday, but it definitely wasn’t as boisterous as the downtowns of Willamette Valley. We tasted at Trella Vineyards and ate at the Brix Grill. Neither space was particularly memorable, but they can’t all be, I suppose.

Our next campsite was John P. Amacher Park, located under the tranquil Pacific Highway. Upon arriving late at night, we were disheartened at the sign at the pay station that read “No Car Camping, No Van Parking, No Hikers[.].” About to leave, we were greeted by the camp host who informed us by “No Van Parking” the sign really just meant no “old hippie vans,” his words. With that cleared up, we were able to park for $20 and slept soundly under the steady drum of semi-trucks rolling by.

Day Two: Tempranillo and the Coast

In the morning, we had a decent breakfast across from the campground at Del Rey Cafe, then made our way to Abacela. Abacela is a Spanish-varietal-focused winery located in Roseburg and features entirely estate-grown wines, most notably their Tempranillo and Albariño.

At our tasting, we were able to enjoy their newly released ’21 Albariño, offering less punchy-acidity and more melt-in-your-mouth honey and grapefruit. Their ’18 Merlot, while self-described as “uncharacteristic,” was full of dark fruit, herbs, and velvety tannins. Their ’18 Barrel Select Tempranillo was, of course, plush, floral and full of red fruit and warm baking spices. The wines were complemented with a few slices of their housemade sourdough.

For dessert, we enjoyed the ’20 Blanco Dulce, an Albraiño made in “ice-wine style” with grapes that were flash-frozen at the Umpqua Dairy. This process of freezing the water in the grapes allows the sugary-sweet grape nectar to be extracted and turned into a decadent and floral dessert wine, dangerous stuff.

Suffice it to say by the end of this tasting, we were full, a little tipsy, and rich in beautiful, age-worthy wines. We ended the tasting by sharing a glass of the ’17 Tempranillo Reserve, then grabbed Tater and took a brief hike through the vineyard. We made our way up to the gazebo for some photos overlooking the estate before collecting our purchases and heading to the coast.

We drove from the winery to Bandon, located right on the coast, just 24 miles south of Coos Bay. Before heading to our campsite, we decided to stretch our legs at the shore. Frank rode his bike up and down the beach while Tater and I kept a slow pace behind him. The weather was perfect, and we ended up walking 5 miles!

Starving, we stopped by Tony’s Crab Shack for a taste of the local oysters harvested in Coos Bay. They were giant, buttery, savory, and made even better with a heavy dollop of horseradish. We also shared the crab cake and a beer. After guiltlessly devouring everything, we headed to our campsite.

Our last night was at the Bullard Beach Campground, where we paid $38/night, which I believe was a higher fee due to us being out-of-staters. We made dinner, finished the Tempranillo, and fell soundly asleep. When we woke up, we were greeted by the local wild turkeys, who thought nothing of the frustrated dogs or RVs trying to leave. These turkeys took their leisurely time nipping at the fresh earth while the campers took pictures and shifted around them.

We fit in a quick bike ride down to the Bullards Beach State Park and were able to bike onto an abandoned jetty near the Coquille River Lighthouse, getting us the epic view of waves crashing down all around us. Definitely be careful if you choose to go out that far, as uneven ground and rough waters could be very dangerous.

Headed Home

Our drive home took us through Coos Bay and Elkton, making me wish we had one more day to explore this section of the coast. Alas, we both had long weeks ahead of us, so we jumped on the I5 and bee-lined home… kind of…

With the usual heavy traffic in Portland, it looked like home might take a while to get to– so we stopped by our favorite brewery and pub house in Portland, Ex Novo Brewing. Frank got their deep-dish pizza with self-proclaimed “crazy sauce,” and I opted for the quinoa bowl featuring perfectly fried delicate squash rings. Both were delicious and were made even more satisfying when paired with their refreshing and crisp beers.

We arrived home late, slinking into the house with hands full of wine and laundry. The next morning I took to gingerly putting away our wines on the rack, reminiscing over the trip, and as usual, thinking of where to go next.

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