Best Wineries Eugene, Oregon | Focus on Iris Vineyards

With 20 wineries in south Willamette Valley around Eugene and three urban wineries in Eugene, it isn’t easy to experience them all in one wine tasting trip. So to narrow your focus, you’ll want to know: What are the best places for wineries & vineyards in Eugene? So that is why this article focuses on Iris Vineyards, and its new Iris Vineyards Wine Bar.

Table of Contents

three hands hold three glasses of wine and click together in toast

Recently, I had the exclusive opportunity to taste Oregon’s two top varieties, Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris, with IFWTWA writers from around the country. It all happened when Iris Winery hosted a ZOOM call so we could taste and discuss the award-winning wine from one of the best wineries Eugene.

I know you’ll love to read the wine and travel writers’ tasting notes for the Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris, but before I share them, let’s take a look at a Eugene wineries map:

Eugene wineries map to plan your visit

In the above map, you’ll see Eugene wineries marked with burgundy-colored tabs. These places are best for wineries & vineyards in Eugene and include: 

  • Sweet Cheeks Winery,
  • Lavelle Vineyards,
  • Silvan Ridge Winery and
  • Iris Vineyards.

I’m excited to announce that Iris Vineyards just opened a wine bar in Springfield, a nine-minute drive from downtown Eugene, as seen on the Eugene wineries map above. More on the new Iris Vineyards Wine Bar later, but first, let’s look at where to stay when visiting the best Eugene wineries:

Where to stay when visiting the best wineries in Eugene, Oregon

As I said before, Oregon’s top two top varieties are Pinot Noir (pronounced pee’ now nuh waar’) and Pinot Gris (pronounced pee’ now gree’). In fact, Pinot Noir makes up 57.8% of the state’s grape production while the second most-grown Pinot Gris comes in at 17.5 %. It makes sense then, that you should be tasting wine made of these grapes when you visit Eugene wineries.  That’s what we did! Here’s what thirteen wine experts had to say about Iris Vineyards Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris wines:

IFWTWA Tasting Notes: Iris Vineyards Pinot Gris and Iris Vineyards Pinot Noir

word cloud with words describing wine form one of the best wineries in Eugene Oregon
Words most-used by wine experts when describing Iris Vineyards 2020 Pinot Noir and 2020 Pinot Gris | Word cloud by UNSTOPPABLE Stacey

Over a dozen writers came together with Aaron Liberman, winemaker at Iris Vineyard and Carl Giavanti of via ZOOM.  We tasted while we discussed the 2020 Iris Vineyards Pinot Gris and 2020 Iris Vineyards Pinot Noir. As shown in the word cloud above, some of the most repeated descriptions of the wines include love, lovely, citrus, apple, acidity and price.  The exclusive tasting was held by the International Food Wine and Travel Writers Association (IFWTWA) and hosted by Iris Vineyards. Read on to see these words in context:

Tasting Notes for the Pinot Noir (pee’ now nuh waar’)

bottle of wine with label reading "Iris Vineyards Willamette Valley Oregon Pinot Noir 2020
close up of pinot noir label reads: Iris Vineyards 2020, Willamette Vally, Oregon, Pinot Noir

Not a high alcohol fruit bomb

Theresa Nozick of “I really appreciate the fact that this is not a high alcohol fruit bomb, which I often get with a lot of the Pinots from California. And so that’s what I love about Oregon Pinots.

“I feel like this is a very soft Pinot, which is beautiful for me. I get some baking spices; I get some nice cherry flavors and very nice bright fruit which I love in a Pinot. So I guess you had to do some pre-fermentation treatment as well as post-fermentation treatment on this one: you did good, you did really good. I would love to compare it to other vintages to see what you said that it didn’t make that much difference between those vintages.”

Great value for the price

Shelly Wilfong of “I enjoyed the Pinot Noir. I also thought it was great value for the price that it over-delivered, as they say. I liked the balance between the fruit and the earthier qualities. So I think I’m gonna have to revisit since I will be in Eugene next month.”

I love it!

Dave Nershi of “I love it!”

Very well balanced

Andy Harris of “I’m so glad I tasted the wine before I heard about all the manipulation you had to do because of the smoke taint because I honestly never would have known. When I looked at when it was harvested and bottled my first thought was that they’re releasing this a little early and it needs additional bottle age. And boy, I was wrong. It’s very drinkable right now—very well balanced, and as it’s been said before, it’s an incredible value for the price.”

Extended barrel aging

Aaron, winemaker: “One of the reasons for the approachability and softness of this wine is that it’s had extended barrel aging, so typically we’re about ten months in barrel with our Pinot Noir, and this one is about 15 in barrel.”

Jo-Anne Bowen of “I am enjoying the light body and smoothness of the 2020 Pinot and as one of our previous member said, it’s a very soft Pinot. I think it pairs lovely with any food because it does not overtake the food. I would pair this with a delicious charcuterie board. I was in Eugene and Springfield just last week, and I’m doing an article and look forward to including Iris vineyards.”

Price points blew me away

Dathan Kazsuk of “Pinot Gris, with its acidity, would go great with a light salad with Mandarin oranges. The Pinot, I wrote here, is elegant and soft, nice fruits, some baking spices. The price points blew me away with what we have here in our state. Something like this would cost astronomical.”

Pairs with spicy foods

Jo Clark of “I immediately got the smell of the blackberries, which I love. I paired it with pork roast and a spicy cauliflower, which I had my doubts about, but it came through. It was good with the spice. And I’ve enjoyed it while we’re talking tonight with milk chocolate and some dark chocolate. Thank you for sharing—very nice wine.”

Aaron, winemaker: “I particularly love the suggestion of salad with Mandarin Oranges with the Pinot Gris. I think that’s a great idea. Also the charcuterie board for the Pinot Noir. I would like to suggest some Rogue Creamery blue cheese with the Pinot Noir, a famous creamery in Southern Oregon. I think Pinot Noir is delicious with blue cheese.”

Tasting Notes for the Pinot Gris (pee’ now gree’)

bottel of white wine in green tinted glass

Reflects Aaron’s perfectionism

Robin Dohrn-Simpson of “The Pinot Gris reflected Aaron’s perfectionism. It’s excellent, with great acidity. The floral notes were inviting; there was a touch of minerality to give it some interest—a perfectly executed wine.”

One of the best I’ve tried

Sue Montgomery of “I’ve been sipping this lovely Pinot Gris throughout the presentation, and I’m feeling very good right now. It is lovely, and I like Pinot Gris, generally speaking. I order it frequently, and this one is one of the best I’ve tried. I’m not just saying that because it’s nice to say, but it’s very flavorful. It has more flavor. Some Pinot Gris just don’t have a lot of flavor. The initial aroma to me was like apples; it even tastes more like an apple and citrus combination and certainly has nice acidity. So I like it a lot.”

Narrow ripening window

Aaron Liberman, winemaker at Iris Vineyard: “To your point about the aromas and flavors in the wine, Pinot Gris is challenging in each vintage because the ripening window, in my view, is very narrow for making a picking decision on this grape. This window is about a week-long, and it starts with citrus, and it ends with apple. So if you push it to the end, you’re gonna be too much apple and no citrus. And if you pick too early, you’re all citrus—no pear, no apple. And so those wines, if you make that incorrect picking decision, are more one-dimensional.”

Knocked out a grand slam on this one

Carl Giavanti of “I comanage a wine competition of only Oregon wines called the McMinnville Wine and Food Classic, and we get a lot of Pinot Noirs, we get a lot of Bordeaux varietals from Southern Oregon, we get, of course, Chardonnay, and we get Pinot Gris. The competition has been going on for 30 years now.

“The judges’ panel—about a dozen judges from around the country—were shocked that a Pinot Gris would actually win Best of Show in this competition, which just happened in January. And it was for the wine that you are tasting now: the 2020 Iris Vineyards Pinot Gris.”

Historic First for Pinot Gris

“That had never happened before: the Best of Show was also the Best White; it was also the Best White Varietal. So Aaron got a grand slam on this one,” adds Carl.

Judge at McMinnville Wine and Food Classic 2021 | Courtesy photo

Absolutely superb experience

Barbara Hansen of “I did something really nervy with that Pinot Gris—I served it with something you would never choose to go with wine, which is very, very spicy Indian food. And would you believe it? It was perfect! It wasn’t masked by the food. And on the other hand, it gave a refreshing change from the tremendously spicy flavors, so it was an absolutely superb experience and thank you for that.”

Lovely nose

Linda Kissam of “Pinot Gris are so hard to make. This one was exceptional. It just played nicely with the food—I had seafood salad tonight. It had a lovely nose, and that’s the beginning of the experience, you know, from the nose to palate… The price point is excellent. Give yourself a hug—you did good!”

Apple upfront

Janice Sakata Schultze of “I’m still learning about wines, and I just truly enjoyed this one. I’m not super familiar with Pinot Gris, but I do like whites, and so I definitely tasted the apple upfront and so very much enjoyed this. I had it with some pasta tonight; it went very, very well with the pasta.”

Would buy this wine again and again

Stacey Wittig of “Thank you so much for sending me this wine—it was, like everyone else has said, very lovely. I loved the acidity of it. I typically drink Sauv Blanc—I don’t drink a lot of Pinot Gris, but I really loved this one. I loved the apple taste—I loved the crispness. But, of course, the acidity is what I love about the Sav Blancs, so I love this wine. It would pair very nicely, I think, with any food. I definitely would buy this wine again and again. I really liked it, so congratulations.”

More about Iris Vineyards

aerial view of rolling hills, 1/3 covered in forest, 1/3 with green vineyards and 1/3 with grassland, home and barn bildings are in the center of this paradise
Iris Vineyards is a huge 870 acre estate outside Eugene, Oregon | Courtesy photo

On approximately 870 acres, Iris Vineyards, one of the Eugene-based wineries, is a huge estate with about 37 acres of vines planted. The property was purchased by Pamela Fry and Richard Boyles in 1992 and they planted in 1996. In the above photo, you can see their home, where they still reside today.

Wineries Eugene news

This week, Iris Vineyards hosts a gala opening for their new Wine Bar in downtown Springfield Oregon. You can relax and sample a wide assortment of their critically acclaimed wines and also wine cocktails handcrafted from local spirits.  Take your time to enjoy locally inspired charcuterie and gourmet cheeses, one of the best things to do at wineries Eugene.

Check out the new wine bar at 322 Main St Springfield, Oregon. It’s in an area of recent renewal that includes Plank Town Brewing and Tavern on the Main, so that makes Vineyards Wine Bar is an ideal stop for those on their way to and from the area’s great dining options.

UNSTOPPABLE Stacey tastes the Iris Vineyards 2020 Pinot Gris while learning about wineries Eugene
graphic of Best in Show medallion

The 2020 Iris Vineyards Pinot Gris won Best of Show and Best White Varietal at the recent McMinnville Wine & Food Classic, a historical first for any Pinot Gris in the competition’s 29 years.

glass of white wine sits between two bottles of oregon wine
UNSTOPPABLE Stacey photo

Ready to visit the best wineries in Eugene, Oregon? Whether you call it Iris Vineyards or Iris Winery, be sure to call them for times. Check your dates for places to stay:

Iris Vineyards Wine Bar

322 Main St, Springfield, OR 97477


Related reading

Read about Scottsdale wine tasting or the best wineries in Livermore California or this superb blend from one of the best Walla Walla wineries.

As is common in the travel industry, UNSTOPPABLE Stacey was provided with wine for the purpose of review. While it has not influenced this review, she believes in full disclosure of all potential conflicts of interest.

In addition, this blog, UNSTOPPABLE Stacey Travel, contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase through these links, I earn a commission at no extra cost to you. These commissions help reduce the costs of keeping this travel blog active. 

Further, as an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. Thanks for reading.

Enjoy this article? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below. Please share this article with the red- and blue-colored social media buttons.

To get more FREE travel tips and inspiration, simply subscribe below and updates will be delivered directly to your email inbox.

Leave a Comment

Want to know How to Buy Cheap Flights?

Master UNSTOPPABLE Stacey’s secrets for finding cheap flights, and you’ll be going to more of your dream destinations than you thought possible.

Get instant access to the
How to Buy Cheap Flights report

Like what you see?

Then Join the UNSTOPPABLE Travel Community

Get UNSTOPPABLE Stacey’s tips and inspiration delivered conveniently to your email inbox.
No spam, promise!