Pacific NW: Willamette Valley, day 2

We met our friend from college, Nate Wall, at Day Wines for a tasting and tour. Got to try a bunch of different wines and have a great conversation about wine making methods.

orange wine @ Day Camp  gourds!

Our next destination was Sweet Oregon Berry Co, for their delicious hand pies. Eric got raspberry and I tried the seasonal pumpkin hand pie, and both were great. Our timing was good too, as this was the last weekend they would be open for the season!

Re-fortified we continued to Carlton to visit Cana’s Feast, a winery that had caught our eye on the 2016 trip with some unusual white and red varietals. Unfortunately, they didn’t have any whites open for tasting, only one rose and several reds. My favorites were the “Rhone” style wines, the Syrah and Joie de Vivre. Eric wound up buying a bottle of the Arneis white we wanted to try as well. As a side note, they have a big patio that is quite inviting.

Cana's Feast tasting room

On our way to the Argyle tasting, we passed by the new Dominio IV tasting room and stopped in to search out my favorite tempranillo, the Technicolor Bat. They didn’t have any in stock but we picked up a 2015 Viognier and a 2011 Tempranillo that was drinking well, according to the wine manager.

The last stop of the day was our members tasting at Argyle.  We were greeted at the door with a sparkling rose and once the group was assembled, our host Tim led to the Spirit House tasting room where we tried the 2014 Argyle Vintage Brut, 2007 Argyle Extended Tirage Brut (Eric’s fave), 2015 Argyle Riesling Spirithouse, 2015 Argyle Pinot Noir Nuthouse and the 2015 Argyle Pinot Noir Cowhouse. After the tasting we got a tour of the facilities, including the RD bubbles and magnums. All in all, a great member’s tasting experience and awesome perk for being a wine club member.

member's tasting @ Argyle

Argyle Winery

We headed back to the hotel room and watched the sunset with a glass of wine on the back lawn before heading to Dundee Bistro for dinner. I enjoyed a half dozen of oysters and an olive pizza with a De Ponte Melon de Borgonoune, while Eric ordered the butter lettuce salad and a margherita pizza alongside an apricot ale.

After another full day we went back to the room to watch Stranger Things season 2. :)

Pacific NW 2017: Willamette Valley, day 1

Our flight into Seattle landed at 10pm, so fortunately our friends Dave and Jake who offered to host us for the night live just a few minutes from the airport. Of course we stayed up talking and hanging out with them and their three crazy dogs for a while.

filling breakfast @ Shelly'sThankfully we were able to sleep in until 9am. After a quick re-pack of the car we headed to a filling breakfast at Shelly’s, where I had a salmon benedict and Eric had an omelet with huge chunks of ham and crispy potatoes. My benedict had WAY too much hollandaise sauce but was otherwise good and the coffee was solid.

Completely stuffed we started the drive south through Tacoma, Olympia, and Portland – took a little over 3 hours – not bad! About halfway the clouds suddenly parted and we had beautiful blue skies and sunshine for the rest of the trip.

We had a 3pm appointment for tasting at Erath, and with an hour to kill we wanted to try another nearby winery. Unfortunately our first choice was closed so we decided on Hyland Estates. They are located behind our B&B so we first checked in and dropped off our luggage, hoping to find a tasting card and sure enough! Complimentary tasting for 2 plus 10% off a purchase when buying a single vineyard pinot noir.

Our tasting with Paulina at Hyland Estates was very nice. We arrived at the same time as an older couple so we all did the tasting together. She was very knowledgable about the wines and I had no trouble understanding her even with her French accent. We tried a Gewürztraminer, Chardonnay, their standard Pinot Noir and two single vineyard Pinot Noirs, Clone 117 and Coury Clone. Our favorites were the Gewürztraminer and the Clone 117. We overheard the manager tell another group that the Gewürztraminer was buy two get one free so we got the same deal plus a bottle of Pinot. Came out to be $100 with the B&B discount.

Only five minutes away, our next stop was Erath, one of our favorite places in the valley, and where we have been wine club members for years. Dixie was our entertaining server and we chose to sit out on the patio while she brought us wine after wine in a very relaxed experience. She also mentioned that their penny shipping deal was still going on (!!!) so we selected two cases to have shipped home to us in NC. My only complaint was snacks were not offered (except off the paid menu) – as our last few member tastings came with a small cheese plate. We didn’t ask after it and it wasn’t a big deal.

yellow vines @ Erath

For dinner we chose to walk to the Babica Hen Cafe. Less than a five minute walk from our B&B, it was fine in daylight but a bit tricky after dark  as there are no sidewalks. Dinner started out a bit bumpy as a few of the beers on the menu weren’t available,  but after a few false starts Eric ended up with a tasty Pale Ale and I found a Pelican Export Stout (not listed on the menu) that was very good. I had the Mad Beaver burger with horseradish aioli, crispy onions and blue cheese (cooked perfectly medium) and Eric had the Texas pulled pork sandwich with fried jalapenos, both with curly fries. Everything was delicious.

After a full day we retired to our room to enjoy some of the Hyland Gewürztraminer and plan our Friday.

Pacific NW 2017: Introduction & where we stayed

For the past two years we’ve had a Southwest Companion Pass that lets us buy one ticket, get one free. With only a few months to go before the pass expires we made it a priority to get back out to the Pacific Northwest, home to many friends and many of our favorite wineries. As luck would have it, prices for the weekend before Halloween were quite good, so we made plans to largely revisit our Oct 2015 trip.

Originally we considered exploring the Columbia River Valley in Eastern Washington for part of our time, but after checking drive times realized we could just as easily return to the Willamette Valley in Oregon where we are already club members of two wineries. So we did just that, driving the 3.5 hours from Seattle to Dundee, OR on Thursday, then returning on Saturday, leaving Sunday and Monday for wine tasting in Woodinville, WA. We experienced fantastic weather and fall color, caught up with a half dozen friends, tried some great wine, and may have come home with more bottles than our wine fridge can actually store. As usual, Washington and Oregon left us planning future return trips…

our wine haul!

La Bastide B&B – the Provence Room

Our room was large and spacious with the sink open to the main room, and the shower and toilet in a separate room. Two luggage racks and plenty of windows for natural light.

La Bastide B&B

our room @ La Bastide B&B

A refrigerator in the main dining room is available for guests, which we took advantage of for a bottle of wine. Leandra also tried out the coffee machine in the evening.

Given the nice weather we grabbed some of the backyard chairs and enjoyed the sunset one night.

enjoying a drink on the back lawn

Breakfast was rather fancy, and quite delicious, with a set menu each morning:

  • Friday:  Fresh fruit with coconut cream followed by egg custard with chanterelle mushrooms, salad and toast. Local roasted coffee and orange juice.
  • Saturday: Broiled grapefruit with toasted coconut to start, followed by french toast stuffed with brie and marionberry puree topper with rosemary toasted pecans.

We would definitely consider returning given their convenient location, friendly staff, comfortable rooms, and great breakfasts.

Hyatt House Redmond

We stayed here in 2015, so we knew the location was convenient for wine tasting in Woodinville. As with our last trip, our room was quite spacious with a large bed and wall of windows looking out over the trees.

our room @ Hyatt House Seattle/Redmond

our room @ Hyatt House Seattle/Redmond

Breakfast is quite good here, with an omelet station, several hot buffet items, breads, cereal, etc. This stay was as good as our previous stay, so we would definitely return in the future.

Leandra’s 40th: Silver Falls State Park

We’ve been wanting to go to Silver Falls State Park since our very first trip to Oregon, but it always fell off the list for one reason or another. This trip we set out to rectify our previous oversite, setting out early on Sunday morning. After 1.5 hours of back country roads (and a quick stop for gas) we arrived at the south station where we procured a parking pass via credit card, then headed to the smaller North Falls Trailhead lot to hike to the first two falls. Since it was early we easily snagged a parking spot and began our walk of the ~1 mile top loop.

Upper North Falls @ Silver Falls State Park North Falls @ Silver Falls State Park
Upper North Falls, North Falls

Looking at the trail map we figured we could save our feet a mile or two if we hiked to the next set of falls from the Winter Falls Trailhead. Lucky for us, we managed to get the last spot (of about 8).

so strong!  Middle North Falls @ Silver Falls State ParkMiddle North Falls @ Silver Falls State Park  no trail

Six falls in a four mile hike is a great day for us!

On our way out of the park we stopped back at the South Falls lot, which at noon was now quite busy and filling up rapidly. As to be expected given the parking lot, South Falls itself was very busy with lots of families, strollers, and dogs. Thankfully it was still (barely) in the shade.

South Falls @ Silver Falls State Park

Since we had a wine tasting reservation that afternoon we skipped Lower South Falls in favor of a shower. Overall, Silver Falls State Park was a great day trip, with quite a dense collection of falls and views. We definitely need to get back on a future trip, perhaps at a different time of year with more water flow.

Leandra’s 40th: Columbia River Gorge

Our original plan for our last day in Oregon was to drive to the coast, but I vetoed four hours of driving in favor of returning to the Columbia River Valley and visiting some waterfalls we hadn’t visited back on our 2008 trip (Latourell to Wahkeena and Multnomah to Elowah).

But first – breakfast!

Eric found this location of Cameo Cafe (known for a Korean influence) close to our hotel, so I had to get the kimchi omelet with bulgogi. My giant omelet also came with a four-person portion of hashbrowns. The table next to us wisely decided to split this dish between two people when they saw it delivered to my table… Needless to say, I did not finish all of this and also didn’t eat anything else until dinner.

my ginormous breakfast @ Cameo Cafe East  

Our first stop, after driving past a whole bunch of waterfalls we’ve photographed already, was Wahclella Falls. It’s a pretty two mile RT hike on a well-established trail to this falls. It was fairly busy with families and the small parking lot was totally full but there is street parking just a ways up the road and public toilets at the trailhead.

Wahclella Falls

We needed to check into our Southwest flight at 12:25pm so we stopped in at Thunder Island Brewing for wifi and a half pint. Unfortunately they were out of their Sour and Scotch Porter so we opted for the Hood Valley cherry cider which was refreshing and tasty. Our bartender was very chatty and even gave us a local guidebook to look over while we sipped our beer. On our way out we walked along the river park for some views downstream.

Bridge of the Gods
Bridge of the Gods; a toll will allow you into Washington

The next waterfall was a bit tricky as the directions described a 4-5 mile hike which I was not keen on doing. Instead, we decided to chance the semi-paved road to the trailhead and made it most of the way until I got nervous about the size of the rocks in the road compared to our little compact rental car. It wound up being a little less than three miles RT to the base of Dry Creek Falls and it was a lovely, quiet hike. We only saw two other groups the whole time!

Eric on his photo spot  Dry River Falls
Eric on his photo perch; picturesque Dry Creek Falls

We had some time left so we did a quick stop at Starvation Creek Falls. There are several waterfalls in this area but parts of the trail were under construction, so we just saw the one closest to the parking lot. We will definitely come back and do the longer hike on a future visit.

Starvation Creek Falls  view from base of Starvation Creek Falls
Starvation Creek Falls; looking downstream from the base of the falls

At this point we were thirsty so we drove into Hood Creek and stopped at Pfriem for a Belgian Golden and a sour Saison. We also walked along the river watching the many kite-boarders take advantage of the windy day.

beers @ Pfriem in Hood RiverColumbia River

Though a full day we only spent about 2 hours of driving!

Leandra’s 40th: wine tasting in Willamette Valley

Wine tasting in Willamette Valley is one of our favorite activities in Oregon, and one of the main reasons I wanted to go for my birthday trip. Staying in Newberg for the weekend gave us easy access to many old favorites and some new ones as well.

Saturday

wine tasting @ Dominio IVTrisaetum Winery – We were the first people to arrive and the wine tasting experience with Jasmine was pleasant. I opted for the Red & White flight while Eric got the White only flight. They have a LOT of Rieslings (one of the main reasons we choose this place) but Eric definitely preferred the 2014 Ribbon Ridge (baked apple and lemon with some mineral) over the five other choices. I found their Pinots to be a bit on the light side and also pricey.

Arborbrook Vineyards – An old favorite of ours (we used to be wine club members), we stopped in to buy a few bottles of the Pinot Gris but decided to do a wine tasting as the fee was waived with the purchase of the bottles. Eric picked up a few of the 2014 Croft Pinot Gris and I couldn’t resist two bottles of the delicious 2014 Coury Clone.

Lachini Vineyards – Located within sight distance of Arborbrook and suggested by the staff there, we made this small tasting room our next stop. Their website touts their wines as ‘premium’ and while we thought everything was good (especially the rose), the real value was the Grape Republic label at $25 for a perfectly drinkable Oregon Pinot Noir. Ashlyn was a great hostess and another lively group tasting with us provided plenty of entertainment. The tasting room was warm given the outside temperature, but we had an enjoyable tasting nonetheless. On a cooler day their patio area would have been a beautiful spot to sit.

Dominio IV – This small tasting room in McMinnville was also a revisit for us. The tasting experience was rather impersonal until the end when it was bolstered by the appearance of the winemaker, Patrick, who chatted with us for a few minutes about the wine. The Syrah and Pinot Noirs were good, as usual, but I was less impressed with the Tempranillo on this visit and Eric thought the Viognier had a slight bitterness to the finish this year.

Sunday

member tasting @ ErathErath – Because we are wine club members, we were able to secure a reservation for a private tasting out on the shady front terrace overlooking the vines. Theresa was our pourer (she also hosted me when I had the girls out two years ago) and she did a wonderful job of keeping our glasses full. We receive regular shipments from Erath throughout the year, but this tasting was helpful so we know how our existing bottles are tasting, plus notes on several of the other wines they have available. Our favorites were the 2015 Knights Gambit Rose, 2014 Leland Pinot Noir and the 2013 Le Jour Magique (White Pinot Noir).

Argyle Winery – Noticing the sign coaxing visitors to “end your day with bubbles!” (open until 7pm), we decided to stop here before heading back to the room. I was here two years ago, and since then they have built a beautiful new modern tasting facility behind the small house they previously used for tastings. Eric tried the special “Cool Whites for Summer” tasting and I got a glass of the Knudsen Vineyard sparkling to sip while he took tasting notes. :) Eric found two wines he liked on the list (2014 Spirit Hill Chardonnay and 2014 Nuthouse Riesling) and we let ourselves get talked into joining the wine club because it meant free refrigerated shipping on our first shipment, plus a free bottle of their standard sparkling since it was my birthday month!

Monday

Carlton Winemakers Studio – This place is a little further out but I wanted to go back since I remembered the tasting being good several years back. Christine did not disappoint with her energy and good humor but I was less than impressed with the Portfolio flight offerings. The price points were good but the wine just wasn’t to my liking – this is likely due to the wet 2013 season, which left me unimpressed at nearly all the wineries. Plus you have to buy six bottles to waive the $15 tasting fee. Our favorites were the 2013 Merriman Chenin Blanc and the 2014 Lazy River Estate Pinot Noir.

Carlton Winemaker's Studio

Argyle Winery (part two) – As we were now wine club members, we figured we should stop in and try some of their other options! This time Eric got the flight of bubbles and I tried the Pinot Noirs. I fell in love with the 2014 Nuthouse Pinot Noir and luckily was able to add two more bottles to our Sunday order, leaving room in our shippers for Cascade beer later in the trip.

argylewineflight

As usual, we enjoyed our tasting experiences. In general, we noted that prices are definitely rising in Willamette Valley, and that we preferred 2014 & 15 to the 2013 vintages.

Leandra’s 40th: Mt. Hood

On this trip to Oregon we originally intended to spend Friday wine tasting in Willamette Valley. However, with an expected temperature of 95F, we decided to escape to a higher elevation in search of cooler temperatures.

After a 1h drive, plus a bit of camp traffic, we parked at the Little Zigzag Falls trailhead and made the short half mile round-trip hike to a beautifully shady falls with very cool water, quite refreshing on a warm day.

Little Zigzag Falls

Our next stop was Mirror Lake, a moderately strenuous 1.5 mile uphill (o/w) hike. Most of the trail takes you through forest, but eventually loops around the small Mirror Lake. As the name indicates, there are nice views of Mt. Hood, plus lots of flowers (and bugs!) too.

Mirror Lake living up to its name

in bloom   wildlife

Now mid afternoon, were ready for a bit of shade, so we stopped at Glacier Haus Bistro in Government Camp for a snack of croquettes for me and house-smoked salmon for Leandra. After the Mirror Lake hike and the dry conditions the free water outside was quite welcome!

Refreshed, we headed to the trail-head for Umbrella and Sahalie falls. Both can be accessed via a 4.7 mile hike, or as we found out, you can drive much closer! From the main parking area we did the one mile roundtrip hike to Sahale Falls, where I clambered down the cliffside to a rocky overlook while Leandra stayed on the trail and swatted flies.

Sahale Falls

Alternatively, you can continue driving along the Elk Meadows trail road to the Mt. Hood Meadows Ski Resort, and as you drive over a small stone bridge you will see Sahale Falls on your right.

If you continue up that same road there is a small pull-out just before the resort parking area with a small trail through the meadow. The trail to the beautifully bendy Umbrella Falls is maybe .2 miles, and winds through a meadow that was in full bloom in mid-August.

wildflower meadow

Umbrella Falls

And the view of Mt. Hood is quite excellent too.

Mt Hood

By now it was late afternoon, so we began driving back to Newberg. On the way we stopped to try the beers at Bunsenbrewer. I enjoyed the Wit (cinnamon and coriander) and Leandra sampled the tasty sour stout.

Beeriodic Table menu @ Bunsenbrewer

On the way we fortuitously saw a sign for the Jonsrud View Point, and it was quite picturesque.

Mt Hood from the Jonsrud View Point

Knowing we wouldn’t get to Newberg until after dark, and fearing most of the restaurants would be closed, we decided to stop at Oregon City Brewing for some pretzels and and apricot sour for me, plus a porter for Leandra.

beers @ Oregon City Brewing

All told, a pleasant day trip to escape the unexpected heat.