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Photograph Gratitude in the Tualatin Valley

Posted on: November 19th, 2014 by Jackie Luskey No Comments

What are you thankful for this year? Here in the Tualatin Valley, we’re oozing with gratitude for our rolling mountain ranges, bountiful farms and the way in which this fertile land creates some of the best food and wine in the country. That’s a lot of gratitude right there and we think it’s worth expressing in more than words. In fact, show us why you’re thankful for the Tualatin Valley by entering the Focus on Autumn Nature Photo Contest

Thanksgiving weekend is also the last weekend to enter the contest (submissions close November 30!). With so much festive hullabaloo happening throughout Oregon’s Washington County, there will be last-minute photo inspiration everywhere you look:

A good turkey gobble is best followed by vineyard views at the Thanksgiving Wine Weekend. Wineries open their doors for wine tastings overlooking post-harvest vineyards. With your camera in tow, try and capture the fog twirling around the vines or dew drops dangling off the fence posts.

Fall vineyard views by Joel Zak

Fall vineyard views by Joel Zak

For photographers with a sense of humor, head to Alpacas of Oregon for the annual Alpaca Open Barn & Holiday Sale (November 28-29 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.). Here, you’ll find goofy subjects—alpacas!—who are always curious for cameras.  

Alpacas are the best photo subjects. Photo by Joel Zak.

Alpacas are the best photo subjects. Photo by Joel Zak.

The autumn-themed photo contest can still have some wintertime flair with entries from one of our holiday tree farms or at the Helvetia Christmas Festival (November 28-30 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.). Noble and Grand firs stand majestic, ready to be photographed in their green glory.  

Holiday Tree Farm by John Gaudette.

Holiday Tree Farm by John Gaudette.

As if these attractions aren’t reason enough to hit the town with your camera, then maybe the photo contest prizes will nudge you of the door:

Drool-worthy photography gear are the prizes for the photo contest.

Drool-worthy photography gear are the prizes for the photo contest.


1st Place:  Canon EOS 70D DSLR Camera, plus UV filter, camera bag, Canon Pixma Pro-100 printer and more (provided by The Shutterbug), plus onOne Perfect Photo Suite 8 Premium Edition software (total value $2,500)
2nd Place:  Binoculars from Leupold Optics and onOne Perfect Photo Suite 8 Premium Edition software (total value $555)
3rd Place:  $100 Visa Gift Card and onOne Perfect Photo Suite 8 Premium Edition software (total value $280)
Honorable Mention:  onOne Perfect Photo Suite 8 Premium Edition software (total value $180)

Enter the Focus on Autumn Nature Photo Contest now!

Five Best Peanut Butter Treats

Posted on: November 12th, 2014 by Jackie Luskey 2 Comments
Find the best peanut butter treats in the greater Portland region.

Find the best peanut butter treats in the greater Portland region.

Important question: crunchy or creamy peanut butter? It’s a polarizing question, we know. Whatever side of the peanut butter debate you fall under, you can satisfy your peanut butter cravings—and celebrate National Peanut Butter Month!—right here in the Tualatin Valley. We’ve rounded up five spots that are just as nutty about peanut butter as we are.

1. Peanut Butter Cream Cone from Moonstruck Chocolate Co.
Portland’s premier chocolatier is not messing around when it comes to its peanut butter cream cone, which weighs in at an impressive 8.64 ounces, filled to the brim with peanut French butter cream.
Moonstruck Chocolate Co.: 11705 SW Beaverton-Hillsdale Highway, Beaverton; Monday-Saturday from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.

2. Peanut Butter Cupcake from Sweet Story Bakery
We’re partial to the peanut butter cupcake in all its decadent glory, but you can’t go wrong with any of the peanut butter desserts at this cute shop. Adorable peanut butter cake pops show great restraint, while the heavy-duty peanut butter bars could almost qualify as a meal.  
Sweet Story Bakery: 16227 SW 1st Street, Sherwood; Tuesday-Friday from 9 am. To 7 p.m., Saturday 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Sunday 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

3. African Peanut Stew from the Native Foods Café at Bridgeport Village
Peanut butter can be used as a key ingredient of a main course. Enter the healthy, nourishing and oh so savory African peanut stew. Though if you have room for dessert, go ahead and order the peanut butter parfait—its layers of whipped peanut butter and banana bread crumbs are irresistible.
Native Foods: 7237 SW Bridgeport Road, Tigard; Daily 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.

4. Chocolate Peanut Butter Shake at the Hillsboro Pharmacy
This old-school soda fountain has been making milkshakes for over a century! So, they really, really know what they’re doing and it shows in the thick and perfectly sweet chocolate peanut butter shakes.
Hillsboro Pharmacy: 243 E. Main Street, Hillsboro; Monday-Wednesday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturday 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

5. Red Wine Truffles from…us!
Instead of a PB&J, we go for a PB&P. That is peanut butter and Pinot, of course! Try our easy recipe for red wine truffles, made with peanut butter chips and David Hill Vineyard’s Pinot.

Now try all five options and report back with your favorite!

Candy & Wine Pairings

Posted on: October 31st, 2014 by Jackie Luskey No Comments

Now, be honest—how much Halloween candy do you steal from your kids’ stash? When stocking up for trick-or-treaters, we somewhat shamefully know that the mixed bag of goodies will inevitably turn into a one-for-you-and-one-for-me sort of situation. Making peace with you Halloween candy addiction, you might as well take it up a notch by pairing it with good Oregon wine. See our favorite pairings below!

david hill vineyard Candy: Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups
Wine: David Hill Vineyard and Winery’s Farmhouse Red
Reese’s peanut butter cups are a prized trick-or-treater score. But keep a few for yourself to pair with this $12 per bottle stunner. The candy’s sweet peanut butter mixes delightfully with the soft and jammy red blend, making for a grown up PB&J experience.


Abbey Creek VineyardCandy: Snickers
Wine: Abbey Creek Vineyard’s 2012 Baco Noir
A Snickers has a lot going on with it chocolate, nuts and caramel deliciousness. Its decadence needs to be matched by the similar heavy hitter of the Baco Noir. The wine’s earthy medium body and caramel nose complements as many bite-size Snickers as you can get your hands on.   


beckham estate vineyardCandy: Three Musketeers
Wine: Beckham Estate Vineyard’s Pinot Noir 2012
Balance the fluffy nougat filling with something a bit more grounding. Enter, Beckham Estate Vineyard’s Pinot Noir. The straight forward Three Musketeers doesn’t interfere with the nuances of Pinot’s subtly rustic flavors.


blakeslee vineyardCandy: Twix
Wine: Blakeslee Vineyard Estate’s 2012 Chardonnay
From aging in French oak, this wine carries toasty caramel and vanilla bean notes, which creates a harmony with the silky caramel of Twix.  


montinore estateCandy: Starburst
Wine: Montinore Estate’s 2012 Reserve Gewürztraminer
Sometimes, sweets go with more sweets. Such is the case here. The Gewürztraminer delivers bouncy notes of honey, Mandarin orange and rose petal…if only Starburst came in these flavors, too!


sakeCandy: Kit-Kats
Wine: SakéOne’s G Joy Genshu saké
Kit Kat’s are wildly popular in Japan, which inspired us to pair the candy with saké instead of wine. The wafer-like texture of the candy is balanced by the rich punches of this premium saké.


Now, tell us your favorite candy and we’ll find a wine to pair with it!

Fall Traditions in the Tualatin Valley

Posted on: October 24th, 2014 by Jackie Luskey No Comments

traditions collageWhat’s your favorite tradition? Whether it’s a big annual fair or as simple as a yearly cookie-making party, everyone has traditions within their families and hometowns that they can count on year after year. While taking a trip might feel like a departure from tradition, a visit to the Tualatin Valley is a great time to fold yourself into the traditions of our own friendly community. As the seasons change, our traditions stay as steadfast as ever. So, come join us for some upcoming traditions where locals love seeing new faces.

Ween yourself off of Halloween’s sugar high with the 80th Annual Verboort Sausage Festival (November 1 from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.; 4285 NW Visitation Road, Forest Grove; $8-$16). The community of Verboort is filled with families that have been in the area for as long as 150 years; so they’ve had time to really hone their recipe for the homemade sausage, sauerkraut and applesauce that they began sharing at the yearly dinner in 1934. This tradition is a popular one as the Verboort Sausage Festival accommodates 8,000 diners in a single day. Doing the math, that accounts for about 15 tons of sausage!

You know how some families decorate their home for the holidays the day after Thanksgiving? Well, Al’s Garden Center in Sherwood doesn’t buy that logic. They happily jump the gun with the Annual Evening of Lights (November 6 from 4 to 9 p.m.; Al’s Garden Center; free). Stroll through designer-decorated Christmas trees while listening to live music. The best part? Enter the warm greenhouses to pick out your favorite, freshly-grown poinsettia.

Turkey may rein king as the tradition for Thanksgiving, but the weekend that follows it can be owned by Oregon wine. Whether visiting family in the greater Portland area or hosting out-of-towners, have a blast during the Thanksgiving Wine Weekend (November 28-30; various locations; varying tasting fees). Meet winemakers, enjoy barrel samples and get a sneak peek at upcoming releases. If that’s not a good tradition then we don’t know what is. Though, the wine-averse (gasp!) can instead partake in yet another tradition with Holiday Wreath Making (November 28-30 at 11:30 a.m. daily; Tillamook Forest Center; $12).

Cheers to traditions, both new and old!

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Apple Cider Beef Stew & Pumpkin-Pear Cornbread

Posted on: October 22nd, 2014 by Jackie Luskey 1 Comment
Enjoy a hearty beef stew with local apple cider and pumpkin cornbread made with Oregon pears.

Enjoy a hearty beef stew with local apple cider and pumpkin cornbread made with Oregon pears.

We’re all about balance. We balance out weekend getaways—jetting from outdoor adventures to wine tasting to shopping excursions—with cozy weekday respites at home. Using ingredients from the Tualatin Valley, we balance a savory stew with sweet pumpkin cornbread. Our slow cooker recipe includes Bull Run Cider, which mellows the sweetness and gives depth as the stew, well, stews. We’re also sharing a semi-homemade secret: mixing local ingredients like pears into store-bought cornbread is an easy way to infuse Oregon flavors into dinner any night of the week.

Apple Cider Beef Stew


2 lbs of stewing beef, trimmed and cut into 1 inch cubes
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium sized onions, chopped coarsely
2 ribs celery, chopped
4 carrots, peeled and chopped
about 10 small red potatoes, quartered
1 28 oz. can whole plum tomatoes
1 1/2 teaspoons seasoning (such as Trader Joe’s 21 Seasoning Salute)
2 cups chicken broth
1 cup Bull Run Cider’s Creekside Cranberry Perry
2 bay leaves
1 cup frozen peas
Salt and ground pepper to taste
5 tablespoons all-purpose flour (we used a gluten-free blend and it worked splendidly)

Lightly brown meat in olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.
Add tomatoes to the slow cooker, then the browned meat.
Add onions, celery, carrots and potatoes to the slow cooker.
In a small bowl, mix 1 ½ cups chicken broth, a ½ cup of cider and seasonings.
Add liquid to slow cooker, and mix.
Add the bay leaves. Cover and cook on low for 8 – 10 hours.
One hour before serving, add frozen peas, salt and pepper.
In a small bowl whisk together the flour and remaining 1/2 cup of broth, then add to the slow cooker.
Leave slow cooker on low setting for another 20 minutes before serving.

Pumpkin-Pear Cornbread


1 package cornbread mix (and oil, butter and milk that the directions call for; however, omit eggs)
½ can pumpkin puree (if you’re a real showoff, make your own after visiting one of our pumpkin patches)
1 Bosc Pears from Jim Dandy Farm Market, diced

Make cornbread according to package’s instructions.
Fold in pumpkin puree.
Stir in diced pear.
Bake according to instructions; bake time may need an additional 5 minutes due to extra moisture.

Enjoy the flavors of fall and the Tualatin Valley!

Oregon Wine Harvest Re-Cap

Posted on: October 17th, 2014 by Jackie Luskey No Comments

The year 2014 has been an exciting one for Oregon wine. You don’t even have to ask our winemakers—because we already did for you while on the North Willamette Vintners Harvest Trail! We’ve broken down the 2014 Oregon wine harvest by peeking into three different wineries and their takes on three different phases of winemaking: vineyard, crush pad and the winery.

A spectacular vineyard view and vines bursting with fruit at Árdíri’ Winery and Vineyards

A spectacular vineyard view and vines bursting with fruit at Árdíri’ Winery and Vineyards

Árdíri Winery and Vineyards, like many area vineyards, yielded so much amazing fruit this year that they ended up leaving bunches of it on the vine for birds—and visiting wine tasters—to pick off and enjoy. Come pick a few for yourself, especially as Árdíri Winery and Vineyards is just 30 minutes outside of Portland and has an amazing view.

Árdíri’s winemaker, John Compagno, comes from a science background, which helps explain Árdíri’s double-helix logo. To go along with the genetic nerdery, the Árdíri’ team told us that Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir grapes are nearly identical. The only genetic difference in the gene that determines the grape’s skin color!

The crush pad de-stems and crushes juice from just-picked grapes at Kramer Vineyards.

The crush pad de-stems and crushes juice from just-picked grapes at Kramer Vineyards.

Crush Pad
Just a few steps away from the peaceful deck that’s surrounded by heavy hanging grapevines and maple trees is the happy hubbub of Kramer Vineyards’ crush pad. Here, a clearly tight-knit group of staff and interns huddle around tons of freshly picked grapes, which they share with hovering honey bees that are eager for a taste.

The Kramer family (with two generations of winemakers!) jokingly admitted that their new, American-made crush pad equipment was easy with its English directions (opposed to translating the more common, European equipment).

Elk Cove's winemakers check on the progress of their grapes by taste-testing juice in the fermentation tank.

Elk Cove’s winemakers check on the progress of their grapes by taste-testing juice in the fermentation tank.

Every step of the winemaking process is magical, but the work in the winery is where winemakers really get to play as professional taste-testers and full-blown scientists. The winery and its huge, temperature-controlled fermentation tanks act as a lab on steroids. Elk Cove’s Associate Winemaker Heather Perkins doesn’t just taste-test from the barrel, but begins as early as taste-testing from the fermentation tanks so that she stays in-tune with the wine and how it’s changing from start to finish.

Harvest is finishing up, but our vineyards, wineries and tasting rooms always have lots to share. Plan your trip now!

Ask a Local: Urban Decanter’s Rebecca Kramer

Posted on: October 10th, 2014 by Jackie Luskey No Comments
Rebecca Kramer, owner of Forest Grove's Urban Decanter, shares her local tips.

Rebecca Kramer, owner of Forest Grove’s Urban Decanter, shares her local tips.

When it comes to vacation planning, nothing is more valuable than the local scoop. So, we turned to Rebecca Kramer, owner of the Forest Grove wine bar Urban Decanter. Having grown up and then started her own business in Oregon’s Washington County, she has the ultimate tips.
What makes Urban Decanter so special?
The cozy wine bar offers guests a comfortable atmosphere with a great selection of northwest wines, craft beer and cocktails. We also have homemade soups, panini and small plates. We have created what our guests refer to as a “Cheers” like place to gather.
What do you love most about interacting with visitors?
I love connecting with visitors and finding out their stories. So many of my regular guests are like family that it creates a great community around us.
From where do you get your cooking inspiration?
Two places: When I go out to eat and Pinterest. I am on Pinterest A LOT to keep my imagination in the kitchen fresh and creative.
What’s one can’t-miss attraction for visitors to the area?
You have to go see Forest Grove’s newest tap room, Waltz Brewing…Tell them I sent you!
Describe a perfect day in Oregon’s Washington County.
We are the gateway to wine country, so wine tasting is a MUST! I would also be sure to stop and eat at one of the local restaurants such as 1910 Main before finishing up the evening with a bottle of sparkling wine around a fire pit!
What’s a favorite “hidden gem” of the area?
The Wilson River. I love that river. It is so relaxing to just drive into the forest and explore.
Where do you go when you want some seriously good grub?
Pac Thai doesn’t have one stand out dish, but five: spicy crispy chicken basil, pad thai, pumpkin curry, crab fried rice and tom yum soup!
What should visitors to take home as a souvenir?
This is easy! Wine!

Describe the Tualatin Valley in five words or less.
Outdoors, libations, family, farms and picturesque!

The welcoming Urban Decanter is filled with top-notch Oregon wines and Rebecca's soul-satisfying cuisine.

The welcoming Urban Decanter is filled with top-notch Oregon wines and Rebecca’s soul-satisfying cuisine.

Other tips from locals:
Curiosities Vintage Mall’s Travis Diskin
Maggie Buns’ Maggie Pike
Clean Water Service’s Sheri Wantland
SakéOne’s Steve Vuylsteke
Bag&Baggage’s Scott Palmer
Vine Gogh’s Jenny Schildan
Cooper Mountain Vineyards’ Barbara Gross
Abbey Creek Vineyard’s Bertony Faustin

An Apple Itinerary

Posted on: October 8th, 2014 by Jackie Luskey No Comments
The Oregon Heritage Applefest is known for its tasty caramel apples.

The Oregon Heritage Applefest is known for its tasty caramel apples.

Hold up, pumpkins. You and your pumpkin patches don’t get to have all the fun this fall. In the Tualatin Valley, apples shine in all of their glory, too. To prove it, we’ve created an itinerary for an apple-tastic day.

A healthy breakfast need not apply today! Instead, grab donuts from Sesame Donuts (multiple locations; open seven days a week, 24 hours). The popular spot excels at apple donuts, crumbles and fritters.

Morning Apple picking
With low-hanging branches, Fuji apples are ready for the picking at Bell’s Orchard (24350 SW Farmington Rd., Beaverton; Open Tuesday-Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.).

With 10 varieties on hand, Oregon Heritage Farm (22801 SW Scholls Ferry Road, Hillsboro) shows its devotion to all things apple with an annual Applefest (October 11; 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.; free), complete with an apple sling shot and apple rope maze.

Yet another great apple farm is Smith Berry Barn (24500 SW Scholls Ferry Road, Hillsboro; open Tuesday-Friday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturday-Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.). The farm’s 21st Annual Heirloom Apple Festival (October 11; noon to 4 p.m.; free) includes chicken apple sausages topped with caramelized sweet onion. Plus, the farm store always has a great assortment of apple goods.

Just across the street, grab lunch at South Store Cafe (24485 SW Scholls Ferry Road, Hillsboro; Tuesday-Friday from 8:30 to 2 p.m. and Saturday-Sunday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.). Of its many specialties, don’t miss the chicken salad’s crunch of apples, almonds and currants.

Cider visit
In lieu of happy hour, tour Bull Run Cider (7940 NW Kansas City Road, Forest Grove). Using only fruit that is grown within 100 miles of the cidery, Bull Run Cider loves Oregon apples. Tours are offered by appointment—schedule yours!

Devoted to northwest ingredients, Bethany’s Table (15325 NW Central Dr., Portland; daily dinner service) serves local apples paired with beehive cheese and Marcona almonds.

Whip up scrumptious apple recipes, including our sweet potato and apple pizza, as well as our surprisingly delicious apple and Gouda oatmeal cookies.

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Oktoberfest Spirit with Oregon Beer Icon Art Larrance

Posted on: September 24th, 2014 by Jackie Luskey No Comments

Art Larrance brews and serves innovative, northwest style ales at the Raccoon Lodge & Brew Pub.

Art Larrance brews and serves innovative, northwest style ales at the Raccoon Lodge & Brew Pub.

Guten Tag! While Oktoberfest has German roots, the Tualatin Valley puts its own spin on it, sharing our local beer culture with any and all who visit. One of the founding fathers of Oregon’s craft beer scene—Art Larrance—calls the Tualatin Valley home. At 70 years old, Art is still entrenched in the flourishing beer community, using Art Larrance’s Raccoon Lodge & Brew Pub as his home base.

Since co-founding Portland Brewing, the Oregon Brewers Festival and Cascade Brewing in the 1980s and ’90s, Art has continued shaking up what Oregon beer means. Sure, we’re in hops country, but that doesn’t mean that the IPA gets to have all the fun. Why not switch it up? While Cascade Brewing makes a stellar IPA with a malty backbone and bright citrus notes, the brewery is also revered for its northwest style sour ales.

Sour ales have a Belgian genealogy, but many German breweries pump out their own versions—making the Cascade Brewing sour ales a playful nod to Oktoberfest. Beyond that, sour ales are a surprisingly drinkable brew. New to beer? Sour ales cut the suds’ usual bitterness. Total foodie? Sour ales taste like the buzzed cousin of the trendy kombucha.  Beer snob? These ales are top-notch beers, sour or not. 

We’re especially fond of the Honey Ginger Lime, which lives up to its name in its bright flavor. Another standout is the Sang Royal, which is aged in Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon wine barrels. The result is an aromatic beer of sour cherries mixed with earthy taste. These beers are further proof of Art Larrance living by a tradition of innovation, which he first established for Oregon beer.   

So, check out Art Larrance’s Raccoon Lodge & Brew Pub, as well as these other beer-happy happenings:

Oktoberfest at the McMenamins Grand Lodge
September 27 | all day | McMenamins Grand Lodge | free
Celebrate Oktoberfest with a biergarten, food and revelry.

Harvest Century Bike Ride
September 28 | 6:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. | start at Hillsboro Civic Center | $50-$65
Finish a strenuous bike ride with a finish line party that features a beer garden and live music.

Spooky Ales at Cornelius Pass Roadhouse
October 29 | 6 p.m. | McMenamins Cornelius Pass Roadhouse | happy hour prices all night
Sample a new, small-batch beer while chatting with resident brewers.

Find places to stay. | Create a personalized itinerary. | Find places to eat. | View the digital visitor guide.

North WIllamette Harvest Trail

Posted on: September 12th, 2014 by Jackie Luskey No Comments

Summer has been good to the Tualatin Valley, which means that fall—and the wine harvest that comes with it—is going to be even better. Yes, wine lovers, the vines are looking supremely good right now. Watch the video below with R. J. Lint of Plum Hill Vineyards to learn more:

Don’t just reap the rewards of the upcoming harvest. Be a part of it, too, at the North Willamette Harvest Trail Weekend (October 4 and October 11 from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.; $95 per person). The day-long and hands-on wine tour from the North Willamette Vintners Association connects wine lovers and wine makers for a day of winemaking during the vineyard’s prime.

Let’s detail your vine-and-wine day. First, hop on a bus and meet your tour guide, who will be a winemaker, winery president, tasting room manager or wine glass supplier. It’s sufficed to say that a total wine pro will be on hand to answer your toughest questions. Next, travel to three different wineries, where you’ll experience the following:

  • Walk the vineyard to learn about farming methods
  • Work the freshly-picked fruit on a crush pad
  • Follow the science of wine with a close-up look at the testing equipment
  • Be lead through each step of the winemaking process
  • Watch rebarreling and bottling demonstrations
  • Enjoy wine and food pairings at each stop

As a bonus, the tour also includes a visit to SakéOne, the leading brewer of craft saké in America. The Tualatin Valley makes great wine because of our soil and climate. Similarly, the Tualatin Valley makes great saké because the east slope of our coast range creates amazing water quality that’s needed for premium sake.

After a day of wine tasting, make sure you have some place to unwind that night. Choose for our array of hotels. The Century Hotel even offers an Adventure in Wine Country Package, complete with two meals, wine and an artisan cheese plate.

Reserve your spot on the North Willamette Harvest Trail now! Get your tickets here. And be sure to use the discount code “HarvestFriend” for $5 off of each ticket.

Find places to stay. | Create a personalized itinerary. | Find places to eat. | View the digital visitor guide.