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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

Vineyard
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.

Winery
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.

Breakfast
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.

Lunch
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!

Dinner
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.

Post-Trip
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.

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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.

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Food on a Stick!

Posted on: September 10th, 2014 by Jackie Luskey No Comments
The turkey leg is perhaps the original food on-a-stick!

The turkey leg is perhaps the original food on-a-stick!

Portlandia’s “put a bird on it” highlights the Greater Portland region’s love of all things quirky. This fun sensibility translates into our food, too, where the motto isn’t “put a bird on it,” but rather “put it on a stick”!

Yup, that’s right. Food on a stick isn’t just for corndogs anymore. One of the best ways to enjoy the dwindling days of summer is to eat that portable, festival-approved snack on a stick. See below for our round up of on-a-stick culinary delights.

Medieval Food-on-a-Stick
We’re not sure how historically accurate it is, but the Oregon Renaissance Festival’s food court is brimming with on-a-stick options. Tear into that turkey leg (hey, a bone is a stick of sorts) or merrily chomp on one of the other fair-findings:  

  • Steak on a stake
  • Hickory smoked sausage on a stick
  • Boneless pork chop on a stick
  • Chicken on a stick
  • Macaroni and cheese on a stick
  • Chocolate-covered cheesecake on a stick

Kebabs

The kebab is perhaps the ultimate food on a stick as it’s not only delicious, but steeped in rich, Mediterranean culinary tradition. Enter, the Gyro Mediterranean Grill. Don’t let the name fool you—this local favorite does more than a good gyro. Go for the kebab combo plate, which comes with one chicken, one lamb, and one kafta shish kebab, along with basmati rice and Greek salad.

Farmers Market DIY
When you have fresh ingredients, making a cute and delicious appetizer on-a-stick is easy, yet looks impressive. Simply head to our farms and markets to pick up the freshest of fresh ingredients. Use the link on the page to see what’s in season right now so that you can plan ahead. In the height of juicy tomato season, we can’t get enough of the classic Caprese salad. Simply load your wooden stick with alternating cherry tomatoes, mozzarella and basil. For something a bit more unique, add these Beaverton Farmers Market finds to your next on-a-stick masterpiece: Sun Gold Farm apples, Briar Rose Creamery’s Chevarino Romano (firm aged goad cheese) and a drizzle of Winters Farms honey. Delicious!  

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Pear Sangria

Posted on: September 4th, 2014 by Jackie Luskey No Comments
Sip the season with our pear brandy sangria recipe.

Sip the season with our pear brandy sangria recipe. Photo: Melissa Hay

Here we are again. The early days of September hold that heartbreakingly beautiful crux between summer and fall. We’re not quite yet ready to say goodbye to the long summer evenings, but the promise of crisp fall afternoons makes us itch for the days ahead.

In salud to this very special time of year, we always whip up a batch or two of sangria. The chilled wine encourages sunny patio happy hours, while the fruit welcomes the first produce of the coming, chillier season.  Last year, we shared our recipe for season shift sangria. Try it along with the recipe below for pear sangria. The local fruit, wine and brandy concocts a refreshing, yet warming nod to September’s bounty in the Tualatin Valley.  

For the apples, peaches and pears in this recipe, gather the best of the best from our farms and markets. Find (and u-pick!) juicy fall fruit from these farms:

Ingredients:
3 tablespoons superfine sugar
4 shots McMenamins Pear Brandy
(purchase at the McMenamins Cornelius Pass Roadhouse our McMenamins Grand Lodge)

1 lime, sliced
1 lemon, sliced
2 ripe peaches, cut into wedges
1 ripe green apple, cut into wedges with seeds removed
2 ripe pears
1.75 bottles of dry white wine
(especially good with David Hill Vineyard’s 2013 Estate Pinot Blanc)

Directions:
Combine sugar, McMenamins Pear Brandy, lime, lemon, peaches, apple and pears into a large pitcher.
Cover fruit mixture with the dry white wine. Stir.
Chill sangria for at least 2 hours. To bring out all the fruity goodness, let chill for up to 24 hours.
To serve, spoon fruits into glasses, then pour the infused wine over top of the fruit.
For an effervescent effect, top each glass of sangria with a splash of soda water (optional).

P.S. Continue savoring autumn in the Tualatin Valley by sharing your visit with others! Enter your nature photography in our Focus on Autumn Nature Photo Contest.

Ask a Local: Abbey Creek Vineyard & Winery’s Bertony Faustin

Posted on: August 29th, 2014 by Jackie Luskey No Comments

When it comes to vacation planning, nothing is more valuable than the local scoop. So, we turned to Bertony Faustin of Abbey Creek Vineyard. You can even catch Bertony riding the winding backcountry wine roads of the Tualatin Valley on Sunday evenings in his 2000 Ninja ZX12r.  Bertony Faustin brings confidence, style and fun to the wine tasting experience at Abbey Creek Vineyard. Get his local tips!

Bertony Faustin brings confidence, style and fun to the wine tasting experience at Abbey Creek Vineyard. Get his local tips!

At Abbey Creek, what do you love most about interacting with visitors?
With both the novice and more seasoned wine drinker, my goal is to make you feel that you’ve taken a new bit of knowledge with you. Whether it’s educating with a level of humility as to not seem pretentious, or just enough swag and confidence to enhance your current wine knowledge, especially since no one knows Abbey Creek wine better than me.

What will visitors find happening in Northern Willamette vineyards and wineries during the fall?
Every fall the North Willamette Vintners Association hosts a Harvest Trail that allows guests to have a hands-on experience of the vineyard, winery and crush pad. 

What’s your favorite part of harvest season?
Being done with harvest season. It gives you a great sense of accomplishment when you get to barrel down and breathe from all the wonderful controlled chaos that just occurred.

What’s one can’t-miss attraction for visitors to the area?
I’d have to say Horning’s Hideout!

Describe a perfect day in the Tualatin Valley.
When I have guests in town, I love using them as a perfect excuse to visit neighboring vineyards and wineries.

What’s a favorite “hidden gem” of the area?
The Tualatin Valley Scenic Bikeway.
 
Where do you go when you want some seriously good grub?
Go to the ABV Public House for the green chile burger

What should every visitor take home as a souvenir?
One or many bottles of Abbey Creek wine, of course.

Describe Oregon’s Washington County in 5 words or less.
Hmmm…There’s No place like home. Guess that was six :)

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

Tualatin Valley Scenic Bikeway: Wheel Turn 7

Posted on: August 27th, 2014 by Jackie Luskey No Comments
Tualatin Valley Scenic Bikeway cyclists enjoy a coffee break at Banks Bicycle Repair & Rental.

Tualatin Valley Scenic Bikeway cyclists enjoy a coffee break at Banks Bicycle Repair & Rental.

When on a cycling adventure, what to you eat as a mid-ride pick-me –up? How about a spicy chai or hearty pancakes? As we’re back with our installment in the “Wheel Turn Series,” we’ll be discussing the best eateries along the Tualatin Valley Scenic Bikeway. As a review, you can cycle backwards and read the previous Wheel Turn blog posts:

Riding against a backdrop of rural splendor, NW Mountainside Road transitions into NW Wilkesboro Road. Next, you’ll be compelled to turn right and pedal through the cute downtown of Banks.

If it’s a chilly morning, warm your bones at the Banks Trail Cafe. In Oregon, we take coffee seriously and this small-town hotspot is no exception. The Banks Trail Cafe serves up northwest made and Italian-inspired Caffe D’Arte coffee and Espresso. The chai latte is truly where the Banks Trail Cafe elevates the breakfast beverage. Each chai drink is hand crafted, which allows for customizations with honey or ginger. Beyond caffeinated cups, the café also offers delicious breakfast and lunch fare.

Just down the road is another amazing breakfast or lunch stop at the Banks Cafe. The little yellow café bakes, stews and grills traditional American favorites, ranging from pancakes to fried chicken to burgers. Banks Cafe is well-loved for its made-from-scratch soups that are packed with vegetables and herbs from the café’s own garden.

Before exiting Main Street and heading onto the last leg of the bikeway, say hello to the friendly folks at Banks Bicycle Repair & Rental. Whether you need a last-minute repair or simply a snack to take on the trail, this locally-owned bike shop is armed and ready to help. Located at the trailhead for the Banks-Vernonia State Trail, the shop’s employees can also offer expert tips for the ride ahead.

Stay tuned for our last installment of the Tualatin Valley Scenic Bikeway “Wheel Turn Series.” In the meantime, request a free bike map!

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

End of Summer Events

Posted on: August 20th, 2014 by Jackie Luskey No Comments

We’re in the home stretch of summer, with just over a month until the Autumnal Equinox. We plan to soak up every last drop of summer sunshine and shenanigans. See below for the best of the best of the Tualatin Valley’s end-of-summer events.

Bask in the fading glow of summer, made easy with a Labor Day wine tasting at Plum Hill Vineyards.

Bask in the fading glow of summer, made easy with a Labor Day wine tasting at Plum Hill Vineyards.

Oregon Renaissance Festival
August 23-September 21, weekends | 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. | Washington County Fair Complex | $7.95-$15.95
Encounter a magical 16th century European village of knights, fairies and more. Bonus: learn medieval lingo!

WinCo Foods Portland Open
August 20-24 | varying times | Pumpkin Ridge Golf Course | $15
Don’t miss your chance to see the next Bubba Watson or Keegan Bradley battle for one of 25 PGA Tour Cards.

Wapato Showdown
August 23 | all day | Brown Park | free
Car enthusiasts show off their tricked-out cars and motorcycles with fun contests to boot.  

Labor Day Tasting at Quailhurst Vineyard Estate
August 30 | 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. | Quailhurst Vineyard Estate | $10-$20
Watch Quailhurst Vineyard Estate’s beautiful horses while sipping the winery’s fine Pinot.

Labor Day Wine & Art Show
August 30-September 1 | noon to 6 p.m. | Plum Hill Vineyard | No cover charge
Celebrate the long weekend with wine from Plum Hill Vineyards and great local artists.

Summer Festival at Garden Vineyards
September 11-14 | noon to 10 p.m. | Garden Vineyards | free
Live music, wine, and delicious food…Garden Vineyards does the end of summer right.

Halfway to St. Patrick’s Day
September 13 | all day | McMenamins Grand Lodge | free
The McMenamins Grand Lodge can’t wait for St. Patrick’s Day. Enter, an Irish-themed party now

Sidewalk Chalk Art Festival
September 20 | 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. | Valley Art Gallery | free
Release the artist within! Create a colorful sidewalk masterpiece in historic downtown Forest Grove.

Annual Corn Roast
September 20 | 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. | Pacific University | no cover charge
Feast on fresh roasted corn as a tribute to the last of summer’s harvest.

OMSI Star Party: Autumnal Equinox Celebration
September 20 | 7 p.m. | Stub Stewart State Park | free
Welcome the new season with a star party. Experts will help you catch a glimpse of Venus, Saturn and Mars.

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