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Winners of the Focus on Autumn Nature Photo Contest

Posted on: December 15th, 2014 by Jackie Luskey No Comments

We’re on the final countdown to the winter solstice, which means it’s time to soak up the last few days of the official fall season. It has been a gorgeous few months of bright leaves, birds and skies—and we have the pictures to prove it! As entries for the Focus on Autumn Nature Photo Contest came rolling in, we were continuously reminded of how beautiful the Tualatin Valley really is.

After much deliberation, the judges weighed in and the crème de la crème of the photo contest have now been placed and awarded. Though it’s worth mentioning that each entry was standout in its own way. See all of the entries on our Flickr page.

First place: Larry Chow, David Hill Vineyard & Winery

second place_Batmobile_88
Second Place: Corey Rudolph, Autumn’s Pass at Bald Peak

Third place_Corey Rudolph
Third place: Alec Haskard, Solitary Egret in the fog at Fernhill Wetlands

Honorable Mention_Alec Frank
Honorable Mention: Jason Lindseth, Buxton Trestles over the Banks-Vernonia State Trail

Buxton Trestle
The winning photos of the Focus on Autumn Nature Photo Contest showcase a cross-section of the Tualatin Valley outdoor experience. Each location is easily accessible and utterly gorgeous. While the Bald Peak State Scenic Viewpoint is a thing of wonder with its wide view of mountains and valleys, the drive to it on its own—as Corey Rudolph’s photography proves—is well worth it on its own. Use a complimentary copy of our Nature Passport to learn more about the lovely birdwatching at Fernhill Wetlands, as well as smooth cycling jaunts down the Banks-Vernonia State Trail. And, of course, striking outdoor vistas include vineyard views, too. This is the case with David Hill Vineyard & Winery, whose vines gracefully exemplify the best of every season. Use these winning photos—and the places where they were photographed—as inspiration for your own itinerary to Oregon’s Washington County: The Tualatin Valley.

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Holiday Wine Pairings

Posted on: December 12th, 2014 by Jackie Luskey 1 Comment
Pop open some bubbly from the Tualatin Valley when celebrating the holidays.

Pop open some bubbly from the Tualatin Valley when celebrating the holidays.

The holidays are all about excess. And hey—we’re not complaining. With all the decadent cheese plates, buffet spreads, and candy-cane treats, you’re going to need a plethora of drinking options to pair with the best holiday grub. Below, see our suggested beer, wine and cider pairings for each course of your most extravagant holiday meal.

During this time of year, the appetizer course can linger for hours as something delicious slowly roasts in the oven. So drink something smooth, easy and of which you can have a few. Enter, Two Kilts Brewing Company’s Belgian Brune. The Oregon craft brew taste good with just about anything (especially stinky cheeses) and it’s hard to tire of it.

Additionally, amp up your bread and olive oil game by adding Cooper Mountain Vineyards’ 12-year barrel-aged balsamic vinegar to the mix. The vinegar is made from the winery’s organic and biodynamic Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grapes and, point blank, it’s fantastic.

Cin! Cin! Cheers to family and the coming new year with Kramer Vineyards’ 2013 Celebrate Müller-Thurgau. The tropical notes of hibiscus, banana and kiwi will bring a little summer pep into your winter grumbles. Kramer Vineyard’s Celebrate Rosé of Pinot Noir is a cheery choice, too.

Main Course
Let’s switch it up this year. Why not try cider with your honey baked ham? A nice, crisp one like Bull Run Cider’s Powerhouse Dry Cider can also be used in the cooking liquid for a truly tasty dish.

We recently re-discovered the greatness of port after dinner. The rich digestif is the perfect send-off to a great meal. Try one of David Hill Vineyard & Winery’s two delicious ports. Sweet lovers sip on the 2008 Estate Muscat Port, while those who prefer a bit more spice will enjoy the 2008 Estate Pinot Noir Port.

Next Day Brunch
After a night of merriment via food and booze, you may need a little hair of the dog in the morning. For a great Bellini, mix a bit of bubbly Provincial Vineyards 2013 Estate Nova Sparkling Pinot Gris with peach purée.

Happy holidays! Drink well and responsibly during this festive season. Cheers!

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Love Language Gift Guide

Posted on: December 5th, 2014 by Jackie Luskey No Comments
Find the perfect gift in the Tualatin Valley.

Find the perfect gift in the Tualatin Valley.

What’s your love language? By love language, we mean the way that you prefer to express and experience love. Do you connect with those you love via heartfelt words, actions, gifts, time spent together and physical touch? No matter how you express how you care this holiday season, you can best celebrate it in the Oregon’s Washington County: the Tualatin Valley.

Words of Affirmation
Words matter. Tell your honey how you feel over a romantic dinner at decarli (just say whatever you have to say before eating the polenta fries with gorgonzola butter). You can also have live theater express feelings of love for you as Bob declares his love for Betty in the production of Irving Berlin’s White Christmas.

Acts of Service
For some, actions speak louder than words. Don’t just give a gift—make one! The glass blowers at Live Laugh Love Glass offer classes where you can create one-of-a-kind pieces in their studio. Even if your piece comes out a bit wobbly, the recipient will love it even more for its imperfections.

Receiving Gifts
Big or small, a gift wrapped in a bow is a lovely thing to receive, especially when that present is one-of-a-kind. Support local artisans and boutiques with a shop small mentality while visiting the Tualatin Valley, ranging from sweet little shops to vibrant holiday markets.

Quality Time
In the whirlwind of our busy lives, there is a love language that is spoken through not minutes, but hours and even days. Get in the car for a day of wine tasting on Sip47 Wine Route, complete with 17 purveyors of Oregon wine, saké and cider. Beyond driving the scenic roads, you’ll savor the time spent leisurely sipping locally made libations.

Physical Touch
For many, we have an innate need for touch. With adrenaline pumping after an adventure at Pumpkin Ridge Zip Tour, feel your partner’s heartbeat as you hug each other in congratulations. For a more low key endeavor, there’s always a couples massage at the Ruby Spa at the McMenamins Grand Lodge.

No matter your love language, we hope you have a joyous season of gift giving and gift receiving!

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Ask a Local: Lee Farms’ Annie Lee-Bartelamia

Posted on: December 1st, 2014 by Jackie Luskey No Comments
The Lee siblings prep for the holiday season. From  left to right: Erika, Kara, Annie, Teagan and Tommy.

The Lee siblings prep for the holiday season. From left to right: Erika, Kara, Annie, Teagan and Tommy.

When it comes to vacation planning, nothing is more valuable than the local scoop. So, we turned to Anne Lee-Bartelamia, Farm Manager of the charming tree farm Lee Farms. Born and raised in Oregon’s Washington County, she has the ultimate tips!

What makes Lee Farms so special?
We are a family-run business that is a seven-generation farm! Our ancestors planted their roots in Tualatin in 1869 and we have been here since.

What do you love most about interacting with visitors?
In addition to our farm store and operations we are a kid-friendly attraction. We get to see excited kids come out and enjoy the animals all year! We have an amazing customers that we have grown up with and who are now bringing the next generation to our farm.

What’s your favorite part of the holidays?
During the holidays I feel like I get to connect with our guests on a more personal level. For each person that comes, I feel like I get to be a part of their holiday tradition, which gives me those warm fuzzy feelings that I’m sure a lot of people also get around the holidays.

What’s one can’t-miss attraction?
Well, now we have Cabela’s World Forestry Outfitter; that is a pretty exciting given for a lot of people coming into Tualatin.

Describe a perfect day in Washington County with them.
When we have guests, the first thing we do is tour some of the amazing wineries. We are big fan of Blakeslee Vineyard Estate!

What’s a favorite “hidden gem” of the area?
When we are looking for a break from farm, we love to head out to Hagg Lake and go fishing.

Where do you go when you want some seriously good grub?
Whenever we can’t settle on a restaurant, we head down to Bridgeport Village and see which smell pulls us in. I also vote for Pastini Pastaria so that I can some tortellini gorgonzola.

What should every visitor take home as a souvenir?
Every visitor should go home with an amazing bottle of wine, hazelnuts (covered in chocolate, preferably), Marionberry jam and honey.

Describe Oregon’s Washington County in 5 words or less.
Four seasons of paradise.

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
Urban Decanter’s Rebecca Kramer

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!

Get a Good Night’s Sleep in the Tualatin Valley

Posted on: November 10th, 2014 by Jackie Luskey No Comments
Get your zzz's at The Grand Hotel at Bridgeport, as well as at other Tualatin Valley hotels.

Get your zzz’s at The Grand Hotel at Bridgeport, as well as at other Tualatin Valley hotels.

You don’t need Thanksgiving to be grateful for a good night of sleep. That precious eight hours of snooze time can be hard to come by. November is National Sleep Comfort Month, which seems as good a time as any to reclaim bedtime! Use our five tips to justify a getaway to the Tualatin Valley, where we promise relaxing days that lead into restful nights.

1. Press the re-set button before the snooze button
Jumpstart new bedtime rituals at The Orenco Hotel. The boutique hotel offers 10 homey, yet high-end rooms that are perfect for practicing your new evening routine. Whether it’s a bath in the Jacuzzi tub or a stroll through the courtyard, discover new ways to unwind. And hey—we hope you still hit the snooze button during your stay!

2. Lower the temperature
Our bodies’ heat rises during sleep, which is why sleep experts recommend lower bedroom temperatures. In the crisp days of fall, a cracked window will do; however, some tout the concentrated air conditioning as their favorite part of any hotel stay. Whether it’s a good breeze or simply a good view you’re after, the Century Hotel overlooks the picturesque Lake of the Commons.

3. Make it lux
Anything—including sleep—can be an expression of self. Sleeping in style can aid good sleep overall. Get inspiration for your own Zen space with a stay at Embassy Suites Portland-Washington Square. The hotel itself is plush and its easy access to Washington Square means you can stock-up on luxurious (and tax-free!) sheets and pajamas.  

4. Exercise
Ensure restful slumber by staying active during the day. The Grand Hotel at Bridgeport has truly plum beds, which you will happily dive into after a day of exploring the nearby Tualatin River or bike paths.

5. Relax
A nightcap can be detrimental to sleep, but an afternoon wine tasting won’t interfere with your sleep at the McMenamins Grand Lodge. Of course, you can also relax via a treatment at the Grand Lodge Ruby Spa and a post-massage dip in the saltwater soaking pool.

Find your restful getaway with all of our lodging options!

Last Month of Focus on Autumn Nature Photo Contest

Posted on: November 5th, 2014 by Jackie Luskey 4 Comments

Fall is fleeting—and so is your chance to enter the Focus on Autumn Nature Photo Contest!

Okay, that was a bit dramatic. You still have a solid few weeks, as submissions are open through November 30. So why not plan a last-minute getaway with some photography buddies? Doing so is easy and affordable with chic hotels a short drive away from some of the best nature spots. The Century Hotel even overlooks the serene Lake of the Commons, and the McMenamins Grand Lodge hosts an impressive, whimsical garden of its own.

When we say “Focus on Autumn,” we really mean that in whatever way is authentic to you and your passions. If you’re wild for wildlife, then wake up early to catch the sunrise at one of the refuges listed in our Nature Passport. Oenophiles can hold a wine glass in one hand and a camera in the other while visiting vineyards throughout the northern Willamette Valley. Oregon’s bounty is full of all its rustic charm along the scenic tour route in the autumn—snap a picture of a friendly alpaca or a filbert farm. And of course, cyclists and hikers agree that some of the prettiest photo-ops come when you least expect it when trekking local trails.

Wondrous Wildlife

photo by Bruce Lee

photo by Bruce Lee


Vineyard Views

photo by Tina Collins

photo by Tina Collins


Fertile Farms

photo by John Gaudette

photo by John Gaudette


Tantalizing Trails 

photo by Larry Andreasen

photo by Larry Andreasen


From the beauty of these photographs, we hope that when we say don’t miss out on the Focus on Autumn Nature Photo Contest, that we also mean that you simply shouldn’t miss out on the wonders of fall in the Tualatin Valley, period. Come experience Oregon’s best spots for fall—and bring your camera with you. Who knows? Your skills could earn the first prize, which includes $2,500 worth of photography gear!

Find more nature photo contest inspiration.

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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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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!