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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!

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!

Focus on Autumn with Fall Harvest

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

To focus on autumn means to focus on Oregon’s bounty. Focus on the gentle breeze whistling between the Tualatin Valley’s apple trees. Focus on the bright flavor of a just-picked pear. Focus on the gleeful expression of a child finding that perfect pumpkin in the patch. Focus on the sun setting in the hazelnut orchard. And don’t just focus on these precious moments—take a picture of it for the Focus on Autumn Nature Photo Contest!


A filbert farm sunset along the Vineyard and Valley Scenic Tour Route. Photo by Karl Samson.

A filbert farm sunset along the Vineyard and Valley Scenic Tour Route. Photo by Karl Samson.

The Focus on Autumn Nature Photo Contest is our way of celebrating all the ways people experience autumn in the Tualatin Valley. In addition to capturing beautiful moments, photographers are also encouraged to enter their photos for a chance at the prize package that is worth $2,500! With a first, second and third place prize (as well as an honorable mention), you could win premium and professional photography gear like a Canon EOS 70D DSLR camera and amazing editing software.

So, hang your camera strap around your neck and be ready to snap the magical moments you catch at our farms and markets, as well as on the Vineyard and Valley Scenic Tour Route. In case you want a creative sparkplug, we’ve included a few photography ideas below:

From Halloween jack-o-lanterns to Thanksgiving pumpkin pie, pumpkins are a big deal in the Tualatin Valley. Our pumpkin patches are a photographer’s dream with punchy-orange gourds resting below the mountain-scape views and barrels of hay.

The ever-photogenic poinsettias will be waiting to be photographed at the Evening of Lights (November 6 from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m.; Al’s Garden Center in Sherwood; free). Here, stroll through designer-decorated holiday trees and freshly grown poinsettias as one way to usher in the upcoming holidays.

Photo contest procrastinators can rally at the Thanksgiving Wine Weekend (November 28-November 30; varying times, locations and tasting fees). Tour some of Oregon’s best wineries for stellar wines, as well as beautiful photo-ops. Just don’t forget to submit your photos by November 30.


A winery along the Vineyard and Valley Scenic Tour Route in fall. Photo by Wayne Flynn.

A winery along the Vineyard and Valley Scenic Tour Route in fall. Photo by Wayne Flynn.

Find even more Tualatin Valley photography examples and inspiration!

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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

Amphorae Project at Beckham Estate

Posted on: September 29th, 2014 by Jackie Luskey No Comments
Andrew Beckham explaining his handmade amphorae and the wine he ferments inside of it.

Andrew Beckham explaining amphorae and the wine he ferments inside of it.

For many of the best winemakers, their winemaking began as a passion project. For Andrew Beckham of Beckham Estate Vineyard, his process is actually a combination of two passions: wine and ceramics via handmade terracotta amphorae (i.e. vessels) that are used to ferment the estate grown wine.

The ceramics came first. As a potter and full-time high school ceramics teacher, Andrew is a bona fide clay expert. His intricate and artful vases (sold in the winery’s tasting room) are stunning and he relishes the experience of creating a level-playing field between students of all different walks of life in his ceramics classroom.

The wine…that actually came later. When Andrew and his wife Annedria moved to their hillside home in Sherwood, they quickly became friends with their neighbors of La Bonne Terre Vineyard, whom eventually supplied the first clones for their own vineyard. As the Beckham’s family grew, so did the vineyard. One fateful day, Annedria showed Andrew an article about winemaking in amphorae, which is defined as a tall Greek or Roman jar with two handles and a narrow neck that dates back to as early as 10,000 B.C.

Annedria and Andrew both knew that an evolution toward their own amphorae project was inevitable—excitingly so! Just a short walk from the charming Beckham Estate tasting room stands the Beckham Estate studio. Here, Andrew creates the impressive amphorae, which are tall and weigh a few hundred pounds more than most fully-grown adults. While Andrew instructs his high school students on how to create hollows in their ceramic pieces with their thumbs, Andrew uses his full arm to create the deep belly of each amphorae, using a coiling method to build each vessel’s height.  

Here’s an important note: the amphorae isn’t just neat. It also creates great wine. Under the A.D. Beckham label, Beckham Estate Vineyard’s 2013 vintage included about 280 liters of amphorae-fermented Pinot Noir and an orange-style Pinot Gris.

We know, we’ve only scratched the surface of this fascinating project. Luckily, you can learn more about Beckham Estate Vineyard’s amphorae process here:

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

First Fall Events

Posted on: September 22nd, 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.

Don’t lie. Are you one of those people who wills autumn to happen? Perhaps you’ve been ordering pumpkin spice lattes since the kids headed back to school. Or maybe you’re guilty of wrapping an wool infinity scarf around your neck and slipping on some new, killer leather boots…despite a gleefully sunny day. Well friends, the wait is over. Fall is officially here with the autumnal equinox. So order that pumpkin spice latte, put on that snuggly scarf and head to one these early autumn events in the Tualatin Valley.


Crush Party at Montinore Estate
September 27 | noon to 4 p.m. | Montinore Estate | free entry
Oregon winemakers can’t help but celebrate harvest season! Come try your hand—er foot—at the grape-stomping competition.

North Willamette Harvest Trail
October 4 & 11| 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. | varying wineries | $95
A guided bus tours three wineries and a saké brewery for tastings, nibbles, and harvest activities. Use code “HarvestFriend” for $5 off each ticket.

Pacific Northwest Geological Wine Tour
October 12| 9:00 a.m. to 6 p.m. | The Grand Hotel at Bridgeport | $225-250
Oregon wine rocks…literally. Learn about the geology of the Tualatin Valley and why our soil creates such stellar wine.

12th Annual Harvest Century Bike Ride
September 28 | 7:30  a.m. to 2:30 p.m. | starts at Hillsboro Civic Center | $50-$65
Celebrate a glorious fall with a 3-mile, 45-mile, 75-mile or 100-mile bike ride along the scenic roads of the Tualatin Valley.

5k Zombie Mud Run
October 5 | 7:30  a.m. to 2:30 p.m. | Lee Farms | $20-$60
With this early Halloween run, you can choose to be a zombie or a human. Either way, you’re going to need to run through 3.1 miles of tough ‘n muddy terrain!

Color Vibe 5k
October 18 | 9 a.m. start| Washington County Fair Complex | $40-$55
In this case, fall colors are neon. Run through a Technicolor haze on this happy-go-lucky course.  

Fall Festivals

Fall Colors Paddle
October 4 | 7:30  a.m. to 2:30 p.m. | Browns Ferry Park | $10-$50
Discover the beauty and serenity of fall from a different perspective as you paddle the slow and meandering Tualatin River.

28th Annual Great Onion Festival
October 11 | 9  a.m. to 4 p.m. | Archer Glen Elementary | free
This fall festival is the best excuse for bad breath. If you think you’ve got a great recipe, enter it into the “Best Dang Onion Dish” contest.

Birds & Brew Festival
October 11 | 8  a.m. to 2 p.m. | Fernhill Wetlands | free
Birdwatchers flock to this annual event of bird tours, documentaries and talks, especially with the hands-on nature exhibits.

Oregon Heritage Farm Applefest
October 11 | 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. | Oregon Heritage Farms | free
It’s everything apples, plus a little bit more. This down-home day is complete with country music and hay rides.

Don’t forget to check our events calendar for even more fall happenings!