Outdoors

Grape Escape

A Willamette Valley road trip

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

If you need a few days break from “real life,” consider heading south to Oregon’s Willamette Valley. Sandwiched between the coastal mountains and the North Cascades, the valley is the state’s burgeoning wine country, where lush, meandering hills and dales are heavily populated with wineries, the majority of them small, family-owned enterprises.

I spent the night at one of them, the Black Walnut Inn and Vineyard, a Tuscan-style inn that sits high up on a hill overlooking rows of neatly planted vineyards. The 15-acre property has expansive rooms, cozy, fireplace-lit nooks and warm decor, making it a fabulous place to breathe in the beauty of the region.

My first night I sat before an outdoor fireplace on the terrace, soaking in the quiet beauty of the wine country. At breakfast the next day my frittata came adorned with edible flowers and herbs snipped from local farms. Fueled and fortified, I set out to explore.

The valley is home to 700 wineries and tasting rooms, and within a 20-mile radius of the inn there are no less than 250 of them. The fabulous wines being produced in the valley are garnering industry awards, international attention and respect for their sophisticated notes. If you appreciate good wine, you can’t go wrong in this neck of the woods.

Our first stop was Zenith Vineyard for a tasting of pinot gris and a chat with hostess Jenn Stein. “Our winemakers received a huge confidence boost in 2016, when Wine Spectator named the Willamette Valley wine region of the year,” she told us. “It gave us the assurance that our wine profiles had validity and could hold their own.”

Over glasses of Zenith’s auxerrois, pinot noir and tempranillo, we learned about the 90-acre sustainable wine farm where no pesticides or herbicides are applied. 

Sustainability is a key word at several of Willamette Valley vineyards. At a picnic lunch at Maysara Vineyard, Mo Momtazi discussed his biodynamic farming, a series of holistic practices focused on pesticide-free, clean, conscious plantings.

“We believe this allows for a superior expression of our terroir in our wines,” he said. It’s certainly reaping results for Momtazi, who planted the vineyard in 1997 and treats his vines with a steeped tea made from stinging nettles.

Later, I spent an indulgent afternoon sauntering around McMinville. Once a hub for walnut farming, the walnut groves have been replaced with vineyards in recent years. As a result, the sleepy city of 33,000 is enjoying a renaissance as brewers and vintners become increasingly successful.

The historic downtown is lined with mom-and-pop cafes, wine-tasting rooms, gift shops and boutiques. Outdoor concerts have become a summertime staple in the Grainery District and old grain warehouses have been reincarnated into coffee shops, breweries and cellars. This is the place to hang out and people-watch on a gorgeous sunny day. With a cold drink in your hand and a farm-to-fork meal on the horizon, this is a place that makes “real life” feel far, far away.

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Events
Today
The Spitfire Grill

7:30pm|Performing Arts Center Mainstage

Boating Center Open

10:00am|Community Boating Center

Bard on the Beach

12:00pm|Vanier Park

Skagit Guided Adventures

12:00pm|Skyline Marina

An Iliad

7:30pm|Maritime Heritage Park

Skagit Tours

10:53pm|Highway 20.

Plover Ferry Rides

12:00pm|Blaine Harbor

Seaside BBQ

5:30pm|Semiahmoo Resort

Ferndale Street Festival

6:00pm|Downtown Ferndale

The Phantom Tollbooth

7:00pm|BAAY Theater

Sin & Gin Tours

7:00pm|Downtown Bellingham, historic Fairhaven

Dynamic Duos

9:00pm|Upfront Theatre

Skagit Tours

10:53pm|Highway 20.

Pancake Breakfast

8:00am|American Legion Post #154

Fidalgo Bay Day

9:00am|Fidalgo Bay Resort

Lake Whatcom Park Trail Build

9:00am|Lake Whatcom Park

Twin Sisters Farmers Markets

9:00am|North Fork Library

Anacortes Farmers Market

9:00am|Depot Arts Center

Concrete Saturday Market

9:00am|Concrete Community Center

Mount Vernon Farmers Market2333

9:00am|Riverwalk Park

Bellingham Farmers Market

10:00am|Depot Market Square

The art of arrangement

10:00am

The Flower Festival

10:00am|Depot Market Square

Sumas Writers Group

10:00am|Sumas Library

Lynden Farmers Market

10:00am|Centennial Park

Blaine Gardeners Market

10:00am|H Street Plaza

Lummi Island Saturday Market

10:00am

Airfest

10:30am|Bellingham International Airport

Cemetery Tours

11:00am|Lynden Cemetery

Weavings Pop-Up Sale

11:00am|Vida Nueva Rugs

Plover Ferry Rides

12:00pm|Blaine Harbor

Modern Quilts Final Weekend

12:00pm|Whatcom Museum's Lightcatcher Building

Sumi Fun for All Ages

1:00pm|Museum of Northwest Art

Summer Jazz Combo

2:00pm|Jansen Art Center

The Poetic Apothecary with Judith Adams

3:00pm|Upper Skagit Library

Nooksack River Walk

3:00pm|Horseshoe Bend Trailhead

Summer Fun in the Park

4:00pm|Blaine's Marine Park

Janie Cribbs and the T.Rust Band

5:30pm|Heart of Anacortes

Seaside BBQ

5:30pm|Semiahmoo Resort

Lummi Island Crabfest Dinner

6:00pm|Lummi Island Grange Hall

Sin & Gin Tours

7:00pm|Downtown Bellingham, historic Fairhaven

Skagit Tours

10:53pm|Highway 20.

Tomorrow
The Spitfire Grill

7:30pm|Performing Arts Center Mainstage

Boating Center Open

10:00am|Community Boating Center

Bard on the Beach

12:00pm|Vanier Park

Skagit Guided Adventures

12:00pm|Skyline Marina

Skagit Tours

10:53pm|Highway 20.

Plover Ferry Rides

12:00pm|Blaine Harbor

The Phantom Tollbooth

7:00pm|BAAY Theater

Skagit Tours

10:53pm|Highway 20.

Weavings Pop-Up Sale

11:00am|Vida Nueva Rugs

Plover Ferry Rides

12:00pm|Blaine Harbor

Modern Quilts Final Weekend

12:00pm|Whatcom Museum's Lightcatcher Building

Seaside BBQ

5:30pm|Semiahmoo Resort

Sin & Gin Tours

7:00pm|Downtown Bellingham, historic Fairhaven

Skagit Tours

10:53pm|Highway 20.

Birchwood Farmers Market

10:00am|Park Manor Shopping Center

Langar in Lynden

11:00am| Guru Nanak Gursikh Gurdwara

Community Free Market

11:00am|Flora Street

Dog Days of Summer

11:00am|Whatcom Humane Society

Bellingham Handmade Market

11:00am|Goods Nursery and Produce

Plover Ferry Rides

12:00pm|Blaine Harbor

Big Band Bonanza

12:00pm|Fairhaven Village Green

Skagit History Cruise

1:00pm|La Conner Channel Lodge

Summerfest

1:00pm| Josh Vander Yacht Memorial Park

La Conner Live!

1:00pm|Gilkey Square

Skagit History Cruise

1:00pm|La Conner Channel Lodge

Audubon at the Museum

1:30pm|Whatcom Museum's Old City Hall

International Concerts on the Border

2:00pm|Radost Folk Ensemble

Monday
Boating Center Open

10:00am|Community Boating Center

Skagit Tours

10:53pm|Highway 20.

Skagit Tours

10:53pm|Highway 20.

Plover Ferry Rides

12:00pm|Blaine Harbor

Skagit Tours

10:53pm|Highway 20.

Plover Ferry Rides

12:00pm|Blaine Harbor

Bark Week

12:00pm|Boundary Bay Brewery

Camp Korey Classic Golf Tournament

12:00pm|Eaglemont Golf Course

Poetrynight

7:00pm|Alternative Library

Open Mic Night

7:00pm|Village Books

Guffawingham

9:00pm|Firefly Lounge

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