(Photographs copyright 2010, all rights reserved.)
I'm back! Despair not, for there will be SHADDAPS! all over the place in the next couple of weeks.
We went West this year.....ok, we usually go west, but this time we went to a city that I have never been before, namely Portland, Oregon.
Now, I'm the first to admit that I just like all things West. Westerners are more laid back. They're in less of a hurry. They don't seem to rush to judgment like people from other parts of the country. I should say continent, because Western Canadians are pretty much the same. In short, they just see fun in life a little quicker than most.
Portland is a gorgeous city. I have to sift through my photos and I'll post them for you later if you're interested - if not, tell me and I'll post them anyway. What the heck, It's my blog, right? The gardens are stunning. Washington Park is a wonderful resource for the city, a beautiful retreat for urbanites who need some green and downtime. We walked, we ate (Park Kitchen, Gruner, 23 Hoyt - all fabulous) we took some pictures, it was lovely.
There are craft breweries. Lots and lots of them. One young man told me that Portland is called "Beervana", and I can see why. The creativity of the brewers there is legendary. You cannot go wrong in a pub there - it's all good.
Our main goal was not the city of Portland, though. Always remember that we are Wine People, and that Oregon is the home of Pinot Noir. It was wineries we were after, and The Boy was determined to go to the people who produce some utterly spectacular wine and buy "from the farm gate" as it were.
See, many of the producers that we like are very small. They often make less than a thousand cases of wine in a season. Because of this, distributors aren't interested in dealing with them. The small producers have limited access to the markets and a lot of them aren't even interested in selling all over the place. Their entire production goes to certain restaurants and people who belong to their wine clubs as well as locals. You have to go to the winery to buy from them and everyone's good with that. (Westerners, remember?)
Doing this takes a little research. The last time we were in that area, about 15 or so years ago, there were maybe 20 wineries in the area. Now, there are over 100. Many of them have tasting rooms that are open to the public. Some of them are by appointment only. Research is in order, and phoning ahead is crucial. We went early in the year. A few of the tasting rooms were not to open until the beginning of May.
But going early was a good thing. See, there are a lot of people who do what we did. A LOT. During the summer, the Willamette (say it like Dammit) area is lousy with tourists, all tasting wine with some buying and some not. It's been a major economic boost to the area. Going early in the season, though, meant that the winemakers were free to talk, and they're happy to do it. These folks are passionate about what they do, and it shows.
Now the other thing you need is a place to stay, and there are a whole lot of B & Bs around. We lucked out and went here . Bruce and Susan were brilliant hosts. They went out of their way for us and made dinner reservations, appointments with some of the wineries we wanted to go to and Bruce's breakfasts are out of this world delicious. In fact, his scones are currency in some of the wineries. At Archery Ridge, when we mentioned where we were staying, the man behind the counter popped out with, "Got scones?"
It was a blast. Like I said, it was early in the year, and it's been a cool spring, but the weather just didn't matter. The people were terrific, and Bruce and Susan were so wonderful we're going back there again....maybe in the fall?
A couple of tips. Take a rain jacket. Don't bother with the fancy clothing or shoes. You will literally be walking in farmyards. Don't forget your GPS. Seriously - take your GPS. It saved our marriage....no looking at maps necessary equals a happy couple. Trust me on this one. The roads meander and the addresses and the maps don't coincide all the time.