In October, we travelled to Oregon for a few days of good food, great craft beer, and amazing wine. The Beaver State did not disappoint.
Oregon is a foodie haven, combining natural, organic ingredients with style at posh restaurants and local food trucks throughout the city. The Oregon wine scene, which exploded in the 1990’s, produces some of the best Pinot Noir in the world. On the craft beer front, Oregon brewers combine courage with creativity to produce everything from barleywine to stout—all world class. A trip to the region is a holiday for the tastebuds.
If you’d rather get to the meat of the matter, click this link or the image below to see the full list of wine, beer, and other sites visited while in Portland. If you’re a vegetarian and meat isn’t your thing, or perhaps you have an attention span greater than a gnat—unlike me—read the narrative below for a summary of things we did, ate, and drank in and around Portland.
Portland is an amazing city with great food, flavorful brews—beer and coffee—and an easily walkable geography for those in even modest physical condition. A day trip provides access to the vino, and walking about the city satisfies both beer enthusiasts and foodies. There is no shortage of sites to see and amazing views, even if a little drizzle dampens the day.
Before arriving in Portland, consider a few nights at the Alta Crystal Resort at Mount Rainier. Despite an almost constant drizzle this time of year, the hiking was a much needed breakout after 23 hours on airplanes and in airports. Mount Rainier is stunning and the rooms at Alta Crystal are comfortable and include a separate bedroom, kitchenette, and a fireplace for nightly ambiance; although not so much the first night—our friend Mark is many things, but the planet can sleep soundly knowing he is no arsonist.
A special shout out goes to the Keen Garage. Although our Keen boots are a staple hiking in Nepal and Kenya, India’s heat calls for something airier—we’d spent the past year in-country trying to make another brand of shoes work in an unforgiving environment. Finding the Keen Garage in Portland meant a new pair of shoes each. Also, since the laces broke on the best mid-weight hikers ever made—the Keen Durand Mid—replacements were needed. The sales woman was nice enough to take some off a newer model and toss them in with the new Voyageurs.
After cementing a lifelong commitment to Keen, it was time to head to The Nines—we outgrew hostels and shared bathrooms some years ago, and the Nines is about as far from a hostel as one can get. The hotel is immaculate, comfortable, and attended to by friendly staff who remember your name—Joel at the entrance has great suggestions for food and brew pubs. They are also home to one of the leading restaurants in the city, Urban Farmer—the bartender makes the best Old Fashioned this side of the Mississippi.
After settling in and requesting the fridge be emptied—we planned on returning with a fair amount of beer, wine, and cheese—Joel at the entrance suggested getting a bite to eat and a decent India Pale Ale (IPA) at 10 Barrel Brewing in the Pearl District. 10 Barrel has a hoppy-with-just-a-touch-of-piny-ness session IPA that is simply fantastic—combined with the Hummus and Pita, a Kale Caesar, and a Portland Salad, 10 Barrel delivered on epicurean and cerevisaphilian—it’s a real word, look it up—delights. Bonus: Rogue Ales sits right across the street from 10 Barrel.
Rogue dates back to the late 1980s. One would be accurate in saying Rogue helped launch “a Revolution in beer [from] the basement of the Rogue Public House in Ashland, Oregon,” which is what their website reads. The amazing thing about Rogue is despite almost thirty years in business and a nationwide distribution network, their beers remain some of the best craft suds on the planet—and in no other beer is that more apropos than their Chocolate Stout.
Rogue’s Chocolate Stout is breakfast, lunch, and dinner in a bottle. Its deep, charcoal color is topped by a creamy head and gives way to just the right amount of hops, oats, and chocolaty goodness. It is as comfortable in front of a fire as substituting for dessert—who wants to waste those calories on cake? Not to put too fine a point on it, but if Ghirardelli were to plant its 86 percent cacao Midnight Reverie, it would grow to a beautiful bottle of Rogue Chocolate Stout.
The Rogue-venture eventually turned into a meet-up with friends destined to share the following day’s day-long tour of Oregon’s premier wineries. It was a pleasant surprise returning to The Nines and seeing two of Oregon’s finest craft beers waiting with a hand-written note from the hotel which read, “Welcome to the neighborhood.” A light snack topped off by two complimentary beverages was enough for dinner before bedding down in the fanciest bedroll in the West.
The team met the following morning and included me—your subtly handsome narrator—Jeannette—drop dead sexy wife—Christine and Melanie—two marvelous, awesome, incredibly stunning travel companions. Mark from Cellar Door Wine Tours arrived at about 10:00 AM, completing the lineup.
Mark and his wife, Helen, assembled a custom itinerary based on our varied tastes that included visits to Soter Vinyards, Lenne’ Estate Vineyard, WildAire Cellars, Utopia Vineyard, and Bella Vida Vineyard. The day could not have been planned better—shout out to Melanie for all her hard work!
Although every winery poured amazing vintages, there were favorites at each. Soter’s Rose and Estate Pinot, Lenne’s Estate Pinot, WildAire’s wine futures—what an awesome concept; we thought the future chardonnay was so good we bought a case that won’t be ready until next summer—Utopia’s Estate Pinot Noir Rose, and Bella Vida’s three Pinot Noir from three different winemakers all left satisfied palates, numb tongues, and slightly inebriated travelers. It was an amazing day topped off by a sleepy return to Portland and a visit to Chizu, a sushi bar-style cheese restaurant.
A rewarding wine day was followed by two days of walking the City of Roses. The first stop was the REI store in anticipation of a pending trip to Milwaukee—we desperately needed gloves. Gloves and several unplanned items in hand, the next stop was Pittock Mansion atop Portland’s West Hills. Great views gave way to Portland’s Japanese Gardens, Elephant’s Delicatessen, and several other stops on the first day walking.
The next day was set aside for shopping. Visits to vintage clothing and goods stores, flea and food markets, discount outdoor gear shops, and sights closer to the Willamette River proved fruitful and entertaining. The highlight was definitely the Hair of the Dog Brewery for a beer flight and a bowl of chili on a chilly Portland afternoon. There was plenty to see this second day, bringing the total trek to almost 14 miles across the two days—not our longest walk, but considering we were drinking along the way, we were satisfied.
Eventually, reality crept back into an otherwise beautiful trip—the plane to Las Vegas and three long days of conferences departed the following morning. Portland will not be forgotten—especially as the wine shipments start to arrive at Athena’s house. Save us a couple bottles!
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Unless otherwise noted, I drew or took the photographs in the article—as lame as they may look. Any resemblance to persons living or dead is probably planned. Copyright can be found here for my original work.