Kirk is recuperating and readjusting to San Diego. Cathy (who is already well adjusted) is just recuperating. That means this post about travels through the vineyards of Oregon was written by Ed (from Yuma) with some photos by Tina.
Tina snapped that picture of my camera and stemware sitting on a wine cask table, the window showing a fringe of vineyards and the beautiful Oregon countryside beyond. Seems like a good place to start this post of our adventures in the heart of the Oregon wine country. I promise it’ll focus mostly on beautiful scenery and food, and I hope you enjoy reading it and looking at the pictures.
Proximity to the best Oregon wine regions was one reason Tina and I stayed in Hillsboro for part of our Oregon vacation. While most of the state’s wineries are located in the large area called the "Willamette Valley," most of the best wineries in that valley, the ones that make the best pinot noirs, are actually located in rolling hills west and south from Portland.
From the Raptor Ridge parking lot, the juxtaposition of vineyards and countryside was quite nice:
After that tasting, we were hungry so we sought out the Red Hills Market in nearby Dundee. It had a nice selection of sandwiches or pizzas (and of course wine or coffee etc.). You just go up and order at the counter:
Wonderful, savory Mediterranean flavors.
Simple, focused, flavorful, and crunchy. Yum.
The baguette was perfect with a crispy crust and a fresh firm crumb. We loved the pheasant pâté, which disappeared that evening. We only opened one of the Olympia Provisions salamis, but they all were good and distinctive. While the Oregon Gouda was just okay, the Mt. Townsend Creamery Haystack was a perfect soft ripened cheese – rich mild dairy flavors and all gooey inside.
If you look carefully at that picture, you will also see a small marionberry pie that we purchased along with some salad at a Whole Foods in the area. The sort of alfresco dinner that we just can't throw together back in Yuma for sure.
The next day, my Auntie Marilyn and her charming beau, Ron, came by in the afternoon to take us out wine tasting. We had a good time talking and driving around and we made it to a couple of different wineries, our favorite being Blakeslee, where we tasted several wines (all of them good) and then bought glasses of our favorites and took them out to the beautiful patio area, a great place to sip, chat, and relax:
Beautiful, but also kind of sad to see Mt. Hood without most of its snow-covered cap.
That day concluded nicely when Ron and Marilyn took us out to a tasty dinner at the Rock Creek Tavern, one of the many interesting McMenamins’ locations. When I went to their first brewpub in Portland back in 1983, I had no idea that I was witnessing the humble birth of a beverage/dining/lodging empire.
Our first stop was one of my favorites, Elk Cove Vineyards, which has been making good wine in the Yamhill Carlton AVA since the late 1970s at a strikingly beautiful location:
All that tasting and talking left Steve and Helen and Tina and I very hungry, so we headed into Carlton for lunch at Horse Radish:
An abundance of fresh lettuce, sliced tomatoes and Carlton Farms bacon, all tucked inside of extremely good bread.
The house made balsamic fig dressing, dried cranberries, and local goat cheese all sat atop wondrously fresh organic mixed greens.
Just look at that real roasted beef. Each sandwich also had pickled onions, a blue cheese spread, and horseradish mayo. Wonderfully good bread again. Great sandwich overall.
Refreshed, we headed off to another beautiful winery location, Anne Amie. Situated at the top of a south facing hillside, the winery offered some outstanding views from its deck:
It also had a nice garden with some unusual vegetation:
Our last stop for wine tasting was at Panther Creek:
Ordinary building on Highway 99 in Dundee – easy to miss with no scenic view:
But excellent tasting Pinots.
Then we continued northeast on Highway 99 into Newburg where we found Subterra restaurant:
It was not easy to locate because most of it is literally underground.
We were all impressed. The mushrooms had a mild woodsy flavor and a firm texture. The soft polenta matched perfectly.
To be honest, I thought it was pretty ordinary.
The salads, on the other hand, were (imho) magnificent:
What's not to love here? Incredible fresh greens. Plump blueberries. Crumbled goat cheese. And I can't remember ever having better tasting hazelnuts. The whole thing lightly touched with a clean tasting, extra-virgin dressing.
The meat was melt in your mouth tender and the mashed potatoes underneath had flavors of garlic and goat cheese with a hint of truffle. I believe those are braised greens at the back of the plate.
There were enough nuts on each of the scallops so that both flavors came through in every bite. The large hillock on the left was sort of like a charred brussels sprout risotto with bits of other veggies and wild rice added for flavor and color.
My picture does not do the dish justice. Tina loved the mix of seafood and enjoyed the rounds of sausage, slices of peppers, and chunks of fennel. The accompanying bread slices were slightly burnt, but she happily dipped them into the sauce and wolfed them down.
The honey drizzled confit tasted great and I appreciated the sweet/sour red cabbage and the fresh broccolini, both visible in this picture, and roasted baby potato wedges that were hiding behind the duck.
We'd had a good time that day, and Tina and I loved all of our excursions out into some of the best AVAs in Oregon. But we have only begun to sample what the area has to offer. I guess it's a good sign – leaving somewhere and already hoping for a return trip.