So, some people have casually noted that my poor blog has been neglected lately, and while I am sorry if I hurt its feelings, I was frankly too busy enjoying the summer! August was a whirlwind month, which started off with a wonderful and relaxing trip to the Willamette Valley in Oregon with my hubby Matt. We were both in need of a break from all things Los Angeles, and this trip basically left me desperately pining for a more permanent getaway in Oregon. Nothing fancy, you know, just a modest home with a nice big deck overlooking a small pinot vineyard - with room for a cow and some horses, of course. Oh, and maybe a couple chickens. Matt probably thinks I've gone off the deep end, but for someone stuck in the city all the time the idea of fresh milk and eggs has a strange allure (although I have no doubt it would soon lose its luster if I had to milk a cow daily, or twice daily for that matter). Anyway, it is truly beautiful up there, and at the risk of too many of you storming up there and ruining the somewhat undiscovered gem that is Oregon wine country I will give you a quick run down of some of the highlights.
First off, we stayed at this cute vacation rental called Fox Farm Cottage. I highly recommend it, and the owners Jack and Heidi and very sweet while still giving you plenty of privacy. It was more room than we needed, being a 2 bed/2 bath house, but the outdoor hot tub and prime location in Dundee sealed the deal. I have a feeling that they have no problem renting this place out since I had to book it back in March to get the week I wanted. The garden outside was amazing and filled with fruit trees, some of which were ripe with plums and apples - not to mention the gargantuan sunflowers! Our favorite part though was just sitting outside at dusk with some Pinot and nothing else to do but talk and watch the sunset.
We got up at the crack of dawn (much to Matt's chagrin) our first morning there to make it out for a hot air balloon ride with Vista Balloons. Now, Matt is a little afraid of heights, but he actually had no problem and enjoyed the scenic ride. You also take part in setting up and taking down the balloons, which is actually quite a sight. I took way too many photos, but really, how often do you see other hot air balloons from your very own balloon in the sky? The amazing hot breakfast afterwards was a great finish, with all the crew and pilots bringing different potluck style dishes. Our pilot John had brought this amazing french toast casserole thing that was gone in about 2 seconds. Yum.
We also went on a horseback riding wine tour which included stops at 3 different tasting rooms, operated by Jack Price Stables. Now, I know what you're thinking: horseback riding + wine = a bruised butt (or worse, head). But really, it was fine and with only 3 stops you don't get tipsy. The horses were beautiful former Tennessee walking show horses that were very well trained and a pleasure to ride. As this was Matt's second trail ride he is now a "horse master" and he so humbly put it. But actually, he seemed quite at ease and we both enjoyed the ride and the amazing scenery and we rode through different vineyards.
The remainder of our trip was mostly spent drinking and eating, as any good vacation should go. We tried to make it out to several different tasting rooms, but I'll just give you a list of some of our favorites (most of from which we brought bottles back with us):
Dundee Hills AVA
Four Graces - lovely staff at this tasting room, especially loved their whites (Pinot Blanc and Pinot Gris), plus we could walk there from our place!
Vista Hills Vineyard - favorite stop on the horseback riding wine tour. Amazing "Treehouse" tasting room. Loved the Saga Hills Reserve Pinot Noir and the Piedmont Pinot Noir.
Cristom Vineyards - excellent pinot noir with a focus on single vineyard wines. Brought home the 2007 Eileen Pinot Noir and the 2008 Germaine Chardonnay.
Bethel Heights Vineyard - absolutely stunning tasting room, my personal favorite wines of the trip. The 2008 Pinot Noir Willamette Valley was delicious and a bargain. Bought 2 more bottles here in LA, which are already gone!
Whistling Dog Cellars - had this 2007 Pinot Noir in a restaurant and was blown away. Unfortunately the tasting room was sold out! May have to order this one online . . .
For dinner we made it out to the Joel Palmer House, which focuses on cuisine inspired by the local wild mushrooms (delicious, and sustainable!) as well as Red Hills Provincial Dining which was an intimate dining room with delicious seasonal food.
While the restaurants were top notch, our favorite meals were the simple ones we made at our cottage: grilled flank steak with roasted bell peppers and mushrooms, marinated portabello sandwiches with local peaches, and of course some tasty omelettes!
We spent our last day in Portland, enjoying the energy of the city and eating at an incredible Thai place - Pok Pok - but I'd have to say that the wine country stole my heart. Hopefully we will be making it up there soon again, even if it does make me want to buy a cow!