Keep it Weird, Portland

Last week, I told you about the wine country portion of my vacation to Oregon with my boyfriend and his parents. Now you’ll get, the rest of the story [sorry, couldn’t miss the opportunity to go a little Paul Harvey] on Portland.

On our third full day in Oregon, we traveled back towards Portland and stopped for a morning hike at Multnomah Falls.

Multnomah Falls 7

The awe-inspiring 611-foot-tall Multnomah Falls

Now I’m from Ohio, and I’ve been on hikes. But my idea of a hike is a nice gravel path through the park with a few hills, but mostly flat. This did not fit that idea.

It started out easily enough. We made it up to the bridge no sweat…although the mist from the from the falls was already starting to wreak havoc on my hair…and paused for a few group photos, even acting as photographer for other tourists like ourselves before continuing on. That’s when things got interesting.

Multnomah Falls 5

That’s about the time this “hike” turned into a 3-mile round trip death march up the side of a mountain with more than a dozen steep switchbacks.

Multnomah Falls 8

I was too busy trying not to collapse or fall off the side of the mountain to snap a decent picture of the trail, so I borrowed this one from Black Watch Sasquatch

I used to be in shape, and if you recall, I was starting to get back into a nice fitness regimen [that has since fallen to pieces], but it had not prepared me at all. I made it about halfway up the mountain before I was really huffing and puffing and had to take off my sweatshirt. I started asking “Are we there yet?” a lot and paused every time someone passed us coming back down…this was both a way to catch a quick break and avoid getting knocked off the trail and plummeting to my death [not a completely invalid fear as we turned on the news later that night to hear about a girl who had fallen off that very trail…thankfully she survived]. I was motivated to keep going on by people making their way back down from the falls [their easy breathing and jaunty steps taunting me as I struggled] especially one crazy lady in dressy wedge sandals, a little dog whose legs seemed to go a million miles a minute but didn’t appear to tire [if he can do it then I definitely can!] and of course not wanting to look like a whiny, girly-girl failure in front of my boyfriend [no self-respecting farm girl wants be any of those things].

So, I pulled myself together and, with a lot of encouragement from my boyfriend, made it to the top of the falls.

We made it!

We did it!

And boy was it worth it because the view was amazing.

Multnomah Falls 6

Looking out from the falls over the Columbia River

After working so hard to make it to the top, I wanted to hang around a little and take in the falls. My boyfriend, ever the explorer, was happy for the chance to unleash his inner little boy and climb around off the trail.

Multnomah Falls 2

And we played a little game of “let me take a picture of you while you’re taking a picture of something without you knowing”…also known as “picture in picture” for short:

Multnomah Falls - Pic Within a Pic 2

My scenic inspiration and view of the top of the falls from the safety of the overlook

Multnomah Falls - Pic Within a Pic 1

His inspiration…this one would technically be a picture within a picture within a picture…well done boyfriend, well done

Multnomah Falls - Pic Within a Pic 4

His scenic inspiration and adventurous view of the top of the falls

Multnomah Falls - Pic Within a Pic 3

My inspiration…the photographer at work

After our adventures at the top, we rejoined his family and made our way back down the mountain, through cutback after cutback. I like to think that I looked as carefree as all those people I’d seen before, but I have my doubts. Going down my legs were starting to feel like jell-o from the hike and the trail was a bit slippery from the spray of the falls…not to mention I was more afraid of falling off the side of the cliff than on the way up so I was more or less hugging the inner mountain wall.

Multnomah Falls 4

In what seemed like no time at all [especially when compared to the going up], we had made it back to the bridge and our death march hike came to an end. But not before I could snap one last artsy photo of the falls.

Multnomah Falls 3

After the hike, we piled back into the car and traveled the rest of the way into Portland to check into our hotel, where I promptly collapsed on the bed to relax before dinner.

On our last full day in Oregon, my boyfriend and I struck out on our own to explore Portland. Now, I have to admit, that going into the trip, I thought I’d enjoy exploring Portland more than visiting winery after winery. Once again, I was wrong. Portland definitely has some gems, but I came to the conclusion [rather quickly] that Portland just isn’t the city for me. I do not fit into the Subaru-driving teen angsty-ness mold of Portland. The grunge/hipster/slacker thing the twenty-somethings of Portland have going on could not be further from my classic, pulled together thing [my boyfriend’s parents actually had their waitress at lunch ask where they were from because they didn’t look like they were “from around here”…which she swore was a good thing].

Like I said, though, there were gems. We started our morning off at Stumptown Coffee Roasters, a cute/cool coffee shop with a trendy hipster vibe and a line almost out the door and so artisanal/against the man that they only accept cash…a fact I was willing to overlook because the pastries were delicious and the coffee was really good [different than that other Pacific Northwest favorite but in an interesting way].


Photo courtesy of Stumptown Coffee Roasters

Coffee in hand, we made our way to the mecca of bibliophiles everywhere: Powell’s Books.

Powell's Books Sign

I don’t even know where to begin! Photo courtesy of Wishing for Horses

The four floor building sits on an entire city block and is packed with row upon row of every book imaginable. I was so overwhelmed that all I could do was wander around with my mouth open, staring in amazement and running my hands along the shelfs of books as I passed. In the pressure of the moment I couldn’t decide what to buy, so I just got lost in the stacks [reliving my childhood in the children’s section and feeling entirely under-read everywhere else].

Powell's Books

So. Overwhelmed.

That afternoon, we hit up the other Oregon adult beverage staple: the microbrewery. We hopped across the river to Widmer Brothers Brewing where we toured their brewery and did a tasting. They were just finishing up their weekly brew cycle, so we didn’t actually get to see any beer being made, but our tour guide did explain all the steps:

First, the malt grain is dropped into the mash tun along with gallons of warm water (aka mash) where it hangs out at really high temperatures before moving on to the lauter tun, where the wort (water and sugars) is separated from the mash. Next it’s pumped into the wort kettle where everything boils and the hops are added at varying points to add bitterness, aroma and flavor to the beer. The last step of the process in this first room is for the wort to head to the whirlpool, where all the non-liquid settles to the bottom. On it’s way out to fermentation, it’s cooled down and yeast is added. The beer is fermented in giant tanks at different temperatures and for different lengths of time depending on the style of beer being made. Last but not least, the beer is bottled and kegged and shipped out for sale.

Brewery 4

The mash tun, lauter tun, wort kettle and whirlpool (they all look pretty much the same from the outside)

Brewery 3

Widman Brothers uses two kinds of hops one that’s more bitter and one that’s more aromatic. I think these are the bitter hops but I could be wrong.

Brewery 2

And that would make these the aromatic hops.

Brewery 1

The fermentation tanks

Our tour guide was really interesting and knew a lot about the microbrewery scene and brewing in general [he actually judges beer competitions and created one of the company’s brews]. Since we’d spent the first part of the week tasting wine and there’s a correct way to taste wine [the 4 S’s: See, Swirl, Smell, Sip], I was curious if there was a correct way to taste beer. Turns out it’s basically the same process you’re just looking for different flavors, aromas, etc.

I’m not a huge beer person and I can’t drink anything super dark [think Yuengling and that’s about as dark as I go], but I really enjoyed Widmer Brothers signature brew, the Hefe, an unfiltered hefeweizen. The company is starting to market some of it’s beers nationally now, so I was actually able to find a Hefe after I got back from vacation.


One of my new favorite beers. Photo courtesy of Widmer Brothers Brewing

After the brewery, we tried to hit up Voodoo Doughnut because a few friends had told me it’s the place to go. Turns out they were right, because there was a line out the door and around the block just to get in. We quickly decided donuts were not essential to our Portland experience.

Portland 2

I like donuts, but not enough to stand in that line…I learned my lesson with Georgetown Cupcakes

We finished off our last night of vacation with take out pizza and an in-room movie as we packed.

Portland 1

We had a nice view of Oregon and Mt. Hood off in the distance as we packed

The next morning, we traveled at the crack of stupid again, but I guess when you’re heading back east and you’re already three hours behind, it’s better to get up at the crack of stupid than home at that time.

Portland 3

It was so clear the morning we took off that I may have been a little rebellious and not turned off all my electronic devices so I could snap a photo of Mt. Hood…at least I left everything in airplane mode!

All in all, it was a great vacation [if you get the chance to head to Portland and the Willamette Valley definitely do it], and I was sad to head back home to reality. One of the best parts about vacation was that I let myself completely unplug and turn all the alerts off for my cell phone. It was so great not to be constantly bombarded with dings and tied to my phone that I waited an extra day after getting home before reluctantly turning it all back on.

As we get ready to head into Labor Day Weekend and the unofficial end to summer, I’m a little sad to see all the summer relaxation coming to a close. But fall is coming up, and to tell you the truth, I think I’m a fall girl at heart.


Happy National Dog Day!

Happy National Dog Day!

Happy National Dog Day to my favorite family dogs – Weasley and my nephew-dog Jasper 🙂


It’s a Sip of Wine

It’s a smile, it’s a kiss
It’s sip of wine, it’s summertime
Sweet summertime
~Kenny Chesney, Summertime

I’ve been on a bit of a posting hiatus. Summer decided to get in full swing and between the visitors, traveling, work and evening fun times, blogging fell somewhere by the wayside. It’s still early in my blogging experience, and I haven’t mastered the art of short posts here and there [in case you haven’t noticed yet, I tend tp get a bit long winded in telling stories with asides and wanting to make sure you know every detail], but it’s something I’m going to be working on as summer transitions into fall and things really get busy.

But before summer ends, I realized I need to share what happened on my official summer vacation to Oregon Wine Country.

Way back in the middle of June, I set off on a vacation to the Willamette Valley and Oregon Wine Country with my boyfriend and his parents. Here’s how it went down.

My portion of the vacation started out at the crack of stupid [as my boyfriend likes to say]. It was wheels up out of Reagan National at 6:30 a.m. to meet up with my boyfriend and his family on a layover in Minneapolis before heading on to Portland together. Everything was going smoothly until our flight out of Minneapolis started to board and my traveling companions had not arrived. I kept checking their flight’s status and it just kept saying “landing.” I started thinking about what I would do if they missed this connection [his parents had taken care of hotel and rental car reservations so I had no idea what I would do if I went on to Portland and had to wait for them there]. Thankfully, I never had to test my ingenuity and we were able to fly together – on time and in First Class [all during the flight I had a little Fergie playing on repeat in my mind].

Finally, after a slight delay in the rental car line and an hour long drive, we made it to our home away from home for the next three nights: The Black Walnut Inn & Vineyard [and promptly took a nap after our long day of travels].

Black Walnut Inn 10

This place made me seriously consider starting my own bed and breakfast/vineyard someday.

This place was awesome…think bed and breakfast Italian villa style. Beautiful dark woods and plush, comfortable furnishings all throughout. I would have stayed forever if they would have let me.

Black Walnut Inn 9

I loved our private little patio. We’d sit out and drink our coffee and tea in the morning or read our books and admire the view during our afternoon breaks.

The room my boyfriend and I shared was AMAZING. The most comfortable king bed I’ve ever slept in was piled high with cushy pillows and a plush duvet. And those chairs. Once you sat in them you never wanted to get up.

Black Walnut Inn 11

They told us we could take anything from the room we wanted and they’d just charge it to our bill. I tried to take the whole thing but it wouldn’t fit in my suitcase.

And let’s not forget the view. Almost all of the exterior walls were floor to ceiling windows with two sets of French doors that opened right onto the property.

Why yes, that is the view from bed as I watched the sun set before dinner.

Why yes, that is the view from my bed as I watched the sun setting before dinner.

The three days we spent in Dundee all went pretty much the same: we’d wake up, admire the view and then make our way to the dining room to grab a cup of coffee [or in my case tea] and to choose our breakfast from a menu that changed daily [this place made me a lover of bagels and lox…and has left me craving it ever since]. After a very indulgent breakfast, we’d get ready for the day and head out to the tasting we’d set up for the morning, followed by a tasty lunch at local eateries and back to the hotel for an afternoon nap [there’s something about drinking wine before noon and then a nice lunch that just makes you want to sleep] before a decadent dinner at the fine dining establishments of the Willamette Valley [we had amazing, Top Chef worthy, food baby-creating meals at JORYThe Joel Palmer House and The Painted Lady].

One day, we made it back to the inn just as it was starting to rain one of those nice, steady, relaxing rains. We left our French doors open and listened to the rain as we napped and it was glorious. When we woke up, we watched over the horizon as the rain moved from area to area.

Black Walnut Inn Rain

Watching it rain

Black Walnut Inn Rainbow

There was even a rainbow!

The whole experience of our daily routine made me feel a little like I was in an episode of Downton Abbey…living in an amazing house, having people serve us amazing meals, and changing several times a day for daytime activities, lounging and then getting dressed up for long, multi-course suppers. What can I say, I was kind of in my element [although I don’t think I’d be happy doing that every day…I need a little variety in my life].

Dinner at Joel Palmer House

All dressed up and ready for one of our fancy dinners.

Of course, it didn’t take my boyfriend as long as me to get ready, so he put in a lot of time lounging outside our room reading or just taking in the view.

Black Walnut Inn - Reading

I hear the newest Dan Brown book is very good.

At this point I’m sure you’re thinking, “That’s great, Angela. We’re very happy you had a nice little schedule, but where did you go? Tell us about the wine!” Well, for all you wine enthusiasts out there, here you go.

Now, you could visit wine country and just hop from tasting room to tasting room, easily visiting five or six vineyards in a day. But for us, it was more about the experience and really learning about the wines and the wineries themselves. So, here is a little of what I learned about the area wineries in general:

  • The Willamette Valley is best known for its Pinot Noir [my favorite!]
  • The Willamette Valley is broken down into smaller American Viticultural Areas (AVAs) [we were staying in the Dundee Hills]. In order for a wine to be labeled as a Dundee Hills Wine, at least 85% of the grapes used to make it must come from the Dundee Hills region. If the grapes came from various AVAs in the Willamette Valley it would be a Willamette Valley Wine. Or if the grapes came from all over the state, it would be an Oregon Wine. The wine maker can also specify which vineyards the grapes in the wine came from [this is helpful when looking at wines in the grocery store…now you’ll be able to tell what the labels mean!].
  • The wineries/vineyards [I’m not exactly sure what the difference between the two is] are all fairly small production, so you won’t be able to find a lot of their wines in the stores. You either have to visit the winery, join their wine club or drink it at the few restaurants they service.
  • Wineries will buy each others grapes because the different soil locations give different qualities to the grapes that they want to add to their wines.

In the two days we were in the Dundee Hills area, we visited four wineries: Domaine Serene, Torii Mor Winery, Anderson Family Vineyard and Anne Amie Vineyard [because of the short amount of time we were there, we didn’t actually get to do a tasting of the Black Walnut Inn wines, but we did take the bottle in our room home with us and it was delightful…I guess this just means we’ll have to go back ;)].

Domaine Serene

Coming into the trip, this was the main tour and tasting we had planned. My boyfriend’s parents are big wine people and Domaine Serene is one of their favorites. It is definitely one of the bigger wineries in the area.

Domaine Serene 8

Quite the view as we made our way up the driveway.

Our tasting tour started at 10:30, and I have to admit, it felt a little strange to be drinking so early in the morning, but I rolled with it.

Domaine Serene 7

We had our own private tour before the tasting room was even open to the public for the day.

We had a guided tour for just the four of us, and they had tastings set up for us along the way – a nice Rosé when we walked in, a tray of Chardonnay set up halfway through and then a full flight of Pinot Noirs and cheeses at the end in our own private tasting room.

Luckily this was the wine flight for all four of us or I don't think I would have been able to walk out of the tasting room

Luckily this was the wine flight for all four of us or I don’t think I would have been able to walk out of the tasting room.

The tour was really interesting. They shared the history of the vineyard, showed us the room where they make wine while explaining the process, the cellar where it ages and really took the time to explain the wines and how they choose where to plant their vineyards [they have several locations around the valley].

After being harvested by hand by migrant workers, the grapes are brought in through the door and placed through the machine, which gently de-stems them.

After being harvested by hand by migrant workers, the grapes are brought in through the door and placed through the machine, which gently de-stems them.

The grapes are processed and turned into wine in these silver tanks.

The grapes are processed and turned into wine in these silver tanks.

Domaine Serene 3

Then the wine is moved into oak barrels and stored on racks as they age. When it’s ready, it’s bottled and shipped out.

The wine at Domaine Serene was my favorite from the trip [I kept track of all the different wines we tried using my Delectable Wine app], and it was really fun to spend a little time in the main tasting room, taking in the views.

Domaine Serene 4

Trying the chardonnay in the main tasting room.

Domaine Serene 6

It doesn’t matter the time of year, the hearth is always a great place to pose for a picture.

I even left with my own pair of Domaine Serene wine glasses and a nice wine tote for the grocery store!

Torii Mor

This winery was near our inn, so we stopped in for a tasting. The wine was drinkable, but after spending the morning at Domaine Serene, it just didn’t compare. I did learn a lot about the vineyard itself, though. For example, it’s one of the oldest vineyards in Oregon, and the name is both Japanese (“Torii” refers to the ornate gates at the entrances to gardens) and Scandinavian (“Mor” means “earth”). Plus, I got another pair of wine glasses to take home!

Anderson Family Vineyard

The Anderson Family Vineyard tour and tasting was a fun surprise. We were looking for another winery to tour and the innkeeper recommended this one. While Domaine Serene sells its wines across the country, Anderson Family Vineyard is much smaller, and the majority of its wines go to wine club members and select restaurants.

Anderson Family Vineyard 4

These wines were made last fall and were aging in the tasting room. You could actually hear the barrels hiss from the fermentation process.

We were given a tour and tasting by the owner, Cliff, and learned so much about the growing process, how the weather and soil type affect the flavor and quality of the grapes [their vineyard sits on very rocky hills that provide great drainage], and just how much science goes into winemaking [the sink and counter were full of beakers, test tubes and graduated cylinders].

Anderson Family Vineyard 5

Vines at the Anderson Family Vineyard

Anderson Family Vineyard 1

It was early in the growing season, so the grapes were very small.

As we were transitioning from the tour to the tasting, the sky opened up and the rain poured down.

Getting to watch the rains over the valley all week was a relaxing and special treat.

Getting to watch the rains over the valley all week was a relaxing and special treat.

It turns out this was pretty good timing, as we got to ride out the rain while drinking some really awesome wines.

Anderson Family Vineyard

We got to taste wine from the same vines over a series of years and it was amazing how you could taste a difference from year to year, all of it depending on the weather.

Although the Willamette Valley is known for its Pinot Noir, it was the white wines at Anderson Family Vineyard that stole the show for me [their Chardonnay was the only bottle of wine I actually brought home with me from the trip and their Pinot Gris, with it’s somewhat bubbly finish, has become one of my favorite white wines].

Anne Amie

We passed a sign for Anne Amie Winery [another of the family favorites and one I’ve tried before and really enjoyed] on our way back to the inn after lunch, but were too full to actually do a tasting. That didn’t stop us from driving up and having a look around their beautiful tasting room.

Anne Amie Vineyard

Anne Amie and it’s sweeping vineyards had a much different feel than the other wineries we’d visited, almost more refined and sophisticated.

And, I have to admit, they have one of my favorite wine labels:

Anne Amie 2

It just looks so pretty!

We even came across a winery that had a very familiar name:


I think it only makes sense that a vineyard with my name would make my favorite kind of wine.

Unfortunately, Angela Estate wasn’t quite ready for visitors. It’s a new winery and they were just getting ready to start selling to the public.

After three nights and two full days in wine country, we packed up and headed back to Portland for a little sight seeing before heading back east. But since the telling of the first half of the trip has gone on so long, I think I’ll save Portland for Part 2.