Treasures of Portland, OR, & Willamette Valley Wine Country

Have you traveled to Portland, Oregon? If not, make plans soon to visit one of the most interesting cities in the country. Beginning with Portland’s airport I was immediately struck by the friendly attitude of everyone. Even though it’s a fairly large city, first time visitors will have no problem navigating through the terminals since the directions to gates, departure areas etc. are mercifully simple to follow.

After you pick up your suitcase there are several means of transportation for you: a taxi ($30 to downtown)—hotel shuttle (free)—door-to-door small van ($16 to a hotel.) You can also arrange limousine or town car service at Portland has a distinct advantage regarding location since towering, snow-topped Mount Hood is a stunning backdrop to the city. As an added bonus for travelers the city radiates a cosmopolitan atmosphere with a small-town attitude. It’s hard to beat that combination. The downtown area is centered by the Pioneer Courthouse Square where a variety of outdoor activities take place. Music, food, dancing and festivals, you name it; this is the place to be for exciting entertainment. A coffee shop anchors one corner with an outdoor seating area highlighted by brightly colored flowering plants and trees, an excellent location to view the city.
There are a wide assortment of large stores and small shops to choose from. My favorite small shop: “Kathleen’s of Dublin” is a small intimate establishment filled with a grand assortment of special items from Ireland: Waterford Crystal, Belleek China, Irish tapestry and beautiful Irish knit sweaters for adults and children, to name just a few. ( On the cultural side: Portland has a fine Symphony Orchestra, an Opera Company and a Ballet Theater. They also feature touring Broadway shows during the year. Fiestas, you ask? At least one a month. All of this plus a progressive live music scene makes Portland a city that produces a BIG sound. The Heathman Boutique Hotel reigns supreme as Portland’s premiere downtown lodging. The vintage hotel is listed on the national Register of Historic Places and boasts a 4-star rating. Also lauded as one of the “500 Best Hotels in the World” it provides elegant, luxurious accommodations and superb service. “Ask and you shall receive” seems to be the staff motto. It is conveniently located to downtown museums, restaurants, shops, theaters and transportation.
Under the direction of, Executive Chef Phillipe Boulot, the Heathman Restaurant offers each guest a superior dining experience with meals utilizing the Chef’s exceptional award winning cuisine. He uses the finest Pacific Northwest seasonal ingredients inspired by the flavor and cuisine of his native France. Portland is a city filled with liquid refreshments! If you are interested in spirits (no not ghosts) check out “House Spirits.” Lee Medoff and Christain Krogstad opened House Spirits Distillery to spark-up the distillation craft and enhance it with the flavor and taste of the area. Recognizing the unique qualities of the region they prepared to make Vodka, Gin, Rum and Whiskey and produce them according to their own vision. Currently they offer Medogeff Vodka, Aviation Gin, Krogstad Aquavit and a personalized Whiskey Your Way program.
Following the same innovated Northwest theme, Mike Sherwood and his partner, Linda Lausmann, have formed “Sub Rosa Spirits.” Currently they produce two products: an Oregon French-inspired Tarragon Vodka with a slight flavor of herbal licorice, fennel and a hint of anise. (Smooth!) Also offered: Saffron Vodka, intense by itself, has hints of cumin along with a lemony coriander flavor. (Powerful!)
Further exploration of Portland produced another distillery lodged in a portion of the Green Dragon (a beer house and bistro.) “Integrity Spirits,” owned by Kieran Sienkiewicz and Rich Phillips, handcrafts a series of interesting distillates. Lovejoy Vodka is made in small batches which gives it a smooth quality and a superior flavor. Lovejoy Hazelnut Vodka is flavored with mild fresh-roasted hazelnuts.

Integrity Spirit’s 12-Bridges Gin joins the smart sophistication of London dry with the bold flavor of Dutch varieties, flavored with juniper, refreshing cucumber and peppery ginger. (A definite Wow drink!) They also produce Trillium Absinthe, one of the first legal versions in the United States. It is a compilation of flavors: Trillium blends wormwood, green anise and hyssop which combined with other botanicals creates not just a drink but a startling experience.
Shifting from spirits to beer my next stop was Charles Davidson’s hop farm. Trekking out into the hop fields I learned the growing season begins in March when the dormant plants begin to peek up through the soil. The hop vines grow up on a trellis—a system of crisscrossing cables and wires supported by 18-foot tall poles. Strings are attached to the top of the trellis, and the hops climb the strings. Harvest begins about August 15 and lasts about six weeks.

One of the local brewers is “Full Sail Brewery”—just one of 32 breweries operating in the city. This company continues to craft their beers by hand in one of the few manual brew houses of it’s size in the country. The hops are sourced from local farms when possible, and the water flows from a spring on Mount Hood—resulting in a full rich brew pleasing to the most discriminating beer drinker.
Oregon Bounty is a special two-month celebration of the food, spirits, wine and beer that make Oregon an unforgettable travel destination. More than 60 restaurants, 90 craft breweries, 20 artisan distillers and 100 wineries join 150 lodging properties featuring Oregon Bounty packages and experiences. New this year visitors will be able to sample hand crafted spirits at local distilleries. Visitors participating in the activities can taste and talk with the artisans who create Oregon’s cuisine, spirits, wine and beer. Want to talk with the folks that make all this happen, learn how to prepare new dishes in cooking classes or participate in harvest festivals? Here’s your chance for your dream to come true! Oregon Bounty celebration runs from October 1 to November 30, 2008, across the state.
A trip to Oregon is not complete without a visit to the famed Willamette Valley Wine country. There are so many wineries in the area it may be difficult to choose one. Consider the Penner-Ash Wine Cellars. Both the winery and the vineyard are nestled on a hillside. The winery is impressive both inside and outside with rolling hills, gorgeous flowering plants and impressive mountains as a background. A large outdoor patio, located on the side of the winery, holds several tables which can be reserved by visitors for picnics. The view from the patio is spectacular. Visitors leave with both their spirits and eyes filled with the glorious memories of the colors of the countryside.
The winery is owned by Ron and Lynn Penner-Ash. In 1998 Lynn began carefully crafting small amounts of Pinot noir and Syrah. Production has increased from 125 cases of Pinot noir and Syrah to 8,000 cases in 2007.
Willamette Valley wine country: Abbey Road Farm Bed & Breakfast: Guest quarters
which are constructed of three silos joined together. Strange looking from the outside
but marvelous guest rooms. While you are in the valley treat yourself to an overnight visit here. Set among the rolling hills of Yamhill Country, this B & B is an 82 acre working farm. The animal population is varied with a herd of goats (fresh goat cheese abounds), sheep, llama, alpaca, chickens, ducks and two big dogs. All live together in harmony. The accommodations for visitors are unique. Three large silver silos have been re-modeled and joined together. Each “silo suite” is spacious. Guests have a large comfortable bed and a modern bathroom with a Jacuzzi tub equipped with powerful jets guarantied to make any tired body feel brand new. For the cooler months radiant floor heat & heated towel racks stand at the ready. When the weather is warm, a large fan or an individual cooling unit keeps the room comfortable. Coffee is available in the farm house at 7:30 A. M., and a delectable breakfast of area fresh produce is served in the farm house at 8:15 A.M. As I stood looking out across the acreage after breakfast, I was struck with the beauty of burnished shades of gold and red as they bathed the fields in marvelous lights that magically transposed the scene into a Van Gogh painting. The conclusion? Oregon is a treasure not to be missed!
Abbey Road Farm Bed & Breakfast: Alpacas, standing by my window. They woke me
up “talking Alpaca” in the morning. I think they were telling me to “Get up immediately!”
They are really regal animals in appearance.