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Portland Getaway


Portland Vineyard

The perfect blend: a stylish city with top-notch vineyards nearby.

Portland, Oregon, is famous for its cultural scene, gracious architecture, trendy shopping districts, fine restaurants and world-renowned gardens.
 
But to wine aficionados, this eminently civilized metropolis straddling the Willamette River is the gateway to the largest grape-growing region in a state known for its wine industry. The V-shaped northern Willamette Valley, which extends 100 miles south to Eugene, is home to more than 150 wineries and wine shops.

The Grape
Thanks to a temperate climate and abundant rainfall, almost anything grows in Portland. But the city's famed gardens and farmers markets are only the prelude to this region's true bounty-the exceptional grapes that have stamped this portal to the Pacific as a wine lover's paradise.

The cool, wet climate west of the Cascade Mountains is especially nurturing to the Pinot Noir grape. So nurturing, in fact, that the varietal has become as emblematic to this region as cheese is to Wisconsin. Every summer, thousands flock to McMinnville (30 miles south of Portland) to attend the annual International Pinot Noir Celebration, which has been described as the Woodstock of wine festivals.

Pinot Noir Country
Most Willamette Valley wineries host open houses Friday through Sunday of Thanksgiving weekend. Veterans of these visits hire cars to take them from winery to winery so they are free to enjoy the samplings each one offers.

Just 45 minutes south of Portland, Dundee boasts more than 80 wineries. Owing to the color of the iron-rich soil, the area's rolling hills are aptly called the Red Hills of Dundee. Some consider this prime real estate for top-quality Pinot Noirs.

The Eyrie Vineyard, owned by David and Diana Lett, was the first post-Prohibition winery in the Willamette Valley. The Letts take a minimalist approach to wine-making, preferring to prepare it in the vineyard while striving for the best grapes they can grow, given the vagaries of nature.

Erath Vineyards perches atop a hill overlooking a sea of vineyards seemingly reaching for the Cascade Mountains. In this serene setting, Oregon wine pioneer Dick Erath is still very much involved.

Susan Sokol Blosser runs Sokol Blosser winery with the help of son Alex and daughter Alison. The family is committed to sustainable vineyard practices. Their winery was the first in the nation to receive the LEED 2.0 Silver Level Certification by the U.S. Green Building Council for their newly constructed barrel-aging facility.

More recent arrivals are Archery Summit and Domaine Drouhin Oregon. Domaine Drouhin Oregon is owned and operated by the Drouhin family from Burgundy, France.

The winery building of Archery Summit nestles into the hillside just outside Dundee. Wines are barrel-aged at a naturally constant temperature of 65° F and 85 percent humidity in caves dug into the hillside 50 feet below the surface.

Portland Skyline

Back in the City
Of course, the vintages find their way to many of Portland's fine restaurants. The Heathman Hotel, a destination for the theater and business crowds, serves three different Pinots from the Argyle Winery in Dundee. Huber's Cafe, a downtown institution since 1879, recommends Rex Hill Winery's Pinot with many of its turkey entrées.

Finding your way around Portland is easy. The Willamette divides east and west; Burnside Drive separates north and south.

In the Northwest quadrant lie Old Town and Chinatown, as well as the hip, gentrified warehouse area called the Pearl District, and the eclectic shopping street of Northwest 23rd. Southwest encompasses City Center and Washington Park, with the International Rose Test Garden and the Japanese Garden. Northeast is home to the Alberta Arts District, an emerging shopping and restaurant scene on Northeast Fremont, and the Hollywood District. Neighborhoods in the Southeast range from the funky shopping street of Southeast Hawthorne to the collection of antiques and collectible shops in Sellwood to the tony outpost of the wealthy in Lake Oswego.

Galleries featuring local and nationally recognized artists abound throughout the city, but Thursday seems to be art appreciation day. Every month on "First Thursday" in the Pearl District and every "Last Thursday" on Alberta Street, most galleries offer public receptions. Glasses of wine in hand, visitors stroll from gallery to gallery, soaking up culture.

Portland Online
Thinking of a trip to the Portland area? Begin your research at these websites:
oregon.com Lodging, attractions and recreation listed by city or region
travelportland.com Portland Oregon Visitors Association

For Portland wine country information, go to:
ipnc.org International Pinot Noir Celebration
oregonwine.org Official site of the Oregon Wine Board
mcminnville.org Official site of the McMinnville Area Chamber of Commerce
sorwa.org Official site of the Southern Oregon Winery Association
willamettewines.com Guide to the wineries in the Willamette Valley region
winesnw.com/CalendarOR.htm Calendar of events in the Oregon wine country


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