Howdy, Sean here with Travel Oregon’s International Department. It is not to say that this job is not without perks.

Japanese guests from Northwest Airlines World Traveler magazine were in town for a Fall tour of Oregon and its “countryside.” So we headed down to wine country to get a first-hand look at the wine harvest experience.

After a quick breakfast, well, hold on now, it wasn’t quick and it should not go without saying. Possibly the most yummy breakfast that I have found on the streets of Portland lie at the corner of NW 11th and Everett. The Everett Street Bistro has the feel of exactly what is intended, a little slice of Parisian ambiance on the streets of Portland.

From the intimate, linen-covered tables to the artistic metal-panel-thingies on the ceiling (my wife didn’t even know what they were called), the bistro is French class with Portland humility.

And then we got to eat. If you come here and eat only one thing, DO NOT MISS THE EVERETT STREET BENEDICT (sorry I yelled). Think dungeoness crab cake meets eggs benedict and let the Pavlov’s Dog instincts lead you to the promised land. Did I say YUMMY!?!?!?
We headed down 99 and I broke stride from my normal routine and drove through the Red Hills of Dundee (To David at Domaine Drouhin, Allan at Domaine Serene and Alex at Sokol Blosser, did you see me wave???). I headed for Anne Amie Vineyards where I saw the friendly face of a high school classmate on the welcoming marquis (did this totally confuse you or pique your curiosity?).
After some tastings (they tasted, I watched… think torture, really, really horrible torture) we went for a photo shoot out on the patio where we were confronted by the locals and the fur really started to fly. And then there was a lot of purring and cuddling and, well, we barely made it out of there alive…
We headed towards Carlton, a place that I had been once before, yet the abundance of blue signs prior to Carlton usually proved too distracting (the ones that say “winery next left”) to make it back. However, there are times we make good decisions, and this day was turning into a host of those, and so we arrived at Carlton Winemaker Studios unannounced and unexpecting.
We popped in and a warm greeting and welcome later, Caryn Cook assured us we would not be a burden and quickly arranged an impromptu tour by Jeff Lumpkin. We were duly warned of the possibility that we might learn a lot and have some fun, and the warning was well-served. Jeff took us through the entire process from the arrival of the grape to the storage and facility processes and… OK, big assumption here that you know what CWS is and why it is so Oregon? Think homebrew on a much grander scale and only for those with a vineyard in their backyard. You’ve got the grapes and the enthusiasm, they have the equipment and facilities. It is a balance that is “studio” in artistry yet “co-op” in approach in a LEEDS-certified building that has recycled timber from Walmart of all places. Add to that the engaging and eclectic personalities stomping around in neoprene boots and you have, well, something uniquely Oregon.
Along the tour we ran into Eric Hamacher who, if you know Oregon wine, you’ve heard of him. If not, read my comment about the engaging and eclectic personalities above. On the way to the studios, my guests had asked me if I had yet invested in the iPhone. I expressed my disappoint that I had yet to obtain one and their disappoint was obvious in not being able to see one in action. So when Eric explained how they had used helicopters to dry the vineyards prior to harvest by showing us pictures on his iPhone, you can imagine the WOW factor (it was pretty darned cool – I may be visiting the nearest AT&T store soon).
After some additional explanation of the 2007 harvest (let’s just say Eric is NOT worried), Eric walked us over to a white vat of 11 day old Pinot Noir. Taking a very large test tube, he dipped his arm into the vat and pulled out a generous tasting for the group. Now, at 11 days, I’m not sure what you are thinking, but the Pinot Noir is already at 7% alcohol. Did I already say yummy?

At the end, we sat down in the tasting room checking out the latest and greatest being delicately delivered to market. And then Jeff asked us if we would like to see a “delivery” being made. Well, the whole thing sounded very black-market to us so, intrigued, we headed back out to the loading dock and witnessed the delivery. What we saw is a stark contrast to the sophisticated luxury many people feel that Pinot Noir evokes. As the pick up truck pulled up with the flatbed trailer and Jeff stood in the midst of the grapes and yellow jackets with a big grin on his face, I smiled myself and knew that our guests were witnessing uniquely Oregon.

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