Tastebuds deserve adventure too! The Mt. Hood and Columbia River Gorge region caters to those with an affinity for healthy local cuisine, who enjoy relaxed banter with an acclaimed winemaker, and that savor the moment of sampling luscious fruit plucked directly from the orchard. The culinary and wine experience of the area may have even the most persnickety food critic licking their plate, and sophisticated wine aficionado shedding their pretentious veil. The bounty produced within this compact geography makes everyone an ardent locavore and draws hungry and thirsty constitutions from around the world.
A day dedicated to eating and drinking should start with a large cup of coffee, so we visit The Riverenza, a century-old stone church building in The Dalles that has been renovated as a quaint cafe and coffeeshop. Cozy atmosphere and cheerful personality are the perfect compliments to planning a tour of local vineyards and edibles. Freshly caffeinated, we are ready to see what this Hood River County Fruit Loop is all about.
Extending south of Hood River, the Fruit Loop is generously seasoned with U-Pick fruit operations, vineyards, and roadside fruit and produce stands. We visit The Gorge White House just off of Hwy 35, an elegant estate replete with fields of flowers, fruit stand, orchards, and wine tasting. This historic home and working farm is lovingly tended by the Kennedy Family who welcome visitors to explore the grounds and sample the produce. The wine tasting room represents over 25 Columbia Gorge wineries and can leave a wine connoisseur lightheaded with options.
Best to put a little more of that amazing local cuisine into the system, and this only requires a walk across the yard to The White House Cafe, a charismatic food cart with an unexpected pizza menu. More traditional food options are available as well for the less adventurous diner and any hungry Fruit Looper will be pleasantly satisfied.
We’ve heard good things about Marchesi Vineyards just outside of Hood River and are eager to get a behind the scenes look at the winemaking process. We find Franco Marchesi himself in a Hobbit-sized wine cellar, and he greets us with a pre-release sample of their newest wines straight from the barrel. There is something about a seasoned Italian pulling wine directly from an aged wooden barrel that makes it taste special. Franco gives us a tour of the winemaking facility, where the crush is on and grapes are beginning the process of transformation into the perfect glass of wine, which we enjoy out on the sun-dappled patio along with a generous compliment of hors d’oeuvres. If it weren’t for Mt. Hood beaming in the background, the moment could be mistaken for an afternoon in Tuscany.
A nightcap in front of a roaring fire is an ideal way to finish the day and All Seasons Vacation Rentals has set us up with Chalet Chocolat, an impressive and spacious home in Government Camp. Perhaps tomorrow we’ll work off a few of those calories, but for now, we are quite content to relax into the bliss of having tasted and sampled our way through the Hood River Valley.