Sometimes a place is so beautiful, you can almost taste it. Joseph is like that. Out here, your views are full of the snow-capped Wallowa Mountains, endless blue skies and a sea of golden grain. To sip on that Western flavor, stop in at the Stein Distillery tasting room, which features the distillery’s vodka, rum, huckleberry, blackberry, raspberry and rhubarb cordials as well as rye, bourbon and blended whiskeys, many of which have won gold medals in national and international spirit competitions.
Now might be the best time to visit as Stein celebrates its 10th anniversary in July 2019 with a new whiskey release.
Co-owner Heather Stein says what sets her spirits apart from other distilleries is homegrown grain from the family farm, where the Steins have been farming for three generations. “We have a 150-acre farm, 50 acres of which is used to harvest grain for the distillery. We do every step by hand. Grain growth, harvest, grinding, mash-making, fermenting, distilling, casking, bottling and labeling is all done by the family.”
The Steins released their first spirited offering — vodka — in November of 2009 and opened the tasting room the following spring. They’ve sincehelped pioneer the way for other distilleries in Oregon, which has grown to include nearly 60 distilleries throughout the state.
In Eastern Oregon, Stein has kept their craft focus and expanding their products to include “SteinShine” — a blend of Hermiston corn and Stein barley — as well as a 2-year-old and 5-year-old bourbon.
Call ahead for a tour of Stein Distillery in Joseph. Visitors can sample the spirits both at the Joseph tasting room as well as the Stein tasting room in Beaverton — just west of Portland — which serves seven different tasting flights as well as a handful of mini cocktails such as the Wallowa Mule (rye vodka, muddled cucumber, lime, mint, ginger beer and bitters).
If you go:
While tasting around in Joseph, stop by the Wallowa County Farmers Market in the summer, located next to Stein Distillery, and also the new expanded downtown location of Arrowhead Chocolates, where you can relax on site where the chocolates are made and sip a hot chocolate or mocha (made from the fresh chocolate) with views of the Wallowa Mountains. (Arrowhead’s move from its former location, in The Jennings Hotel, makes way for a new wood-fired pizzeria The Gold Room, on the hotel’s ground floor.) Six miles north of Joseph in the tiny town of Enterprise, make sure to stop and check out the historic OK Theater, which celebrates its centennial anniversary in summer 2019 with a lineup of special performances and events.
Also in Eastern Oregon, the newish Oregon Grain Growers Brand Distillery in Pendleton — 2.5 hours west of Joseph — is open for free tours and tastings of their 100-percent Oregon-grown Ouragon vodka and ACME whiskey. The kid-friendly establishment includes a scratch restaurant with wood-fire pizzas and Sunday breakfast from seasonal ingredients.