Editor’s note: There are dozens of active wildfires in Oregon right now; find the status of wildfires at InciWeb and NW Interagency Coordination Center, smoke conditions at the Oregon Smoke Blog and DEQ’s Air Quality Advisories, and current road conditions at TripCheck.com. Call destinations before you visit to make sure they’re open and stay posted on what Oregon’s phased reopening means for you. Please respect closures as resources are limited. Also, remember to bring your face covering, required for all of Oregon’s public indoor spaces and outdoors when keeping 6 feet of distance isn’t possible.
If your vision of fall is filled with pumpkin spice, apple cider, fresh-hop beer or a crisp evening at a scenic vineyard, that pretty much sums up harvest season in Oregon. As summer turns into fall, the state’s agricultural bounty abounds. These spots offer all the makings for some of the most delightful harvest-season experiences you’ll find this September.
Apples, Pears and Jams
Oregon is so much more than Fuji and Gala apples (but plenty of those, too) — you’ll find dozens and dozens of juicy varieties across the state. Mt. Hood’s Kiyokawa Family Orchards boasts nearly a hundred in its 2020 roster. Pear, the state fruit, also debuts this time of year, from buttery Bartlett to super-sweet Comice to Bosc with hints of spice. You can pick up fruit at historic orchards along the Hood River Fruit Loop, the Tualatin Valley, the Willamette Valley, Southern Oregon and beyond. Many farms, like Thomas Orchards in Kimberly, sell homemade jams and applesauce as well. You’ll find more local bounty at farm stands on Oregon Food Trails, like pumpkin-themed pies and canned fruit at Sandoz Farm along the East Gorge Food Trail.
Many farmers markets continue through fall, including five Portland Farmers Markets, twice-weekly Lane County Farmers Market and several locations of Gorge Grown Farmers Markets. Face coverings are required while shopping at markets; there are no tastings and make sure to keep 6 feet apart from others while browsing. Farms also have special guidelines for guests to follow, and their farm stands make to-go orders easy; call ahead to confirm. Online vendors like Harry & David ship far and wide, so you can always taste Oregon fruit without leaving home.
Local cideries bottle up the bounty, from Portland to Mt. Hood and the Gorge, to Eastern and Central Oregon and all over the Willamette Valley. At last count, there are 81 cideries in Oregon, none of them just like another. Hood River’s Fox-Tail Cidery & Distillery is a cidery and distillery under one roof, with blends of raspberry, cherry, peach and rhubarb in addition to apples — plus, they just released a line of fruit wines. In Eugene, WildCraft Cider Works presses Oregon-grown heritage fruits and botanicals for terroir-influenced blends like elderflower and quince. On the Southern Oregon Coast, Bandon Rain specializes in the region’s signature cranberry flavors. From Oregon City, 12 Bridge Ciderworks’ fall seasonal combines bourbon-aged peaches with a hint of mint. Look for Oregon brands at your local grocery stores and see if your local cideries offer growler fills or delivery like 2 Towns Cider in Corvallis.
Wine Grape Harvest
There’s something magical about Oregon vineyards during harvest season. As the leaves turn golden and winegrowers pluck grapes by the cluster, an excitement runs through wineries. While most annual events are taking the year off (sorry, grapestompers), there are still plenty of ways to relish in Oregon’s wine grape harvest.
Wineries like Eola Hills and Patton Valley offer picnic reservations with gourmet food, paired wines and checkered blankets provided. Treat yourself to Domaine Drouhin’s Passeport du Monde dinner series (limiting capacity to ensure social distancing), or harvest grapes for the 2020 estate vintage at Domaine Divio’s exclusive Ban des Vendanges event. Bring your camera to Hood River’s Viento tasting room that overlooks the legacy vineyard or to the orchard-surrounded Wy’East Vineyards, which grows grapes on east-facing slopes best viewed in the cool morning sun. Mt. Hood’s first winery, cidery and brewery in one, The Grateful Vineyard offers tastings by appointment with a stunning backdrop of the mountain and a farm stand for to-go treats. Fall colors linger in Southern Oregon, where you can drink in views of yellowing leaves at DANCIN Vineyards along the Bear Creek Wine Trail and Wooldridge Creek on the Applegate Valley Wine Trail, among others. Outside Portland, the Vineyard & Valley Tour Route is a feast for the eyes.
Right now it’s best to stay close to home — so pick a winery local to your community. Wear a face covering and book an appointment before visiting, or just order the wine online. Check in with the business to inquire about virtual tasting events; some wineries like Ponzi host guided virtual group tastings. For cozy at-home ideas, find harvest recipes from Willamette Valley wineries and consider joining a wine club as many offer free delivery and October introduces fall releases.
Many of Oregon’s craft breweries look forward to fresh-hop beer season all year long. It’s the time in September and October when they produce and release small-batch, limited editions of brews made from fresh-picked, undried hops rushed straight from the farm to the brewery for immediate production. The difference is similar to tasting fresh versus dried spices — a more earthy, pungent, powerful punch. Fresh-hop beer festivals will return in 2021; instead, find this year’s beers at local breweries across Oregon. Freebridge Brewing in The Dalles will offer at least one fresh-hop beer, featuring their hops from St. Paul in the Willamette Valley and local wheat as a flavoring ingredient. In late September, Hood River’s Double Mountain Brewing will release its Killer Lion fresh hop IPA made with Mosaic hops. Rogue Ales cans its fresh-hop brew, Coast Haste, from October through January. Bend’s Deschutes Brewery plucks local Nugget, Centennial and Fresh Crystal hops in record time to make its Fresh Hop Pale Ale. Wild Ride Brewing in Redmond will soon release its fresh-hop contribution, an IPA named Journey to a New Strata-Sphere. Beginning September 27, all McMenamins locations statewide will pour the Thundercone fresh hop pale ale, featuring Simcoe hops brewed within hours of being picked.
At the southern base of Mt. Hood in Eagle Creek, Philip Foster Farm — a historic homestead that showcases life on the Oregon Trail — is temporarily open for private tours, camps and events in 2020. Schedule a visit to celebrate the 175th anniversary of Barlow Road and see their vegetable plot, where they grow produce that pioneers would have grown 175 years ago. Here are two pioneer recipes for inspiration, used with permission from Philip Foster Farm from an 1832 cookbook called “The American Frugal Housewife: Dedicated to Those Who Are Not Ashamed of Economy,” by Lydia Child — posted below, verbatim.
Cider cake is very good, to be baked in small loaves. One pound and a half of flour, half a pound of sugar, quarter of a pound of butter, half a pint of cider, one teaspoonful of pearlash; spice to your taste. Bake till it turns easily in the pans. I should think about half an hour.
[Editor’s note: Pearlash is an alkaline salt that was used as a leavener. Today you would replace it with baking soda.]
A plain, inexpensive apple pudding may be made by rolling out a bit of common pie-crust, and filling it full of quartered apples; tied up in a bag, and boiled an hour and a half; if the apples are sweet, it will take two hours; for acid things cook easily. Some people like little dumplings, made by rolling up one apple, peeled and cored, in a piece of crust, and tying them up in spots all over the bag. These do not need to be boiled more than an hour: three quarters is enough, if the apples are tender.
Take sweet, or pleasant flavored apples, pare them, and bore out the core, without cutting the apple in two. Fill up the holes with washed rice, boil them in a bag, tied very tight, an hour, or hour and a half. Each apple should be tied up separately, in different corners of the pudding bag.