Tuesday, August 30, 2011

oregon travels, part 2: wine country, day 1

after the coast, we headed up the pacific coast highway then headed east to McMinnville, which would be our base for the next two nights. the quaint town is chock full of charm + good eats, and provides a great spot to chill between wine tasting adventures.

we stayed at McMennamin's Hotel Oregon. i love all of the McMennamin's properties i've visited, but they aren't for everyone. they're famous in oregon for rehabilitating older buildings and giving them a new, albeit quirky, life. for example, our room was named after the son of the previous hotel owners. he was BIG into HAM radio, and apparently had a huge antenna extending from the family's upstairs apartment in the hotel. the rooftop bar is a great spot to grab a bite to eat or take advantage of happy hour. everyone is super friendly there. everyone.

we started the day with breakfast at community plate. delish. the vibe + decor are just my style: reclaimed wood counter, industrial farm accents, huge dining tables for community-style dining. the food, just as top-notch.
[the sign just about sums it up. it was yummy, indeed]

[reclaimed wood detail]

[biscuits + gravy]
[egg sammich]

with full bellies, we began our wine country adventure. for those traveling in oregon, you're in luck. a while back, oregon invested in directional signage for the winery industry. you can drive along the highways of wine country and easily be directed to the next winery or vineyard. but, if you want a little pre-planning, i suggest requesting this map. the online version is handy, but the printed version details tasting room hours + highlights.

·     youngberg hill: we arrived at the same time as an overnight group, as it doubles as a B+B. it was a bit chaotic + i was mistaken for someone who worked there while i tried to figure out what was going on. the kitchen was bustling with dinner prep, so it was kinda strange. the wines were ok. amidst the hub-bub, no one asked us to pay the tasting fee, so it wasn't a total loss. i don't know if there actually is one?

·     anne amie vineyards:: worth the stop. BEAUTIFUL views, friendly staff, tasty wines. $10 tasting fee for 5 wines. did i mention they have a row of hammocks just off the patio?

[row of hammocks + linear fire pit at anne amie]

·       winderlea: very contemporary tasting room suspended over the vineyard. the staff was very accommodating, and we sat on the balcony and leisurely enjoyed the wine without any pressure to purchase. i think the fee was $15.
[tasting deck at winderlea]
[martian-looking maintenance worker at winderlea]

·         erath: a wine we're familiar with, so figured we should stop by. the $10 flight was okay, but felt some pressure to purchase. they had a nice patio, but this place felt more like a tourist trap than the others we visited.

·     trisateum: the tasting room was a gallery, and the drive was really pretty. it's a bit pretentious to be in a gallery of the owner's art + pressured to buy his wine. the staff was very friendly, though. it seemed to be a stop on the limo tours, but wasn't too crowded.

·     penner-ash: AMAZING. the views were great, the wine was delish. we'd planned to visit Penner-Ash, but were also referred by a fellow taster we ran into at Trisateum. apparently they were pouring some of their newer award-winning releases of pinot noir that day + we were in luck. we opted for the pinot noir flight + it was great. they have a beautiful deck with views of Mt. Hood. don't miss it!

[penner-ash view of mt. hood]

·     carlton winemaker's studio: this is a treat because it's a joint effort between 3-4 winemakers, so you get to taste a variety. we arrived as a rambunctious group was leaving, but it mellowed out shortly thereafter. i think the flight was $15.

here's a google map of our route.
here's a google earth map from a friend of ours who is very well-informed about the area's wines. we didn't have a chance to visit them all, but maybe you can!

that was an end to day 1's wine trail. we grabbed a snack on the hotel rooftop before dinner where we ran into the purveyors of community plate. we're all friends now. well, they recognized us the next day anyway.

we capped it off with dinner at thistle in downtown McMinnville. we couldn't get in the night prior, so our 8pm reservation was crucial. the restaurant is small, but charming. the only menu is on a large chalkboard, which is tucked into a strange corner. we were seated near the chalkboard, so it wasn't a big deal--but it was awkward when other diners would come stand near our table just to read the menu. i think maybe a 2nd chalkboard on the other side of the dining room would be helpful here. the farm-fresh menu will appeal to all epicurean types. it's definitely worth a try, but they need another server. be ready to order when she comes the first time--you won't see her for a while.

after dinner, back to the hotel. more wine tomorrow...



  2. What a great day you had. A very charming place. Thanks for posting the map.