Tuesday, March 31, 2015

OR 5/10- Wine tasting in Willamette Valley

The drive to Willamette Valley, although 3 hours long, was also lush, making the time seem to go by quickly.  The 126 from Florence follows along side rivers that are part of the Suislaw River Estuary.  

Willamette Valley has over 300 wineries.  It was hard to choose which one to go to, so I let Yelp help.  We arrived at Soter Vineyards, which didn't even have a sign on the main road, and took a few pictures, before we were greeted by an employee who asked if we had ever been there before.  After we replied no he said Soter is by appointment only.  
So we left, after making an appointment to return a few hours later.  

We then drove down the street to Anne Amie's Vineyard (which sounds a lot like Enemy's Vineyard when it is pronounced).  They were open but when we walked into their tasting room we were displeased by the dental work that was going on behind a partition (inside the tasting room).  Apparently they are required to provide health options for their migrant workers (although I don't think it specifies that it should take place in the tasting room).  The employee looked surprised when I asked for a discount to drink wine while listening to dental drills and the sucking of saliva into a tube.  So we left.  

We found another winery, Stoller Family Estate, that was not 'by appointment only' for neither wine tasting nor dental work.  
Stoller does not have any type of irrigation system to water their grapes.  Instead they collect rain water in a pond and if they need to water their grapes they can pump from that source (this is so Oregon).  They typically do not water, allowing the natural annual rainfall to affect the concentration of sugar in their grapes, and therefore their wine.  

We loved Stoller.  It was quiet, had beautiful views, and delicious wine at reasonable prices.  

Our experience arriving at Soter was totally different the second time around.  
Before even reaching the door we were greeted with two glasses of Rosé, which ended up being our favorite.  It was a very intimate tasting, something I have never experienced before.  We sat in the living room with one other couple and the sommelier.  
It is 'by appointment only' for members as well. The wine was not as good (in my opinion) as Stoller, but the ambiance and advanced wine knowledge made up for it.  

The glass is 1/15th full.  

The Soter family lived in what is now the tasting room (behind us) while they built the rest of the property.  Later they built two small houses close by, one for them and one for their young children.  These have now been converted into private event rooms.  

The Joseph Mattey House was our home for the night (it is a B&B and included a wonderful breakfast).    

Monday, March 30, 2015

OR 4/10- Moolack beach and the Oregon Dunes

Raya recommended that we look for agates while in Newport so I asked the concierge at our hotel where the best place to go was, Agate Beach, maybe?  No, not Agate beach, there are hardly any agates left at Agate Beach .  He thought our best bet would be at Moolack beach, near the Moolack Shores Hotel.  We searched for an hour at the mouth of the cold river, but in the end we came up empty handed.

We did find some cool fossils,

and whatever this is...

After agate hunting we drove 75 miles to the Oregon Dunes, just south of Florence.  The dunes are a result of millions of years of wind and rain erosion.  Our total hike was just around two miles, but walking on the sand is embarrassingly difficult, so two miles was plenty.

There was no one on the coast, in either direction.

It was shortly after this picture was taken that Eric found the COOLEST, biggest orange agate.  I didn't get a picture, maybe because at the time I was so jealous I didn't see it first...  

We had dinner at the trendy, highly rated, Waterfront Depot.  They were able to accommodate us without a reservation, but gave us a one hour time limit.  The food was overpriced but good.  The best part is the location, it is right on the Suislaw River, which runs through Florence.  

Sunday, March 29, 2015

OR 3/10- Tillamook, Cape Lookout and Newport

Right in front of our motel was the Astoria-Megler bridge (Washington is on the other side), as well as the Maritime Memorial.  

The deceased wouldn't have needed a maritime connection to get a plaque at the Maritime Memorial, so there is a wide range of engravings from gillnetter to cannery worker to ship's cook to oologist (a person who studies bird eggs).  

We drove 25 miles south for a quick stop in Cannon Beach to see Haystack Rock.  Haystack Rock is 235 feet high and is part of Oregon Islands National Wildlife Refuge. Puffins, gulls, oystercatchers, and cormorants nest on the steep surface.  
But maybe the rock is most famous for its appearance on the movie, The Goonies.  

Cannon Beach was named after a cannon from a ship, which broke apart on the Columbia River bar in 1846, washed ashore on its beaches almost 50 years later.  

The Sleepy Monk had a continuous line out the door so we decided to get a drink before continuing the drive to Tillamook, Or.  

Tillamook has 6 times more cows than permanent residents, but over a million visitors a year thanks to the Tillamook Cheese Factory.  I have always been a huge fan of Tillamook cheese, and made it my mission to visit the factory after I realized that Tillamook is a place not a taste.  Before exploring the self guided tour we couldn't resist getting grilled cheese sandwiches.  We also couldn't resist people watching.  Free cheese samples in Oregon is a magnet for (how can I say this without sounding vain?) the most hideously dressed people in the state.  Visitors of the Tillamook Cheese Factory don't just have no fashion sense, they are fashion senseless.   

The smoked black pepper white cheddar was our favorite.  
So tuck your sweats into your socks, slop around in the mud, have your child cut your hair, and come on over to Tillamook! 

Tillamook produces tens of millions of pounds of cheese annually.  I can't imagine it is the most intellectually stimulating job, but I predict that it is the response to many school essays turned in to Tillamook School district teachers in response to the question "what do you want to do when you grow up?".

Just 12 miles later we were doing a short hike in Cape Lookout State Park, 500 feet above the Pacific Ocean, looking for whales (without luck).  

The view was amazing.  

We had to cut the hike short since we still had 60 miles to drive to Newport.  Cape Lookout is one of the most popular hikes on the Oregon Coast, uncontested by us.  

We were in Newport for just a night, but enjoyed the unique architecture (unique is not uncommon along the Oregon Coast) as we walked to dinner.  

The Chowder Bowl place must be packed in summer, there is a permanent sign directing the line.  It was really good, I ate almost my entire clam chowder bread bowl, and even Eric (who doesn't ever choose seafood on a menu) loved his fried shrimp.  

Saturday, March 28, 2015

OR 2/10- Fort Clatsop and Fort Stevens

Fort Clatsop was the winter camp for Lewis and Clark and the rest of the Corps of Discovery Army unit.  This replica was built according to the original floor plan, and is almost on the exact same location.  The winter fort included a room for their interpreter, Charbonneau, and his wife Sacagawea (the Native American couple had the only room which did not include a fireplace).  

We spent some time in the interpretive center before leaving for our hike, learning about the Lewis and Clark expedition and the Oregon tribal groups that helped them.  
It wasn't mentioned in the guidebook (although I was hoping for the best) that the 6.5 mile Fort to Sea hike could be a one way mission, but after speaking with a park ranger we learned it is a common plan.  Taxis know just where to go after getting the call.  

The Fort to Sea Trail traverses woods, bogs, meadows, and pastures before leading to the beach. (Well, a mile from the beach, the name is misleading and a bit anticlimactic.)
The hike is along the route that the Discovery Corps took to the beach to make salt.

We had great weather on our hike (especially considering that when the Discovery Corps wintered at Fort Clatsop it rained for 94 of the 106 days they were there), taking us less than two and a half hours to complete.  
Within an hour we had called the taxi, reached our car, and were walking on the jetty at Fort Stevens.

The observation deck at Fort Stevens State Park has a great view of the South Jetty, and the Columbia Bar it was built to tame.  It took 27 years to complete the 6.5 mile jetty (construction concluded in 1909) which has helped to stabilize the shipping channel by trapping the shifting sand deposits at the mouth of the river.  

In 1906, the Iredale did not reach its destination of the Columbia River.
Peter Iredale encountered a sudden storm and thick mist, before running aground.  Luckily his 27 member crew all made it to safety, but the boat (everything that wasn't sold for scrap) remains in the location it was originally abandoned.  

I screamed as I grabbed one of these organisms before realizing what was actually covering the shoreline, millions of Velella velella (or by-the-wind-sailors).  Just as they appear, they are related to the Portuguese man-of-war, although they are not dangerous.  These little sailboats go where the wind is going, and often find themselves stranded on beaches to await their fate as bird food.   

We ended our day back in Astoria, at Fort George Brewery.  The brewery was named after the British settlement site of 1811. Astoria was under British rule for about five years, during this time the city was known as Fort George, named after King George III.     

The only option for a flight was a 13 beer sampler (every beer on tap), and how can you say no to that? 

We were quickly learning that Oregon breweries know how to bring in the crowds, it isn't just about the beer, but the food as well.  These veggie chili cheese fries were as good as they look.