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Wine Tasting by Bicycle August 31, 2010

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Elk Cove

Elk Cove Vineyard

It was supposed to be just another ride around Hagg Lake from the Grand Lodge on Sunday. But we were all tired and not really feeling it so my friend Mandy suggested we hit a couple of wineries and take it easy. Sounded like a great idea! Except the taking it easy part didn’t exactly work out.

We started 4 miles into the ride at Montinore Winery. They charge $5 for 5 tastes which is pretty standard in the Willamette Valley. At Montinore, however, you get to choose your wines from a list of 10 or so. Their Pinots are decent and their Pinot Noir chocolate sauce is to die for! You can ask for a sample. The staff are super friendly and very knowledgeable (I learned a lot about the difference between Hungarian and French oak).

From Montinore we decided to head up to Elk Cove or Kramer. What we did not realize was that once you leave Hwy 47, the three miles to Elk Cove is one giant, unrelenting hill. I was beat by the time we got there! The winery staff seemed impressed with us for making the climb. We paid our $5 and tasted their wines. They have very nice pinot noirs. The vineyard has amazing views of the vines and the surrounding hills. I tend to take out of town guests here.

The ride down the hill took no time at all. I maxed out at about 31 mph which is about as fast as I am comfortable with especially on winding roads. We then headed back toward Forest Grove through Gaston (which is actually a cute little town and may be worth a visit in the future) and stopped at Patton Valley Vineyard. Getting to Patton Valley was a challenge because from Old 47 the road is about a 3/4 mile climb on gravel and we all had road bikes. We walked and rode at intervals and there seemed to be a lot of muttering and cursing, but we made it.

We were greeted by two adorable black dogs and the owner of the vineyard. My friend Gretchen was pouring the wine. I had never been to Patton Valley before but I will be going there again. The second Pinot Noir they poured is one of my new favorites. Like most pinots, the $35 price tag is more than I will pay on a regular basis, but I will certainly keep it in mind for special occasions. Yum!

After bumping down the hill back to Old 47, we rode another eight miles back to the Grand Lodge to reward ourselves with happy hour food and a beer before heading back to Portland. I think I want to try biking and wine tasting in other areas as well. McMinnville maybe? Or Dundee? Any suggestions?


Timberline Hike, Wine, and the Bite August 9, 2010

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Bite of OregonAnother weekend, another friend in town. Here’s a little recap of the things we did that I have not written about previously (I don’t think).

Friday we drove out to Hood and did a hike from the Timberline Lodge to Zigzag Valley. It was about 5 miles roundtrip (not including the little off trail climb we did to see some more views). The lifts are still running up at Timberline so it was interesting to see people in ski suits while we wore shorts and tank tops. It was kind of hazy on Friday so we could not see Jefferson or any of the Sisters, but the views of Hood were nice. Next time I want to hang out at the Lodge for a drink, but we had to hurry to make some wineries near Hood River on the way home.

We went to Mount Hood Winery first. The winery has only been open for a year, but the vines are over 20 years old. The wine was not all that impressive in my opinion, but the tasting room has awesome views of Hood and thre are loads of windows to look through. The patio is worth a visit as well.

I’ve written about Naked and Double Mountain before so I’ll skip those.

Saturday we went up to Forest Grove for sake and wine tasting. We hit the sake winery, Plum Hill and then Elk Cove. Elk Cove is actually out past Gaston but it is worth the drive to check out the grounds and taste wine. Five tastes cost $5 and be sure to spend some time sitting outside and looking out over the vineyards. Dinner Saturday night was at Vindalho, an upscale Indian restaurant on Clinton Street. The food was all right, but I’d take Swagat on NW 21st over it any day. And $4 only gets you one naan. The shrimp dish was the highlight.

Sunday we walked down to the Saturday Market. There is a guy there named Eric who does these super slow exposure photos that have words written on them in lights. Check them out if you are down by the market. Really unique! Then we took advantage of the $3 Bite of Oregon entrance before 1 PM. We sat and listened to live music and sampled Portland beers. I know I should have tried something new, but I couldn’t help but get the Koi Fusion taco trio. I have to say that Korean burritos and tacos were a genius idea and that no one does them like Koi Fusion. Yum, yum, yum. Kristin, who lives in Sacramento and is used to great food, was impressed.

Perfect Sunday- Hiking, Wine, and Beer June 18, 2010

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Sorry, I got delayed on posting this. Last Sunday the weather was perfect! 75 degrees and sunny. It was one of those days that makes all the grey and rain worthwhile. I took full advantage of it.

We headed out of the city about 10 AM and drove out to the Gorge. We did the Eagle Creek to High Bridge hike. I had done this hike in January on a rainy day. It was a little more crowded now that the season has started, but still an amazing hike. You walk up and past three waterfalls along a river with terrific scenery the whole way. It is no wonder the hike is so popular. I want to come out and backpack in this area later in the year. the hike is an out and back with about 400 feet of elevation gain. It is 6.6 miles in total (but you can do longer or shorter routes).

After the hike we headed to Hood River. My friend Ben is a member at Naked Winery and it was the member pick up party. When I have money again, I am definitely going to join the club at Naked. It costs $48, four times a year for two bottles of wine each time. But with the membership, you and your friends get unlimited tastings at the winery and at events where Naked participates. There were five of us in total and we all were able to taste more than 10 wines for free because we were with Ben. Naked really caters to its members. There were snacks provided as well. And if you pick up your shipments at the winery, you can trade bottles you are not interested in for similarly priced ones you like better. Their Cabs are really nice and their Barbera, while pricy, is amazing.

After Naked we headed down the street to Double Mountain Brewery for food and beers. They have good pizza and excellent beer. I am a huge fan of the IRA so I got a growler to take home with me. Since the weather was nice, Double Mountain had the garage doors open on the patio to let in the fresh air and give us views of Hood River while we ate and drank.

Days don’t get much better than that!

Off to San Francisco for the weekend. Will report back soon!

Camping on the Oregon Coast June 1, 2010

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Oregon Coast
Oregon Coast (photo Slone)

The plan was to mix backpacking and car camping on the Oregon Coast this weekend. We were going to start at Cape Lookout on Thursday and hike to Sand Lake to camp. Friday we were going to hike to Pacific City and meet some friends for two nights of car camping. It didn’t exactly work out that way.


We ended up getting a late start on Thursday because I had an interview, but we figured there is daylight until about 9 PM now. We arrived at Cape Lookout just after 5 PM and drove to the trailhead. Unfortunately the parking at the trailhead is day use only. So we went to the campground to see about paying to leave the car there until Friday evening. They will not let you leave a car there unless you pay for a campsite. And due to the holiday weekend, all camp sites were booked from Friday through Sunday. And the rangers told us there was “nowhere in Tillamook County” we could leave the car to do the hike.

I am going to take a moment to rant here. All of the campgrounds along the coast, including Cape Lookout, have hiker/biker sites available at a discounted rate for those who leave the vehicles and backpack or cycle from campground to campground. And the Oregon State Parks site has a map of the backpacking route down the coast. How are you supposed to backpack if you cannot leave the car anywhere?

We started talking about where we should car camp that night to figure out the plan for the following day when it came to light that my friend had left her backpack in her garage in Beaverton. And that had our only tent as well as the stove and all of her gear. So I “camped out” in her guest bedroom in Beaverton.

Friday morning we drove to Pacific City and did a day hike. We were going to try and hike up to Cape Lookout and have our friends pick us up on their way out. But we hit Sand Lake at high tide and were unable to ford it without getting completely soaked so we just did an out and back. We met our friends in the evening at the Pelican Pub. We had the sampler of all the beers. The beers were not bad, but nothing to write home about (despite the impressive collection of medals that line the walls of the pub). The location is terrific though. We sat next to the window overlooking the beach and Haystack Rock (the other Haystack Rock- not the world’s third largest free standing monolith which is off Canon Beach).  The food was a bit pricy so we waited to cook dinner until we returned to our campsite.

We camped on Friday night at Webb Park Campground. The park is super convenient if you want to explore Pacific City. It is located right across the street from the Pelican Pub and a few blocks from the main downtown area. However, the sites are tiny and the park itself has a trailer park feel to it. I was not a fan and probably will not camp there again.

Saturday we did a day hike to the south down to Cape Kiwanda. We went back to the Pelican to meet another friend and I tried the clam chowder which was quite good. Then we made our way about 10 miles north to Whalen Island to camp for the night. The campground at Whalen Island was much nicer than Webb. The sites are not all on top of each other and you feel like you actually have a little space. The campground is spread out as well. There is a nice walking trail that goes around the island and is adjacent to the campground- we hiked it on Sunday morning. Note that camping on the coast gets rather pricy if you have more than one tent or vehicle. They all charge $20 a night per site (with an additional $5 reservation fee if you reserve in advance) and then charge $5 per extra tent and $3 per extra vehicle.

All in all it was a great way to spend the holiday weekend. Good people, outdoors, some exercise, s’mores, beer, and a nice fireside BBQ on Saturday night. The rain was sporadic and light which helped as well. I am definitely excited for summer when I plan to be outside every weekend. Hooray summer in Oregon!

There’s No Beer Like Portland Beer May 17, 2010

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I spent the weekend in rural Pennsylvania at my cousin’s college graduation. On Saturday night, we had dinner at the Iron Works Brewery in Lancaster. My uncle Peter and I split the eight beer taster tray and my uncle Marty got an additional three tastes that I also tested. Wow, do they have a lot to learn about beer. Their version of a pale ale, which they just called an ale but definitely had some subtle hops in it, was not surprisingly my favorite beer of the bunch. Actually, I don’t think I really can say I liked any of the other beers. I never imagined I could try 11 beers and only find one remotely palatable.

In Portland, when I do a taster tray, typically I enjoy a few of the different varieties. I like different types of beer, although IPAs are my favorite. In the summer I like lighter beers like lagers and pilsners and the occasional heffewiezen. In the winter, a red or brown ale is a welcome change of pace.  So it came as a surprise to me that I was so unimpressed with the beers at this brewery.

This is not to say, by any means that I don’t like beer in places outside of Portland, I do. But tasting the beers in Pennsylvania made me really appreciate how incredible the Portland brewing scene is and what a great group of diverse breweries we have. Now the only question is, which one should I hit next?

What a Weekend Part 2- Food Carts and Pig and Pinot April 27, 2010

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Saturday was Willamette Week’s Eat Mobile, the food cart festival. Portland food carts are awesome and this was an inexpensive ($8) way to sample a whole bunch of them in one place. Unfortunately the tickets sold out a week before the festival so most of my friends ended up missing out on the fun. The festival kicked off at 5:30, but I went for pre-game beers at Silver Dollar and Tugboat Brewing so I did not arrive until about 7 PM. By that time a few of the carts were already out of food and many of them had extremely long lines. The cart I most wanted to test was Koi Fusion, but the line was so long I was not able to. My favorites that I did try were Bombay Chaat House (Indian) and Flavourspot (waffles plus).  PBR and Wine by Joe were on sale and there was live music. Overall the event was a good time, but next year I am going to get there early so I can taste all of the food without waiting on line (I hear it did not get crowded until after 6 PM).

Sunday, Plum Hill Winery hosted a pig roast and flag raising in honor of the troops in Iraq. On the way out we stopped at Sake One for a sake tasting. Sake One is the only sake winery in the area. They do tastings of six sakes for $5. The staff are very knowledgeable about the sake making process and the different types of sakes. We lucked out because this week was Spring on 47 so we ended up getting 9 tastes for $8 a person. We were able to try draft sake which has a very different flavor than the bottles. My favorite is their Organic sake followed by the Silver. All are worth a taste though. And they have so many varieties that you can come back and not taste the same ones.

Plum Hill’s party was in full swing when we arrived. We just missed the honor guard and flag raising, but there were snacks, pig, cake, and plenty of wine to go around. $10 included souvenir glass, wine tasting, and all the food you could eat. We thought they were out of pig, but then we found the cooking area where the BBQ master’s were cutting off large chunks on request. Live music was provided and bottles of wine were on sale.

On the way back from the vineyard, we stopped at the Grand Lodge for a beer and to check out the space for a friend’s wedding. The Grand Lodge hosted a medieval festival over the weekend, but they were tearing down when we arrived. We did still get to see a few people dressed as pirates (are pirates medieval?) and in other olde timey garb.

So there you have it. A full weekend of fun in and near Portland. Now that spring is officially here, I plan to be getting outside more and will be reporting about my excursions.

Mattress as a weapon and contact lens swapping, an adventure in Idaho April 20, 2010

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Ah the trip to Coeur d’Alene, Idaho for the weekend. Quite the bargain flight to Spokane at $160 r/t. My friend John and I went to visit our friend Carrie who had lived in Portland previously. We kicked off with a beer in PDX and a beer on the plane. Carrie, true to form as the best host on the planet, had a six pack in the car for us for the drive to CDA.

We hung out at Carrie and her boyfriend Dave’s for awhile. We got to check out (sit on) their three motorcycles and got a tour of their pretty expansive house (affordability in property, a big Idaho perk). Later in the evening we headed to a local bar/restaurant called the Porch for dinner. Carrie and Dave knew the waiter. And the people sitting a few tables away. And a guy at the bar. Carrie and Dave knowing people everywhere we went was a common theme of the weekend. Later we went back to the house to hang out and drink a bit more and catch up.

Saturday we started the day with yummy french toast, bacon and hash browns at the house. Then we dragged the boys down to Lake Coeur d’Alene for a little hike by the water. I learned about a couple of theories as to why Coeur d’Alene, meaning Heart of the Awl, is named that. I don’t think the one about the former slave nailing his ear to a post with an awl in grief of his master’s death sounds all that plausible. And I forgot the other one. I also learned about the children’s book featuring a moose and a mouse that is famous and has a trail dedicated to it in the town (and statues).

Later we went into town and sat outside and had bloody marys. Then we stopped into the mayor’s jewelery shop (my friends know the mayor- no big deal) and went to the Eagle’s club for more beers and burgers at the neighboring Hudson’s hamburgers. Hudson’s has been selling burgers in CDA for over 100 years. As the sun set we went back to Carrie and Dave’s and most of us (Dave stayed home) took a taxi back into town for the evening.

Things get a little hazy at that point. We went to a bar called the something moose and later to another one for dancing. I thin kthat was called the Iron Horse. We ended the night at a bar called Laker’s but I really don’t remember that one. Later in the night I somehow managed to use an air mattress as a weapon and break a lamp. Sorry again Dave.

The next morning everyone, except Dave, was quite hungover. We had bagels and laid on the couch with an occasional moan. Everything looked a bit hazy, but it wasn’t until about 3:30 in the afternoon when we were at a bar called Capone’s for lunch (good pizza at Capone’s and lots of beers on tap- supposedly more beers than tables) that John and I realized we were wearing each other’s contact lenses and swapped them across the table.  

So that was the Idahoan adventure weekend. Lots of booze, a little hiking, a little history, some mayhem and good times all around. Except for the whole lamp thing. If you get a chance, Coeur d’Alene is only 30 miles from Spokane or a 6.5 hour drive from Portland. John threatened to buy a Mustang there to drive back but I am glad that stopped sounding like a good idea. I prefer to fly. Especially when I already have a ticket.

Tonight off to Claudia’s for some basketball viewing (Go Blazers!). Last night I needed a recovery night.

Bike ride around Hagg Lake/Run in Forest Park April 11, 2010

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Since the weather was so lovely this weekend, I spent a lot of time outside. Yesterday some friends and I took our bikes out to Forest Grove to ride around Hagg Lake. I had heard a lot about Hagg Lake, but had yet to go myself. I know there are some popular events held there like a trail run and triathlon. Yesterday was the perfect day to check it out.

We met at the McMenamin’s Grand Lodge and started the ride from there. We took back roads instead of riding on scary Highway 47 and went by Montinore Winery. Then we took Old Highway 47 past Plum Hill (good route for wine tasting, but we didn’t this weekend because everywhere was crowded due to the Willamette Valley Wine Trail) and down to Hagg Lake. The ride was pretty hilly throughout but the biggest, most evil hill on the ride was just past the entrance gates to Hagg Lake (bikes do not have to pay- FYI). It was about a half mile steady climb. I am so glad we decided to hit that at the beginning of the loop instead of at the end. None of the other hills compared.

Hagg Lake is lovely. You don’t get to see much of it for the first 4 miles or so of the loop, but the second half gives constant views. There was some traffic on the road, but it wasn’t too bad. The end of the lake loop takes you over the dam which is flat and wide open to take in the lake as you ride. I am totally going to go back and do the ride again.

The route we took put us at almost exactly 30 miles. Ending at the Grand Lodge was a great excuse to partake in happy hour food and beer (3 PM-6 PM, even on the weekend) after we finished. What a great Portland area day!

Today I decided to keep up my active weekend motif and went for a run in Forest Park. There is a free running group that meets every Sunday at the park entrance at the end of Thurman Street at 11 AM. It is a very relaxed group and everyone runs at whatever pace is comfortable and for as long as they want. I like the trail because all of the uphill is taken care of first and then you can coast downhill on the way back. This week I did 6 miles. I’ll be adding to that soon as I am planning to run the Helvetia Half Marathon in June.

Time to get back out and enjoy the rest of the weekend. Tonight plan is Alameda Brewhouse. Coming up this week is a skeeball tournament at East Burn and an MS fundraiser at Fire on the Mountain. Good times in PDX!