A few weeks ago, I explained our lack of firehouse progress due to the fact that we were recovering from the carport wrap and Aaron was working like mad to finish wedding portfolios. That was mostly true.
The whole truth is that we have been long overdue for a proper vacation (because, firehouse.) Over a year ago we helped Kim and Scott at Yellow Brick Home keep their blog active during their vacation. When a fellow guest blogger detailed the wonders of Portland (a city we’ve always heard good things about) we were sold by the promise of good food and good hiking. We looked up the prime time to visit the Pacific Northwest and opted to book two full weeks in late August. We locked in our airline tickets (thanks American Express rewards points!) and spent the next year researching. Our final itinerary mixed wine tasting, city exploration and lots of hiking/photographing.
In mid-August, we hopped a direct flight (Omg! I’m in love) to Seattle and started a relaxed trek that took us through the Willamette Valley, Portland, Mt. Rainier, Olympic National Park and Seattle. While we get back into the work groove (on all fronts… painting is progressing in the stairwell), I’m dedicating this week to a vacation recap with so so iPhone pictures. We are anxiously awaiting our film to be processed so we can start picking out some art for the living room.
Wine collecting is a huge hobby of ours. If you’ve seen our basement you know we have an extensive collection that is just awaiting a proper wine cellar. Ergo wine tasting in the Willamette Valley seemed like the perfect way to unwind and kick off our vacation.
The plan: Taste and take home some awesome pinot noir (which the region is known for)
The lodging: For most of the trip, we stayed in vacation rentals, which feel a bit more comfy to us. We like having the option to cook (or at least make snacks) and would rather curl up on a couch than a hotel bed (because if I’m horizontal I’m very likely to fall asleep. I’ve very good at sleeping.) We booked this bungalow, which had it’s pros and cons. It was a great location with easy access to wineries and walking distance to McMinnville’s uber cute downtown. We also liked that it had a washer and dryer. The downside is that the kitchen looked great, but didn’t have a lot of the necessary tools to really cook. Because it was the start of our vacation we had limited plans to cook, so it didn’t cause a huge problem.
Rather than give you an extensive rundown (like I did following our trip to Napa on my in hiatus food blog), I wanted to focus on this highlights of this wine area. Here are the wineries we enjoyed the most (and the ones I would send you to if you asked for my opinion.)
Brick House Vineyards – Brick House kept coming up in my research so I finally caved and made a reservation. We enjoyed a lovely, private tasting in the barrel room. This small producer has a gorgeous plot of land and they make excellent wine.
Beaux Freres – A reservation is required. Make one. They have delicious wine and major street cred. When we were asked what wineries we were visiting a mention of Beaux Freres always induced an “Oh, these people know what they’re doing” reaction.
Chehalm – Situated at the north end of wine country, Chehalm was positioned as a great first stop for our wine country tour. Their tasting room is intimate and manned by very friendly folks. There was zero pretension and good wine. We took home a few delicious whites.
Eyrie Vineyards – Eyrie had a lot of good wines, including some pinot noir that we plan to cellar for a few years. But the biggest surprise was a light and fruity pinot gris that was a steal at $16.50 a bottle.
Trisaetum – They have a great portfolio and gorgeous tasting room. We were particularly impressed with the French style rose.
Seufert Winery – We came to Seufert as the last stop of the last day of our time in Willamette. Truthfully, we were a little worn out. We spent the morning visiting some large scale producers that left a bad taste in our mouth (in every sense of the phrase.) We were tired of wine that was clearly too young and clearly overpriced. A “meh” lunch in Dundee didn’t help our mood. We agreed to make one more stop, and I picked Seufert because it was out of the way compared to the other places we had been. Unlike the other wineries on my list, I had zero notes about this place. I’m not sure where I found it, but I’m so glad I did.
We walked into a release party for wine club members and were instantly invited to partake. The winemaker was grilling up small bites to accompany the new wine releases. We were basically treated to a delicious, fresh (second) lunch and an extensive tasting of delicious, aged pinot noir. We spent two hours there and basically fell in love. The food was amazing. The staff was super friendly. And the wine was exactly what we had been looking for – better, even, because of the price. It was the perfect way to end this part of the trip.
The food: McMinnville has some seriously delicious dining. Thanks to Yelp and some local recommendations we enjoyed bites at Community Plate (the tuna melt was so, so good), La Rambla (fantastic happy hour), and Thai Country Restaurant. Our favorite, even though it was all good, was Crescent Cafe, which serves up made-from-scratch breakfast and is SO, SO worth the wait. Their elevated, but still home-style breakfast food was amazing.
Next stop: Portland and hiking around Mt. Rainier. Then on to Olympic National Park and Seattle.