Wine and Food : Willamette and Portland

So my overall impression of Oregon’s wine country was underwhelming. It was beautiful for sure, but for a region that is widely renowned for its pinot noir, one of Alan’s and my favorite wines, we were somewhat disappointed by the quality (and price) of the Willamette Valley wines.

We tasted at Cristom (a bit of a ways from the McMinnville/Dundee/Dayton area where the majority of the wineries are located) and ate a fresh tasty lunch at the Blue Goat. The Turkish figs with blue cheese and bacon are divine. From there we meandered up to Eyrie and White Rose tasting rooms and we finished the day at Four Graces. All the tastings were $10-15 a person. As we would later discover, the tastings in Walla Walla, WA average on the cheaper side (most $5 a person), along with the wine prices. While the surrounding valley afforded more picturesque views, we both preferred the Washington wines (more to come on that later).

After we closed down the tasting rooms we mozied over to our B&B – the Wine Country Farm B&B, which I’d found in the 1000 Places to See Before You Die book. For $200 a night we got a complimentary tasting (mediocre wines), a lovely room that was quite large and a superb breakfast (all about the bomb breakfasts on this trip so far!). There were 3 dogs on the property as well as a rather fat cat. Surprisingly though, my favorite animals on the grounds were the very friendly horses. Maybe it wa the 5 tastings, maybe it was the romantic setting, but I was really feeling the horse nuzzling. So much so that one horse gave me a little love nibble and left a bruise on my face. Horse hickey – HA!

While enjoying our last tasting of the day we met a couple who was there celebrating their wedding anniversary, having wed at the Wine Country B&B 5 years ago. We got to talking in the lobby for a while and our new Oregonian friends ended up joining us for dinner at the Joel Palmer House – a place which is known for their truffle oil. The menu boasts several choices for each of three courses, nearly all with mushrooms as the main attraction. Alan and I shared a mushroom soup and mushroom tarte to begin, the filet mignon with foie gras (an add-on – and still legal in Oregon!) and lamb for our mains, and wrapped it up with a rose water pistachio rice pudding and mushroom s’more. The verdict: good, but not incredible. I thought the filet was superb and I also really enjoyed the rice pudding. The lamb was very disappointing. And the mushroom s’more tasted like neither mushrooms nor s’mores to me. More of a dry, chocolatey layer bar if you ask me.

Since we missed the cut off for Domaine Drouhin (recommended by many) we stopped by before hitting the road the next morning, but just to see the view. It was right across the way from our B&B, which by the way had some really stunning views.

Having tasted the wine, we went off to Portland to savor the food. I don’t have many pictures of Portland… We were too busy eating!

We tried AirBnB for the first time in Portland. A bit unnerved by the warning against leaving anything in the car and then having no lock on bedroom door, I was skeptical. But for about $50 a night we had a perfectly comfortable room in the home of two super cool, generous and friendly Portlanders (and they’re even cuter 2 year old son). The one downside – we were in a basement room and had to go up two floors to use shower and wound up waiting almost an hour when I needed it. But so far I am super impressed with AirBnB, what a genius idea. Why didn’t I think of that?!

We spent the better part of our first day in Portland exploring the downtown area and Pearl District. We ate lunch at Grassa and Lardo – both delicious and super cheap (same owners, next door from eachother, so we each got a plate from one and sat outside. Can you guess which one of us choose pasta and which one chose pig?? ;). We debated the food trucks, as Portland is big on these and an early pioneer of the bomb-food-out-of-moving-vehicles trend, but held out on those until breakfast. After lunch we worked on the blogs and a coffee shop and headed over to check out Nob Hill. Very lovely neighborhood and so many places to eat that smelled great and came highly recommended. Not enough time! We imagined that if we moved to Portland we’d live in that area.

For dinner we ate thai food at Chiang Mai  over on the east side and closer to where we stayed- very good, but our sense was that ethnic food was slightly pricier in the Portland scene compared to the very reasonable prices of many other quality restaurants.

The next morning we grabbed breakkie at the Yolk food truck. It was relatively pricey – $9 a pop for some sammies! Alan had something called the Brother Bad Ass (pork belly and other goodness) , I had Sunshine & High Clouds (goat, sautéed veggies and an egg). They were worth the hefty pricetag. Holy yum, and that bread!! We stopped quickly to check out the farmer’s market in Woodstock. It was nice, on the smaller side and surprisingly pricier that what I was used to in LA’s Brentwood farmer’s market.

From there we went up to the Columbia River gorges and did a nice, albeit rainy, hike around Multnomah Falls. Afterwards we rewarded ourselves with some Little Big Burger (pretty good, but definitely not in the same ballpark as In’N’Out). Almost obligatorily, we stopped for coffee at Stumptown. I got a delicious chai (so hot on tea right now).

We wrapped our Portland eating tour up at Nostrata for late night happy hour with some friends who are now Portlanders themselves. The meal was super cheap, clocking in at $31 TOTAL for both of us! And it’s apparently one of best restaurants in the city. We stuck to the happy hour menu, foregoing some other more exciting sounding options, but it was a solid meal nonetheless.

The final verdict: Portland – come for the food, not the wine. Then go to Walla Walla! Comin up next!!!

::the end of Oregon::

5 thoughts on “Wine and Food : Willamette and Portland”

  1. I love the blog. Lorraine and I spent time at the Wine Country Farm B&B a number of years ago with our wine tasting group. It is a great place. We found that to get a really good Pinot Noir in the Willamette Valley, you had to spend at least $50 a bottle. While we tasted a number of them, we didn’t actually buy many. It is a shame that you missed Domaine Drouhin, which was one of my favorites. Other good, but expensive, ones are Archery Summit and Domain Serene. We also enjoyed Portland, the gorge and Walla Walla. It is fun reading about your trip.

    1. Thanks! How funny about Wine Country Farm. It is a lovely place. And totally agree re cost of a decent pinot, though we tasted several they were $50 plus and some at $80 that couldn’t compare to some of our favorite Santa Barbara pinots. If you haven’t been to the wine region outside Santa Barbara, I highly recommend it! We will have to try Drouhin and the others next time, and then I can maybe judge more fairly 😉

  2. I’m loving your blog and am so jealous of your adventures! Can’t wait to see what’s in store for you guys next! Love & miss! See ya soon!

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