INSIDER’S 4-DAY WINE, COCKTAIL & CULINARY TOUR OF PORTLAND, WILLAMETTE VALLEY & COLUMBIA GORGE | 2014


TRIP DATES:
August 31 – September 3, 2014
September 7 – 10, 2014
September 14 – 17, 2014

COST:
$950 per person based on double occupancy ($240 single occupancy upcharge)

DETAILS:
After several “research” trips we are happy to report that we’ve put together another fantastic wine and cocktail tour with insider visits to some great wineries and vineyards in Willamette Valley (Oregon) and Columbia Gorge (both Oregon and Washington). We’ll fly up to Portland on Sunday afternoon where we’ll meet for a cocktail reception on a high rise roof deck with spectacular views of the city before we embark on a pub crawl. The next morning our driver will pick us up and we’ll spend the next three days touring vineyards and wineries in both of these famous winegrowing regions before our driver drops us off again in Portland for the flight back home Wednesday evening. It’ll be a jam packed yet relaxing trip that will include lunches in the vineyards and wineries, vineyard treks, vineyard workshops, winemaker dinners and lots of other cool stuff including an optional brewery tour for you beer lovers out there. By the end of the trip you will not only have sampled a dizzying array of wine and food, but you’ll also have learned firsthand from some of the best winemakers and grape growers in the trade about the many variables and vineyard techniques that are responsible for what ultimately ends up in the bottle. The bus has 56 seats so that pretty much dictates the maximum that can go on each trip. The complete itinerary (subject to minor changes) is listed below, but here are the highlights:

>>> Please SCROLL DOWN for the hour-by-hour itinerary below, but here’s an overview of the highlights:

~ Everyone will meet in Portland at the Paramount Hotel early Sunday evening. The Paramount Hotel is centrally located in downtown Portland and is within easy walking distance to scores of great restaurants and bars. And yes, we have made arrangements with the hotel for discounted group rates ($179 for Wednesday, Thursday, Friday or Saturday) if you want to come up a day or two early, or stay a day or two after the tour.

~ After checking in at the hotel we’ll walk a couple of blocks over to Departure, an Asian-inspired restaurant on the roof of the Nines Building. We’ve reserved a private roof deck with jaw-dropping views of the city where we’ll start with a super refreshing original WV&B cocktail we designed with their bartenders called the “Ginger Cubed” — Bulleit Bourbon, lime + ginger 3-ways (cubed … get it?!) … ginger liqueur + ginger cognac + ginger beer. We’ll also have a nice assortment of sushi and other appetizers to take the edge off.

~ After the reception we’ll turn everyone loose for a happy hour pub crawl. Many of the nearby restaurants and bars do happy hour all day on Sunday, and the deals on both food and cocktails can be quite appealing. Portland is known for its amazing happy hours … if you play your cards right, you can get dinner and drinks for about ten bucks. We’ll give everyone a list of our favorite haunts along with a walking map. (Everything will be within a four block radius of the hotel.) After your happy hour dinner the rest of the evening is free for you to do whatever you want. Explore the city, take in a movie at the theater across the street from the hotel, go shopping, go bar hopping, or just go back to your room and call it a night.

~ After breakfast on your own Monday morning, we’ll check out of the hotel and then our bus driver Jake will pick us up for the short drive to Willamette Valley. First stop will be in Dundee Hills at Sokol Blosser Winery, one of the original pioneers of the Valley. We’ll first watch a short video produced by the folks at Oregon Pinot Camp, an industry group that works with the trade. They normally don’t show this video to direct consumers, but we were able to convince them to make an exception for our groups. (This took a lot of effort on our part … you’re welcome!) Anyway, it’s an informative presentation that will give you a quick overview of the history of the valley and its sub-appellations. After that we’ll have a tasting and a tour of the facility and vineyards.

~ Next stop will be Anne Amie. Located in the Yamhill-Carlton district, Anne Amie makes excellent Pinot Noirs but it is also known for stellar whites, some of which go back to vines planted in the late 1970’s. Those of you who went on our Oregon tours a couple of years ago will have fond memories of the hugely popular pig roast we did for the lunch finale. Great news!…We’re going to be doing an exact repeat here. The whole suckling pig is slow cooked in a special cooking box called a “caja china” that uses indirect charcoal heat radiating down from the top of the box. The result is hands down the most amazing, most succulent pig you’ll ever taste.

~ After lunch we’ll head to Penner-Ash in Newberg. Founded by Lynn Penner-Ash and her husband Ron in 1998, Penner-Ash consistently produces some of the finest Pinots in the Willamette Valley plus a monster Syrah sourced from the Oregon side of the Columbia Gorge (where we’ll be going the following day). Here we’ll visit their state-of-the-art winery, soak in the panoramic views of Mount Hood and Mount Jefferson, and–obviously–taste some good wine.

~ After this we’ll head about a half hour south to Salem where we’ll check into our hotel for the night. After freshening up, we’ll walk around the block to our new favorite restaurant in Salem, Wild Pear. We’ll begin with an optional, non-hosted happy hour featuring some of the best artisan cocktails in town, followed by a winemaker dinner with the folks from Bryn Mawr Winery. Owner Jon Lauer, a fellow San Diegan, and his winemaker Rachel Rose will be there to personally host the event. As a side note, we had so much fun putting this menu together! I had a great brainstorming session with Jon and the Wild Pear staff, and they really get the whole wine-and-food-pairing thing. This promises to be a fun and delicious evening!

~ After dinner we’ll walk back to the hotel for the night … with maybe a slight detour to the hotel bar for a nightcap.

~ After breakfast (included at the hotel) the next morning we’ll pack up and head for the town of Hood River. Hood River is about 45 minutes east of Portland right on the Columbia River which basically defines the Oregon-Washington border. The drive there is absolutely breathtaking. And yes, we will stop at Multnomah Falls, the second highest waterfall in America, to give everyone a chance to stretch their legs. There will be enough time to take the short hike up to the bridge that spans the mid-point of the waterfall if you want to experience the mind-blowing majesty and deafening roar right in your face, or you can hang out at the observation area at the bottom of the falls if you’re not up for the hike.

~ After stretching our legs at Multnomah Falls we’ll get back on the bus for the spectacular drive to Hood River. We’ll meander along the Columbia Gorge River, gradually transitioning from mountain forests to high desert.

~ First stop will be at Phelps Creek Vineyards, home of arguably some the best Pinot Noirs in Columbia Gorge. Alexandrine Roy, a fourth generation winemaker from Gevrey-Chambertin in Burgundy, crafts some amazing Pinots here that are getting some serious acclaim. The winery is at the top of a hill that is impassable by bus and too long to hike … so we’re going to pile everyone into old fashioned hay wagons and pull everyone up by tractor! We’ll ride through the vineyards with a couple of stops for a quick lecture on the life cycle of the vines and to enjoy the panoramic views, before ending up at the winery for lunch. With lunch we’ll enjoy a customized flight of estate grown and block-specific wines, plus an exclusive sneak-peak of unreleased preview wines.

~ After lunch there will be two options: 1) go to the Hood River Inn for an early check in, or 2) take in a brewery tour (no extra charge) at Full Sail Brewery. The brewery is literally right on the way to the hotel so we’ll drop off those of you who want to do the brewery tour first, and then the bus will take everyone else to the hotel, and then come back to the brewery an hour later to pick up the first group.

~ Full Sail Brewery is a micro-brewery (well, not so micro anymore) founded in 1987 right in the town of Hood River. Employee-owned since 1999, they continue to produce some of the best beers in the area. They also have a small brew pub on premise (how convenient!) where those of you going on this tour are welcome to enjoy a cold one afterwards.

~ Next stop: Hood River, the wind surfing capital of the world. We’ll check into the Hood River Inn, a beautiful hotel with rooms overlooking the Columbia River. But one of the things I like most about the hotel is their food! (More on that in a bit) Anyway, after checking into your room, you’ll have a couple of hours to relax or walk along the river. After that we’ll meet for no-hosted cocktails followed by a winemaker dinner in our own private dining room overlooking the river. Just like with Wild Pear, I had so much fun putting this menu together with their talented staff. They, too, really get it. This dinner will not be your typical winemaker dinner, as it will be a winemaker(s) dinner. We’re going to feature wines from all four of the wineries we’re visiting in Columbia Gorge: Pinot Noir from Phelps Creek that we just visited, plus wines from all the wineries we’re visiting the next day: a Rhone white blend from Domaine Pouillon, Nebbiolo from Cascade Cliffs, and Merlot from Garnier. We’ve invited all the winemakers to attend, so hopefully some of them will be able to show up!

~ After dinner it’s back to your room for the night … with maybe a slight detour to the hotel bar for a nightcap.

~ After breakfast (included at the hotel) the next morning we’ll pack up and head across the bridge into Washington state. First stop will be Domaine Pouillon. Founded by Alexis Pouillon (who apprenticed at Chateau Beaucastel) and his wife Juliet in 2005, Domaine Pouillon produces small lots of Rhone and other varietals. I’ve always loved their wines for their sense of purity and richness without being over-extracted.

~ After our visit here we’ll head east following the Columbia River on the Washington side to Cascade Cliffs Winery. Specializing in Italian varietals, Cascade Cliffs is right on the river where it starts turning into high desert. The vineyards are uniquely surrounded by 400 foot high basalt cliffs which collect the sun’s heat during the day and then radiate it out during the night, naturally protecting them from the chilly night temperatures. Here we’ll enjoy some Italian antipasto appetizers paired with their wines, while soaking up some sun and enjoying the panoramic gorge view.

~ Next we’ll cross back over the river onto the Oregon side again and start heading west. Our final stop will be at Garnier Vineyards just outside of Hood River. Located right on the Columbia River, they have a tiny private beach at the bottom of the vineyards where Lewis and Clark once camped during their expedition across America in 1804-6. There’s a big white mansion on the property where we’ll have a simple picnic lunch paired with their wines after walking through the vineyards. It should be a relaxing way to end the tour and mingle with your new friends.

~ From there we’ll head back to Portland, once again enjoying the beautiful gorge scenery along the way. We’ll arrive at PDX late afternoon just in time to take an early evening flight home.

HOUR BY HOUR ITINERARY

SUNDAY: Aug 31, Sept 7, or Sep 14, 2014
anytime fly to PDX (Portland Airport); streetcar or taxi to Portland Paramount Hotel
06:00pm meet at Departure for cocktail reception
07:30pm happy hour dinner / pub crawl on your own
09:30pm ish Portland Paramount Hotel for the night

MONDAY: Sept 1, Sept 8, or Sep 15, 2014
07:30am ish breakfast on your own
09:00am bus departs Portland
10:00am arr Sokol Blosser >>> video overview of WV; tour; tasting
12:15 dep Sokol Blosser
12:30pm arr Anne Amie >>> lunch; vineyard trek; tasting
02:45pm dep Anne Amie
03:00pm arr Penner-Ash >>> tour; tasting
04:30pm dep Penner-Ash
05:15pm arr Grand Hotel in Salem
07:00pm pre-dinner cocktails at Wild Pear (optional)
07:30pm winemaker dinner at Wild Pear with Bryn Mawr
09:30pm finish dinner (+/-)
09:45pm after dinner cocktails in hotel lobby (optional)
10:30pm ish Salem Grand Hotel for the night

TUESDAY: Sept 2, Sept 9, or Sep 16, 2014
07:30am ish breakfast included at hotel
09:00am bus departs Salem
10:15am arr Multnomah Falls >>> hike to mid-span bridge (optional)
11:00am dep Multnomah Falls
11:45am arr Phelps Creek >>> vineyard tour; picnic lunch
02:30pm dep Phelps Creek
03:00pm arr Full Sail Brewery (optional) >>> brewery tour
03:15pm arr Hood River Inn (those passing on brewery tour)
04:00pm bus back to Full Sail to pick up brewery tour guests
04:15pm everyone back to Hood River Inn
05:45pm pre-dinner cocktails at Hood River Inn lobby bar (optional)
06:30pm winemaker dinner at Hood River Inn
08:30pm finish dinner (+/-)
08:45pm after dinner cocktails at Hood River Inn lobby bar (optional)
10:00pm ish Hood River Inn for the night

WEDNESDAY: Sept 3, Sept 10, or Sep 17, 2014
07:30am ish breakfast included at hotel
09:00am bus departs Hood River
09:45am arr Domaine Pouillon >>> vineyard tour; tasting
11:15am dep Domaine Pouillon
11:30am arr Cascade Cliffs >>> Italian antipasto appetizers, tour; tasting
01:00pm dep Cascade Cliffs
01:15pm arr Garnier Vineyards >>> lunch; tour
03:30pm dep Garnier Vineyards
04:30pm arr PDX (plenty of flights leave around 6:00)

COST:
$950 per person based on double occupancy. The single occupancy upcharge is $240. If you’re a single traveling with another single there are also rooms with two beds at nominal or no additional charge.

DEPOSITS:
Reservations will not be guaranteed until a NON-REFUNDABLE deposit of $150.00 per person is received. Another non-refundable deposit of $300 will be charged 75 days prior to the trip and the final payment of $500 (plus the single occupancy upcharge, if applicable) will be charged 45 days prior to the trip and also becomes non-refundable at that point.

TRIP CANCELLATION INSURANCE:
Please, please, please understand that we cannot issue refunds for any reason whatsoever. (This includes but is not limited to illness, a death in the family, loss of income or anything else.) If you want to get trip cancellation insurance in the event something comes up on your end that prevents you from going on the trip at the last minute, there are several on-line sites that can provide that service for as low as $75. Here’s a link to one site if you’re interested: http://www.insuremytrip.com/plans/index.html and here’s a link to a local San Diego travel insurance provider: http://www.csatravelprotection.com/. I cannot stress how strongly I recommend that you at least look into coverage, as it seems like in every trip we do there’s always at least one person who can’t make it at the last minute for one reason or another, and while we always feel horrible about the circumstances surrounding it, at that point we are totally on the hook for your expenses whether or not you show up. We strive to make these tours as affordable as possible, and simply are not in a position to absorb the costs of cancellations. Thanks for understanding.

INCLUDED IN COST:
1. Cocktail reception and appetizers in Portland

2. Breakfasts in Salem and Hood River (but not in Portland)

3. All lunches (including wine)

4. All dinners (including wine) except for happy hour dinner in Portland

5. All hotels

6. All transportation within Oregon and Washington via motorcoach with on-board restroom

7. All winery tours and tastings

NOT INCLUDED IN COST:
1. Air fare to and from Portland

2. Transportation from airport to hotel ($2.50 via streetcar or $35ish via taxi)

3. Happy hour dinner in Portland

4. Breakfast in Portland

5. Optional extra cocktails or extra wine