If you need a little getaway from the Portland/Vancouver area or you are visiting and want to sample the best of the Northwest, a great choice is to follow the Columbia Gorge Winegrowers Association’s Spring Trail. Don’t worry, it’s a great itinerary throughout the year. I enjoyed the two-day, one night excursion as they lay out featuring wineries at the east end of the Gorge, which I hadn’t tried before.
Start off with a drive down the Columbia River Gorge, either on I-84 or Washington 14. Our first stop was a viewpoint on the Washington side across from Hood River, on our way to our first winery stop. I’ve almost always frequented the Oregon side, so this vista was a lovely change.
We visited AniChe Cellars at their rustic winery on the Washington side. They also have a tasting room in downtown Hood River, Oregon. Owner and winemaker Rachael Horn showed us her ceramic amphora vessels used for some of the wine. Her wines are European-styled and food-oriented. The pairings are done with nibbles to complement them. I was sorely tempted to join their wine club to enjoy their food and wine events. The vista from the winery was magnificent. The winery tasting room is open noon-6pm Wed-Sunday while their Hood River tasting room is open 12 pm Thursday through Monday, closing at 6 pm except for Friday and Saturday when they close at 8 pm.
The wine trail suggests a walk or hike to Mosier Creek Falls and up to the Mosier Plateau. We went up the trail past the pioneer cemetery to view the falls.
Our next winery stop was Garnier Vineyards on the Oregon side, east of Hood River. They have over 300 acres of vineyards on the historic Mayerdale estate in a variety of microclimates. This family-owned vineyard has a nice tasting room with views of the hillsides. Plus, if the cherries are on, you can enjoy them as well. They are open Saturday and Sunday, noon till 5 pm (ish) until October (closed October through mid-May).
We stopped at the Apple Valley Country Store in Hood River to sample the jams, mustards and other preserves. I took home some mustard with sweet onion.
When you are planning your Columbia Gorge wine adventure, your first stop should be to make a reservation for dinner at Celilo Restaurant and Bar in Hood River. Chef Ben Stenn is passionate about local sourcing, sustainable practices, and honoring the ingredients. As a foodie, I was blown away by the quality of the dishes. You can enjoy small plates or traditional entree-sized portions. I had the Pork Trio, with Payne Family Farm pork schnitzel, seared pork belly and house-made chorizo over purple cabbage and kale with mustard seeds and pork jus. Of course, you can have salmon. My fellow travel writer Elizabeth loved the wild mushroom bucatini. Celilo features Columbia Gorge wines by the glass. After one visit, this will be my first choice for dining in the Gorge. In fact, I think I’ll plan to stay over after the Columbia Gorge Marathon this year simply to dine there! They are open for both lunch (11:30 – 3 pm) and dinner (5 pm – close).
We were hosted for a night at The Dalles Inn, located in the historic downtown area. I was impressed in walking around to see the architecture, coffee houses and even a brewery. The Dalles Inn has a nice breakfast room included in the price and features large, comfortable rooms.
On the second day, after breakfast at the hotel we headed to the Columbia Gorge Discovery Center & Museum, located at the west end of The Dalles. I had previously visited the museum as it was the starting point for a half marathon. I really loved walking The Dalles Riverfront Trail for several miles, passing by an outpost of Google. It’s a great walk to enjoy on the paved trail. If you want to bike, run or walk, this is a great starting or ending point. You can get onto the trail in the downtown area of The Dalles as well.
But today we browsed through the museum with the director, who may be even more passionate than I am about the geology and history of the Lake Missoula Floods that created the Columbia River Gorge. The museum is half science/nature museum and half history museum of Wasco County. It’s worth at least an hour-long stop.
Next, we drove the historic Columbia River Highway to Rowena Crest for the grand view. You can go for a hike here if you wish from the Tom McCall trailhead to McCall Point.
Our final winery stop was at Analemma, where owners Kris Fade and Steven Thompson use organic and integrative techniques to grow their grapes in the Mosier Valley. The tasting room was lovely, but we got a real treat of the Countryside Picnic. A picnic basket includes a bottle of still wine of your choosing, a carefully packaged charcuterie plate, sparkling water, and a few surprises. You are seated on a comfortable outdoor couch overlooking the valley, with binoculars to spot birds and wildlife. The cost is $65 per basket serving up to four guests, available Friday, Saturday and Sunday by reservation. They also do guided vineyard tours on Saturday and Sunday for $30 per person. The tasting room is open Friday-Sunday through October 31.
I encourage you to explore the wines of the eastern Columbia River Gorge. It’s a much more pleasant drive from the Portland area than the drive to Dundee or Carlton, much as I love the pinot noir in those areas.
As is standard in the travel industry, the writer was hosted for this itinerary.