By now, if you haven’t heard of the Willamette Valley wine region in Oregon, you must have been living in a cave. But some of us living here in Oregon have a new best-kept secret: Hood River. Less than an hour east of Portland, this region, primarily known for its wind surfing and fruit-growing, is now quickly becoming recognized for its outstanding wines and world-class cuisine. The Hood River area abounds with great hard ciders and also boasts some of the best breweries in Oregon, but for now let’s focus on the wine and food.
With over 40 grape varietals grown within a 40-mile span, the Columbia River and Columbia Gorge areas are producing big reds and crisp whites that are winning awards nation- and worldwide. Most of the wineries feature cabernet sauvignon, but you will also find a laundry list of varietals mainly associated with other famous wine growing regions around the world including chardonnay, pinot gris, riesling, malbec, syrah, barbera, tempranillo, grenache, and pinot noir. The tasting fees are very reasonable, with most wineries offering six to eight tastes for $5 to $10 and many offering tasty small bites to pair with them.
The wine world has also recognized two of Hood River’s restaurants with an Award of Excellence for their wine lists: Celilo Restaurant and Bar and Riverside. Celilo Restaurant and Bar features Northwest cuisine with a menu that changes daily to utilize the local seasonal bounty. With small plates such as semolina-crusted Willapa Bay oysters and dinners that include cavatappi pasta with local mushrooms, roasted Anaheim peppers, and sweet corn, the eatery pleases your every last tastebud. Riverside, attached to the Best Western Plus Hotel, features breakfast, lunch, and dinner along with waterfront dining and deck seating. House specials include Columbia River king salmon and sausage and fregola, a pasta dish featuring Olympia Provisions parsley and pecorino sausage. The attached bar, Cebu Lounge, has an extensive early and late “happiest hours” menu Monday through Friday from 4 to 6 p.m. and from nine p.m. to closing.
For something a little more casual, head over to Double Mountain Brewery and Taproom for one of their regionally acclaimed, New Haven-style pizzas and a pint. Hood River offers many festivals to celebrate this exceptional growing region, including the upcoming Harvest Festival from October 16 to 18.
To make your Hood River trip a true weekend getaway, pamper yourself by checking in to the historic Columbia Gorge Hotel and Spa and soak up the incredible vistas and stunning waterfalls that the Gorge has to offer.