Willamette Valley: Concerto of Wine and Dining

First Movement
My wife and I did not get to hear the live music at Harris Bridge Vineyards but we certainly enjoyed the exclusively made desert wine crafted by Amanda Sever and Nathan Warren. The husband and wife team are winemakers, farmers and hosts of their enchanting tasting room. The concert events are a real treat and often feature Matt the Electrician, Amanda’s brother. Electrician? Matt started off as an electrician before seeing the light (pun intended.) Amanda’s husband Nathan also studied music at Pacific Lutheran University so there is a big music connection here.

The desert wines were spectacular. Hard to pick a favorite but we sure liked the Half Magic Rosé (also the name of one of Matt’s songs) which is a Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir blend with some brandy tasting notes. We also enjoyed their signature wine of Sarah’s Stories which is a Pinot Gris and has a sweet peachy taste. Every bottle of Sarah’s Stories comes with a short story, wrapped around the bottle.
The Vineyard is in the lovely town of Philomath, Oregon and Philomath is certainly a beautiful setting. Philomath is from the Greek works meaning “lover of learning.”It is five miles west of Corvallis Oregon, 100 miles south of Portland and 46 miles to the coastal town of Newport – definitely worth a visit.

Pizza cooking in the oven at the Gathering Together Farm

Of course, wine tasting is always enhanced by good food so be sure to visit the Gathering Together Farm. Owners Sally and John started this 60 acre, certified organic farm in 1987. The farm store offers an array of produce grown on the farm. The restaurant is located on the beautiful, vine covered porch. The icy gazpacho tomato based soup on a hot 95 degree summer day is a perfect starter. Another big hit is the fresh salad all grown from their farm of course with lots of tomatoes and fresh basil. A highlight is the wood-fired pizza oven located at one end of the porch, where delicious pizzas topped with garden fresh spices and vegetables are cooked. To finish off a delicious lunch, the chef offers a unique, organic potato donut. A healthy donut – what more can one want?

Our last stop in this region was Tyee Wine Cellars, which is just several miles south of Philomath. The farm has some very deep roots as the family of owner David Buchanan has farmed here since 1885. That makes David a fourth generation farmer. David had the foresight to become a pioneer in the area when he planted Pinot Noir vines in 1974 and starting making wine in 1985. Tyee Wine Cellars is a family affair. David Buchanan’s daughter Merilee Buchanan Benson is the winemaker and now the fifth generation farmer. She grew up on the farm and obtained several agricultural related degrees in Oregon and California schools.

Although Pinot is the mainstay of the Willamette Valley you should treat yourself to their un-oaked Chardonnay or Gewurztraminer. The Gewurztraminer is special. Visiting the Cellars is a delightful experience. One can often find music here during a summer weekend and it is also a popular venue for weddings. For something a little more active than eating or drinking there is the short 1.5 miles hike on the Beaver Pond Loop Nature Trail which passes an extraordinary, 400 year old tree.

Second Movement
This movement was centered in the capital of Oregon, Salem which is just a short thirty minute ride from the last stop at Tyee near Philomath. The Grand Hotel is a centrally located elegant hotel. While there one needs to eat at Bentley’s Grill. The fillet mignon and toasted chicken are delightful and of course you can pair your meal with many of the local wines.

A short drive from The Grand hotel is E.Z. Orchards Farm Market. During the Fall Harvestfest, E.Z. Orchards Farm Market features a lively interactive and educational experience for kids and some lively blue grass music. Not exactly in the classical concerto mode – but it sure makes for a fun shopping experience. Along with the farm market offerings of fresh and local produce and fruit, the market also features an outdoor stand where you can get fresh donuts, berry shortcake and espresso. “This is amazing”are the words echoed about E.Z. Orchards famous Shortcake stand. Another high note is E.Z. Orchard Willamette Valley Cidre. This hard cidre is the delicious result of 10 years of developing their fruit for optimal cider making and pairing it with the French cidre rational fermentation process. Not sure this is what Ed Zielinski had in mind when he started the farm in 1929 but this is great operation now run by the three Zielinski brothers.

E.Z. Orchards Farm Market- make sure you try their shortcake

Donuts, shortcake and now lunch? Before going to lunch a great plan is to park near the Capital Building in Salem and enjoy a walk around the lovely city of Salem. Along the way you will find a charming eating experience at Alcyone Café & Catering. European style café and coffee is what is advertised as and make no mistake about it this is all true. The word on the street of the locals is you have to have the Chicken Curry Salad. This salad has a light curry taste to it and prepared with chicken, almonds, celery and grated apples. Also one must try the clam chowder. This very light and tasty clam chowder is some of the best we have ever had. And the croissants are to die for (especially the chocolate ones).

Karo Thom is the owner of the Café and Karo learned well from her Grandmother, “Chef Alice.” Karo said “grandmother taught her everything.” Karo started cooking with her grandmother at the age of nine. It was at that early age that Karo had such educational experience with her grandmother as they cooked for restaurants and catered many events. Of course Karo also learned a lot from running a bar in Salem, traveling all around the world and catering winemaker’s dinners in the Willamette Valley.

The final stop of this movement took us a short distance south to Dallas (Oregon, not Texas) to Van Duzer Vineyards. Even on this very warm day (about 100 degrees) the picturesque setting and the cool breeze from the ocean is very soothing. About thirty-five miles from the coast the breeze is also great for cooling the vines at night which helps the vines dry and keeps mildew from forming on the grapes.

Winemaker Jerry Murray of Van Duzer Vineyards

Tasting is everything and these two wines are the most popular. The Estate Pinot Noir is the perfect balance of richness with some light sweetness and goes great with meat. The Vintners Cuvée Pinot Noir is excellent. Winemaker Jerry has done a great job. His extensive training at wineries in German and New Zealand combined with a degree in biochemistry bring an excellent balance to all of their wines.

Third Movement
For the last movement of the concerto, a good plan is to step it up and check out some upscale music at a local church. Well not exactly a church but listening to Michlele Van Keef at McMenamins Old Church and Pub. Wilsonville in Wilsonville Oregon is a wonderful part of the final movement. McMenamins Old Church and pub is just a short walk from the Wilsonville Inn & Suites.

Wilsonville is about a thirty minute drive south of Portland, and the seat of Oregon Horse Country. Located nearby is the K & M Alchemy Vineyards, owned by Ken Morrison and Mauro Hernandez,
Ken’s love for wine started in the 1990’s as a hobby in winemaking, eventually taking him to Napa to delve into his passion full time. After developing his vineyard on Parrett Mountain in the Chehalem Mountains, Ken teamed-up with Napa valley winemaker Jason Bull. Our tasting began with the Chardonnay which is nice and crisp and perfect to go with a salmon dinner. The award-winning Pinot Noir is full bodied with a nice nose. This wine will go great with steak.

The last stop was a short distance north to Quailhurst Vineyard Estate in Sherwood, Oregon. The stop here was just for medicinal purposes! According to the owner of the Vineyard, Dr. Marvin Hausman, wine has many great health properties. The ancient physician Hippocrates had a famous quote: “It is better to be full of drink then full of food.” Dr. Hausman believes that the antioxidants in wine can strengthen our immune system and lower the risk of cancer or heart disease. The higher concentrations of antioxidants are primarily found in the skins of the grape, most especially in Pinot Noir. Generally speaking the red wines are better since they are fermented with the skins. However some white wines are also fermented with skins.

Owner Dr. Marvin Hausman of Quailhurst Vineyard Estate and his rose garden.

Ready for some antioxidants? The wine tasting room offers tables and chairs and the availability of cheese and crackers. Many wines can be sampled but here are the highlights. The gold medal awarding winning Pinot Noir Verona Reserve is everyone’s favorite. The other awarding winning wine is Pinot Noir Alexis Reserve. Both of these Pinots would pair perfectly with streak, prime rib or duck. The last wine was a desert wine, Pinot Port Desert Wine. This blend of brandy sprits pairs perfectly with chocolate.

Before leaving make sure you tour the elaborate thirty-five acre estate with the Japanese Gardens, extraordinary roses and horse stables. Dr. Houseman’s wife Deborah is in charge of the care and training of the many dressage competition horses. It is quite a treat to watch her in action on one of the beautiful and stately horses.

Well this is the end of the concerto – full of the joy of weaving the food, wine, beautiful scenery and friendly folks of the Willamette Valley. Until next time and trust me that will be soon!

Harris Bridge Vineyards, 22937 Harris Road, Philomath, Oregon 97370, 541-929-3053
Gathering Together Farm, 25159 Grange Hall Road, Philomath, OR 97370, 541-929-4270
Tyee Wine Cellars, 26335 Greenberry Road, Corvallis, OR 97333,(541) 753-8754
Grand Hotel, 201 Liberty Street SE, Salem, Oregon 97301, 503-540-7800
E.Z. Orchards Farm Market, 5504 Hazel Green Rd NE, Salem, OR 97305, 503.393.1506
Alcyone Café & Catering, 315 High Street, Salem, OR 97301, 503-362-5696
Van Duzer Vineyards
, 11975 Smithfield Rd, Dallas, OR 97338, 800-884-1927
McMenamins Old Church and Pub, 30340 SW Boones Ferry Rd, Wilsonville OR 97070, 503 427-2500
Wilsonville Inn & Suites
, 29769 SW Boones Ferry Rd, Wilsonville, OR 97070, 503 570-9700
K & M Alchemy Vineyards
, 143 E Main Street, Carlton, OR 97111, 503.625.3236
Quailhurst Vineyard Estate
, 16031 SW Pleasant Hill Road, Sherwood, Oregon 97140, 503-936-3633


Sponsored by OregonWineCountry.org

Author: Michael Fagin is a freelance travel writer who has traveled over the last ten years across Canada and visited all the major Canadian wine regions. Mr. Fagin is currently touring the Pacific Northwest enjoying the wine country, dining, and hiking the region. While he is not writing Mr. Fagin is a meteorologist for West Coast Weather, LLC forecasting weather for the West Coast of the US as well as on an international basis.

Photos by Elizabeth Fagin.

Sonya Lee

Since a child, Sonya has been traveling from the corners of Canada to the far east Asia. Born in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, she led a normal family life with her brother, mother and dad. A well received job opportunity in Hong Kong for her father put the compass in action from a young age. Sonya loves good food, and I mean GOOD simple food. She loves an occasional drink, be merry and enjoy the good times. Having recently healed herself from a large ruptured cyst, her favorite foods include fresh carrot juice, grilled vegetables, sauteed portabello mushrooms and truffle french fries. Her philosophy? Healthy food makes a healthy body. Read more on the Editor page. When she's not fretting over WAFT, she runs a small design agency called mowie media and shares the good times with her dog, Monster and 3 cats Sabi, Kaeli & Misty.

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