Why You Can’t Miss Oregon’s Spring Paddle Festival

Looking for something different to do this spring? How about the annual Spring Paddle Festival at Vancouver Lake? Now in its 26th year, this springtime favorite is everything a great event should be – fun, educational, family-friendly, and hands-on.

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So maybe Oregon wine is missing from the line-up, but that’s okay! Pack some snacks and your favorite Pacific Northwest wine and you’ve got all the makings for a picnic between paddling sessions. Now it’s a truly terrific event!

So what exactly makes this a can’t-miss event?

It’s free. Nope, you didn’t misread that. The Spring Paddle Festival is totally free of charge. There’s no admission, no tickets to buy in advance, no need to rent either a canoe or kayak since they’re provided by the sponsor. It’s just a fun way to spend a day or two learning more about paddling and enjoying the great outdoors with family and friends.

It’s fun. In case there was any doubt in your mind about the amount of fun you’ll have at this event, allow us to clear that up. It’s 100% awesome. There are a ton of different sessions to take part in, like Stand Up Paddling 101, Yoga for Paddling, and even a class on how to pack for a multi-day sea kayaking trip.

Not only are all the basics of canoeing and kayaking covered, there are clearly lots of opportunities to learn about niche areas of these water sports. And the best part of all? You get to fully participate by getting out on the water and putting your new skills to the test!

It’s the perfect way to build up a thirst for wine! Not that you need an excuse to enjoy a fine Oregon wine, but we must say that the Spring Paddle Festival can certainly help develop a thirst. Whether you pack a bottle or two into a picnic basket to enjoy on-site or you follow up the event with glass or three at home, nothing beats enjoying a nice Pacific Northwest wine after a day on the lake.

This year’s Spring Paddle Festival takes place April 28 & 29 – don’t miss it!

Why You Can’t Miss Whale Watching Week in Oregon

Spotting a gray whale is more than an awe-inspiring sight: it’s a reminder of the beauty – and immensity – of nature. Oregon wine isn’t our state’s only claim to fame! The waters along the our coast offer prime viewing when these gorgeous mammals follow the fish to their seasonal feeding grounds. You cannot miss out on this amazing experience.

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The Majestic Gray Whale

These beasts are 40 to 50 feet long (think of a school bus – and then half of another), and weigh up to 30 to 40 tons. It takes a lot of mysids and amphipods (tiny shrimp-like crustaceans) to sustain that bulk! To get their fill, gray whales move like cattle and “graze” in one area until they deplete the food source and move on.

In mid-December through January, pods move from the seas up around Alaska south to Baja California, Mexico. The warmer waters allow mamas to give birth and raise their young. Then, it’s on the move again late March, back up the coast to Alaska. Up to 18,000 of these animals make the trek.

The pace in March is slower (maybe the whales aren’t in a hurry to get back to the cold North!), and you’ll have a chance to spot them all the way into June. A benefit of whale watching during the March season is that the whales tend to swim closer to the shore. This makes for excellent viewing.

Watch Week

During Watch Week (the last week of March), volunteers take up post at popular whale watching spots along the Pacific Northwest Coast. They’ll help make sure you have a terrific experience and see lots of these gorgeous whales.

Why not make a whole vacation of it? You can hit Oregon’s hottest spots, sample our renowned local, fresh food, and enjoy a glass (or two) of Rainstorm pinot noir after a successful day of whale watching. Sounds like the very best of nature to us!

10 Cool and Unusual Things to Do in Oregon in 2018

 

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  • The Sloth Center. Having a bad day? The Sloth Center is the cure. With small, guided tours, you can spend quality time with these wonderful animals, holding them and interacting without barriers.
  • Thor’s Well. This formation makes it appear like Thor himself is draining the sea. The hole is about 20 feet deep – but its aggressive water and dramatic surroundings make it seem bottomless and otherworldly. It is dangerous, so don’t mess around with the gods during storms or high tide.
  • Bagby Hot Springs. After a mellow 1.4 mile hike through gorgeous old-growth forest, Bagby Hot Springs visitors are rewarded with water naturally heated to 136℉. Some like it hot – or you can mix cool spring water in for the perfect soak.
  • The Enchanted Forest. Pure delight; this woodsy amusement park is filled with fairy-tale based attractions and plenty of games and shows. If you find yourself on Interstate 5, turn off and enjoy!
  • Painted Hills. Who painted these rocks? They are illuminated with bands of black, red, and grey. The desert landscape contrasts with Oregon’s otherwise lush look. The geography of the state is truly stunning: the same land that gives us deserts provides the perfect conditions to cultivate world class Oregon wines.
  • Octopus Tree. This 250-300 year old monster has a 50 foot base and numerous smaller trucks spread like tentacles up to the sky. A remarkable sight to behold.
  • The Hat Museum. They’re “bonkers for hats”! You can see styles from every age — but the house itself is a marvel. Look for Alice and the Mad Hatter; they might just live in this kooky museum.
  • Prehistoric Gardens. Forget Jurassic Park; here you can see giant dinos (statues!) roaming around the rainforest. Do not forget your camera.
  • Kidd’s Toy Museum. Let your inner “Kidd” out to play. This museum houses tens of thousands of antique toys. The detailing and craftsmanship are incredible. They don’t make ‘em like they used to!
  • Airplane Home in the Woods. Bruce Campbell takes his recycling very seriously. He’s turned a Boeing 727 into a home. Schedule a visit to see his kitschy decor, filled with hatches, latches, and much more. You could say his home is pretty “plane,” but we call it eccentric!

 


Oregon is filled with interesting and unique attractions; make sure to top off your day with delicious Willamette Valley wines and raise a toast of all that is weird and wonderful about our state!

Did You Know These 5 Things About the Oregon Trail?

Fantastic Oregon wine is not this region’s only claim to fame. The Oregon Trail was, of course, the “Gateway to the West” — and, if you’re the right age, a thrilling computer game! But the legendary route holds some surprises, even nearly two centuries later. Did you know:

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  • The Oregon Trail meandered. This wasn’t an interstate! The original route led pioneers through Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, Wyoming, Idaho, and Oregon. But as people trekked through the frontier, they spanned out to hunt or find land to graze their animals. Some also went “off road” to cut new trails.
  • Pioneers used “prairie schooners.” Most people think of the famed Conestoga wagon when they imagine the Oregon Trail. But these beasts were more like the 18-wheelers of today. They could carry in excess of 6 tons of freight. For faster (and we use that term loosely) travel, pioneers opted for the smaller “schooner,” which could cover 15-20 miles a day.
  • Not the bacon! Money-grubbing opportunists often conned pioneers into over-buying for the 5 month trek. As a result, they had to offload supplies en route. Legend has it that during the Gold Rush, pioneers left behind 20,000 pounds of bacon. The horror!
  • Disease was the enemy. Disease killed far more people (20,000) than attacks by Native Americans (about 400). “Indians” were far more likely to be allies on the journey, not adversaries.
  • The Oregon Trail left an indelible mark. Literally and figuratively. The importance of this route on American history cannot be over-emphasized. Pioneers made their mark – you can still see the ruts from the wagons in all six states.

Pioneers embody the bold spirit of the United States; they struck out, searching for better lives. This thirst for adventure and improvement drives us today.

And if you’re still sad about all that wasted bacon, serve up scrumptious bacon-and goat-cheese stuffed mushrooms with a glass of bold Rainstorm Pinot Noir. Ok, maybe it’s not what the settlers would have eaten, but we think they’d pull up a feed bag and dig in with us!

Cranberry & Rosemary White Christmas Sangria

Sangria is a crowd favorite and is very easy to make in large quantities. Most people think of it as a summer classic, but when paired with cranberry and rosemary, it’s the perfect cold season beverage! Ready to be a holiday hero?

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Photo via SheKnows

Start with a Great Foundation

Often sangria-lovers will opt for lesser quality wines: if they are making bulk sangria and covering the taste with fruit and sugar anyway, what does it matter, right? Wrong. The wine should be able to stand alone.

The simpler the recipe, the better. If we do not have to cover the taste of low quality wine with added sugar, our end result will be a little less calorie-dense (we all know we were going to have seconds, anyway). Your sangria will also taste cleaner and crisper. We recommend carefully selecting your wine for this recipe. Choose a fine Oregon wine as your sangria base. You (and your guests) will be thankful for the results.

Oregon’s mild temperatures create ideal growing regions, and many types of grapes are grown here. Oregon wine, in particular pinot noir and pinot gris, are by far some of the most popular in their class. Rainstorm pinot gris is a top choice for sangria, because its fruity tones and aroma pair perfectly with the apples and strawberries you will cut up for this cocktail.

Rainstorm pinot gris are bone dry and refreshing. They will not overpower nor be ignored.

For this Cranberry and Rosemary White Christmas Sangria, you will need

  • 1 bottle of Rainstorm pinot gris
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • ½ cup fruit juice (we recommend grape)
  • 12 oz club soda
  • Fresh cranberries
  • Sprig of rosemary (wonderful for taste and presentation)

Combine and allow to sit and cool – and don’t forget to add some more rosemary for garnish. This drink is gorgeous, festive, and easy to make.

Don’t Miss the Festival of Lights at the Grotto!

Oregon is home to many year-round, world-famous festivals. This corner of the Pacific Northwest is a hub for foodies, Oregon wine enthusiasts, and powder-chasers alike. One must-see attraction this Christmas season is the famous Festival of Lights at the Grotto in Portland. It is known as the largest Christmas choral festival in the world! Do not miss this!

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The Grotto is well known for its gardens and gorgeous masses. This popular festival includes about 160 choral concerts, caroling, petting zoos (we all want to see the new baby camel coming this year, am I right!) and much more!

During the holidays, it can be hard to keep the true meaning of Christmas alive. The holidays can become more about frantically shopping and stress-eating gingerbread cookies than about shared quality time. The Festival of Lights is a wonderful activity that highlights the wonder of Christmas. Whether you’re beholding the wonder with children, family, friends, or strolling through for some peace and solitude, you’ll be delighted.

With 600-seat chapels that produce chilling acoustics, family-oriented activities, and gorgeous scenic walks to enjoy, it would be difficult to be a Grinch this Christmas after enjoying the Festival of Lights. It is the type of wondrous experience that stays with you throughout the season.

The spirit of of the season comes alive when the Festival opens the day after Thanksgiving, and it continues until December 30. It is located right in Portland– great for those vacationing to the area. It is conveniently close to the local vineyards that Portland natives and tourists love.

Experiencing wines from the pacific northwest is another vacation must-do; the varying climate conditions create diverse selections of grapes. Before filling up on the holiday-themed food and drink at the Festival of Lights, be sure to check out the vast selection of Oregon wine to enjoy during your seasonal festivities.

10 Parks to See Foliage in the Fall

The best part of autumn is seeing green leaves change into brilliant shades of scarlet and gold. Oregon is one of the best places in the U.S. to see this annual transformation, and nothing beats a foliage excursion capped with a picnic featuring fine Oregon wine. Ten parks to make the most of beautiful fall colors:

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  1. Mt. Hood Scenic Loop: At 146 miles, this scenic drive provides plenty of autumnal viewing options. The Columbia River Gorge and Mount Hood may be the focal points of the trip, but the abundant trees with their stunning fall colors are the real stars of the show.
  2. Forest Park - Just west of downtown Portland, Forest Park is home to an extraordinary amount of flaming maple trees. The Maple Trail Loop Hike is the best way to enjoy the splendor, so strap on some comfy hiking shoes.
  3. McKenzie River - Here, you can enjoy the fall foliage on foot or by car. Hiking trails along the riverfront are the perfect place to take in the warm fall colors. For those who prefer to enjoy the scenery from their vehicle, the McKenzie Pass-Santiam Pass Scenic Byway winds around colorful aspen stands that will give you a brand new appreciation for the season.
  4. Washington Park – Right in the heart of downtown Portland, Washington Park may not be your first guess for amazing fall foliage, but you’d be making a mistake to skip this one. Between the trees at the Hoyt Arboretum and the Portland Japanese Garden, you’ve got a feast of autumn color to enjoy.
  5. Rogue-Umpqua Scenic Byway - The 172-mile route hugs the Upper Rogue and North Umpqua Rivers, both of which are lined with beautiful trees dressed in their autumn best.
  6. Drake Park - This Bend, OR park is a fall must. Mirror Pond holds true to its name, reflecting the brilliant colors of the maples and willows that fill the park and giving you double the beauty.
  7. Lithia Park – Lithia Park covers 93 acres in Ashland. In addition to the “usual suspects,” like maples and aspen, you’ll see some different species, like the Japanese snowbell and European beech.
  8. Upper Klamath Basin - The oaks are the real stars here. Other autumn performers include maple, aspen, and red alder.
  9. Silver Falls State Park – The Trail of Ten Falls is the spot to be, and hiking along this path will introduce you to color like you’ve never seen before.
  10. Willamette Valley, aka Wine Country – People don’t normally associate fall foliage with wine country, but Oregon’s Willamette Valley is still host to some of the season’s most phenomenal color shows. While the stands of white oak have given way to vineyards, the warm browns and yellows of the season can still be found throughout the Valley – along with delectable Rainstorm wines.

Autumn’s dry, crisp, dynamic flavor pairs perfectly with complex, diverse, and “colorful” taste of a great Oregon wine. Enjoy.

Why You Need to See This Corn Maize at the Pumpkin Patch in Oregon

Fall and pumpkin patches go together like peanut butter and jelly — or better yet, Rainstorm pinot and a perfectly grilled steak. Not just any pumpkin patch will do, though. It has to be the perfect patch, with ripe pumpkins and gourds of all varieties, beautiful surrounding scenery, and a few other attractions to enjoy before picking out your prizes.

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Located just 15 minutes from downtown Portland, The MAiZE at the Pumpkin Patch has been attracting visitors since 1998 with its corn labyrinth and plentiful pumpkins. This isn’t just any corn maze, though. Covering 8 acres, the maze has over two miles of twists, turns, and dead ends that confound about 30,000 explorers each year.

The aMAiZing (couldn’t resist) MAiZE is divided into two phases. The first is a warm-up, designed to get your body and brain in gear for phase two, which is more challenging. There are no maps in this maze, but fortunately for visitors, MAiZE staff is on hand to hand out trivia cards with clues for completing the task. There are also two observation bridges that look over the maze and the surrounding countryside.

To keep things fresh, the maze is redesigned each season based on a new theme. This year’s theme celebrates 50 years of Fun on the Farm. There are also hayrides, a giant hay pyramid for kids to explore, and the Patio Cafe serving up grass fed beef burgers and homemade seasonal treats.

This year, make a new fall tradition by visiting the MAiZE at the Pumpkin Patch on Sauvie Island. There’s so much to do here, and there’s no better way to get into the autumn spirit. Tackle the MAiZe and sample some local favorites.The Pumpkin Patch is a leader in the local food movement, so don’t forget to cap off your perfect day with some delicious Oregon wine, grown, harvested, and perfected right in our abundant backyard!

Duck Breast with Pomegranate-Citrus Glaze and Pinot Noir

Finding the perfect food and wine pairings can be intimidating — especially if you’ve got guests coming in a few hours and still have to select the right bottle! When in doubt, though, go with pinot noir. This smooth operator is a dynamo with food; its acidity infuses it with incredible versatility, so it pairs with everything from lamb to Chinese pizza. Try this delectable duck breast with pomegranate-citrus glaze; it’s guaranteed to delight your taste buds.

Oregon Wine | Rainstorm Pinot Noir

Fine and Fowl

Rainstorm Pinot Noir blends the earthy, complexity characteristic of the Willamette Valley with the bright, fruitiness of the hotter, drier Umpqua Valley. The result is a harmonious, yet layered, wine with the fresh acidity to complement the the richness of the glazed duck. For this recipe from the Kitchn.com you will need:

  • 2 duck breasts
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 2 tbsp pomegranate molasses
  • 2 tbsp white vermouth
  • 1 large orange, juiced
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 4 whole cloves
  • ⅛ tsp cardamom

To make:

  1. Heat your oven to 400 F.
  2. Place the breasts fat side up and use a knife to crosshatch the skin. Don’t pierce the meat itself.
  3. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  4. Put the breasts fat side down in a large skillet.
  5. On low, cook the breasts for about 10 to 15 minutes. The fat will render out without cooking the breasts too much. You don’t want it to spit or flare, so keep it very low.
  6. As the fat renders, mix the pomegranate molasses, vermouth, OJ, honey, cinnamon, cloves, and cardamom in a saucepan. Simmer for 5 minutes or until 210F. Turn off heat and set aside.
  7. By this time, the skin on the breasts should look crisp. Turn off the heat and remove them from the skillet.
  8. Pour the liquid fat into a bowl and refrigerate. You can also use it to saute vegetables to have with dinner.
  9. Put the breasts back into the skillet, fat side up, and brush with the pomegranate mixture.
  10. Pop it in the oven for 5 to 7 minutes (or about 130F for medium rare or 160F for a hint of pink in the middle).
  11. Remove the breasts from the oven and put them on your cutting board. Tent them with foil for a few minutes.
  12. Brush them with more glaze.
  13. Slice thin and serve over wilted greens or sauteed root vegetables.
  14. If you have leftovers, serve the duck over a salad of fresh greens with a little mustard.

Oregon wine is a reflection of the area’s unique geography and climate. Rainstorm Pinot Noir blends the best of the Willamette and Umpqua Valleys to deliver a delightful, fresh, and vibrant partner for any number of dishes. Bon Appetite!

Smallest Park in the World: Portland, OR

What do you think of when you hear the word “park”? Do you picture acres and acres of greenery? Maybe some benches and fountains, or playground equipment for the kids? Enjoying a picnic with some fine Oregon wine perhaps?

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How about 452 square inches of land, complete with a tree and some ground cover? For reference, that’s roughly the size of a large manhole cover. And that’s exactly how big Portland’s Mill Ends Park — aka the smallest park in the world  — is.

Mill Ends came about almost by accident. The site, located across from legendary columnist Dick Fagan’s office, was originally intended to house a light pole.  As Fagan told it, he looked out the window one day and saw a leprechaun.

Ah, the luck of the Irish!

The newspaperman ran outside to catch the elusive sprite, and when he did, he was granted one wish. Fagan wished for a park of his own. But since he failed to specify the size, the leprechaun gifted him the 452 square inch hole in the ground. Fagan accepted this and planted the park’s first flowers. Two years later, on St. Patrick’s Day 1948, the site was dedicated as a park and became known as the “only Leprechaun colony west of Ireland.”

Today, the small park with the big reputation remains a local treasure among Portlanders. Mill Ends is located in the median of SW Naito Parkway, so it’s not exactly the most relaxing park to hang out in, but that hasn’t stopped visitors from popping by to take a picture or leave a memento. A swimming pool for butterflies has been added, complete with a diving board, and annual events, such as a St. Patrick’s Day celebration recognizing the park’s leprechaun colony, are popular draws.

If you’re ever in Portland, take the time to stop by Mill Ends. You can take a picture of this infamous Portland gem, or even have a mini picnic with a bottle of Rainstorm Pinot Gris. And maybe, if you’re lucky, you’ll catch a glimpse of one of the resident leprechauns.