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Laguna Beach

 Volume 11, Issue 51  |  June 25, 2019


Guest Column

Oregon, here I come!

Story and photos by Danielle Bauter

Like many other destinations around the world, Portland has long been on my list of cities to visit. So I jumped at the opportunity to use my frequent flyer miles and spend a long weekend there. Soon my mind began to fill with ideas of where to go, with Powell’s Bookstore at the top of my list. Wanting to make the most of my trip, I began to ask myself…why not explore other areas of Oregon as well?

I had heard about the Willamette Valley wine country, in particular a town called McMinnville, and I decided that I needed to visit to there too. My plan was to spend one night in Portland and two in McMinnville, with the hope of visiting the tasting rooms and meeting some of the winemakers and winery owners from the area. Little did I know that I would also become enamored with the town and leave feeling like I had made several new friends. 

I also had another adventure awaiting me in Portland – my first time driving an electric car. The good folks at Chevrolet had arranged for me to drive a Bolt EV during my time in Oregon, and I was excited for the experience. With a slate-grey metallic exterior and a compact build that still offered a lot of room inside, I was pleased to discover that it was so quiet when I turned it on. And then I realized that because the car has no engine, the only thing you hear while driving is road noise. 

Oregon here Heathman

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Library in the Heathman Hotel in Portland

One of the best things about Portland is that it’s a very walkable city, so I parked my car at the hotel and hit the pavement. I had polled friends and family about what to see and do there and while the overwhelming consensus was a visit to Powell’s, there were other suggestions like visiting the various gardens such as the Rose Garden and Mt. Tabor Community Garden. 

I also wanted to enjoy the wonderful Heathman Hotel 

(www.heathmanhotel.com), namely the library there, which featured signed first editions of books by many well-known authors. Another fun activity was the hosted cocktail hour that is open to all guests. It was the perfect way to kick off an evening of eating and drinking my way through Portland. One of my favorite restaurants was Oven and Shaker, a pizza joint that offers creative pizza combinations, such as the Maple Pig with pork belly and maple mascarpone cheese. 

The next morning I departed from Portland en route to McMinnville, which is only about an hour’s drive south. Once again, I was amazed at the ease of driving the Bolt EV. And with the knowledge that I could drive 238 miles on one charge, it was such a relief not to have to worry about stopping to refill gas or finding a place to charge the car. I also loved that the car had a built-in WiFi hotspot. I felt that freedom of the road that you don’t often experience on the clogged freeways of Southern California, and I appreciated every second of it.

Oregon here Atticus

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Atticus Hotel in McMinnville 

As I drove up to the Atticus Hotel (www.atticushotel.com) in McMinnville, I was excited that this would be my home for the next two days. Situated near 3rd Street, the main thoroughfare, the hotel is stunning. I walked through the front door and was immediately welcomed by their friendly concierge, who summoned me to their honor bar and offered an espresso or glass of champagne. 

And the room…oh the room! Words cannot do it justice but suffice to say that it was love at first sight. I loved the spacious living room that was lavishly decorated and the bathtub that welcomed a soak with a glass of wine, and it was clear by all of the thoughtful touches that they had left no detail untouched. I was also quite delighted to learn that it was important to the owners that they source as much as they could from local artists, craftsmen, and designers. Which was evident from the moment you walked through the door.

Oregon here McMinnville

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Downtown McMinnville 

The next couple of days were a whirlwind of activity – some of the highlights were meeting Maria and Rob of R. Stuart Winery for brunch at Red Hills Kitchen, which is located inside the Atticus Hotel. Maria even offered to take me on a tour of 3rd Street, pointing out shops and restaurants that she recommended visiting along the way I felt like I was walking with the mayor, as she seemed to know everyone in town and stopped to introduce me…

We ended at her tasting room, also on 3rd, where I sampled the delectable sparkling wine Rosé d’Or. (Note to self: must bring a bottle – or two – back home next time!)

I also enjoyed two fabulous meals at sister restaurants Gem and La Rambla. Gem is a Creole restaurant, which brought me back to my time in New Orleans as I savored a bowl of gumbo and beignets for dessert. I met with two lovely ladies from Stoller and Chehalem Wineries at La Rambla, a Spanish tapas restaurant. I think in the space of a couple of hours we sampled almost all of the dishes on the menu. (Along with their stellar wine, of course.) 

I also enjoyed a tasting at Elizabeth Chambers Cellar, which is located in the Granary District just a short walk from my hotel. Their outside courtyard is the ideal spot to sit and savor a glass of wine and they also offer a variety of events. They specialize in handcrafted micro-regional Pinot Noir, and I’d be hard-pressed to pick a favorite.

Oregona here Elizabeth

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Elizabeth Chambers Cellar in McMinnville 

Another highlight was meeting with Remy Drabkin of Remy Wines at Nick’s Back Room, which is attached to Nick’s Italian Cafe. Nick Peirano opened the restaurant in 1977, and it quickly became a Willamette Valley wine country favorite, an unofficial meeting place for winemakers all over the region. Although his daughter Carmen now runs the place, you can often still spot Nick in the Back Room, as we did the evening we were there. Remy was so welcoming and took the time to tell me her story and why she chose to specialize in Old World-style wines with a focus on Italian varietals. 

As the sun slid behind the hills and the day darkened into evening, I remembered that soon it would be time to hit the road again and head back to my life in Orange County. I promised myself that I would be back again soon, and not only to Portland and McMinnville. There are so many other places in Oregon yet to explore, and with a surplus of frequent flyer miles in my account, I knew that promise would be easy to keep.

 

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