Saturday, 11 June 2016

Pacific NW 4 - wine and waterfalls

To wine country, and McMinville (Mac to its residents) at one end of the Willamette Valley, a major part of Oregon's rapidly expanding wine industry. The town has a charming commercial area, 2nd Street, tree lined and dappled in the afternoon sun, when we arrived. There was a lot happening at the time of our visit: Mom and Pop Weekend at the local university, Prom night at the high school, and on the Saturday it was Lemonade Day, when all the local kids set up their homemade refreshment stalls. Small town America at its most endearing. We stayed outside town at Youngberg Hill, set way up on a bluff with wide views across the valley. This is a 6 room B&B cum winery, and we were treated on arrival to a wine tasting of their products, which are mostly Pinot noir and Sauvignon blanc. The house itself is magnificent, modern but in traditional style with wide verandas and lots of public rooms. We took the Jura suite with its 180 degree panorama across vineyards to distant hills, its vast bathroom and of course a fireplace. Kathleen's room was round the back, but compensated by a lovely sunrise.
Perhaps the highlight was the birth of a calf to the ornamental cattle on the property. We saw it just 10 minutes after birth, all legs, and unsteadily on its feet, already finding its way to its mother's milk. McMinville also has a surprisingly interesting, and huge, aircraft and space museum, built up around Howard Hughes' 'spruce goose', the world's largest airplane, that only flew once.
Next, by vertiginous forest roads (my acrophobic companions not best pleased by my navigation) close to the Paramount-style white cap of Mount Hood, to the town of Hood River and our second encounter with the Columbia River. Here it forces its way as a gorge through the coastal mountain range. We travelled up the gorge to the Horsetail and Wahkeena Falls, beautiful and in spate at this time of year, and later along the north canyon rim. Hood River itself is split by major east-west highway and railroad, which give constant traffic noise. I has a small historic centre with substantial early 20th century buildings, and the city authorities are trying hard to develop the tourist potential of the river front. We had dinner amongst the huge vessels of the Pfriem Family Brewery there – good IPA and nice pub food. The weather continued to be spectacular, with scorching sun in the high 20s C.

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