Hood River

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nov2

Oops! Didn’t realize it has been so long since I last posted. I pretty much took some time off to do Mama things (cards, cookies, and cadeaux) and actually got them all done for once, with very minimal duress–a very interesting result from stepping a moment (or in this case, a month) away from the wine biz/start-up/swimming-against-the-current fray. Hmmm.

Anyway, while 2011 is still only yesterday, I’d like to leave you all with a month-by-month visual of the sights and colors of the The Grande Dalles and our Uncultivated Life (note the yellow boat serving as wade pool in front of our Campeau) out in the wilds of the wine world.

    

January: We released our wines at the rustically swank James John Cafe in North Portland. Chef Owners Suzanne Bozarth and Aaron Solley would accompany us to New York in March, to the James Beard House.

February: It’s a quiet time out on the hill, but still much for little vineyard gnomes to discover.

March: “Columbia Valley Terroir” unveils itself at the James Beard House in NYC: featuring our wines and sumptuous regional Northwest Solley and Bozart fare.

  

April: A slow start, but the land starts to warm and the greening of the hill begins.

May: Guerilla roadside Wine Stand at the Old Garage during Memorial Day Weekend in the Hood (Hood River). Best line of the weekend asked by someone who drove in, got out, and then quickly left after asking: “Is this legal?”

  

June: Wine in hand, an evening walk out on the land. Sam! Get out of Dave’s wheat!

July: Fire season. Thankfully this was not on our property, but still causing much damage to someone else’s across the way. Reminded us of the 2009 range fire that headed straight toward us, stopping three rows in our vineyard. As the story goes, the Old Coot was the only person who went in our vineyard to fight it. Still need to thank him.

  

August: Wasco County Fair! Aptly themed, “Barn in the USA.” For the second year we sponsored a Demolition Derby car. Yeah! Hot day out there in South County in that fairground valley. Whew!

September: Still warm out on the land. In this picture, because we didn’t quite make it to our Deschutes River swim spot, the little boat had to do.

  

October: Harvest. We made it. And we made it into Google Earth’s One World Many Stories campaign. The only wine story IN THE ENTIRE INDUSTRY to do so.

November: A seasonal quiet begins its descent, along with some early snow.

December: While the last hues of Fall in the Columbia Gorge peep through the mist, our wines are beginning to shine in New York City, and at some Michelin-starred restaurants to boot! Where exactly, you ask? Annisa on Barrow Street. Blue Hill NYC on Washington Place. Dovetail on West 77th Street. Henry’s on Broadway. Penn Wine and Spirits at Penn Station. First & Vine on First Ave. Yippy skippy!

As thankful as I am for our accomplishments in 2011, there are still many miles to go before we can sleep. Many miles. So, while I look forward to 2012 and all the exciting things we have planned, I wish you all a prosperous and healthy New Year and from time-t0-time, to step off the beaten path, for it is what often makes all the difference.

~ stephanie

 

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Can’t believe it’s been two years since I started writing this blog, when I had a heck of a lot more time because Sam went to bed at 5:30 and STILL NAPPED! And I had a very reliable gal who came over 2x a week besides. Now my posts are a little hurried, I know — kid is growing and changing every day, and my last gal was too Portlandia, causing me to lose faith in good help for now. So there you go.

There are a lot of little gems from the days back, and I’d like to dig up a few, because they’re still relevant, and they give me some breathing room while Sam and I start “crafting” things for the holidays.

The following was posted December 22, 2009

A TRUE WESTERN TOWN, A TRUE SENSE OF PLACE

The Dalles Bridge: A Western Bridge for a Western Town (sorry it’s fuzzy)

Hooray! The Dalles has been named a “True Western Town” in True West Magazine’s top 10 list of, you guessed it, “True Western Towns” for 2010.

I’ve always had the feeling, from the first time we showed up and actually spent some time in The Dalles looking for vineyard ground—instead of simply rumbling by on 84 as I imagine most do, because honestly, from a car window, The Dalles kind of shows its ass to the world and who would want to stop? The auto repair and RV spots, the strip malls and former old rundown Aluminum factory site now razed to a bunch of bare earth…and that’s probably enough said*—that it was, at its soul, a quiet, Western town.

And it is: at its center you’ll find restored, 19th century Victorians; one-way down-town streets lined with high-windowed brick buildings; farm rigs and big hats going by; cowboy boots and western wear; plus all what the article in True West speaks of. And all against the backdrop of enormous, grassy hills that echo Connemara to me—or pictures I’ve seen of New Zealand—on the Washington side, and heights of basalt outcroppings with scrub oak and sage on the Oregon side; the Western character is hard to miss.

Once our vineyard was planted, it felt like—and still does—a little vineyard on the frontier, all alone under the watchful eye of Mt. Hood in that striking expanse of rolling hills of wheat, the Klickitats just across the river, the hawks and kestrels soaring against the blue, blue sky. The occasional truck or car zipping down Emerson Loop Road can’t even wake me from this reverie, so few are there.

From people I’ve talked with, not many know about The Dalles, few know even less about the geographic Big West that’s just past the bend in the Columbia River heading eastward out of “The Hood,” or Hood River (I call it The Hood—don’t know if others do). How dramatically the landscape changes; away from the rain influence of the Cascade Range where the average precipitation reaches 75 inches—The Hood approximately 32—the verdure of the densely forested, canyon-walled-passage drive from Portland is replaced by a set out of a Leone western, with open, golden—sensuous even—rolling steppes, rim-rock rises and scrub-oak gullies where I imagine a young, poncho-ed Clint resting, or, more likely, on the run (ah, Clint); for every mile you drive east from The Hood you lose an inch of precipitation, and in this area, in the rain shadow of Mt.Hood, a scant 14 inches of precipitation is the yearly norm. Lewis Mumford, an early 20th century philosopher of the urban landscape (among other areas) eloquently describes the Columbia Gorge’s scenic transition in 1939 as “[unrolling] itself like some great kakemono of classic Chinese landscape art.”

I don’t subscribe to True West, but the categories of “Renegade Roads,” “Classic Gunfights,” and “Frontier Fare” from its website pique my interest in becoming a regular reader. I hope what might be more inviting to you, my dear Reader, if you haven’t been, or if you don’t know, is The Dalles and surrounding area itself. It quietly sits like an undiscovered gem, only seen by the more discerning eye who relishes the new, for the individual who is not afraid to step off the beaten path and find their own island of quiet, while the rest of the world rushes loudly past. A true Western town with a true Western sense of place.

*update: Google’s shiny power station and the area’s funkelnagelneu grain elevator stand out like beacons near that old aluminium factory site, hopefully heralding in more bright things to come.

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Our well’s pump stopped out at the farm. Nice. After hours of Scott calling around for trouble-shooting and alternatives–new pump? repair existing?–it was decided, we’d get it fixed. The problem was that Scott was at work, and the people who would fix the pump were in Vancouver, WA, some 90 miles-ish from the vineyard, and every day without water for the vines was, well, everyday without water. So after getting the phone call from Scott, off me and the little one went, from Portland to The Dalles, to pick up the pump, and haul it to Vancouver.

The pump and motor had already been pulled out of the 250 foot hole, so all that was needed was to lift that sucker and 250 feet of wiring into the back of the truck. Thankfully, our neighbor out there, who also shares the pump, had a winch on his work truck, so after some struggles, we lifted and pushed the motor (looked like a 5 foot torpedo) and pump into the pickup’s bed–Sam kept himself busy running up and down the road and tossing little stones into the neighboring wheat field…hmmmm… and then off we went, well, first had to change some little boy’s diaper out in the cheatgrass, but then we were racing the clock to deliver the pump by 5 PM, or as close as we could, which had its own troubles attached: rush hour, and getting across the Columbia River to Vancouver, WA, with all those Vancouverites who come in to Portland to work and then clog up highways on the return home; we needed to get across the river BEFORE we got to Portland.

From The Dalles, there are only three bridges that cross the river before hitting Portland’s highways: one in The Dalles, one in Hood River, and one in Cascade Locks. Crossing any one of these puts you directly in Washington State, on SR (state road) 14, on the most beautiful leafy drive that follows the folds and contours of the Gorge. While stunning, with the vistas of the river and Oregon, it’s much slower going, and it is tourist season, making it even slower. So we opted for the closest-to-Portland bridge at Cascade Locks, The Bridge of The Gods.

The Bridge of The Gods is so-called for the land bridge that formed there eons ago, when Table Mountain collapsed, damming up the river for some time before the backed up river resumed its flow to the sea. This occurrence was experienced and passed down through local Native American lore, the bridge built by one of the sons of the Chief of all the Klickitats’ gods. It’s a great bridge to cross, despited the ongoing $1 toll ($2 if all you have is credit card….), and high above the river, it’s not a lift bridge like at Hood River, where you have to wait for all the river tug and barge traffic, so great a commerce conduit is the Columbia.

After the bridge we were in Washington, in Skamania County, and on the rolling road. Sam almost three, said, with no prompting, “It’s beautiful.” And it was. The tree canopies, the views, the grasses, a very different drive than the highway on the other side of the river. And we made it into Vancouver just at 5. Found the well/pump shop, and we were back over the Columbia River and into Portland not soon after. Sam and I had a great time, we laughed a lot, sang songs, had our standard going-to-the-farm Mc Donalds lunch in the truck, enjoyed the sights (made a mental note to take Gramma and Sam hiking up Beacon Rock when she comes), and now the pump can get fixed.

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So, not having a tasting room, and Memorial Day weekend supposedly being one of the busiest for wine tasters out and about, and knowing our vineyard was TOO far off the beaten trail (not crazy far, but not on a prescribed “wine route,” so to speak), we were driving down a road in Hood River a couple of months ago, on the way to where we have our wine made, and I saw a very cool abandoned garage with great parking out front, conveniently located right off the highway on a great bluff overlooking the Columbia River Gorge, and fully on a “wine trail.” We found out who owned it, he laughingly agreed to let us use the spot–at no charge–we got all required permits with city of Hood River, and Oregon’s governing alcohol commission, and voila, a farm-stand was in motion. So we schlepped our stuff each day 70 minutes down the most scenic highway, to Hood River, and set up our blue canopy wine farm stand, at the Old Garage.

We had a ton of fun, and I believe, met some of the most adventurous of the wine adventurers that weekend. Making one’s mind up to pull off the well-traveled highway and discover what’s under that blue canopy is not for the faint-hearted, but it IS for the curious and courageous, and we are thankful for everyone who had it in them to dodge the potholes and come on in. And they really liked the wine. So one of my theories of our wine being really for the most adventurous was proven that day.

There was also a great showing of our Portland friends, as well as one of our The Dalles buddy’s, and my old boss from ages ago who now lives in “The Hood,” whose support of our endeavor really made us feel all warm in that chilly wind;  Scott was referred to as “the kid” setting up; some guy pulled in and asked if what we were doing was legal and then just left without tasting a thing; the scotch broom smelled divine(!); and an eagle soared out in front. It was truly a grand weekend.

“Will we do it again?” That is the question. People did stop, and we did sell wine, but was it enough to sustain the idea? Will we need to keep going back to keep the momentum going? Or was this weekend it? We’re still working it through. But we do know that from this we have happily run across another “farm stand” opportunity with a restaurant in Mosier, a neighboring town, as well as a very interested and supportive local journalist, and maybe a couple more ops with some of the area’s mover and shakers that can help get our wine out and about even more.

The big thing for us is that we need to get people to our hill; we’re not happy separating the land from our wine, we want people to experience the whole kit and kaboodle, and we know visitors will just be blown away by our site, they will.  So we hope to soon begin hosting “camper” tastings since now we’ve disinfected it from all the mice who conveniently took it over instead of going south to Phoenix for the winter…stay tuned! And if you’re interested in being one of the first “Camper tasters,” please do let us know!

Here’s a link to some photos I posted on Face Book (click on the underlined link, Mom).

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Memorial Day Weekend Wine TastingAlmost. Tomorrow. Hood River. Pouring Wine. At the Old Garage. AND I’M SO EXCITED! I don’t know why, maybe it’s just this coming together of family, a sort of rally to get our wine out in public more– whether or not this weekend’s wine travelers will be our public has yet to be seen; who will dare to venture off the road (or at least turn their heads since we are on a well-known wine road) and pull into a place unmarked from any Memorial Day Weekend Wine Tasting map they may have, a locale to happen upon, and discover us there, a blond-haired little boy almost three out running about, Scott hunkered down because it’s supposed to be chilly, red-white-and-blue banners a-flappin in the stiff breeze we’re expecting, me making sure all the particulars of  our little “farm-stand” are ready for the throngs of adventurers…who will it be? We’ll find out! And THAT’s very exciting!

Here are the particulars —

We will be at the Old Garage, 135 Country Club Road, Hood River, 97031, Sat – Mon, 12-5.

Woohoooo!

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Hooray! The Dalles has been named a “True Western Town” in True West Magazine’s top 10 list of, you guessed it, “True Western Towns” for 2010.

I’ve always had the feeling, from the first time we showed up and actually spent some time in The Dalles looking for vineyard ground—instead of simply rumbling by on 84 as I imagine most do, because honestly, from a car window, The Dalles kind of shows its ass to the world and who would want to stop? The auto repair and RV spots, the strip malls and former old rundown Aluminum factory site now razed to a bunch of bare earth and that’s probably enough—that it was, at its soul, a quiet, Western town. And it is: at its center you’ll find restored, 19th century Victorians; one-way down-town streets lined with high-windowed brick buildings; farm rigs and big hats going by; cowboy boots and western wear; plus all what the article in True West speaks of. And all against the backdrop of enormous, grassy hills that echo Connemara to me—or pictures I’ve seen of New Zealand—on the Washington side, and heights of basalt outcroppings with scrub oak and sage on the Oregon side; the Western character is hard to miss. Read the rest of this entry »

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