The Dalles

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I_see_you_2012

“I have something to show you.” Out at the vineyard, a crazily windy day, Scott was doing some farming while Sam and I loitered along a section of the road that was nestled down between the hills and out of the wind, playing Sam’s freshly invented rock toss games.

“What?”

“Jack found an owl in the vineyard. I don’t know if it’s still there. I must have walked right by it, but then Jack found it. It was there, it’s big round face peeking at me, and its wings out.”

“Where is it?”

“In the vineyard. I’ll show it to you after I’m done.”

And off he went, leaving me to my racing thoughts. An owl in the vineyard! In daylight. It must be hurt. It has to be hurt. Why didn’t it fly away? What are we going to do? I hope it’s flown away, was some fluke thing, but in the daylight! On the ground.

Oh, was my heart pounding loudly while Sam and I made our way back up the hill, remembering that windy day when we found the flicker. Today, though, despite the excitement, emotionally I felt calm enough, something I didn’t remember feeling back when I headed down the hill toward the birdnet-wrapped flicker. Maybe my skin was toughening up, out here on the farm? Because now, the simple resignation that we’d have to figure out a course of action IF the owl was still there was what propelled my thoughts as we plodded toward the hill’s top. It seemed the practical had replaced the emotional, to some degree.

Back at the camper, I started to look for Oregon Fish and Wildlife on my phone in case the owl was still there, hurrying, hurrying, so I’d be ready when Scott came back. It seemed like forever, but I found it, and wrote it down. Scott had just come in and waited for me to finish. We all got in the car and headed down the vineyard road. Leaving Jack inside, we–Scott, Sam, and myself–got out.

As we stepped into the vineyard, the wind howling around our ears and pulling at my hat, I was rather nervous. But still calm, I had to be; we didn’t even know if the owl was still there, and if it was, we all had to stay quiet. A ruckus would not help anything. As we made our way down the hill, Sam wondered about the owl, and Scott was telling him something, I don’t know what it was because I was thinking too much of what we might find.

We walked some 15 yards or so down a row. “See where that matted grass is?” asked Scott. “That’s where he was.”

For a brief moment I was somewhat relieved. It had flown away! Until I saw a little face one row over to the east peeking under the wire.

A barn owl. And it was still there, with its wings out, in what appeared to be a menacing posture the more we looked at it, but it was not flying anywhere. We stayed for a few moments, me snapping some pictures, trying to see if the wings looked mangled or it looked mangled somewhere else or anything that might help me pin down and understand why that guy was there, and describe the situation to whomever I spoke with next on the phone. I had never been so close to a barn owl, and marveled at that strangeness of this little one’s face; the triangle of white, the  blackness of its eyes. And its beauty. The dark spots on its back and wings jumped in the light, and its gentle buff color was a perfect disguise for the grasses it was now in. We didn’t stay too long, we didn’t want to bother it any more than we had to, and anyway, now we knew: we had a barn owl on the ground that could not fly, and we had to figure out what to do; we weren’t just going to leave it there.

Back in the car I dialed Oregon Fish and Wildlife, but, it being Saturday, reached no-one. So I called the Oregon State Troopers as recommended by OFW and told them my owl story. They took the information, and the gal told me a volunteer would be calling me back sometime. I questioned the experience of the volunteer and how long I’d have to wait and hung-up satisfied knowing it was an Audobon-type rescue person. Now I had to wait for a call back. And there it was. Not the volunteer, but the State Troopers, relaying the number for a more local wildlife rescue spot in Rowena, Rowena Wildlife Clinic, just down the Columbia River a few miles from The Dalles. I called them and got the answering machine, suggesting if I had an injured animal that I try to capture it and put it into a padded cardboard box! My message relayed I would not try to do this, please call back.

For a few minutes after leaving the message, Scott and I thought about how we might capture the owl; I had rounded up an injured duck once, gently securing it in a blanket before placing it in a box and hauling it off to the Audubon Society Wildlife Care Center in Portland, and had done the same thing for a young Scrub Jay, too. But an owl? With talons and sharp beak? No, we needed professionals on this.

Of course Sam was getting hungry now, it was well past lunchtime, and he had forgone breakfast on the drive out to wait for MacDonalds to begin their lunch service (oh, the things that kid will do for a cheese burger), so he and Scott headed to town and left me and Jack on the hill in the camper, waiting for a phone call.

Antsy, I looked up Portland’s Audubon Society number, to talk to SOMEONE and try to figure out more about our owl. And I’m glad I did. The gal there asked me about its wings and if one seemed to be hanging. The wings seemed to be fine, I told her. She told me it could be the owl was simply eating. In the daylight? I asked. She said if an owl doesn’t get enough to eat at night, they’ll hunt in day. I told her we had plenty of rodents on our hill, and I wouldn’t think that would be the case, but what did I know. She asked about any downy plummage. I told her I noticed the chest feathers blowing in the wind, but maybe it was just because it was so windy and not because of them being downy. She said if I could send some pictures it would be a great help. So after hanging up, off I tramped to look for our owl again.

I found him, wings no longer outstretched, but now tucked close to his body.

He was hunkered down under a vine, next to a post. For a minute or so he didn’t even seem to notice me, but then lifted his head. I spoke to him, and saw his eyes readjusting toward me. Just a little bird, it looked like. I also noticed more downy feathers. I got what pictures I could on my iphone, nothing too exciting because I didn’t want to get too close; the grasses were also blowing wildly. Back at the camper I sent one then called Audubon again, to update the goings on of the little owl.

We chatted briefly, I told her about the downy plummage, and then there was an “a-ha” moment. It’s possible, she told me, that this was a fledgling. Barn owls, she said, spend around 2 weeks on the ground after they leave their nest, because they can’t fly. Where would this guy come from, then? I asked her. Do you have an out building where they might nest? she asked. Nope. Well, she said, this guy hopped from somewhere. We hung up, she telling me the expert would get back to me sometime, but that it was a busy day at her center.

So it might be a baby. Where did it come from? We had a number of owl houses in the vineyard, boxes we had put up to help entice owls for rodent patrol. Could it be finally a family had moved in? I looked out the camper window and sure enough, there was an owl box not far from where Scott had found the owl. I headed out again.

What a grand surprise. The base of the pole on which the box is attached was littered with owl pellets. I looked up at the box, the sun in my eyes as I peered toward the hole that faced eastward, out of the wind. And there was something looking back. An owl.

That was it. Our guy was a young barn owl who had left the nest. I was thrilled. We had owls, and what we had stumbled upon was just a part of the life-cycle of this beautiful creature.

I went back to the camper and since I had not heard back from the Rowena Wildlife Rescue Center, I called them again, with hopes of talking to someone more local, probably for more verification of this new discovery. I got through. I chatted with Jean a bit, and I felt comfortable enough with the idea of leaving the owl now, knowing it was a fledgling, but I wanted to be to be as close to 100% sure he was OK to leave. The big thing in my head was to try and see if the wings were ok. I had asked Scott what felt like a million times that day TO HIM if he was CERTAIN both wings were extended when he first saw the owl. “How many times do I have to tell you they were?!” he would exclaim. So I told the Jean about the wings being out the first time, the hunkering down the second time I saw it. We discussed me going back and trying to coax some more defensive behaviour, just to check its wings. She told me other than the spread wings, a barn owl would jump backward and try to show its talons, and possibly screech. She had to go because she was just about to perform surgery, but told me she’d listen for my message with what I found.

I headed out again. The little guy was still hunkered down. I edged closer and closer. No defensive behaviour, but the swinging of his head back and forth and up and down. By this time Sam and Scott had come back and came down the hill to find me. We all sat near the little owl. Scott spoke to it this time, and told him we wouldn’t hurt him, and how glad we were to have him there. Sam didn’t seem to really care one way or another. I got more pictures then headed back to the car to call Rowena with my update. It wasn’t long before Jean called me back, and said what I described sounded perfectly normal.

So there you have it. Tear have finally come to my eyes as I write this and think about that little one, alone out in our vineyard, still within sight of his Mama, but still. In the end, we collected as much information as we could, spoke with experts, and made our decision to leave him on the hill. But oh! such a small, fragile life! Of course I worried all the way back to Portland and then last night about him. We have coyotes near the vineyard and I’m sure fox are around as well. Then I read Great Horned Owls will hunt these little guys. And I’m already nervous about the bird netting we ensconce the vineyard in when the grapes ripen. All I can do is keep my fingers crossed that it’ll all be OK. And smile for the new little owl life and his family, out there on our hill.


[If you ever find a hurt or “misplaced” animal in the wild, click here for some information that can help, from the Rowena Wildlife Clinic, in Mosier, Oregon]

 

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Well, more like their scent. And thankfully not everywhere I look/smell around because that would just be wrong. Lilacs in February? I found this little lovely in in Pier Park, right next to where we live, one of two small bushes nestled under the towering firs that have decided: it’s time. You can’t blame them — it’s been unseasonably warm. In reality, though, they are more an early May/Mother’s Day bloom out this way, and if all the bushes happened to be flowering, that would be trouble: too warm.

We want, no, make that NEED, our vineyard to slumber for another few months, so that a late season frost doesn’t cause harm if it awakens too early. Although what can you do? Even though our land is 90 miles away in a cooler, drier climate, 90 miles really isn’t that far; it’s almost 60 degrees F here in Portland today, and in the low 50s right now in The Dalles. As long as the nights stay cool, though, we’re good, and Weather Underground is showing some rather chilly nights during this period of warmth. If we were making maple syrup (which we can’t out here since sugar maples are not to be found — dang it!) we’d love this weather. But it puts me a little on edge vineyard-wise. It’s ridiculous, isn’t it, how something so lovely and scented as a lilac can make one worry?

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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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Such a late harvest has us, like many, walking the line: on the one side we’re hoping this new abundance of mid-October’s above average temperatures will give us just what we need; on the other side, it won’t. I have no idea how many times Scott may check the weather during the day, my guess is many. I don’t check, because sometimes, I can’t handle what I’m going to hear.

Like last night, before going to bed, we listened to old Portland weatherman Matt Zafino give us his interpretation of the weather. Chance of frost in The Dalles. Sh*t. “If it’s going to be that cold in town,” Scott said, “It’s going to be colder out on our hill.” Well, that was enough to worry me, and as much as I do know worry is a waste of time and energy, it made for some hard sleeping. Scott didn’t seem so worried, his snores moving me from bed to couch so I could toss and turn out there.

We’re supposed to start harvest this weekend. Checking Weather Underground this AM, it doesn’t appear we got the cold Matt Zafino told us about, but I’m sure Scott’ll check some of the surrounding orchard stations to verify. We’ve yet to have a crop where we look at each other and say, “What are we going to do with this?” Thankfully we’ve walked the line with success for all our vintages to date. The specificity of grape character intact, and sugars and acids in balance, we have what the year gave us, and we’ve been extremely pleased with the results. Sanity-wise, that’s a whole different story.

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This is what I was thinking about Oregon Trail Pioneers right here at our usual Deschutes River swim spot, almost at the point of where it flows into the Columbia River —where we cool ourselves down when it’s hot out at the vineyard. After another harrowing river crossing* for these people here on the Deschutes, the long-awaited fertile land is now within a shortened reach, but with still a long way to go:

OMG, these people made it all the way here are to Oregon Territory, but it’s not the verdant valleys they see, it’s these basalt-y, dried out autumn golden grassy hills that are presently Wasco County, and on the other side of the river, in Washington State, Klickitat County. “We came here for THIS?” I know my thoughts would be along those lines, cursing the man who brought me here—feigning no free will, of course—and wondering, was it because we took a wrong turn and he didn’t want to ask for directions that we’re in this place? But inwardly I’d be enjoying my secret excitement of adventure and possibility, because that’s just how I am. Terrible, I know, I’ll work on it.

Maybe those settlers cooled themselves right here at the mouth of the Columbia, where the rushing waters and its temperature rise and fall with Mt. Hood’s snow-melt, the air scented with the sweetness of sage brush cooking in the heat. Yup, right here along the banks, I decide, where my small family and I now frolic, Sam dipping in and out of the pools with his long, yellow “noodle,” that long floaty tube you imagine geriatrics using for a pool work-out. It’s right here that those people washed their clothes or dipped their feet, set their fires, and wondered again: “We came here for this?”

“Oh, please, let me make it right with a good dinner,” the men may have thought, as I watch modern-day fishermen cast a line out into the waters, the Chinooks still running fast but not so plenty as days gone by. And in the morning, the settlers would continue on, wondering, wondering, are we almost there?

Along they’d go, another 15 mile trek down to The Dalles, maybe on the basalt lip running along the river where their trail is still visible, or maybe fanned out across the landscape, passing right by the base of our vineyard. But once at The Dalles, they have to decide two things (if they’re late comers to the Trail) in order to circumnavigate Mt. Hood: continue on over the treacheries of a late Fall Cascade Mountain trail, or put it all on a raft and navigate the wilds of the Columbia. So close, so close. Yet no matter which curtain they picked, I can’t imagine they’re NOT thinking, where is the green we’ve been promised? Where are those fertile valleys? And stands of timber? And quiet spots of respite, where we might eek out a new life?

Those valleys would be there, obviously. And only the toughest would reach them. As I watch a small school of fry try to hide in the reeds as I wade past, I look out and think, “We are so close, so close. And yes, Stephanie, we came here for this.”

*Years later around this very spot where I tool around in the water wondering all this, a Heritage Marker would be placed, one I have yet to see, reading: “The Oregon Trail crossed the hazardous Deschutes River at this point by floating the prairie schooners and swimming the livestock. An island at the river mouth was often utilized when the water was high and the ford dangerous. Pioneer women and children were frequently ferried across the stream by Native canoe men who made the passage in exchange for bright colored shirts and other trade goods.”

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I posted  a few images on our The Grande Dalles FaceBook page,  from our latest weekend at the vineyard, and from a brief exchange with a “Fan,” the word “reverence” came on the screen. I had written it. A big word, I know, but that’s the only one I can come up with when I am out on our land.

It’s funny, because as I get closer to The Dalles on the cruise through The Gorge, I look for the classic rock station, the one our very interesting helper Richard listens to: ZZ Top, old U2, Pink Floyd…an eclectic mix of nostalgia (for me), and down the highway, and even up into the windy, hilly road to our vineyard, it feels right. Once I get to the gate, the deer-gate entrance with the sign “Please Close Gate Behind You” I let the music drift out of the car door as I pull into the turnout, put us in neutral so I can open the gate, and then again so I can close it behind us. Back in the car I do turn the music down; the windows now are up because of the dust–they may have been up for some time if we needed air conditioning on the drive–but the reverence has begun; I need some quiet as I survey the vine rows along our vineyard road. Scott’s usually waiting for us at the top of the hill, for his boy, and the quieted party in our car comes to an end.

In the evening we will have drinks, as civilized people in the wilds will do, and sometimes the music will again return to the landscape, me sitting in the car with the doors open as music cascades down the hill and outward in the fading sunlight.

But for almost the whole time we are there, there is no music, no man-made sounds other than that from the ritual tractor ride of father and son, the occasional car zipping down the road far below, or the lone plane droning above the wide, glorious land. It is the three of us (avec chien) alone under the sky, fully present in what the land gives us. And in those moments of stillness, like when I step outside in the middle of the night and surprise a hunting owl as it alights from its perch on the camper and flies silently overhead, its shape in stark contrast to the bright of the moon; or when I smell the sweet of the earth or hear the rustle of the growing wheat or that precious meadow lark song; when we all watch the kestrel hunt in the early morn before the heat reaches us, or as I smile at our vines who wave at me in the wind, Mt. Hood forever stoic out in front, the only music in my ears is that of reverence. Pure, unadulterated reverence.

 

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Came around the bend outside of The Dalles on Saturday and this is what I saw:

A range fire in someone’s wheat field, just outside town. Wheat harvest was under way, and Scott had called me on the drive, to tell me of the fire that flared up, and how Dave, the gentleman who farms the rest of our property left with his crew to help fight it. He asked Scott to stay behind, in the event there could be a flare up on our land; I guess hot machinery can get a flame going.

In town, where Sam and I stop to pick up sandwiches for lunch, we saw this:

On our way to the vineyard we had to pull over to let the Hood River Brush Engine go by, the neighboring town coming now to fight the blaze. Sam wanted to go see the fire, but I told him there’s no need for Looky-Loos, and anyway, it’s not safe, and best to be out of the way so the men and women fighting the fire can do their work.

Once at the vineyard, the smoke had greatly subsided; Scott told me he had seen the flames dancing in the distance, some few miles away, and when Dave and crew came back, he told us the fire was 20 ft. high, and had done a good 100 acres of damage before being contained.

In the morning, I snapped this picture from our camper window, where you can see the burn area:

That same morning we also were privy to “our” kestrels hunting, and caught a few images (click on them to make them bigger — sorry if they take longer to load):

And Dave’s John Deere combine. When we saw that thing sitting on our land, it was like a lunar space machine had landed, so foreign is that to us, out there, but not foreign at all to the history of the area.  This shot is of Dave, with Scott and Sam, heading off for an evening run; Dave was kind enough to offer Sam a ride, and after we came back from our Deschutes River outing, and had our pizza dinner, he was still at work. It was a beautiful evening.

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Or, how we used Google Earth to unearth our dream in The Dalles.

I can’t remember how much we’ve told you all about how we found our place out in The Dalles. Here’s the letter I just sent off to Google, about how Google Earth played a major part:

Hello Google,

My name is Stephanie and I’d like to share a story with you:

While you were putting your Data Center in in 2006 in The Dalles, my husband and I were planting a vineyard just east of town, the property found using Google Earth while we were living in Ireland years earlier.

From a distance 1000s of miles away, my husband, a scientist by education and farm kid at heart, pored over the Oregon landscape, his dream of a vineyard having come alive in the dark, blustery Irish winter. There was absolutely NO WAY he could’ve researched the best location for our family farm without Google Earth; you might be able to trust someone else in finding a new house from a distance, but you can’t trust someone else with finding your dream!

He gathered data—degree growing days, temperature highs and lows, etc.—and then transposed it across the maps he had collected, from the locales he discovered using Google Earth. Like a modern-day e-explorer, he was looking for the undiscovered gem, a hillside that would grow the wines he had envisioned, developed from his decades-long love of wine. He soon had assembled a list of properties and then enlisted a realtor—still while we were living in Ireland—to go knocking on the land owners’ doors. On the very next day after we returned to The States, we met the one land owner willing to sell us some property. And what was once a pile of maps and data sourced through Google is now this:

found at

45°35’36.87″ N
121°02’25.74″ W
Since we’ve planted out in the “undiscovered” wilds of Wasco County’s wheat country, our wine has been celebrated at a dinner at The James Beard House in New York, praised by one of America’s most noted wine experts, Joel Butler, MW, and now others are following in our footsteps, possibly opening up a new wine-growing area outside The Dalles: we know of two individuals who, after having waited and watched to see if we might have success, have begun vineyard development in the vicinity, all thanks to Google Earth.

Most people use Google Earth simply to find restaurants, or peek in on their childhood home miles away, but not us. For us, using Google Earth has changed our lives, or at least our life’s direction, for we used it to find our dream.

We thought you should know.

Best,

stephanie

We’ll see if we hear back! Stay tuned!

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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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Still contemplating how the “pedigreed sommelier” so matter of factly believes that riesling must be made with some residual sugar (RS). Like it came down to Moses along with the Ten Commandments or something. Leaving RS has been historically practiced and appreciated since riesling is naturally high in acidity and has its agricultural beginnings in the cooler spots of central/eastern Europe (like Germany). These cooler areas generally could not ripen riesling enough to get the acid levels down to a palatable level so they did the smart thing and left RS to achieve a pleasing, sweet-acid balance.

We grow riesling for Leroy’s Finest just east of The Dalles, Oregon, and albeit we have a whopping two vintages under our belt (2009/10), we have ripened riesling to the point where the acidity is in the range of what you’d want for a dry white wine, with sugar concentrations such to yield reasonable alcohol levels. Plus, contrary to what “pedigreed sommelier” said about a dry riesling being less flexible with food pairing, I want to make a riesling to drink with seafood, not Thai or Chinese.

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