Following the Wine Bloggers Conference in Portland, Oregon, we took one last look at the Northwest wine country with a trip to the Columbia Gorge wineries in Oregon and Washington. These wineries are about an hour to an hour and a half just east of Portland on Highway 84. What a terrific and scenic ride along the Columbia River! Without a doubt, this is one of the most different and varied wine countries we have visited in recent memory.
First of all, this wine country has spectacular beauty with the Cascade Mountains, the Gorge, and omnipresence of the magnificent Mount Hood lurking around every vineyard. The range of rainfall in just a short distance is vast. At Maryhill Winery at the eastern end of the Gorge wineries, there is a desert-like environment, with a mere six inches of rain per year. At the western end by Cathedral Ridge, there are 50 inches of rain per year.
On Highway 84, about 30 minutes east of Portland, is a “must” stop and hike to view the Multnomah Falls. It is a roaring 600-foot waterfall, one of the longest in the U.S. You can view the falls from the lookout center or take a very short hike up to Benson Bridge. Here you can view the best of the falls. You can also hike up about another 1.25 miles to the top of the falls, which I did, but there is not as much to see there as there is at Benson Bridge or below.
We visited three wineries: Cathedral Ridge, Cascade Cliffs, and Maryhill. Cathedral Ridge is in Oregon while the other two wineries are in Washington. You can find all the wineries in this area perusing the Columbia Gorge Wine Website. We made our base at the Skamania Lodge in Stevenson, Washington. The lodge is west of the wineries and makes for a longer commute to the eastern-most wineries, about 75 minutes. But the lodge is the best lodging around, bar none. They have golf, hiking trails, fitness facilities, swimming pool, and a fantastic bar and restaurant with spectacular views of the Gorge. It is worth the extra driving time.
The most interesting winery in the area is Maryhill. The winery makes about 90,000 cases of wine a year, much of it in the bargain variety range, and quite good, I might add. The winery has a picnic area, four Bocce courts, and an amphitheater for summer concerts that draw world-famous entertainers. All this along with amazing views of the Columbia River. Just before Maryhill, we visited Cascade Cliffs. The winery specializes in Italian varietals from the Piedmonte Area. We enjoyed the wines very much but we thought they were a bit expensive for our budget. There is also a very nice view of Mt. Hood from the winery.
In the Oregon Gorge area, we only managed to visit one winery, the Cathedral Ridge Winery. It is a very popular spot with another great view of Mt. Hood. We were nearly as impressed with the wines here as we were with the wines at the other two wineries. Still, it is a pretty place to visit and have a picnic lunch, taking in the view of Mt. Hood.
If you like spectacular mountain beauty, plus wine, the Columbia Gorge is definitely a spot to visit for a wine country getaway.