Saturday in Wine Country

Bella Vida Entrance Gate

With the weather being somewhat iffy, Lloyd and I decided to trust our instincts and take another trip into wine country this past weekend as we had so much fun the week before.  For this wine excursion we opted to try at least one new winery in lieu of visiting our friends at our usual stops.

Since we got a bit of a late start, we would likely only fit two wineries in. Our first stop was actually a mistake we actually were on our way to Penner Ash and missed our turn. As luck would have it, we were rewarded  with breathtaking view and wonderful wine. Our stop –  Bella Vida located in the hills outside of Dundee. I believe we were drawn by the wonderful wrought iron gate which greeted us as we turned into the driveway. Our car meandered very slowly up a very steep incline, along a mostly gravely drive which would continue to the top of the hill and winery. We opted to stop half way up the hill to take in the magnificent view and vines growing on the steep hills supporting the valley. It reminded me of the hillsides in Tuscany.  

You know you are traveling up a dangerously steep incline when the big sign reads: – “tires remain on pavement at all times,” No kidding, as if I was going to venture off. The car would sail down the hill and turn into a mangled mess of car wreckage. No thanks. We followed the directions. Ask Lloyd if we ventured off the tracks and what I said when he tried. He really didn’t try, the car for some reason wanted us to stop again. We obeyed and rewarded with a view of hills covered in vines separated by some forest and more vines.  

This photo was taken half way up the long upward switch-back road with concrete tire lanes to provide cars with added traction with the steep grades of the road.

We reached the summit; elevation was roughly a little over  800 ft above sea level.  Wow! Lloyd was speechless, I was awe struck and couldn’t speak. The view was incredible.

The valley below us appeared surreal. Many of my images screamed out to me in black and white. So for those who enjoy black and white will hopefully enjoy the photos and those who don’t will hopefully take away the appreciation of what black and white can do to an image.

This image is taken near the top of the vineyard down to the valley covered in vines.

This image depicts the numerous rows of vines with the mysterious clouds encapsulating the hills.

When we reached the top the view was breathtaking. I would hate to make the drive in winter. I guess this is in part why the winery is owned by a lovely couple who live six months here on this lovely property and six months in sunny Arizona. So the tasting room is only open to guests from Memorial day through Thanksgiving. A bit of snow on the road surely would send a car off the road.

This wonderfully depicts the valley from the parking area overlooking the entire valley and the vines covering the hillsides. The next image is the only true color image which illustrates the Autumn colors emerging on the adjacent trees.

What a view to wake up to each day. Not too bad. And we haven’t even made it in to taste the wines.

How remarkable to have such an opportunity to live at this wonderful winery and the remainder of the time in Arizona as the Whitside’s, Steven and Allison do. Allison was busy working behind the counter delivering glass pours. The tasting fee was $10 for five wines. Which was not waived even if you purchased a bottle. The wines were interesting, and two stood out more than the others.  The first a 2010 Gris-ling Coined by the winemaker 80% Pinot Gris / 20% Riesling. This wine was not too sweet and not too dry but a very nice mid range wine which was nice and crisp. A great summer wine as it has a taste of fresh apples, with little oak if any. For me this wine would be excellent with a variety of cheeses, and spicy food, like Thai, Asian, or even Mexican. The other wines which caught my eye were the Pinot Noir’s, especially the Two Row Cuvee.  This wine was Bella Vineyards Proprietors Cuvee, which boldly included a blend of all seven Pinot Noir clones. While they say you will taste the entire vineyard in one offering, this is true, but the flavors on the front pallet were all over the place. Considering this is an 010, the fruits and big tannins will calm down if the bottle is layed down for at least a couple of years. This wine had a lot of structure and fruit – black cherry, dark chocolate, and spice, and well blended tannins. It will drink nicely now but taste much better after laying down for a while. But if you are anything like me, I can never wait hat long. So enjoy this complex wine with its varietal clones.

My only compliant or disappointment with this place, and it really isn’t a big deal but I will mention it anyway, if you are expecting to receive a free taste of their wines for the price of a bottle, for get about it. Not going to happen. They do not waive the tasting fee. With that being said, I would go back because the view was better than others and the owners were much friendlier than some of the other wineries in the area.

As we enjoyed the wine we stood looking out at the stunning view. This is the life. living life at the top of the world.

Definitely make the journey up to the top of the hill which houses the wine tasting area as they hope their new tasting room will be open soon which will provide additional seating for those who wish to take in the wondrous views and see for yourself the glorious views while drinking fine wine.

Clouds over the Valley

It is always fun to find some place new and unexpected, which actually is good fun. Bella Vida was that place.  So you never know what you will find when looking for one winery, and finding another just down the road.

Our next stop was Winderlea, which has become one of our new favorite places to visit. The tasting room is chic, inviting, and friendly boutique winery.

This wonderful winery crafts elegance and age worthy wines for those who love to pair wine and food, and incorporate these two views to their lifestyle. They have one of the best Chardonnay’s I have ever drank. And trust me I have tried a lot. There’s is by far superior to others in the Willamette Valley and California. Their Pinot Noir is also wonderfully crafted with little if any oak, courtesy of new French oak barrels classic in style and elegance.The founders of the winery are Bill Sweat and Donna Morris who effortlessly have brought a sense of style and elegance to Oregon which shows in their wines and the foods they prepare unparalleled to others in the region. Their staff are also superb – friendly and very knowledgeable about the vineyards and the wines produced there. I must say, this little gem, offers some of the best wines in the entire Willamette. Their Pinot Noir seems to improve with each vintage. I rank them up their with some of the larger wineries in the region and among the best for customer service. They are friendly and trendy offering gourmet lunches each Friday during the summer prepared by an award winning Chef. We missed out on this year lunches as the place books out quickly.

From the minute you walk in to the trendy wine tasting room, you feel welcome. They even have two friendly brown Australian Labradoodles who greet you when you open the door.  The modern decorum give a sense of European deco, right here in the hills of the Willamette.

The back doors look like garage doors and open up to a deck with seating and a view to their vineyards.

This past Saturday was the weekend of artists. So at various wineries around the region and galleries, played host to a plethora of painters and photographers honing their craft.

This woman was painting below us while we were stood out on the deck looking out across the vineyard. I would love to see her watercolor masterpiece when she is finished. She was really having a great time as other watched over her shoulders, while others walked down for a chat.

A few other artist scattered themselves around the winery and vineyards doing what they love best. Myself, I think I would have been a nervous wreck having a bunch of folks drinking wine while watching me paint. Well, of course I am not a painter so you see….would not be a pretty sight. I will stick to writing and snapping the occasional photo, and leave the sketching and painting to the experts.

Artistry in the Vineyards

This photo represents just a small percentage of the woman’s work as she is hardly finished. Amazing work. We wish her luck in her endeavors.

After chillaxing at Bella Vida and Winderlea all afternoon it was time to head home; but not before stopping at my favorite place for gluten free fast food of sorts. Its like fast food meets the 50s age diner. And that is what the Cruise Inn diner, located at the intersection of Farmington Road and SW River Road, in Hillsboro. The place is a dive diner that truly takes the dive out of dive diner. The place rocks. It is like taking a step back in time to the 50s. Thank you for ridding the place of the stinky bar which had taken refuge at that corner for years.

The current owners are awesome and greet you as you walk.  The walls and ceiling and nearly every space is covered with 50s memorabilia as well as the infamous  jute box jamming. They serve up some of the best burgers and fries in Hillsboro, plus they have an entire area for Gluten Free food. Yay for gluten free foods. I had a vanilla milk shake and gluten free fries to die for, so to speak. I was so full from the milkshake I could barely put a dent in my fries. The milkshake is made old style with the stainless steel cup for all of the extras that don’t fit in your glass. The best thing about this place for me and those who can’t eat gluten, is all the items on the menu can be made gluten free. Unfortunately, I forgot to bring in my camera for this event. But picture in your mind “Happy Days.!” Well that’s a wrap for today. I promise to bring more to the table next time. Cheers!



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