[Traveling Tales] Drink In Oregon’s Willamette Valley: Wine, Spirits and Cider – Oh My!

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If you’ve been spoiled on the finer things in life, chances are you were raised in California.  From the weather and the weed to the wine and the women – the Golden State more than lives up to the golden standard. But for those that choose to venture outside of the luscious landscapes and rolling hilltops of California, our neighbor to the north has a whole hell of a lot to offer.

Though it’s not the same as the Mediterranean climate of the Californian Coast, some (including myself) could make a convincing argument that the Oregon Coast boasts  equally beautiful conditions. The persistent Winter (…Fall and Spring…) rain paves the way for gorgeous green valleys with trees and wildflowers as far as the eye can see, a perfect pairing with the belated sunsets the Summer months offer.

If you rack your brain for the best in micropubs, I’m guessing San Francisco is one of the first – if not the first – city to come into mind.  But the reality is that Portland has more microbrews than any other US City.  Though the Willamette Valley isn’t exactly Portland’s neighbor, the gorgeous countryside is only a hop, skip and an hour drive away – and offers has so much to offer in the way of delicious distilleries and wonderful wineries.

The Hard Stuff

For the longest time, I thought that Wine Tasting was the only sort of alcohol tasting one could do – so when I discovered that distilleries also had tastings, I’d colored myself fascinated.  Oregon’s climate provides great opportunities for home grown spirits, and these are some of my favorites.

4 Spirits Distillery

Ever since a very memorable night my Freshman year of college, I’ve been convinced beyond belief that I’m not a rum girl; no way, no how. Enter, 4 Spirits Rum. For the first time in over a decade, I’ve not only drank – but enjoyed the flavor – of a variety of rums.  I’m also a sucker for a business venture with a community service flair, and 4 Spirits meets that mark – a portion of the proceeds of every bottle go to the Wounder Warrior Project.

Website | Facebook 

Vivacity

Ever hear of a spirit that’s been distilled hundreds of times?  How about thousands? Chances are, there’s still a ton of sediment in them; it’s why when you drink shitty alcohol, you feel shitty at the end of the mind.  The genius minds at Vivacity have their cauldrons set to be constantly distilling – almost infinitely, if you will. They’re distilling all of the toxins out and leaving you with the tastiest, cleanest, crispest gin I’ve ever tasted.  In addition to their gins, they have a kickass Coffee Liquor and a smooth as all hell vodka.

Website | Facebok

Spiritopia

Half science experiment, half distillery and all the fun – Spiritopia offers a fresh take on specialty liqueurs.  As we toured the facility and learned about the process of producing their delicious drinks, I browsed through the lab equipment in the warehouse and quickly reassessed why I’d switched my major from Biochem in the first place. The Apple and Pomegranate Liqueurs are dare I say perfect, but I have a major penchant for the Ginger.

Website | Facebook

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A Little Bit Softer Now

Liquor tasting is all fun and games until someone gets too drunk, if you’d like to err on the softer side of alcohol tasting – the Willamette Valley also offers a great variety of local wines and ciders.

2 Towns Ciderhouse

For the last decade, beer has almost become a sub-food group for me – it’s been delicious, it’s thirst quenching and yeah, I love a good tipsy feeling.  But, over the last few months I’ve felt a shift in the tasting wind if you will and have been etching over to the cider side.  Granted, I could kill a whole bottle of Martenelli’s Sparkling Cider to my face and have no thoughts about it – it’s no wonder I’ve found a new affinity for cider.  What I didn’t know until recently was just how many flavors of cider exist – all the varieties of apple, Wildflower, Elderflower, Marionberry, Ginga Ninja (a personal fav), Hollow Jack (a pumpkin cider), and so many more; and for $4, you can get a flight of four. Located in the heart of Corvallis (which, mind you, isn’t all that big), 2 Towns is open 12-7 Sunday through Wednesday, and 12-9 from Thursday through Saturday. The Ciderhouse is also featured at many local grocery stores.

Website | Yelp

Airlie Winery

Perfectly poised on a beautiful hilltop in the sleepy town of Monmouth, Airlie Winery has been a staple of the Oregon wine scene for over 30 years.  A female owned and operated venture featuring a few adorable dogs and a wide variety of wines to imbibe, Airlie features awe inspiring views and delicious wine, served with a smile and warm conversation.  For  a $5 tasting fee – which is donated to local food banks – you can tantalize your tastebuds with everything from roses to reds and whites, and my personal favorite – pairing consecutive years of the same wine to understand the nuanced differences a season can make. Airlie is open to the public Thursday to Monday from 12 to 5pm.

Website | Facebook | Yelp

Cardwell Hill Cellars

Just one glance at the landscape of Cardwell Hill Cellars would turn any average wine drinker into a full fledged oenophile.  Sitting in the shadow of Mary’s Peak, the highest peak in Oregon’s Coast Range, Cardwell Hill has been perfecting the art of both Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris for the last 16 years. In addition to their wide assortment of award winning wine, Cardwell Hill also offers a picnic area and boche ball court in addition to winery tours.  Each taste is $1, and the tasting room is open daily from 12pm until 5:30.

Website | Facebook 

What’s your favorite city for trying out new drinks?  Discover anything recently that you’ve fallen mouth over mind for?  Let me know in the comments below!

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