[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!

[Wednesday Watercooler]

Well, here we are again – it’s the week’s halftime, the 7th inning stretch or its official 2:30 feeling; however you slice and dice it, it always feels amazing to stroll into the office on a Wednesday knowing the battle is more or less half over.

Summer has officially gone and Autumn has officially swept  over Los Angeles – which, besides a few blustery days and pumpkin spice lattes at Starbucks, means about jack shit.  After five years in this city, I’ve come to the conclusion that we either have perpetual spring (which causes allergies to act out at the strangest times) or we have the ability to experience all of them in a single day.  One thing’s for sure though: when Summer ends the work load definitely picks up.  If you work in an incredibly corporate climate, Q4 earnings are all the rage; for a company like Disney that’s been around for 90 years as of today, doubly so.  I’ve caught myself working odd hours and well into the night because I’m committed to delivering the best final product – but man, does it take some life out of me!  The last thing I want to do after sitting on a computer for twelve hours is keep sitting on the computer – I need sunshine, fresh air and human contact; I need balance.

All the art of living lies in a fine mingling of holding on and letting go.
Havelock Ellis

By balance – I mean life outside of html codes, Access databases and vlookups in Excel; life outside of monitors, dragging, dropping and double clicking.  Back before Facebook, AIM and ICQ – we actually had to be social in order to cultivate camaraderie; but now – in 2013 – we silently sit in our self imposed solitary confinement, sending invitations to play “online games” with people halfway across the world when we don’t even know the names of our physical neighbors.  There’s a fine line between where the internet brings us together as social adhesive and where it separates us like the polarity of a magnet.   I bring this up because I continually walk this line within both my personal and professional lives – and I know I’m not the only one.  When you telecommute for work four days a week, you lose the corporate climate and constant interaction; you can’t read the reaction on someones face, you can only infer it through the syntax of their emails.  The same can be said for your personal relationships – how many of us have overlooked calling a friend to congratulate them or catch up simply because we’ve seen their posts on –Insert-Social-Media-Site-Here– and think “Why bother? Looks like they’re enjoying themselves!”  Sure, they probably are – but life is more enjoyable with the people you love by your side so next time you see an awesome update, rad picture or funny quote: reach out and touch them! Text, call or send a picture – hell, even write them a handwritten letter; it’s so easy to press a button and “acknowledge” someones actions online but true real world communication is what cultivates closeness and builds relationships.  So do your due diligence today and tell someone how much you appreciate them – call you parents, your kid sister or even compliment a total stranger.  Bet your bottom dollar you’ll walk away with a bounce in your step! Now, enough banter from the back of my brain – onto the Watercooler!

Oreos Are Equally Addictive As Cocaine or Morphine

I have first hand experience with this one – my boyfriend and I just discovered the Mint Oreos and the package is basically empty. So next time your friends tell you they’re addicted to Oreos, you might want to give them the benefit of the doubt!  According to Joseph Schroeder, a neuroscientist at the Connecticut College, and a group of students – these sweet little morsels of heaven are just as addictive as cocaine or morphine (and a lot cheaper, too!).  The study, conducted to determine the correlation between high-sugar / high-fat food and addiction, proves that foods high in sugar target the pleasure center of the brain the same way that drugs do.  What does this mean for science? Because high sugar foods use the same neurological mechanism as morphine and cocaine, we should be able approach obesity and drug addiction in the same manner.

NASA Wants to Know If You’re Good In Bed

You might think you’re excellent in the bedroom – but can you stay cooped up lying down for 70 days?  If your answer is an emphatic YES – this new NASA study might just be for you!  Known as the ‘Bed Rest Study‘, subjects will spend approximately ten weeks on their back in an exercise program being built for astronauts.  The goal of the study is to minimize the bone loss, muscle loss and cardiovascular function of astronauts through daily weightless aerobic training and exercise.  The program pays $170 a day, or $18,000 for ten weeks in a perpetual horizontal state and five more being studied.  If you’re not attached to standing or sitting, this is definitely the job for you – head on over and apply here!

Drunk Dial Congress

Now, call it juvenile but there’s nothing like having a strong drink and a good yelling match – even if it’s at a pet (or wall, or any other inanimate object of choice); so when I stumbled across this website I thought “Winner, winner – chicken dinner!”.  Congress is currently full of people who can’t get their head of out each others asses long enough to do something positive for the collective good of this nation – so nothing sounds quite as sweet as calling them after a cold one and letting them have it.

Crazy Cat Ladies Rejoice – Wine for Cats Means You’ll Never Drink Alone

Yeah; you read that correctly.  In this beautiful, wonderful, batshit crazy world we live in someone’s taken their sweet time to develop – you guessed it – kitty wine.  Now, I think this is hilarious because Sake – my main cat – is named after the rice wine, so it’s only fitting that I can now give him a bottle of himself!  The wine is called Nyan Nyan Nouveau and is a concoction of catnip, cabernet grape juice and some vitamin c – what’s that mean? That your cat is about to get TURNT. There’s a limited supply in production – only about a thousand bottles – so if this piques your fancy, you best act on it fast!

The end of drinking alone? Wine for cats is a thing