Hood River County Fruit Loop
This area is also called the Hood River County Fruit Loop and has incredible stone-fruit orchards and wineries. Lavender fields, heirloom apple orchards and alpaca farms are abundant. Fruit grown in this fertile valley is of such exceptional quality that this region is the world leader in Anjou pear production. The Hood River Valley’s 15,000 acres of orchards “produce 50% of the nation’s winter pear crop.” You can even pick your own cherries and Gravenstein apples! There are many festivals that celebrate the bounty of this spectacular agricultural region including: “The Hood River Fruit Loop Cherry Celebration”; “The Oregon Lavender Festival”; and “The Gravenstein Apple Celebration.” They even grow Morel, Chanterelle and Matsutakes mushrooms in this area.
Make plans to attend the Hood River Valley Harvest Fest in October or the Hood River Fruit Loop Wine Celebration in June. There are plenty of wineries on the “Fruit Loop” circuit west of the Hood River around Country Club Road including: Phelps Creek Veineyards, Marchesi Vineyards, Cathedral Ridge Winery, Hood River Vineyards, Pleasant Valley Winery and Viento. www.hoodriverfruitloop.com
My latest wine-blogging adventure brought me to Oregon’s Wine Country where Mount Hood and Mount Adams dominate the scenic landscape in the Columbia Gorge. This glorious destination has the largest concentration of high waterfalls in North America. Mount Hood has 6 ski areas and Timberline offers the only year round lift for skiing in North America.
The Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area
The Columbia Gorge American Viticultural Area (AVA)
I found a “World of Wine in 40 miles” where the terroir replicates the characteristics and altitude of some of the finest wine regions of Europe. This 40 mile stretch of terroir experiences dramatic temperature and rainfall changes that almost perfectly duplicate four of the world’s greatest grape-growing regions: Bordeaux, Burgundy, Rhone and Rhine.
The Cathedral Ridge Winery
On this trip, I had the opportunity to visit Cathedral Ridge Winery and met Robb Bell the Owner/President/Cellar Master.
The Cathedral Ridge Winery has 13 local vineyards with distinct micro-climates that produce virtually every classic wine varietal. The fruit is picked and crushed in under six hours for optimal freshness and flavor. “Their fourth-generation winemaker, Michael Sebastiani uses traditional techniques to create 27 delicious, unique and marvelously nuanced wines, perfect for pairing with your favorite recipes.”
History of Cathedral Ridge
Flerchinger focused on Alsatian varietals for the winery. The same Riesling and Pinot Gris grapes that Don Flerchinger planted in the 1980’s still bare fruit today. When Bell acquired the winery, he encouraged his “virtual godson Michael Sebastiani of Sonoma wine-making notoriety to become the winemaker. Bell and Sebastiani then switched the focus to a trilogy of Alsatian, Burgundian, and Bordeaux inspired varietals” and Cathedral Ridge was born. Robb and Michael Sebastiani, a fourth generation Sonoma winemaker lead the wine-making team.
Big, bold reds make up the majority of the Bordeaux wines in France. Some of the most common grapes grown in Bordeaux are Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. Great Bordeaux varietals such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot also flourish in the Hood River Valley with rich, beautiful colors and bold tastes. “Cathedral Ridge has a Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot wine; a blend of premium grapes from the Columbia Valley. Together they represent the boldness of the Bordeaux region with a touch of Columbia Valley charm.”
This unique growing region allows them “to embrace a trinity of different growing region varietals including grapes from Bordeaux, Burgundy, and Alsace; reminiscent of the great wine regions of the world.” The Tasting Room is located just 5 minutes from downtown Hood River with magnificent views of Mt. Adams to the north and Mt. Hood to the south west.
Cathedral Ridge is one of the most award-winning wineries in the Gorge. Visit the tasting room at:
“The Burgundy region is nestled in eastern France along the banks of the Saone River, a tributary of the famous Rhone River. This same Burgundy climate is scattered along the Columbia Gorge tucked away by the Columbia River. Similar to the Burgundy region, the Columbia Gorge experiences sporadic weather ranging from unpredictable snow, rain, frost, and even heat. All of these factors affect harvest and creates a lot of variance from vintage to vintage. Burgundian varietals require a lot of attention and care for optimum results, but they are well worth the effort.” (Robb)
Cathedral Ridge strives to “represent these varietals in their true Burgundian styles. Fortunate to live in a climate and geographical setting conducive to growing premium Burgundian varietals, we carefully complete each step of the wine-making process to ensure the best results. Michael Sebastiani’s master palate, Robb, John, Francisco and Tyler’s work in the winery and the field, and the efforts of the whole team these wines receive the attention and care required. The result is a spicy, elegant, and ready to drink but ready to age Pinot Noir.” (Robb)
“The Syrah grape flourishes in the Columbia Valley area; if cared for correctly, its vibrancy will jump out with every glass and age to perfection. The only red varietal permitted in the Rhone region is Syrah, which happens to be one the biggest, boldest award winners at Cathedral Ridge with the flavors of white pepper, plums, blackberries, chocolate, and spice.” (Robb)
Their Rhone Syrah attracts a large following. There Syrah has historically attracted the most attention, pulling in many reviews and awards including Double Gold in the San Francisco International Wine Competition.”
“Some of the strong points of Cathedral Ridges’ current wine list include its Reserve Syrah – a perennial award winner and best seller – and its Dampier Pinot Noir. Located on the north side of the Columbia River sits Dampier Vineyard in Underwood Mountain, WA. Much higher in elevation, approximately 1100 feet, this vineyard benefits from south facing slopes with great exposure to the sun and cool gorge winds throughout the growing season. This is a true Columbia Gorge Pinot Noir. Facing over 1700 wines, including a number of formidable Willamette Valley Pinot Noirs, the 2010 Dampier Pinot Noir was awarded a Gold Medal and “Best of Show Pinot Noir” at the 2013 Northwest Wine Summit.”
Here are some of their award-winning wines:
“Best of Show Pinot Noir”
2010 Dampier Vineyard Pinot Noir – NW Wine Summit 2013
“Best in Class”
2015 Dampier Pinot Noir – NW Wine Summit 2018
2016 Necessity White – Savor NW 2018
2013 Echo Vineyard Petit Verdot – NW Wine Summit 2016
Wine Enthusiast Ratings:
90: 2013 Zinfandel
89: 2014 McDuffee Vineyard Chardonnay Reserve
88: 2014 McDuffee Vineyard Chardonnay
88: 2014 Barbera Reserve
87: 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot
87: 2015 The Daughters’ Reserve
87: 2015 Rhett’s Red Reserve
To learn more about their awards visit:
Phelps Creek Vineyards in the Columbia Gorge
More Places to Sip and Savor the Wines of Hood Valley
No one leaves the Gorge thirsty! Some top spots on the Oregon side include:
- Marchesi Vineyards, which specializes in Italian varieties. The Sangiovese and Primitivo are especially noteworthy.
- The tasting room at Phelps Creek Vineyards overlooks the Hood River Golf Course where you can sip estate-grown Chardonnay and Pinot Noir and enjoy a picnic lunch amid jaw-dropping views of Mount Hood.
- Pines 1852 is named for its century-old Zinfandel vineyard where you can arrange vineyard tours for your group, or pour from a full range of wines in its downtown tasting room.
- Viento sources its grapes from top regional vineyards, and owner Rich Cushman can fill you in on local hot-spots for dining, drinking and adventuring.
- Wy’East Vineyards is one of Oregon’s highest-altitude vineyards. It has a pet-friendly tasting room, which features picnic areas and two bocce ball courts.
- Thunder Island Brewing Company is on the river at Cascade Locks. Stop here for small-batch brews and a kid-friendly menu.
- For a spirited finale, try the Pendleton whiskies at Hood River Distillers.
Just west of town and right on the river is the historic Columbia Gorge Hotel, which provides elegant accommodations and lovely gardens. Also along the river is the Columbia Cliff Villas, which offers Euro-style lodging. Both have spectacular views. Best downtown options are the Hampton Inn & Suites Hood River (newly remodeled, river view), the Hood River Hotel (a bit noisy, but within walking distance to everything) and the Oak Street Hotel, a 1909 home converted into a cozy B&B.