May 30, 2019

#167 Willamette Valley

First, let’s just gets this straight…Willamette rhymes with dammit.  At the end of the Oregon Trail lies a lush agricultural area and one of two wine-producing regions that have made their vitners a global force.  I combined the 1000 Places entry with a couple of travel articles I’d read to develop my itinerary for the day. 
I started the day in McMinnville with brunch at Valley Commissary  - chicken and Waffles.  My only complaint was that it needed just a touch more syrup, but it was so delicious.


From there I walked around the corner to Elizabeth Chambers Cellars for a tasting. 


The tasting room was empty except for me, so it was super quiet and a little awkward.  However, this also meant that the guy had a little more time to talk and he let me taste something not on the menu that was my favorite of the wine.



From there is was up to Sherwood to visit Ponzi Vineyard (from The List).  I should take a moment to mention that this whole day was rainy.  From overcast sprinkle to crushing downpour, to what was happening at Ponzi – which was a mist that fools you into thinking it isn’t raining, but suddenly you realize you’re all wet.

The property is really spectacular.



After Elizabeth Chambers, Ponzi seemed crowded, but my guy told me it was actually really quiet, and “just wait until the sun is out tomorrow”.

It was driving to Ponzi and then on to Carlton Bakery that I realized Willamette is also HOME OF HAZELNUTS.  I wish I’d known a little sooner because I definitely would’ve toured a Hazelnut Farm and picked up a little something for my hazelnut (coffee bean) nubbin.

Fun Facts (from :

  • The Hazelnut is Oregon’s official state nut (since 1989)
  • About 800 Oregon families grow hazelnuts on 70,000 acres
  • Hazelnut trees can produce until over 100 years of age

Carlton Bakery is in (you guessed it) Carlton, OR.  It was featured in one of the articles I read and (don’t get me wrong it was all delicious) by the time I got there most of their inventory was sold out.  This didn’t stop me from grabbing macarons, shortbread cookies, and a cup of hot chocolate.



From the mid-valley (I think), I headed south to Corvallis because I definitely wanted to taste some Oregon cider.  By this time it was pouring rain.
I stopped at 2 Towns Ciderhouse and asked the guy to pick my flight.  Pair that with some salty cheese curds and I could’ve stayed there for hours.



Unfortunately, this guy asked for the Trailblazers (I think? It was definitely a sportsball team) to be put on the TV and promptly commenced screaming really loudly about everything that was happening.
Yeah, I immediately left.

And headed to my last stop….Nectar Creek.  I seriously love their logo.

Nectar Creek specializes in mead and they have a good overall food menu, so this is where I spent the next several hours.  They do $2 tasters and customizable flights for all their meads, beers, and ciders.

The soup of the day was potato bacon so, of course, I tried a cup of that with flight #1.

I also ordered a small baguette with butter (it turned out to be honey butter -natch- and it was so good).

After finishing my soup, bread, and flight – I decided that I would stay for dinner.  I waited until the line died down and ordered a pulled pork sandwich with a side of I-didn’t-take-a-photo chips, and a second flight of different beverages.  This flight was all mead and so had very bee-adjacent names.  

My initial take on the mead was that several tasted a little cough droppy (I’m looking at you Waggle and Nectorade), but Sting was good, and Cluster was my favorite.

Right after I ordered my dinner the place got sooo busy.  The line suddenly was going into a different room, and extra chairs were being snatched to fit around a huge communal table.  I took my time with dinner and then made a bargain with a college-age kid trying to steal my last extra chair….He could have the chair, but he had to guard my table while I went to the restroom.  I think it worked out well for everyone.

Then I headed back north with a lovely (okay, really it was a dreary, but fun) day in the Willamette Valley behind me.