By Annelise Kelly
Where inspiration runs steep. The Columbia Gorge AVA has wines as dynamic and varied as its landscape. From the corridor along the Columbia River to the surrounding valleys, more than 50 grape varieties grow among the cliffs, steppes and sloping farmland. Vineyards here produce a wide variety of wines, including sturdy Chardonnay and intense Syrah, all raised in the sunshine and breezes that draw hikers, kiteboarders and cyclists to the area.
The greatest concentration of wineries — many of which also craft cider, beer or spirits — is in the Hood
River Valley. Stroll the lively town of Hood River, which hosts tasting rooms including Cascade Cliffs, Upsidedown, and The Pines 1852. Take a scenic drive through the valley and enjoy ever-changing
views of Mt. Hood and Mt. Adams framed by vineyards and orchards. Casual, laid-back wineries include the Wy’East Vineyards tasting room, overlooking alpacas and a bocce court, and Grateful Vineyard,
where visitors enjoy handcrafted pizzas, U-pick orchards and a longhorn steer named Carlos. For Northwest-chic settings, try Stave and Stone Wine Estates and Hood Crest Winery and Distillers, where locals gather for live music. Hiyu Wine Farm offers ambitious set menus surrounded by permaculture vineyards where its livestock forage. Other wineries here include Marchesi Vineyards, Cathedral Ridge Winery, Phelps Creek Vineyards, The Gorge White House, and Fox-Tail Cider and Distillery. Head to the arid eastern end of the Gorge to sample the sips at the Tierra de Lobos Winery tasting room, 15 Mile Winery, or the repurposed 130-year-old grain mill that’s now the Sunshine Mill Artisan Plaza and Winery.
Don’t miss Brigham Fish Market, a Native-owned, casual seafood restaurant and store in Cascade
Locks, or the newly opened Gorges Beer Co., which serves upscale pub grub with its brews. The Dalles serves up meals with a side of history at the Baldwin Saloon and Clock Tower Ales. Sample craft cocktails and beer-cheese fries at River Tap Pub, or opt for a classic burger and ice cream cone at Big Jim’s Drive-In. Hood River abounds with food from fancy (Celilo Restaurant and Bar, Stonehedge Gardens, 3 Rivers Grill) to casual (Sixth Street Bistro, Pine Street Bakery, Solstice Wood Fire Pizza, Full Sail Brewing Co.). Enjoy soaring views of the Columbia River at pFriem Family Brewers and Ferment Brewing Co. Additionally, Mike’s Ice Cream is duly celebrated for its huckleberry milkshakes.
On the Hood River Fruit Loop tour, you’ll find fruit stands and U-picks, along with baked goods at Apple Valley Country Store and Packer Orchards and Bakery. Most wineries have snacks or meals, such as the food carts at The Gorge White House and Wy’East, and wood-fired pizza and more at Hood Crest.
The dazzling scenery of the Columbia Gorge lures visitors outdoors for hiking, biking and more. Hood River is world-renowned for kiteboarding and windsurfing, with plenty of lessons and gear for rent. Rent an electric bike or join an e-bike wine tour at Sol Rides, or ride bikes-only segments of the Historic Columbia River Highway State Trail. Hike to Multnomah Falls, Punchbowl Falls, Bridal Veil Falls or another of the 90 waterfalls on the Oregon side of the Gorge. While enjoying the wineries in the area, pick your own apples, pears, cherries and berries on the rural loop through Hood River County known as the Fruit Loop.
At Bonneville Dam, check out the fish hatcheries, visit famous fish Herman the Sturgeon and watch salmon swim their way up the fish ladder. In The Dalles, the whimsical National Neon Sign Museum displays vintage signage in a stately old building, and the Columbia Gorge Discovery Center & Museum educates visitors about the region’s natural and human history.
The elegant Columbia Gorge Hotel and Spa, built in 1921, makes a stylish Hood River home base. Wander the gorgeous gardens, where a 208-foot waterfall drops to the river’s edge. The Celilo Inn, a renovated boutique motor lodge, overlooks The Dalles and the Columbia River. At the far-west end of the Gorge, McMenamins Edgefield, a 74-acre former county poorhouse, now invites guests to stay in whimsical rooms in a complex of restaurants, venues for concerts and movies, a spa and soaking pool, a winery, a distillery and a brewery.
WINE TRAILS Columbia Gorge Fruit Loop
This 35-mile scenic drive through the valley’s orchards, forests, farmlands and friendly communities is a must-do. Visit the numerous wineries and tasting rooms year-round, soaking up the stunning views of Mt. Hood and surrounding orchards. Settle in on the patio at Marchesi Vineyards’ Italian-style tasting room in Hood River, and pick strawberries and have a picnic with your Pinot at the Gorge White House in the summer.
This article appears in the 2023-24 Oregon Wine Touring Guide. Order your free copy today.