Chuck Darrow 2017-08-17 05:38:33
Think “West Coast wine,” and you likely conjure Napa Valley, the northern California region that has long stood as the nation’s epicenter of domestic production. But a few hundred miles to the north, Oregon has a thriving -- and still-growing - - industry that boasts some 220 wineries. The heart and soul of Oregon’s wine country is McMinnville (pronounced MICK-min-vil). Located about an hour’s drive south of Portland, it dates to the middle of the 19th century, when founder William T. Newby claimed the land and named it in honor of his hometown, McMinnville, Tenn. Today, it is a bustling hamlet of almost 35,000. Those headed there from Portland on State Route 18 encounter a most unexpected attraction, considering there is no real aviation history connected to the town or area: Three-and-a-half-miles from the McMinnville tourism district sits the striking campus of the Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum (www.evergreenmuseum.org). You certainly can’t miss the complex: It’s the one with a Boeing 747 jumbo jet perched on the roof of the building that houses a water park. The Aviation Museum opened in 2001. It was expressly created as a home for the “Spruce Goose,” the gargantuan wooden cargo plane built (and flown but once) by aviation legend Howard Hughes in 1947. In 2007, an IMAX theater debuted; the following year, the Space Museum opened. If you’re in the Portland area, a trip to the museum is merited, if only because of the Spruce Goose, which is so large they actually erected the building around the plane. It is truly something to experience the mindblowing, monumental scope of the mammoth craft up-close. However, a visit to the flight deck will add $50 per person to the cost of museum admission. But the “Goose” is hardly the only reason to visit. The hangar-like exhibition spaces are filled with vintage aircraft. While some of the pieces are replicas, there are dozens of authentic items on display, from World War I and II fighters (the emphasis is on military aircraft) to a Cold War-era Titan II ICBM that once was fitted with nuclear bombs. The above-mentioned Wings & Waves Waterpark is an indoor, allseason educational/recreation center featuring 10 waterslides (for both little kids and older, bolder folks; one is built into a rooftop 747), a wave pool, and an interactive museum dedicated to information about the power of water. After spending an hour or two at the Evergreen Museum, it’s time to head into McMinnville proper, whose main drag, 3rd Street, is lined with shops and boutiques, as well as bars, restaurants, and funky, historic hotels. All of which led Sunset magazine to proclaim the lively strip “The West’s Best Main Street” earlier this year. “McMinnville has served as the living room for Oregon wine country since the beginning of the industry, when founding winery owners…would meet at Nick’s Italian Cafe in downtown McMinnville to talk shop,” says Kitri McGuire of Visit McMinnville, the entity responsible for marketing the town and region to travelers. “Today, the town’s historic 3rd Street still serves as a gathering place for the thriving Oregon wine scene. This farm-to-table scene attracts wine enthusiasts from all over the world who are often delighted to meet local winemakers enjoying meals at the table beside them.” The downtown culinary fare runs the gamut from casual to fine dining covering both the family trade and those seeking more sophisticated cuisine. Among the spots providing the latter are Nick’s Italian Café which was cited as an “America’s Classic” by the James Beard Foundation in 2014; Pura Vida Cocina, which deals in South American cookery; and Thistle, which has a national reputation among the farm-to-table crowd. Providing both casual and formal dining is the 1882 Grille (www.1882grille.com), whose thirdfloor sports bar features a rooftop patio with an impressive view of 3rd Street and the surrounding neighborhood. Its menu is heavy on burgers, wings, sandwiches, and the like. Homesick South Jerseyans can find a surprisingly authentic taste of the Delaware Valley in the cheesesteak whose toppings include Cheez Whiz, and whose menu entry namechecks both Pat’s and Geno’s. The ground-floor dining room, which is called The Barberry, provides a more formal and upscale dining experience. Among lodging options is The Hotel Oregon (www.mcmenamins.com/hotel-oregon) on 3rd Street, which dates to 1905 and is a popular party spot thanks to its rooftop patio. Bed-andbreakfasts abound, and an especially exclusive experience can be had with a stay at the Estate House on the grounds of the Stoller Family vineyard and winery (www.stollerfamilyestate.com) in Dayton, which is less than a 15-minute ride east from McMinnville. The resort accommodates a group of up to eight people. Dozens of stores operate along 3rd Street and surrounding thoroughfares, offering everything from toys and games to art supplies to various types of olive oil. But it is the numerous wine-tasting stations that pretty much define McMinnville and make it the destination it has become. To help visitors navigate the abundance of tasting outlets, in 2016 the Wine Walk Passport app was created for Smartphones and Androids. It gives users instantaneous access to information about 22 craft-beverage purveyors, including hours, locations, and tasting notes from each vendor featured on the Wine Walk. Visitors keep track of their passport stamps, which can be redeemed for prizes upon completion of the Walk, through the app. And each stop -- including Goodfellow Family Cellars/Matello Wines (www. Goodfellowfamilycellars.com), where several excellent whites and reds can be sampled -- participates in an umbrella-sharing program that keeps participants dry as they stroll the streets of McMinnville (southwestern Oregon, after all, is part of the rainy Pacific Northwest). Those seeking a more immersive experience can visit the actual wineries. In addition to the Stoller Family complex there is the Maysara Winery & Momtazi Vineyard (www.Maysara.com). Tastings are offered in a cavernous, rustically appointed space - - hand-built by owner Moe Momtazi -- that adds immensely to the experience. The winery operates under biodynamic principals, which means chemicals of any kind are avoided in the growing and processing of the grapes. Despite a wine industry that sustains the entire region, man (and woman) doesn’t live by reds and whites alone there. Craft breweries -- including Grain Station Brew Works, Heater Allen Brewery, and Golden Valley Brewery - - likewise are an integral part of McMinnville’s food-and-drink culture. While the growing, fermenting and processing of grapes is the engine that powers McMinnville and its environs, the attention of locals and visitors alike is focused heavenward every May as the town celebrates its annual UFO Festival (www.ufofest.com), which organizers claim as the nation’s second-largest event of its kind (behind Roswell, N.M.). The four-day celebration of all things extraterrestrial features lectures and displays, as well as costume competitions, musical performances and a parade. For more on McMinnville, go to visitmcminnville.com.
Published by AAA South Jersey. View All Articles.
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