Nestled near the Willamette and Columbia River, is Portland, the largest city in Oregon with an estimated population of 620,000. As a first time visitor to Portland, I didn’t really know what to expect, but I was instantly in awe of the scenic beauty and the thriving downtown. Just gazing through the window of the airplane as we descended were breathtaking views of Mount Hood and Mount St. Helens.
From chatting with a few locals on the plane ride from Minneapolis, I learned that Portland is home to over 300 wineries in the Willamette Valley, which is known for their world class Pinot Noirs. Portland is also known as quite the “foodie” city, with over a hundred wonderful restaurants and food trucks right downtown and big name chefs such as Vitaly Paley, winner of the 2011 Food Network “Iron Chef Challenge.”
Besides great restaurants and beautiful vineyards, Oregon is home to scenic bike paths for those who enjoy cycling. Bike paths range for those who enjoy a leisurely two-mile trail to paths that let’s say we can leave to the experts. Below are some of the highlights I was able to experience during my recent stay in Portland and the surrounding area.
Places to Eat & Drink
Voodoo Doughnut in downtown Portland is one of the most unique doughnut shops I have ever experienced. With doughnut varieties that range from “Arnold Palmer” to the “Bacon Maple Bar,” this shop definitely has a doughnut to please anyone’s palate.
With so many doughnuts to select from, Voodoo appeals to several age groups. I realized this when I picked up my “Old Dirty Bastard” (a doughnut with chocolate frosting, Oreo cookie, and peanut butter) on a Thursday morning at 6 am and stood in a line that was one block long. Another fun fact about Voodoo is that they are open 24 hours a day/7 days a week, so should you have a sweet tooth at 2 am, Voodoo will have a doughnut to satisfy your craving.
Imperial is one of the top restaurants in downtown Portland and is owned and operated by Chef Vitaly Paley. The menu at Imperial draws in the flavors of the Pacific Northwest. Many of the entrees are uncomplicated, but delicious and include local ingredients such as cranberries, kale, and fresh fish.
The cocktail list at Imperial features some crafty items such as “A Good Problem to Have,” which is a blend of gin, thai basil, lemon, red pepper juice and ginger syrup. This cocktail is served with a twist of lime and is incredibly refreshing. Visit Imperial to experience some of the other craft cocktails like “Roadside Attraction” and “New Money.”
Departure Restaurant sits atop the Nine’s Hotel in downtown Portland and offers modern Asian cuisine and drinks with stunning views of the city, mountains, and river. Although I didn’t get to eat at Departure, I did enjoy a glass of white wine on the rooftop and took in the amazing view. My one piece of advice would be to visit Departure at dusk so you can enjoy a drink and watch the sunset.
Visit the vineyards
Just 30 minutes outside of Portland is Sokol Blosser Winery, a family run vineyard led by head winemaker Alex Sokol Blosser. Sokol Blosser was established in 1971 and sits high in the Dundee Hill region of Oregon. This vineyard is home to some wonderful Pinot Noirs and other white wine varieties such as Riesling and Muller-Thurgau.
I was given a private tour of the property and was absolutely in awe of the natural beauty of the vineyard and its delicious wine. Sokol Blosser has a unique landscape and is a great place for spending a relaxing afternoon on their porch while you gaze out over the rolling hills of Oregon.
Also sitting at the top of the Dundee Hills in Willamette Valley is White Rose Estate. This vineyard is one of the largest in Oregon with over 10-acres of land at 870 feet of elevation. White Rose Estate is also home to some delicious Pinot Noirs that are full of character and complexity. Trying to differentiate between the varieties of Pinot Noir can be a challenge after you’ve tasted so many, but owner Greg Sanders does a great job of explaining the subtle differences in his wine.
Don’t drink and drive, hire Insiders Wine Tour. I used this fantastic car service to drive me around and experience these wonderful vineyards. My driver and tour guide David was incredibly knowledgeable. One of the best things about Insiders Wine Tour is that they cater to any party size, so whether you are heading out by yourself or with a bunch of friends, you can be sure they will take care of you!
Where to stay
The Nine’s Hotel is a boutique luxury hotel located in the central business district of downtown Portland. This hotel is the ideal spot for shopping, exploring museums, and walking to the food trucks and restaurants. The Nine’s is also right across the street from the MAX light rail which is a very affordable way to get to many parts of the city and back to the airport. The Nine’s is also home to Departure Restaurant which is an amazing rooftop bar that offers great food and drinks along with a stunning view of the city and mountains.
Whether you are looking to enjoy some fine wine or take a scenic bike ride, Portland and the surrounding area is a stunning place to visit. I know I will be back to explore even more of what Oregon has to offer. Cheers!
The Sleepover are short stories about the places we get to visit in our travels.