Sunday, August 4, 2013

Willamette Valley

After spending a couple of weeks in the Portland area, we decided to explore the Willamette valley for a bit.  We have tried several Willamette Valley wines over the years and since we are now in the area we knew we had to explore the area.  Willamette valley is known for its Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris wines and make a variety of other really good wines.  We found a RV park that is located in the heart of the Willamette valley and appropriately named Willamette Wine Country RV Park since there are almost 200 wineries in this particular valley. 

 We visited the Willamette Valley Vineyards tasting room and had a tasting flight which was a fun way to spend an hour or so.  The wines were wonderful and we walked away with 4 bottles of wine.  

We drove through the countryside on Saturday on our way to Salem to explore the city a little and just stumbled across the Willamette Valley Cheese Company.  This cheese company was in the middle of the countryside with the cows close enough to see and touch.  We did a tasting of several cheeses and they were all fabulous.  We ended up leaving with three different cheeses, a creamy Havarti, a toasted cumin Gouda, and a raw milk Cheddar.  We are looking forward to a cheese and wine tasting evening. 

We also explored an actual vineyard and tasting room and from the numerous ones available, we chose to visit Anne Amie Vineyards and Tasting room in Carlton which is just around the corner from our RV park.  There is something very satisfying about seeing the vineyards from where the wine is coming from.  We did a tasting flight at this vineyard as well and walked away with another bottle of Pinot Noir.  The vineyards and tasting room were lovely with a view of the Cascade Mountains in the background from the vineyards.

For dinner on Saturday night we decided to try a local restaurant called Red Hills Provincial Dining which was just around the corner from our RV park.  Their philosophy is to use locally grown produce and meats and highlight the meal with locally produced wines.  It turned out to be a wonderful evening of food and wine in a very comfortable restaurant with an attentive wait staff.

We started our meal with Shrimp Cakes for Gerry and Crab Cakes for Me.  I snapped a picture of the Crab Cakes.  We each had a glass of white wine with our appetizers, a local Chardonnay for Gerry and a Pinot Gris for me which complemented our food beautifully.

 For our entrees Gerry chose the pan seared Salmon with a Dill and Thyme Cream Sauce over Rice with a saute of fresh vegetables and he though everything was superb.  The salmon was cooked perfectly, just done so it was still moist.

 I had the Braised Short Ribs served over Polenta with the same side of sauteed vegetables which was fabulous.  The meat was fork tender and full of flavor and everything else on the plate was done to perfection.  A glass of Pinot Noir for both of us worked well with our entrees.

We actually decided to order desserts which is pretty rare for us.  Gerry opted for the local fresh Berry Cobbler topped with a homemade ice cream.

I opted for the Creme Brulee since it is one of my favorites and a test for me to see how a restaurant measures up to my standards.  This one did not disappoint.  It was a classic creme brulee, done well with a simple garnish of fresh berries.  I feel if this dessert is done well, it doesn't need to be messed with too much.  This one was done perfectly; a nice crunchy, sugary crust that needed to be broken through to get to the creamy, eggy custard underneath.  A nice fresh cup of coffee with dessert rounded out our evening.

This restaurant was in an old craftsman style house, with the original wide plank floors and the decor was done perfectly creating a delightful ambiance.  I highly recommend this restaurant!

We are looking forward to exploring this area a little more this week.

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