Dramatic landscapes (Columbia Gorge, Oregon/Washington)

I’m starting to get used to the disappointment that I can’t spend more time in all the places I am going, and Portland was one of the hardest to leave so far. It’s much nicer staying in the hostels because you are around people more and there’s stuff to do in the evening. It’s nice having some space and quiet in the motels, but it’s pretty boring and lonely. It does give me a chance to catch up on things and look ahead for arrangements, but I do waste a bit too much time flipping through the thousands of channels on the television.

Columbia Valley, Oregon to the left, Washington to the right

The Columbia River is one of the biggest I have ever seen, and stretches at least 80 metres wide most of the time. As you drive east out of Portland you are treated to very lush vegetation and trees, which are particularly beautiful at this time of year as the leaves change colour. The Columbia River becomes the Columbia Gorge as hills shelter the river on both sides. To the South is the state of Oregon, and to the North is Washington which is my next destination. Like a number of regions in the Pacific Northwest, Columbia Gorge sits across the two states. The only winery that was open was Cathedral Ridge, and the wines were pretty ordinary so not worth talking about. The only interesting wine was a secret blend of riesling and an undisclosed red wine.

Cathedral Ridge Halbtrocken

An interesting thing happens as you drive East along the Columbia River. Once you hit the town of Lyle on the Washington side of the river, the scenery changes from lush verdant forests and green grass, to very dry and sparse semi-arid tundra. The difference is both stark and sudden. As you drive on the ridges of the Columbia Gorge you see extensive wind farms as far as the eye can see. Victoria could learn a lot from this area, as they are certainly not an eyesore, looking like toothpicks sticking out of a leg of lamb from afar at sunset.

Wind farms in Washington

One of the largest wineries in Washington, and the 100th to get their license, was Maryhill Winery. Maryhill can be found on a very scenic ridge that has amazing views both up and down the river. The most exciting thing about this winery is that they truly understand the value of wine tourism. Columbia Valley is at least two hours from the closest major city, and isn’t between any major cities either. There are very few wineries in this area, and the ones that are aren’t amazing. There are very small communities that are spread out and there aren’t a lot of things to do. So they have created a reason for people to come out; concerts. An amphitheatre was built from day one 10 years ago, and they have just opened a brand new multi-purpose stage. They have hosted the likes of Lyle Lovett, Styx and Counting Crows, and most weekends have music playing in the courtyard. The wines are very good but not amazing, and many have some R/S, but that is what their customers want.

The Maryhill amphitheatre and stage

Click here to see more photos from my trip up the Columbia River.

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