Recap: TOAST (The Oregon Artisan Spirits Tasting)

This past weekend was TOAST (The Oregon Artisan Spirits Tasting), an event put on by the Oregon Distiller’s Guild (like them on Facebook here) and touted as the largest craft spirits tasting in North America! The event featured over 55 local and national artisan producers, all told pouring over 170 different unique spirits. How, I ask you, as a founding 3DC member can I pass this up… I mean it is almost an imperative that I go, learn, taste, and report back, right? Well, I’m not going alone, so I dragged Jean and Corey along with me (ok maybe not dragged, more like enabled).

This is the same event where last year my friend Corey and I met Ted Pappas of Big Bottom Whiskey along with a few others, so I was very pleased to see some great whiskey representation by even more makers and distillers this year. It seems our local craft artisans are really doing some great work and growing by leaps and bounds. The event itself also seemed to indicate this with a shift in venue to the Portland World Trade Center as well as the critical addition of an on-premise bottle shop.

From my view as an attendee, the addition of the bottle shop was the perfect compliment to the tasting hall as we were able to immediately buy bottles we enjoyed, without the burden of having to remember them for later 😉 I can only hope the addition of the on-premise shop proved beneficial for the vendors as well since the convenience of purchase would likely make for some good sales likely missed if an attendee would have to go searching their local stores for some of these bottlings.

Since this is a whiskies blog and tasting group, I won’t bother with the details of all the other spirits we tasted on Saturday, instead will focus on just the whiskies side. You’re also in luck, as I didn’t bother with my normal tasting notebook, you’ll not have to bear through the specific tasting notes of each dram I had, which given the expanse of the event is likely a good thing for us all!

Our initial whiskey of the day was Cabin Fever Maple Whiskey which is an 80 proof maple infused rye whiskey that is aged in uncharred barrels and then chill filtered to remove excess sugars. This one was simply too sweet for my palate to be a sipping whiskey, and really struck me as the perfect cooking ingredient (or breakfast dram to pour over your pancakes if’n you swing that way).

Next we moved on to Dry Fly Distilling where we sampled their Washington Wheat Whiskey. I recall discovering Dry Fly a few years back at Whiskies of the World where they were pouring what must have been thier first commercial run of the Washington Wheat. I’m happy to note here that they’ve really begun to fine-tune the dram and are producing a very pleasant, very smooth wheat whiskey that eschews much of the bitterness of corn based mashes leaving a nice soft story the whole way through.

Then it was over to Big Bottom to harass Ted, Taylor, and Monique. I’ve discussed Big Bottom’s merits in detail before, and it always seems strange to go to tastings where I’m so familiar with the pours being served. Luckily Ted always seems to have some small surprise for people like me and pulled out a brilliant New York cocktail to sample, with Big Bottom as the core bourbon base of course. I’m quite glad we could only sample that in our small shot glasses, as it is one of the tastiest cocktails I’ve had in a while and may just have hung out there the rest of the day had I a larger glass…

Luckily we were able to peel away and head off to more vendor tables, this time stopping at Ransom Spirits to sample their Whippersnapper Whiskey. This was an interesting one to me as it uses two different base distillates: one Kentucky whitedog corn based mash which is re-distilled, and the second being a recipe of malted and unmalted barley mash distilled in Oregon. This combination, as well as the use of use bourbon barrels and their own Pinot Noir barrels makes for an interestingly complex dram that still has the soft sweetness you’d expect from an American whiskey but without the bitter finish so many bourbons can leave you with after aging. The year average in the barrels definitely does this dram right.

A hop over to Few Spirits caught us a bit off guard as we found their Whitedog whiskey to be better in flavour and finish than their aged bourbon. If I recall correctly (I’ve been unable to verify this online *edit below because I was wrong*) the whitedog is actually made with a mash created from Oat flour rather than solid grains. Whatever the case, this whitedog is one that is just as easy sipping as any of the bourbon and American aged whiskies in the rest of the show. Truly a happy surprise.

*Edit* I knew I kept Corey around for a reason 🙂 He just informed me that Few Spirits was unaged only, with the interesting gin along side. The aged at that table was Old Pogue, which was good, but the unaged still won me over.
It was actually Stone Barn Brandyworks which was the source for the oat flour based whiskey. Their 100% rye was the one better as unaged. Both were surprising and wonderful drams to be had. If you find yourself in Portland, they are a must try.
Thanks for the updates and corrections, Corey!
*/edit*

Next was Mischief Spirits where we sampled both their Fremont Mischief Whiskey as well as their John Jacob bottling, both rye spirits. This stop exemplified for me that most American whiskies do best aging between 1 and 8 years, no longer. I say this as their Fremont Mishief whiskey is aged eight years and to my palate was on the way down from what may have been a peak aging at 6 years, leaving me to prefer their John Jacob offering which I don’t recall showing any age statement, most likely around 12- 24 months in the barrel. While both were good, John Jacob came out the clear top to me.

We then scooted over to the next table for what turned out to be my show favourite: Angel’s Envy. With a name like Lincoln Henderson behind this distillation it shouldn’t be any surprise that this dram topped my list. But it should surprise you, as on paper this dram is an amalgamation of everything I dislike: It is aged in new oak barrels with a 3-4 alligator char. It is a 72% corn mash bill, with a meager 18% rye content. And to be perfectly fair, it comes from a ‘big name’ in the industry. I’m not a fan of heavy char (preferring a light 2 in the barrels), I gravitate to high rye content whiskies, and love the passion of the boutique distillers who haven’t been broken by the industry yet. Well, Lincoln is doing some crazy stuff with a reinvigorated passion which really comes out in the dram. There’s some madness in his combination of mash bill, 4-6 years aging on heavy char, and then finishing another 3-6 months in Ruby Port barrels from Portugal. Just goes to show that you can’t judge a dram by its recipe. This one truly struck me as inspired insanity. So much so we went home with a bottle from the on-premise store, not wanting to wait for the next day to enjoy it again 🙂

Next, we moseyed across to Eastside Distilling, where we sampled their Burnside Bourbon. I was pleasantly surprised by this bourbon, as it finished quite smoothly without hint of the bitter finish I’ve come to expect from high corn based mashes. Unfortunately the two reps manning the table weren’t able to provide more specifics on the mash bill, so I was unable to verify if it truly was a high percent corn mash or if it had a substantial rye content. Surprisingly (or not) I didn’t even noticed that it is bottled at 96 proof… that either tells you how soft it really is or how much I’d had by this point.

To round out the day we finished off at Bull Run Distilling since I was already very familiar with their Temperance Trader Whiskey. It should come as no surprise that I enjoy this ‘high rye’ whiskey given the commentary above. Like Big Bottom, this bottling from Bull Run is not distilled on premise, but rather is a selection of distillate from outside sources. Given the selection that the boys at Bull Run have made, I’d say our palates are very much in line, as this is a wonderful dram to sit back and sip, or to add in as a base for some outstanding cocktails. Plus, Lee and Patrick are good guys to chat with, obviously passionate about what they do, which is brilliantly obvious in their on-premise distilled vodka and rum, both which drink as if they were top shelf whiskies. Also doesn’t hurt that they open their doors to Stuart Ramsay for his Whisky Academy series of lectures and tastings… makes for building a nice little community and connection between enthusiasts and the creators.

All in all, not a single truly disappointing dram was to be had. Obviously some shined more than others, but when it comes down to it our local distillers and artisans are really knocking it out of the park with their varied and quite unique products. I enjoyed the show so much these past two years, I may have to make a point of really promoting it next year to get some of our SoCal contingent to drive/fly up for the weekend and enjoy it too… seems a shame to keep this all to myself 😉

I guess I’d be remiss if I didn’t share a picture of my lovely new decorative purchase from Essential Oil, another local shop… yes, I might have a thing for copper, why do you ask?

image credit “TOAST”: All rights reserved www.OregonDistillersGuild.org

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Part the 2 – Freakin’ Frog’s… Raz’ Las Vegas vacation with a slant towards whiskies

In continuation from Part One here

Stop 4: Freakin’ Frog’s. Nestled in a strip mall a couple miles off the strip and just across the street from UNLV, almost hidden, is a little bar. A very special little bar to be sure.

Friday night, Ginger wasn’t feeling all that great and wasn’t of a mind to explore and was considering a nap so I struck out on my own. I walked right up to the front of the Trop and hopped in a cab and asked him to take me to Freakin’ Frog’s on Maryland Blvd. He had no idea where it was. I said the major cross streets were Tropicana and Maryland and if he’d start off I’d pull the addy from the web. He dropped me off in this dingy little strip mall (after passing the place up and having to make an illegal U-ie to get me there) and (despite feeling a bit uncomfortable on the inside) I girded up my loins and put on a smiling mask to the tatted up bouncer and full of 3DC confidence walked on into the bar. It was soul music night and the place was about 3/4 full locals as the show was just getting started I slipped in pretty well unnoticed. This place was definitely a toss back to the 70’s. I noted a set of stairs that (very non fung sui) lead straight up to what looked like an office / store room excepting the fact that there was this old set of theater line poles and a dingy padded rope hung between them barring access to them. The bar itself might as well have been a biker bar, save the clientele was a fairly well mixed set of locals. The bar staff looked pretty tough too, though most seemed on the other side of questionable decisions one might make in one’s youth. I slid down tot he end of the bar by the stairs and asked if there was any way I might be allowed a peak at the Whisky Attic. The barman said I’d need to talk to Adam about that but he didn’t think they were taking anyone up there tonight. He said he’d ask though. He went out and talked to a guy clearing tables and generally being the kind of active engaged manager I can appreciate. He returned and said if I’d wait, Adam would take me up in 10 minutes or so after the room was set for the show.

About half way through the first song. Adam walked on over and said “let’s go”, dropped the rope at the bottom of the stairs and we climbed on up. The room at the top of the stairs was about 15′ X 40′ with a table and chairs to the left and a bar about sectioning off about a third of the room to the right. On the far wall and all the walls beyond the bar were oak shelves. On these shelves were bottle after bottle of different expressions. 750 or so Adam told me and he indicated he had another 300 hundred or so in the office he’d not yet been able to shelf. I asked if I could take pics and he said I could, though in hind sight I think I only took 3 pics in total, so awe struck was I by the selection all around me. He invited me back behind the bar to get a better look at it all as we talked about the 3DC and what his goals were for this collection. I’m not going to go into all that we spoke of, you’ll just need to go talk to the man himself to get all the details.

After looking about and reeling from the realization that I was amongst several hundred drams I’ve never had, I noted a selection from the same distiller / bottler from India and he said he had a special on those, a flight of them for $100. I think I said, “let’s do it”. He then said he intended to change the way I tasted whiskies. Adam, you see, is a professor over at UNLV as his day job and has spent a significant amount of time thinking about the subject. His rationale is that the reason we look, smell, then taste harkens back to our caveman days when we were just trying to suss out whether or not what we were about to ingest was poisonous and that the fact that we acknowledge that he was not intending on killing me and that mankind has thousands of years evolving since those times that perhaps there may be a better way to go about such things. I encourage each of you reading this and that have even a passing interest in whiskies to go and meet and learn from this man on your own or in groups as your druthers dictate, but do so. I don’t expect to be able to do justice to describing his method of tasting, but I will say it works better for me than the 3 or 4 methods I’ve used to date. That and I intend to be using as my primary technique going forward. If you hit me up in person, I might be able to show you, but I don’t have the words to put it to paper so you’ll have to be content with this much.

The flight was 6 bottles from Amrut and we’re all pretty darn spectacular. (I’ve found out that since March some of these drams have started making their way onto American shelves.) I’d heard so many bad things about Indian Whiskey that admittedly my expectations were pretty low, but there was no need for that. 2 were cask strength and 1 of those and 1 other were peated as well. Not a bad dram in the bunch.

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For the details of the Whisky Attic:
4700 S. Maryland Pkwy
Las Vegas, NV 89117
By reservation only, call 702-217-6794 to speak with Adam B Carmer and make an appointment.


Raz’ Las Vegas vacation with a slant towards whiskies: Part 1

Late last month Ginger and I took a trip to Las Vegas. I’m kind of getting over the whole gambling as entertainment thing these days, but I thought I may take advantage of the town, and the wife being occupied at the games, to explore some dram spots I have heard of in the interim as well as confirm a few that were old favorites back when the dinos walked the earth. Understand that I’ve not been to LV is quite some time, likely 7 years which is like 150 years architecturally in any other town in the world.

Stop 1: An old favorite, the Bellagio. This hotel casino has always been one of the better places on the strip to get a selection of whiskies. Not a remarkable selection, but they have more that any of the other major casinos put on the shelf and for that I recommend them. Any old whisky was not what I’d come for thought, I came for a dram of Loch Dhu (the black whisky). They’ve changed the layout of the casinos over the years and it took a while to find the little bar between the hotel lobby and the theater I have been sending people to for years to get a dram of this quiet still expression. You see back when it first was released to the US Market, Loch Dhu was very inexpensive, something like $25 if memory serves, and the bar manager liked it and bought a pallet of the stuff. Not too many years later, the distillery was bought by the French in order to get another expression and the black whisky fell out of production entirely. You could not buy a bottle today for less than $250, a nice turn if you were an investment collector. I’m not and I’m partial to this dram so I sit down and order one. The tender pulls the bottle and pours the last bit, just about a full shot, into a snifter and tosses the bottle. I then do what I’ve done every time I’ve gone and done this at the Bellagio, I ask if they will sell me a bottle. He says that they can’t do that because that was the last of it and they aren’t expected to get any more. This being the case, and me getting the last dram of the last bottle from that pallet of Loch Dhu, I tell him the story about how many 3DC over the years I’ve sent in to have a dram of this stuff and ask if I could have the bottle he tossed. Needless to say, it’s sitting in a place of honor on my shelf.

 

Stop 2: Nine Fine Irishmen at New York, New York Hotel Casino. This is a finely appointed Irish pub with the obligitory imported pub fixtures and furnishings. I was there for lunch and they were piping in a very good selection of Irish Drinking tunes. Everything from the Clancy Brothers to the Pogues so that bit was very good. The selection of whiskies was better than average and fairly competent in the Irish category. The bar had that tight confined space that usually makes a pub feel right and that you don’t generally get on the strip in Vegas, but alas, something seemed off a bit. I sat at the bar, ordered a Bushmill’s 16 and a corned beef sammy on rye. The food was tasty the dram fine but something was off in this place and I’m pretty sure I know what it was. The bar staff. Sure they were nice enough, but they didn’t seem to know how to run an Irish Pub. After gabbing with them a bit and unavoidably listening to two of them lightly bitch about their schedules, I discovered that the NY rotates the bar staff around the casino daily so they don’t really get to know each bar’s eccentricities and high points. Hell at one point they asked if I needed anything else and I said I’d have some vinegar for my fries if they had any and he responded “what kind?”. In a moment of shock and ill-composure I responded, “I’m sorry I thought for a moment I was in a pub.” He smiled and said “Malt vinegar, right.” That pretty sums up the Nine Fine Irishmen. It’s been managed into a bad place. A dedicated staff and a manager who knows what an Irish pub should be like could fix this place in a heart beat. As it is, I won’t be back unless I hear something to suggest they fix the management issues.

Stop: 3 Ri’Ra’ at Mandalay Bay Hotel Casino. Now this is a fine Irish Pub. A little plastic Paddy, but in a good way. The North wall of the main pub was a series of glass cases filled with a veritable cornucopia of whiskies. Scotch, Irish, American and more. There had to be over 150 expressions (I didn’t bother to count) and the feel of the place was outstanding. The food was great and the Knappogue 1993 was a perfect paring for my lunch. This place had a more open feel despite the main bar being a long strip that lead back into a larger hall, the ceilings were high and the decorations did not mantle over you like a vulture. There is a side room behind the bar that has a very club like feel to it and would seat around 40 comfortably. The reason I mention this is that the idea has bee floated that in coincidence with the upcoming Practicum of the Sword next year. To that end I spoke with the assistant manager, who said I should speak with Mark McElkerny (who was on vacation) on the topic but that it may be something they would be interested in hosting for us. It would likely be more costly to go this route, however it may be worth it as they could provide the food and the whiskies to our direction, leaving us with just showing up and enjoying our own event. I’d likely still want to blather on about something or another regarding the drams etc, but I’m good with that. There is fairly easy access to this location from 6 of the strip hotels via a tram as well giving people a wide choice of hotels to stay in. Something to think about. More on that later I guess.

Stop: 4 (and final) Freakin’ Frog’s Whisky Attic and Prof. Adam Carmer. Next time. This one warrants its own entry.

Read on for Part Two here


A Compass Box PSA: Did you know?

Compass Box Whisky Co. has a new Facebook fan page!

http://www.facebook.com/pages/Compass-Box-Whisky/310473912283?ref=ts

As you may know, the 3 Drunken Celts have a close affinity for John Glaser and his company, Compass Box. We met nearly 4 years ago now, and have been supporters of his efforts… and by supporters, I mean we not only drink his blends, but preach the quality of Compass Box to any and all who will listen! So, when given the opportunity, you KNOW we will do what we can to spread the word… so go check out their Facebook Fan Page now!

Sadly, it seems John won’t be at Whiskies of the World this year. Luckily, in his stead the brand ambassador, Robin Robinson, will be representing the team. I, for one, am looking forward to meeting Robin (as we have spoken via Facebook messages once or twice) and toasting a tipple to all who couldn’t make the event.

If you will be attending any of the events where Compass Box is making appearances, be sure to stop by and introduce yourselves to Robin (or John Glaser, or Chris Maybin, or any others representing the brand); let them know how you heard of them and that the 3 Drunken Celts say hello… after all, there ARE more than just 3 of us!


Website issues using Internet Explorer

All…

It has come to my attention that this site is experiencing issues when viewed with Internet Explorer. Due to some time constraints, no work will be done to resolve this for at least the next month or two. In the meantime, and if possible, please utilize any of the following browsers which have been seen to function correctly:

FireFox: http://en-us.www.mozilla.com/en-US/products/firefox/

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Opera: http://www.opera.com/


An Open Letter from John Glaser

Greetings to our Friends,

So I don’t normally get all political, and I never forward on chain letter shite and the like, especially as 3DC. You know the rule; “leave your politics at the door”, but even I have my limits.

The “right honorable” British politicians are attempting to enact legislation creating the term “Blended Malt Scotch Whisky”. Now, the dram they intent to use this term on is currently called a “Vatted Malt”. There is simply no reason to muddy the terminology by tossing “Blended” into something that is not actually a “Blend” under the current terminology. OK, so I’m not going to belabor this.

Long story short, John Glaser of Compass Box has asked us all to sign his petition requesting that they go stuff the new term someplace where the sun does not shine. John is a wise and great whiskey man who we, the founders of the 3DC, respect as a whiskey sage; so I am in turn asking the whiskey lovers I know to sign as well.

If you feel inclined to do so, here is the link to learn more: http://www.thescotchblog.com/2008/03/an-open-letter.html
(John’s original letter can be seen by clicking “Continue Reading” below…)
Yours in Scotch,
Raz

Continue reading


Jim Murray awards Arbeg with coveted top Whisky title!

As gleaned from the BBC News:
JimMurray, in his 2008 edition of his best-selling Whisky Bible, has awarded the Ardbeg 10 year the coveted top title of “World Whisky of the Year”.

As the BBC News reports:

<Murray> said in his guide: “To me Ardbeg is – and always has been – the most complex malt on earth.”

He added: “I have been visiting the distillery for nearly 30 years – long before anybody had heard of Ardbeg.

“And because I have long regarded this as the finest distillery in the world, I actually try to handicap the sample to iron out any natural bias.”

He said in his guide: “To me Ardbeg is – and always has been – the most complex malt on earth.”

He added: “I have been visiting the distillery for nearly 30 years – long before anybody had heard of Ardbeg.

“And because I have long regarded this as the finest distillery in the world, I actually try to handicap the sample to iron out any natural bias.”

So, here’s to you Ardbeg… may your drams continue to garner such high praise and acclaim from all who taste you!


John Glaser of Compass Box Whiskies Featured in Wired Magazine

It should come as no surprise to anyone who knows a 3 Drunken Celt, that John Glaser is considered a friend of the group. Raz, Fergus, and Seamus all met John for the first time at the Whiskies of the World in 2006, where he had presented a tasting class surrounding his blends. The next year, we enjoyed his Whisky Pairing dinner the night before the Whiskies of the World expo where he masterfully paired a different dram for each of the 5 courses served including both his newly released “Oak Cross” and “Flaming Heart” blends.

John_Glaser

For this coming year’s WoW expo, Seamus has already purchased his ticket for John’s class on blending your own whiskies and highly recommends you do the same since it is sure to sell out quickly.

As you will read in the Wired Magazine article referenced below, John has a distinct knack for blending, and has shaken up the world of whiskies a bit with his revolutionary take on some long standing whisky traditions, sometimes coming face to face with legal ramifications resulting in a discontinued product. Ah, Spice Tree, we barely knew ye (this was actually the first taste the 3DC had of John’s work, which had been surreptitiously hand-carried across the pond in a blue water jug having been filled directly from the cask only a day prior).

If you haven’t yet decided whether or not to attend the Whiskies of the World expo in San Francisco on March 28th, 2008, use this Wired Magazine article to help convince you, if only to meet John in person. You will immediately find John to be both personable and approachable, but more importantly knowledgeable about whiskies to a degree that outshines most other whisky connoisseurs around the globe.

http://www.wired.com/techbiz/startups/news/2007/10/compassbox

Take it from the 3 Drunken Celts, you won’t be disappointed with any offering from Compass Box, or John Glaser’s classes.


Oregon whiskies highlighted in Food & Wine Magazine

I knew there was a reason I was drawn to the Pacific North West. In the latest issue of Food & Wine magazine, I ran across an article highlighting “America’s Best New Whiskeys” which, to my surprise, focused entirely on four Portland area distilleries. The full article can be found here: Food & Wine America’s Best New Whiskeys (and don’t forget to check out the side-bar for the contact info for the distilleries: Food & Wine Oregon’s Best Places to Buy Local Spirits )

Unfortunately, only two of the four are at a point where they are selling finished products. The other two are still (get it, STILL, ah, I kill me) working and waiting for their respective whiskies to be completed before putting them on the market. In either case I am dying to go visit the distilleries and hopefully get a taste of their various products. Rest assure when this happens there WILL be articles posted!

Since Clear Creek Distillery looks to be holding an Open House on Thanksgiving Weekend, I think this may be a good time and excuse to get John, Mary and Colleen (who will be visiting that weekend) into the city and enjoying something entirely new: Oregon peated whiskey!

So, it looks like I have some tasting work cut out for me in the months ahead. But I’ll jump on that grenade for you all and report back with my findings. I’m a giver like that.


6 days to Portland and back, 2 new Whiskies!

Be warned, the following post is long. It encompasses all 6 days worth of our trip to Oregon as part holiday and part scouting trip for relocation areas. Keep in mind the grammatical “tense” of my writing below will change dramatically and without warning as I wrote some of it on my laptop at the end of the days… then came back to it today to clean up a bit since I was very tired when originally writing.Day 1: 4am comes way too early. At 5am sharp and we were on the road. With just a few stops for gas (averaging around 35-40 mpg) by noon we had made it to just south of Weeds, Ca. about 45 minutes south of Redding, Ca.

This picture was taken while heading up into the hills through Shasta Lake:

By 4pm, we were crossing the Oregon Ca. border. At 6pm, we had stopped for the night in Roseburg, Oregon. We were no where near as tired as we expected to be (I could have easily made it all the way to Portland), we hit a brew pub called McMenamin’s for dinner and drinks… Get this; they not only brew beer, and ferment wine, but distill a whiskey (and rum, and gin) as well! It is called McMenamin’s “Hogshead” Whiskey from the Edgefield distillery. From the menu: “this rich, amber-hued whiskey is slightly smoky, with hints of vanilla. Hogshead is distilled from 100% malted barley & named after the oak barrels in which it is aged. $6.59 per glass.” So of course I had to order it! My take on it: very light nose of mild smoke and a hint of sweet vanilla. Palate has an immediate burn which fades out into vanilla again with short but fun story, then a smokey finish so light it stands as just a reminder of the charred barrel. Viscosity is light. Say 2-3 Boldness is the same 2-3 Story is a 3. Fairly short, but worthwhile. I give it a solid “B” rating.

The people we have met thus far (hotel reception, wait staff at the pub) were all amazingly nice. As it turns out one of our servers is a transplant from Brea who recognized the distinct bank card I use since she used to belong to the same credit union.

By the end of dinner, we adjourned back to our room, caught an episode of Lost and passed out. Seems we were indeed a bit tired from the 13 hour drive. We had decided to not try to get to Portland on the first night (tonight) as we wanted to take our time driving in to allow us to wander off the beaten path if the fancy struck. So we opted to bed down about 150 miles outside the city and wander in during the light of the next day….

My initial impression of the state thus far is one of wonder at its beauty. We have driven through only rural areas to this point, and have been surrounded by lushness of evergreens and other native foliage. Everything here is so wonderfully green! Still some yellow areas of dry grass in the southern part bordering California, but that just adds contrast to make the green even brighter.

Into Oregon; not exactly indicative of the beauty, but much greener than California!

I can’t wait to make the journey into the city tomorrow… if today is any indication, we will fall in love with a city that has lured us in before we even got there.

Day 2: Day 2 started out well enough. We checked out of our hotel in Roseburg, grabbed the complimentary continental breakfast, and got back on the road by 9am. I got a fair enough’s night sleep but not quite enough to really get me going in the morning, so this 170 mile drive was almost as rough as the previous days 800 miles.

Portland is only 105 miles away now!

We got into Portland at noon straight up, as we didn’t find any place between Roseburg and the city which was worthy of stopping at. Salem was on the radar until we actually passed through… really it is just another blue collar town just like all the rest, or so it seemed from the freeway. We wouldn’t know any differently since we didn’t stop to see.

Luckily our hotel allowed us for an early checkin, so we didn’t have to find ways to waste time. Once checked in we headed straight out for lunch at Henry’s tavern (the old Henry Weinhard’s brew pub). After a nice satiating lunch, and some orange wheat beers, we took the long way back to the hotel on foot just to see the sights and to visit Powell’s Books, a must do for any visitor to the area.

Back in the hotel, I took a bit of a nap, after which we decided that we would cut our stay here in the hotel short. You see, we realized what I had already known for a bit: we are not city people. I know this isn’t a shock to anyone who knows me, but the real breakthrough was with Jean. She realized as well that she just doesn’t want to live in the city either. The IDEA of a city loft is cool, but the realities of city living just aren’t our gig. That and the hotel was exactly what we were expecting. But that’s fine, you win some you lose some… so we decided that we’ll take Friday and look around the parts of the greater Portland area which we had scouted as potential living sites, and then head out to Astoria on Saturday for a bit of actual vacation. From there the itinerary is a bit open, to say the least… we’re not sure where or when we’ll end up, but it should be a fun adventure to fly by the seat of our pants so far away from home…

Once we got that all set with the hotel (cutting the reservations short, etc), we headed out for dinner at Kells:

Kells is a nice Irish bar that boasts an extensive whiskies list. I have to say the wall of whiskies is impressive to see, but the list left me a bit wishful. I only found about 5 I hadn’t had previously.

Following is a quick tasting note on the one I ordered: Tamnavulin Stillman’s Dram 25 year. $21.25 per dram at Kells in Portland.

Nose… Light caramel. A faint hint of oak. Palate… Caramel first then a nice mellow char (slight burnt taste) overall sweetness. Viscosity… 7-8 thick! Boldness… 6-7 Story… good solid 5. Not too short but not long either.

Personal taste… B+. I could drink this for a good long while. A nice initial sting flows into an easy to drink dram. Despite its viscosity, not chewy at all.

After Kells, we took the long way back to the hotel again to see a bit of the city. Once at the hotel we made our way to the top floor to hang out on the roof top garden patio area. We took in the view for a while, then headed back down to catch CSI before going to bed.

Day 3: We arose at about 8:30am and were out the door by 9. After another Hotel breakfast, we headed out to do our reconnaissance mission to see the areas around Portland.

We started with Gresham to the east of Portland. The city itself was nice, but the drive in was through some minorly depressed areas in all sorts of states of disrepair. Not exactly what we were looking for… so we pressed on.

Next up was Tualatin. A nice area which we began to see a trend in the homes… it seems that in most areas everything looks like the stereotypical middle American neighborhood with one added benefit: trees, and lots of them.

Beaverton and Hillsboro kind of meld together in look and feel. These two cities are true suburbs and show it. They are fairly self sustaining, with light industrial, commercial, and residential zones, with a population to support it all. We could see ourselves living in these two areas very easily.

Last on the list was Forest Grove, which is more of a rural area than a suburb. We loved the feel, but probably couldn’t handle the upkeep which the lots would require… we’ll see about this one. (As the days passed after our visit, the more Forest Grove is really looking appealing to us.)

While in Forest Grove, we found a nice winery and stopped in for a taste, which is how the afternoon began.

We ended up at 4 different wineries which all seem to specialize in Pinot Noirs, which isn’t too surprising for the area. They were all full of character in their own rights, but nothing special enough to warrant write ups here. Though we did buy 6 bottles…

While traveling through the different towns in the morning and then between wineries in the afternoon, Jean and I had a great chance to really discuss what we wanted, needed, and what fit us in terms of living arrangements. It was a great chance to really think and discuss what the right place for us really is.

After the last winery, we opted to take a slight detour through Lake Oswego to gawk and gander at the million dollar plus homes around the lake. Wow, what a DRIVE! These places would rival Newport Beach’s homes on the cliffs and in balboa. GORGEOUS.

From there we headed out to catch dinner at the local, ubiquitous, McMenamin’s. It is here we got our second detour… you see I asked where I could pick up a bottle of the whiskey distilled specifically for them by the Edgefield distillery (as a founding member of the 3DrunkenCelts I am obligated to do so). Turns out you have to go to the distillery to buy the bottles. So we got a brochure, entered the address into our GPS and got back on the road. Turns out it was only another 25-30 miles away, so it was an easy drive after the 100 miles we had already put on earlier, and the 1000 from the days prior.

We arrived at the Edgefield and found it to be entirely more than expected. The water tower at the Edgefield:

It was a hotel, and veritable campus of buildings housing the winery, brewery, distillery, restaurant, bar, pub, and other odds and ends which escape me. We got the bottle from the distillery bar, and then headed back to the front to take a look around the grounds and get a feel for the place. With European style rooms (no private toilets) I don’t think well be spending a night there anytime soon, though I may be wrong about that… perhaps I’ll save that judgment until tomorrow.

From the Edgefield, we headed back to the hotel for our last nights stay. So I sit here now, watching Dirty Jobs, drinking a nice gewürztraminer we picked up this afternoon, and logging the events of the day. Tomorrow is out to Astoria, then who knows what, our plans are REALLY open after that 🙂

All in all today was going to be the deal breaker for us if there was one. If we didn’t fall in love with the area today, we had no idea what we would do. Luckily, the more we find out about Portland, and the more we see of it, the more we love it and are SURE this is indeed the place for us. The people are amazing and the scenery is beautiful!

We KNOW that not only will we fit in around here, but many of our friends would as well if we can convince any of them to come up and live here…

Day 4: This morning started just fine… same as all the other days with a continental breakfast provided by the hotel.

From there we drove out to Astoria. The drive along the Columbia was gorgeous. We stopped in Astoria for lunch and then headed across the Astoria Bridge to Washington and back, for the simple reason that I just love bridges and this one was staring me down, demanding I drive on her.

We had left the day open in case we found stuff to keep us interested, but alas, Astoria is just a small port town. So we headed on south to Tillamook, Newport, and then on to Coos Bay.

Tillamook was a bit disappointing in that it was a bit more commercial than we had expected. The cheese factory parking lot was PACKED, so we decided to drive on and bypass the tasting/gift shop experience. It was far from the boutique type shop we had hoped for. This was pure American commercialism; which I can’t deny too much, but it still seemed a bit odd for the area.

We were, however lucky enough to find two separate lighthouses to stop at along the way. The first being the lighthouse used in the move “The Ring”:

And the second being a still in service lighthouse at the mouth of the Umpqua River:

The drive down the Oregon coast is the best part of today’s 400 miles as we were disappointed by Coos bay as well. What we expected to be a quaint little town like Astoria, was really just a depressed little shit-hole of a bay town with little to offer in terms of decent restaurants or accommodations.

So we pressed on to Roseburg for dinner and a night’s hotel stay just like the first night in Oregon. Not exactly to plan, but then again, it is better than Coos bay.

So here I sit, with a belly full of IPA and McMenamin’s American Dip sandwich, drinking another 22 oz. IPA I got “to go”. Tomorrow is our start down south, with a hopeful stop over in San Francisco to meet up with some friends. Then it is on to Santa Maria to hang with George and Kathy for a night before our return home… Stay tuned.

Day 5: Overall, this was just a boring day of driving and recapping what we had seen. Unfortunately and were both at a wedding in Sonoma the night before and wouldn’t be back in the city until well after we had already passed through/by. We were bummed we missed them, but such is life, especially since we hadn’t planned prior to the night before since we didn’t know when or if we would even be passing by the city.

This diverted the plan once more and we actually ended up at George and Kathy’s a night early, which turned out to be a good thing since it allowed us to take all of Monday and do some wine tasting in Paso Robles which we hadn’t done since at least 6 years prior.

Since I didn’t write up this at the end of the day and rather am attempting to recall from memory, I’ll cut this short and just say that we had a wonderful time visiting with Kathy and George. We very rarely get to spend time with just the two of them, and even more rarely do we spend much time with only Kathy, so it was nice to be able to take her to dinner Monday night while George was in a meeting.

While it was my intent to head home n the evening on Monday, the wine tasting had taken a toll on Jean and she didn’t feel like driving (read this as riding passenger in the car while I drove) and so we imposed on George and Kathy for one more night.

Day 6: We were up and out by 8:30 am, back on the road, this time headed straight home with no more detours. By this point, I was both ready to get home and sleep in my own bed, but at the same time I felt like I could drive for another week and just continue on discovering new places and people and food and drink!

Luckily we arrived home before I could commit to a hard left turn and keep on going. Home by Noon, and unpacked by 1pm, we took a nice nap at 3pm and ordered pizza for dinner so we could just sit on the couch and do nothing. That was very nice after a week of always doing something or planning something for the next hour/day…

The grand total mileage for the trip is 2,733.7 miles. With 900 miles up and back to Portland, that still left us with an additional 900 miles drive around the greater Portland area and Oregon Coastline. I think I’ll be riding my motorcycle for the next few weeks exclusively, just to get out of the car! The GPS doesn’t lie… unless you are looking at the max speed, in which case it does.