Hood River Valley
Fruit farmers, vintners, and brewmasters are turning this outdoors hub into a gourmet destination.
DRIVE TIME: 1 HOUR
Find it on the map
PERHAPS IT’S Hood River’s enviable position on the banks of the Columbia River that causes so many visitors to ignore the colorful swatches of farmland to the south. But this month, when the pear and apple harvests get into full swing, the Hood River Valley eclipses the river as the top reason to visit the area. Thanks to the Hood River County Fruit Loop Map, which provides directions to 36 orchards, lavender farms, roadside produce stands, and even alpaca farms, navigating the area’s 15,000 or so acres of agricultural land is a cinch. Our recommendation? Reacquaint yourself with your favorite recipes for poached pears, pear tarts, and apple strudels. Because when you get back home, trunk loaded with fruit plucked right from the tree, you’ll have no choice but to channel Martha Stewart and bake yourself into a frenzy—a fitting way to stave off the cold, dark days ahead. —Leslie Heilbrunn
Friday, 5 p.m.
Check-In: Sakura Ridge
Book a room at Sakura Ridge, a Zen-like bed-and-breakfast located on a working 44-acre organic farm about six miles from Hood River. Unlike many B&Bs, which outfit their rooms with lace and crocheted pillows, the suites here are simply appointed with wool blankets and perhaps a dresser or two. Our favorite is the Orchard Room, which boasts a killer view of Mount Hood from the deck—but all are mere feet from the farm’s pumpkins, berries, and pears, ripe for the picking. $150–$225; 877-472-5872;
Friday, 7 p.m.
Not all of Hood River’s bounty is sweet—consider its beer. Full Sail is the town’s biggest brewery (it turns out 120,000-plus barrels per year), but hops fans would be remiss not to amble down Fourth Street in search of Double Mountain Brewery & Taproom. Brewmaster Matt Swihart turns out some of the best pilsners and IPAs to be had this side of the Columbia: The Hop Lava IPA is packed with the heady grain, but the brew’s meaner older brother, the Molten Lava, has twice the bite. Yikes! While finer meals can be had in town, the pub’s pizzas—like the Jersey Pie, topped with hot capicola, provolone, and marinated peppers—are a perfect accompaniment to a pint, or three. 541-387-0042; www.doublemountainbrewery.com
Saturday, 10 a.m.
The Fruit Loop
Before heading out on the 35-mile Fruit Loop, you’ll want to carefully consider who should do the driving. If your weekend companion has a tendency to gawk and veer when faced with stunning views, assign him the job of navigator—otherwise, the orchards and in-your-face Mount Hood vistas could make for a dangerous distraction. Given that Hood River County produces more pears than any other county in the country, stocking up on varieties like D’Anjou, Imperial Asian, and Forelle is a must. And should you be one of those who thinks apples fall into only two categories—red or green—school your palate at Kiyokawa Family Orchards in Parkdale, which grows no fewer than 70 varieties. In fact, you may never settle for a Red Delicious again. The Fruit Loop map is essential for the journey. www.hoodriverfruitloop.com
Saturday, 6:30 p.m.
Dinner at Celilo
Feeling over-countrified after a day of frolicking in the fields? Make a reservation at Celilo restaurant, which will quickly snap you back to an urban state of mind. Wood beams, blue blown-glass fixtures, and contemporary art made Celilo an anomaly in Hood River when it arrived on the food scene in 2005. Not that country fare isn’t represented here: Ingredients from the Pacific Northwest drive the menu, whether it’s the Yakima Valley sweet corn soup or the Cascade hanger steak with Prairie Creek Farm organic potato purée and Windflower Farms pattypan squash. Service can be spotty (blame it on the laid-back Hood River vibe), but after a day down on the farm (and a glass of locally made Syncline wine), odds are you’ll already have mellowed a bit yourself and won’t mind the wait one bit. 541-386-5710; www.celilorestaurant.com
Sunday, 10 a.m.
If you’ve sipped your way through the Willamette Valley and know your Dundee AVA from your Ribbon Ridge AVA, then the time has come to learn about Oregon’s smaller, lesser-known wine regions. Bottlings from a few talented vintners in the Columbia River Gorge and Columbia Valley AVAs (where winemakers display the same renegade spirit that helped turn the Willamette Valley into the celebrated region it is today) have been gaining recognition in the national wine press. Best bets for tasting include Cathedral Ridge, which Wine Press Northwest named 2007 Oregon Winery of Year; Phelps Creek, whose chardonnay and gewürztraminer have received accolades in magazines like Wine & Spirits; and Syncline, which is located on the hotter, Washington side of the Gorge and is known for its syrahs and bold reds. www.columbiagorgewine.com