We occasionally will hear people cop the disparaging attitude that you can’t find good wines in the Gorge. Huh? Have they … LOOKED? We disagree, strongly, but maybe that’s because we’ve actually tasted Gorge wines, instead of assuming that they couldn’t possibly compare with something bearing the Napa-Sonoma-Mendocino-Willamette Valley-Walla Walla stamps. To the snobs, we say, Get over yourselves — and have a glass.
When guests ask us about wine tasting in the Gorge, we like to suggest approaching it as a wine grower would … as clusters. For starters, there’s the ground zero cluster. Hood River now has seven wine tasting rooms downtown. Within walking distance of the Hood River Hotel, BTW.
Across Oak Avenue lies the Quenett tasting room. Turn left at 2nd Street and go one block to The Pines 1852 tasting room. Turn right at 2nd and go one block to the Naked Winery Tasting room. Continue west on Oak half a block to the Cascade Cliffs tasting room. Another block brings you to the Cerulean tasting room. Two more blocks west and a block south bring you to the Stoltz tasting room. Head a block north and walk east through the Mt. Hood Railroad parking lot, and you reach the Springhouse Cellar tasting room.
Did we miss anyone? Yikes, they’re like mushrooms — popping up all over the place.
But we’re not done. Grab the car keys and head south — to the valley cluster. (This is where we stop including individual links; get the full list at the web site of the Columbia Gorge Wine Growers Association). It includes Cathedral Ridge on the west side of town, Phelps Creek farther west, Marchesi Vineyards a bit south, Pheasant Valley farther south, and Wy’east, Mt. Hood and Viento out along Oregon 35 toward the east side of the valley.
Head across the Columbia River into Washington, and you have a whole different scene. The Underwood Mountain cluster includes AniChe, Ziegler and Gorge Crest. Head east and you first hit the Lyle cluster — a collaborative group that calls itself “the young guns of the old highway.” Yes, they’re young. Yes, they’re gunning for your tastebuds. They include James Mantone of Syncline, Luke Bradford of COR, Brian McCormick of Memaloose, and Alexis Pouillon of Domaine Pouillon. The Lyle area also includes the Bordeaux reds of Jacob Williams.
Jacob Williams is consolidating its facilities farther east, out near the Cascade Cliffs winery, and not quite as far out as Maryhill and Waving Tree.
That’s the list. Then you check out the wines. And the awards they’re winning. And what the stuff actually tastes like in the glass. And you wonder why anyone who purports to love wine wouldn’t just love living here, where the stuff is rockin’ the glass, brah. Just sayin’.