Trying to take time away for a vacation can be a daunting task, especially as we move into busy season here in Napa Valley. So the best way to work around this is a "working vacation"; thank you Wine Bloggers Conference for providing this much needed excuse and escape!
Earlier this year when it came time to make plans to attend the conference, a small group of us realized we had better figure out a way to make the trip more cost effective, or we wouldn't be able to go. Ideas started floating around about road trips and renting houses, and little did we know they would come to fruition to create one of the best vacations I have experienced to date! My partners in crime for the road trip were sommelier micro-blogger Seth Johnson (@sommlife) and Beaulieu Vineyard's social media guru Jill Dever (@jilldever).
Our journey started Wednesday night right after work... we piled our things in the car and hit the road by 6pm en route from Napa, CA to Medford, OR. The three of us were so excited we could barely stand it! Music was blasting, Chipotle was being eaten, and we basked in one of the most florescent fucshia sunsets we'd ever seen. Our digs for the night were of the classiest kind, at the Shiloh Inn. We were actually pretty excited to find out that Belgian waffles were included in our free continental breakfast: score! Nothing of note was consumed in the wine and beer category this evening other than some frosty cans of generic beer from the local Food 4 Less. We were saving our palates for the good stuff to come.
The next morning we mapped out a detour to Crater Lake on our way to Bend, OR. Jill had never been and Seth and I only had faint childhood memories to rely on. As we climbed up the windy road, we noticed snow on the ground, more and more the higher we got. At the top we were greeted by the still and serene blue lake. The weather was warm and the clouds scattered the sky just enough to create beautiful
reflections on the mirror surface of the water. It truly looked like an optical illusion or a painting, nearly unreal. I rolled up my pant legs and enjoyed playing in the snow for a few minutes while capturing some great shots.
Back on the road... destination: Deschutes Brewery! Neither of my crewmates had ever been to Bend, OR before so I was excited to show off one of my favorite small cities, and of course one of my favorite breweries! What would a wine road trip be without several brewery stops along the way anyhow? We rolled into downtown Bend on a perfect, sunny, Thursday afternoon, ready to fill our bellies with great food and even better beer. Time to put our game faces on:
Serious time and consideration was given to selecting the 6 beers that would comprise our tasting sampler. We each made an effort to select something different and try each other's; clearly we had our priorities straight. The one that caught my eye was the "McAyelah Scotch Ale" since it's basically my name spelled differently. What tribute, I was so honored! Not only is this one of my favorite styles of beer because of the rich caramel flavors and it was a brewery exclusive which made it even more elusive. The food selection was an easy one for Seth and I: Elk burgers! It's not often that I get to indulge in this delicious, tender meat. The food was seasoned just right and all 6 of the beers I sampled paired perfectly with it! It was so good I couldn't slow down to take a picture!
Next leg of the trip was to Walla Walla. This is where the scenery changed quite a bit. Where we had previously surrounded by greenery, mountains, snow and rolling hills, we were now in the desert. With less to gaze out the windows at, car games ensued and our minds were challenged with Seth's game of 20 questions: Animal, Vegetable or Varietal? During this brain buster we had one unfortunate casualty... a suicidal pheasant lost his life, but we do thank him for the colorful display of feathers that appeared after my car finished the job. Thankfully I was not driving at this point. Hitting the Columbia River Gorge was a site for sore eyes, and it meant we were that much closer to our destination!
Upon arrival to the house, we joined forces with a group that had collectively decided it would be better to rent a house rather than each pay for individual hotel rooms. Wine Soiree creator and friend Andrew Lazorochak (@winesoiree) managed to organize 7 of us into a 1900's house near Whitman College, (The Haven House) fully loaded with fire pit, gardens, porch swings, and a sound system!
We immediately unpacked and headed over to a Twitter tasting live (#ttl) to sample the latest from Cornerstone Cellars (@cornerstonenapa). The Corallina Rose and Sauvignon Blanc were the perfect welcoming wines to Walla Walla's warm weather. This informal tasting was also a great chance to see all my blogger and twitter friends, and meet some new friendly folks in person. It's always nice to put a face to a twitter handle :) We moved from the cool wines into the big reds, and the Howell Mountain Cab rocked my world! Small production wine with absolutely massive ripe fruit flavors made this wine a perfect substitute for dinner. Somehow in the midst of this tasting, we managed to score a couple cruiser bikes for the weekend, so half the group piled in the car, and @winesoiree and @cork_dork decided to suit up with helmets and whistles and ride back to the house.
A small household gathering formed at the Haven where we cooked up some cauliflower freshly picked from the garden, and a few other cuisine items we found stocked in the cabinets, left behind from prior visitors. We also had the pleasure to try the wine courtesy of Hardy Wallace from The NPA (@dirtysouthwine)- seriously cool stuff! I'd like to say it was early to bed, since it was early to rise the next morning, but we had important housemate bonding to do!
Day one of #WBC10 coming up next, including dance party, worm wine, slappy cakes and more...