After spending the first few days of our vacation in Portland, we headed for the Oregon Coast. Our route took us through the Willamette Valley, home to more than 500 wineries, and renowned as a premier pinot noir producing area.
We stopped for tastings at three very different wineries. The first stop was at Evening Land’s tasting room, a modest, but very nice room in a commercial building:
Based on a recommendation from Kelly, our likeable tasting guide at Evening Land, our next stop was for a private tasting at small producer Ayoub Wines, in the home of Mo Ayoub. I think this is what the term “garage wine” refers to. Mo’s home is in the Dundee HIlls, and the view from his back porch was spectacular. I definitely had a bad case of yard envy.
Our last tasting was a private tasting at Soter Vineyard’s Mineral Springs Ranch, “a 240-acre savanna-like oak woodland and grazing land.” The biodiverse property provides natural predators and healthy microorganisms, allowing the production team to focus on sustainable farming. The property is dry-farmed, no insecticides or herbicides are used, and sheep and goats help with mowing and weed control. When the vineyard had a problem with birds eating the grapes, they enlisted a falconer to help with the problem. Get the picture? There is a biodynamic farm on the property, and a huge open kitchen where chefs prepare dishes for special “provisions tastings” using meats and produce from the farm. I was enamored with the garden, kitchen, views, tasting room — pretty much everything.
Before leaving the valley we stopped at Red Hills Market in Dundee to pick up some provisions, and sat for a spell in these chairs made from pinot noir barrels:
We eventually made it to the little town of Yachats on the coast, where we spent the next 4 nights. After the 100-degree weather in Portland, we appreciated the MUCH cooler weather (highs around 60, lows around 50).
We rented a cozy cottage with a view of the ocean at Overleaf Village (Overleaf Lodge, which manages the rental cottages, is next door, and also has comfortable rooms with ocean views).
Oh, how we loved this cottage and its proximity to the ocean. We marveled at the tides, the fog, the sunsets, and the sounds and smells of the ocean.
The Oregon Coast Aquarium in Newport was fun for everyone.
We saw lots of interesting fish:
polka dot grouper
spotted moray eel
green moray eel
See if you can spot the fish and crab hiding in this picture
Touched a few tidepool inhabitants:
And learned about pelicans:
But our favorite attraction was the comical sea otters — we could have spent hours watching them:
After the aquarium, we spent the rest of the afternoon exploring Newport and the surrounding Yaquina Bay area.
One of the things that really intrigued us was watching teeny bay shrimp being processed at Pacific Seafood (haven’t you always wondered how they did it?):
We got up early one morning and went in search of tidepools during low tide. We didn’t find any tidepools at Devil’s Churn, but still enjoyed the views:
We did, however, strike tidepool paydirt at Neptune State Scenic Viewpoint (actually, my husband found the tidepools, because there was no way I was going climbing on those rocks):
It was an incredible feeling being the first people to step on the pristine sand that morning:
Here’s something we’d never seen before — cool patterns created by different colored sands running off of the rocks, like sand art:
The Sea Lion Caves in Florence were a lot more fun than we expected (we thought it would be kind of hokey).
The Sea Lion Caves, America’s largest sea cave, is a privately-owned wildlife preserve, and home to the Steller sea lion. The sea lions are free to move in and out as they please, and this time of year they mostly move out of the cave and onto the rock ledges in front of the cave, known as the rookery. The cave, discovered in 1880, is roughly 12-stories tall, and access is via elevator. On this day, there were about 100 sea lions on the rookery, and about a dozen in the cave.
Another surprise attraction in Florence was Darlingtonia State Natural Site, dedicated to the protection of Darlingtonia californica, commonly known as the cobra lily, a member of the carnivorous pitcher plant family (Sarraceniaceae).
A boardwalk trail leads to a marshy area where the plants flourish. The cobra lily has yellowish-green hooded leaves that form erect, 10 to 20-inch-high hollow tubes. On top, the leaves are mottled a purplish color with transparent areas. “A hidden opening into the stalk is bordered by a large, green, mustache-shaped appendage beneath the curved hood of the leaf. Nectar inside the plant’s hidden opening attracts the insects. Once inside, an insect becomes confused by the transparent areas that appear like exits. The insect eventually drops into the lower part of the tube, where it’s trapped by downward-pointed hairs, and falls into a pool of water at the bottom of the stalk. Bacteria in the water decompose it into nitrogen, which is then absorbed by the plant.” We saw a few remaining flowers of the plant, which blooms in the spring. This was quite a sight, and we stood there in stunned silence — I’ve never seen anything remotely similar, and it was simply fascinating.
We had a bit of excitement one day when my husband, an avid cyclist, rented a bike and took off for a ride in the Cape Perpetua Scenic Area.
We didn’t hear from him for a while because he was in and out of cellular range. Unfortunately, he got two flats, only one of which he was able to repair. Fortunately he had service briefly — long enough to let us know we needed to come pick him up and send us his location (this is a great feature on the iPhone — see instructions below for how to send your location). Unfortunately, the single lane gravel road was a little too treacherous for my son and I in our rented SUV. Fortunately, we found the camp managers — a couple named Tom and Cindy — and Tom agreed to drive me up the mountain to find my husband (I offered a “reward”). Tom turned out to be a really interesting fellow — a retired Texas A&M oceanography professor, and a great storyteller. We were all very relieved to find my husband and bring him and his bike back down the mountain.
He’s up there somewhere
Thank goodness for Tom and Cindy
Great iPhone feature — we never would have found him without it
We weren’t expecting much in the way of dining, but we had some really enjoyable meals along the coast. Clearwater, an attractive waterfront restaurant in Newport, had wonderful views and great food, including clam chowder, crispy maple salmon salad, blackened bay shrimp tacos, and grilled ham and cheese on 3-cheese sourdough bread (so good!) with truffle garlic fries:
Homegrown Public House in Florence is a quirky little place that serves tasty pub food made from locally-produced organic ingredients, including clam chowder, Cajun fried oysters, and a cheeseburger with garlic parmesan fries (we really liked those long parmesan shavings on the fries):
At Ona, in Yachats, which offers an upscale menu, we enjoyed an Oregon Dungeness crab cake with caper remoulade, grilled Yaquina Bay oysters, clam chowder, housemade yakisoba with miso black cod, and strawberry pineapple cobbler with ginger ice cream (note that the restaurant states that it closes at 8:45-ish, which translates loosely to “whenever we feel like it”):
Our favorite restaurant, hands down, was Drift Inn Café in Yachats. We ended up there after being turned away the first time we tried to eat at Ona (don’t say I didn’t warn you), and wound up eating three meals there. The décor is a little unusual, with a curious mural that greets you, and umbrellas hanging from the ceiling:
The restaurant has a pretty extensive menu, and we enjoyed quite a few dishes, including clam chowder (yeah, we ate a lot of clam chowder on the coast), cheeseburger and fries, and a salad my husband loved called Rubbery Shrubbery with chicken and a housemade cranberry vinaigrette:
But the restaurant really excels at pizza. This pizza, with olive oil, garlic, paper thin slices of Yukon gold potatoes, slivered onion, manchego cheese, and prosciutto, was a thing of beauty (so good that we had it twice), baked in an outdoor wood-fired oven:
We enjoyed our time on the Oregon coast, and would have loved to have been able to stay on longer. I’m certain we’ll be back — there’s lots more to do and see. (I’m a little envious of the 100,000 or so people expected to be there August 21 when it will fall under the path of the Great American Total Solar Eclipse.)