Clackamas: A Wine Lover's Wonderland

    Those in charge of promoting Oregon’s Clackamas County describe it as “a feast for the senses.”

     That’s no mere marketing hype. At seemingly every turn, there’s something to tempt the taste buds, delight the eyes and invite discovery.

     There are parks, campsites and wild places. There are farmers’ markets, acres of tulips, cascading waterfalls and vineyards. Fine arts and forests. Extreme sports and quiet leisure. Culture and agriculture.

     All of the things that make Oregon such an alluring place can be found in and around the communities of Clackamas County – in particular, obvious reverence for the land.

     The forefathers of today’s Clackamas County residents worked the land. Their communities sprang up around mills, railways and rivers. Now, old country roads provide a connection – and a subtle boundary – between the old and the new, the urban and rural.

     The local forests offer a bounty of wild harvests, from tart summer huckleberries to succulent mushrooms. A variety of mushroom species can be picked from spring through fall, but be aware that forms must be filled out at the Clackamas River Ranger Station in Estacada.

     While in the woods, be sure to watch for black-tail deer and bald eagles.

     Rather have someone else do the driving? Cross the scenic Willamette River aboard the Canby Ferry. Established in 1911, the ferry’s prices remain old-fashioned: free for people, $1.25 for cars. For vistas of the river and the city, ride the non-profit Willamette Shore Trolley between Portland and Lake Oswego.

     A three-quarter-mile loop through a flower farm is provided on the private Phoenix and Holly Railroad. For more railway adventure, visit the Pacific Northwest Live Steamers train park, featuring 1/5-scale trains, in Molalla.

     At local cafes and country inns, field-fresh produce is the star attraction. And you can work up an appetite by exploring an array of museums, historic homes and landmarks, and antique stores. In Lake Oswego, oversized hanging flower baskets adorn every street light during the summer months.

     Speaking of flowers, opportunities to soak in beautiful sights and aromas abound in Clackamas County. There’s the Welches Garden Center in Welches, where visitors can learn about and purchase native plants. The Barn Owl Nursery in Wilsonville specializes in landscaping using herbs, and has fragrant display gardens. Swan Island Dahlias in Canby is the world’s largest dahlia grower.

     While a plethora of Willamette Valley vineyards beckon to the south, Clackamas County offers its own unique vinous experiences.

     “Unique” is a good way to describe Wasson Brothers Winery in Sandy, operated by twin brothers Jim and John Wasson. That’s because production is split almost 50/50 between traditional grape wines and fruit wines. As is the case at most Oregon wineries, Pinot Noir is the star vinifera variety, and the brothers also do a good job with Riesling, Gewurztraminer, Muscat and Merlot.

      Berries seem to grow everywhere in Oregon, so it’s no surprise that the fruit wines would be highlighted by blackberry, raspberry and loganberry flavors. A tart rhubarb wine also is made, as is a fun sparkling rhubarb.

     St. Josef’s Wine Cellars in Canby is one of Oregon’s pioneering wineries, as its first vintage was produced in 1978. Because it was founded by European immigrants, it focuses on making nice wines that go well with meals – Gewurztraminer, Riesling, Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir. For serious wine drinkers, St. Josef’s also makes a selection of Reserve wines, as well as a Late Harvest Pinot Gris.

     A feast for the senses? It hardly seems like an adequate description for Oregon’s Clackamas County.

For Further Information…

Phoenix & Holly Railroad

(At Flower Farmer)

Canby * 503-266-3581

Welches Garden Center

Welches * 503-622-6521

Barn Owl Nursery

Wilsonville * 503-638-0387

Swan Island Dahlias

Canby * 503-266-7711

Wasson Brothers Winery

Sandy * 503-668-3124

St. Josef’s Wine Cellars

Canby * 503-651-3190

Posted in Our Wine Travel Log
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