If you’ve ever been to the Oregon coast, you probably remember the rugged headlands, the charming towns and the uncrowded beaches.
However, you probably were not aware of the numerous wine-tasting opportunities, particularly near the communities of Astoria and Coos Bay. Because of the distance involved between those two towns (more than 230 miles), you really need two days to take in the seven Oregon Coast wineries — two in the Astoria area, four in Coos County and one in-between.
If you’re coming from afar, fly into Portland and then head west to Astoria, which is recognized as America’s oldest settlement west of the Rocky Mountains, established in 1811.
Make a reservation at the Rosebriar Inn Bed & Breakfast, a fully restored 1902 classic European-style B&B that serves a complimentary gourmet breakfast each morning. The Inn features a dozen guest rooms, each uniquely decorated and each with a private bath.
Another lodging option is the Cannery Pier Hotel, located on the waterfront of the Columbia River. Guest rooms have hardwood floors and fireplaces, and throughout the property you’ll find vintage photographs, artifacts and memorabilia pertaining to the area’s history and fishing industry.
A good way to get acquainted with the town is by hopping on the Astoria Riverfront Trolley, which is operated by a group of locals who (here’s fair warning!) don’t keep to a real strict schedule. When boarding, it’s a good idea to inquire about that day’s route and frequency.
Whether you explore by trolley or on foot, you’ll be treated to an array of preserved buildings and historic sites, complemented by stunning views and the natural beauty of the coast.
History buffs will want to stop at the Fort Clatsop National Memorial, which highlights Lewis and Clark’s encampment over the winter of 1805-06. Local heroes are celebrated at the Uppertown Fire Fighters Museum, and the area’s maritime past is chronicled at the Columbia River Maritime Museum.
Between museum visits and other sightseeing, stop by Shallon Winery, a one-man operation specializing in an addictive chocolate-orange wine. It’s owned by Paul van der Veldt, who will be happy to show you around his lab and winemaking room.
Of his unique concoction, van der Veldt says, “This is the ultimate creation of my older years; anything I create after this will be a total anticlimax. I know of nothing like this on the face of the earth. If you find something, tell me.”
Well, the Swiss orange chip ice cream made by Swensen’s comes close, but does not surpass van der Veldt’s wine in terms of pure hedonistic pleasure.
Just a mile off of Highway 101 in nearby Mohler, you’ll find Nehalem Bay Winery, offering an array of wines from white to red to sweet.
End your day in extreme northern Oregon with a meal at the Silver Salmon Grille, home to a 120-year-old antique bar constructed of Scottish cherry wood. Jeff and Laurie Martin own the restaurant, and have decorated it with fish murals, metal sculptures and chandeliers. Be sure to try the Silver Salmon Cellars wine, produced for the Martins by the acclaimed Maryhill Winery in the Columbia Valley, and featuring depictions of local landmarks on the labels by artist Bill Dodge.
On the road from Astoria to Coos Bay you’ll come to Otter Rock, between Depoe Bay and Newport. There, perched on a cliff overlooking the Pacific, the Flying Dutchman Winery produces award-winning Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot Noir, as well as various white and dessert wines.
Richard Cutler originated the business at the Inn at Otter Crest’s restaurant — it was billed as Oregon’s first “micro-winery” — and grew it into its present-day location, which offers spectacular vistas of the Oregon coast.
Coos Bay, in addition to being a quaint coastal town, is an important manufacturing and shipping center, since it’s home to the largest natural harbor between San Francisco and Seattle.
A good place to relax and rejuvenate after a few hours on the road is the Shore Acres State Park and Botanical Gardens, once the estate of pioneer lumberman and shipbuilder Louis B. Simpson. A fully enclosed observation building now occupies the site of Simpson’s mansions, offering a spectacular view of rugged seascapes, towering storm waves, and migrating whales (from December through June).
A community tradition was born in 1987 when the Friends of Shore Acres decided to “string a few lights” to help celebrate the holidays. That first season, 6,000 miniature lights, one Christmas tree and the decorated Garden House drew 9,000 visitors.
Now, more than a quarter-million lights — both holiday and landscaping — numerous Christmas trees, lighted sculptures, entertainment in the pavilion, and a beautifully decorated Garden House draw 40,000 to 50,000 visitors each year from Thanksgiving through New Year’s Eve.
Visitors to Coos Bay can’t help but notice the myrtlewood trees, which grow only in this small area along the Oregon coast. The Myrtlewood Gallery offers souvenirs such as bowls and goblets made out of the wood, as well as glimpses of artisans at work as they mold the items on lathes.
Cozy accommodations are available at the Olde Tower House Bed & Breakfast, built in 1872 and now fully restored and furnished with antiques. The B&B serves a full breakfast daily on its veranda or in the formal dining room with a view of the bay.
Dinner destinations include Fishermans Grotto for never-greasy fish-n-chips and delicious clam chowder, and the Blue Heron Bistro, which offers an eclectic menu of local seafood dishes and classic German cuisine.
Most of the wineries around Coos Bay specialize in fruit wines, with selections including both sweet and dry blackberry, strawberry-rhubarb, huckleberry, sparkling cranberry and more. They’re open limited hours or by appointment only, so be sure to call ahead when planning a visit to the area.
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION…
Flying Dutchman Winery
Old Bridge Winery
Old Coyote Winery
Hawks View Winery & Wild Goose Vineyards
Sea Mist Winery