The Path To Hood River And The Columbia Gorge

Hood River - Mt Hood ©Visit Hood River

Heading east from Portland, one travels along the lush green treelined landscape of the Columbia Gorge. The beauty that engulfs is filled with waterfalls and Mount Hood looming in the background. This journey takes you to the Hood River, a city that abounds with days of yore. Nestled along the Columbia River in the heart of the Columbia Gorge, Hood River lies at the confluence of the Hood River and the Columbia River.

Although Hood River is an hour from Portland, you know you are off the beaten path when you set foot in the town. The atmosphere completely differs from downtown Portland, its suburbs, and the towns just south. You find yourself in a laid-back environment filled with old-town charm.

Beyond the town, you will find the Hood River Valley, known for its apple, pear, and cherry orchards. Today, Hood River County is the leader in producing Anjou pears. It is also home to one of Oregon’s lesser-known and smaller AVAs. The area has about forty vineyards, which grow a variety of grapes, including Syrah, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Gewürztraminer, Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Gris, Riesling, and Sangiovese.

History of Hood River

Originally named Dog River, Mary Coe, a pioneer resident of the valley, opposed the name and was instrumental in changing it to Hood River. Maps show that the name Hood River appeared on maps by 1856. Mary and her husband Nathaniel were the original owners of a 319-acre land grant. They were the first to plant fruit trees in the Hood River Valley.

Apple orchards flourished in the area from 1890 to 1920. In 1919, an intense freeze damaged many of the orchards. The apple trees were replaced with pear trees, and today, Hood River County is the leader in producing Anjou pears.

Hood River Mural
Hood River Mural

Visiting Hood River

Hood River is a walking town, so to get into its groove, you need to stroll its streets, glimpse its art galleries, enjoy its local dining, and pop into a tasting room on Oak St. Many of the area’s wineries require taking your car.

A Vineyard Dinner

Chef Mark Deresta of Riverside at the Hood River Inn created a dinner at Analemma Wines. This dining experience was a special treat, unique and off the beaten path. It was a memorable moment for my visit, testing the waters for future winery dinners.

I first discovered Analemma Wines during a Zoom tasting showcasing Oregon’s wine regions. Located in Mosier Hills, winery owner Kris Fade utilizes biodynamic practices to produce wines that reflect a sense of place. At that time, I was so impressed with the 2018 Analema Mosier Hills Grenache.

As we walked the vineyard at dusk and settled into a farm-to-table dinner paired with Analemma wines, I knew my journey to Hood River was special. My favorite course, the scallops, paired with Mencia, an intriguingly rustic-styled wine rarely produced in the United States. For dessert, Chef Deresta tried his hand at a Coconut Panna Cotta with Peach Compote to accommodate my dietary restrictions. Yummy, but pairing with the lesser-known Petit Manseng from Mosier Hills completed the evening. This meal makes me want to return, explore Analemma Wines, and dine at Riverside.

Analemma Wine Dinner -Mosier Heirloom Tomato Gazpacho with Mosier Hills Blanco © Kristin Fade Analemma Wine
Analemma Wine Dinner -Mosier Heirloom Tomato Gazpacho with Mosier Hills Blanco. Photo Courtesy Kristin Fade Analemma Wine

Farmer’s Market

You get to know an area by visiting the local farmer’s market. What are the locals shopping for, and what types of purveyors attend these markets? Hood River is no different. It is the place to discover gorge-grown products.

Breakfast at Broder Ost Dinner at 3 Rivers Grill

When visiting Hood River, one must have breakfast at Broder Ost. With a Scandinavian flair, eggs will never taste better. From egg skillets to Danish Pancakes, start your day in style. I promise you will not leave hungry. All ingredients are sourced locally.

Broder Ost Breakfast Hood River © Cori Solomon
Broder Ost Breakfast in Hood River

Dinner At 3 Rivers Grill

Dine at 3 Rivers Grill, a family-owned restaurant by Jim and Courtenay Dey, serves American cuisine in a charming, homey atmosphere offering a relaxed dining experience with river views.

The Art Scene

There are many art galleries and studios in Hood River. One, in particular, is the Columbia Center for the Arts. It features local artists and is home to one of the local theaters for the performing arts.

Hood River Artwork © Cori Solomon
Hood River Artwork

The Pines 1852

Lonnie Wright is one of the area’s pioneers and, for that matter, the Columbia River Valley. He settled in the area in 1972 and established his vineyard management company, Columbia Country Vineyard, in 1983. Lonnie has since supervised the management of 650 acres in the area in addition to his vineyard. After growing grapes at his Pines Winery and Vineyard, Lonnie decided in 2000 to make wine with his vineyard grapes.

The Pine 1852 Owner Lonnie Wright
The Pine 1852 Owner Lonnie Wright

The name Pines 1852 is dedicated to the year when the property he owns in the Dalles was carved out of the Oregon Territory. Between 1890 and 1900, Zinfandel was planted by an Italian stonemason, Louis Comini, who created headstones for Rev. Toussaint Mesplie. It was Toussaint’s brother Theodore who staked a claim to the land in 1852. When Lonnie purchased the property, it was an old dairy farm surrounded by Ponderosa.

Today besides the old vine Zinfandel, Lonnie cultivates Syrah, Merlot, and another block of Zinfandel. Lonnie’s flagship wine is his Old Vine Zinfandel. All his wines are available at his tasting room on Oak Street in Hood River.

Favorite Wines: Brut Rosé of Pinot Noir created in the methode champenoise. The wine delivers strawberry flavors. Old Vine Zinfandel exhibits a nice balance with smooth, velvety textures. Heritage Zine is a vibrant Zin. 

The Pines 1852 Wine
The Pines 1852 Wine

Wy’East Vineyards

Wy’East in Native American means Mt. Hood, whose presence is very apparent, making the name is apropos. In 1992 Dick and Christie Reed decided they needed a change from their hectic lifestyle of Chicago. They moved to Hood River because they loved wine, skiing, and windsurfing. All three are popular in Hood River.

Moving to Hood River, the Reeds purchased Blue Chip Farm and Vineyard and named it after their first horse. The old fruit stand became the tasting room, and the old barn and stable became the winery. The property is filled with pear orchards. In the mid-1990s, they purchased the Wy-East Vineyard. This vineyard, planted in the 1980s, is one of the highest-elevation vineyards in Oregon.

Wy'East Vineyards View
Wy’East Vineyards view.

The Reed’s cultivate Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, and Pinot Noir. They source fruit from the Columbia Valley for their Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel, and Carmenere. Wy’East’s flagship wine is the Pinot Noir. My favorites were the Pinot Gris and the Carmenere.

While visiting Wy’East, make sure to try a Farmer Board from Wheels. The board is an art piece and showcases local artisan cheeses and meats.

Farmer Board at Wy'East
Farmer Board at Wy’East

Mt Hood Winery

The Bickfords are another old-time family in the area. Now in their 6th generation since 1909, they produce the Mt Hood Winery wines and are one of the larger pear growers in the area. They planted grapes in 2000, and their first vintage was in 2003. Don’t miss the White Pinot Noir.

Mt Hood Winery
Mt Hood Winery

Hood River Hotel

Constructed in 1911 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places, take a step back in time while staying at the Hood River Hotel. The hotel is ideally located downtown.

Hood River Hotel
Hood River Hotel

For some, Hood River may be off the beaten path; for others, it represents one of Oregon’s smaller AVAs promoting varietal diversity. Hood River is an excellent place for wine lovers to discover another side of Oregon wine as the area continues to define itself as a world-class producer of fine wine.

Note: Common to the travel industry, this writer received hosted visits to many of the activities and meals in Hood River. While it has not influenced this review, the writer believes in full disclosure.