This past Saturday I joined 25 nice folks for a ride through one of the Willamette Valley’s many wine-producing regions. The ride was organized by Juli and I, along with another couple, as a way to raise money for our kids’ schools. We both listed a fully supported wine-tasting ride as an item at our school auctions and then donated the entry fees.
Besides helping out two great schools (go Trillium and Emerson!), the ride was a perfect excuse to hang out with friends while pedaling through gorgeous country roads and sampling tasty local wines.
We began in Carlton, OR, about 36 miles southwest of downtown Portland (about an hour drive). After a picnic and our first tasting at Anne Amie Vineyards, we headed north on our loop (expertly planned by our experienced, wine-riding friends Joe and Hau Hagedorn) up to Solena and Grand Cru Estates. The route took us on a gravel road that connects NE Carlton-Chehalem Creek Road to Yamhill-Newberg Highway.
After Solena, most of the riders opted for the “Challenge Loop” option which took us up a nice climb — and then down a thrilling descent — through idyllic country landscapes on NE Woodland Loop Road.
Our stop at Lenné Estate was a highlight. After a steep gravel driveway, we were treated to a view of small farms and rows of grapevines dotting rolling hills in every direction.
A bit more pedaling and we arrived back in Carlton at our final stop, Cana’s Feast Winery. We then rode through the quaint town of Carlton and back to Anne Amie Vineyards — with a serious hill to cap off a great day in the saddle.
I’d highly recommend grabbing a map and plotting out a wine-tasting bike tour of your own. Grab a few friends and make it a group ride. You can check out our route via Google Maps here. This is the type of bicycling that I think could really help spur bicycle tourism. The roads themselves are attraction enough for enthusiastic riders; but then throw in picnics and great wineries (we could have chosen four different wineries on the same route), and just about anyone that has a bike would enjoy it.
On a related note, it looks like there’s a very exciting opportunity for a new rail-trail in this same area. A recent story in the Yamhill Valley News-Register (April 25th) details an abandoned Union Pacific rail line that stretches from St. Joseph (northeast of McMinnville) about 20 miles north all the way to Gaston. The right of way is being offered at a very reasonable $2.4 million — that’s down from $9 million the last time the idea was broached. A wine maker in Carlton is already backing a plan to make the trail happen. We’ll keep you posted on any developments!