Part 2: Kayaking Paired with Fine Wine and Fine Lodging (read Part 1 here)
Kayaking, SUP, & More Water Sports
Come springtime, everyone is ready to turn in the snow skiing gear they enjoyed on Mt. Hood and shift their focus to the Gorge. After all, this area is known as one of the better windsurfing locations in the USA. Of course, there are many ways to enjoy the wind and the water: windsurfing, kiteboarding, wind foiling, and others. We had our trusty inflatable kayak to enjoy and noticed many other kayaks and standup paddleboards on the water.
Our first kayak outing was a guided Sunset Tour with Gorge Paddling Center. We started on the Wind River and paddled in the gentle current through beautiful forest land. After paddling for a while, we took a break on the beach. A few folks went swimming, and we walked along the riverbank and saw some deer coming around to check us out. Back in the boats, we paddled out into the Columbia River to watch the sunset. A fun evening for kayakers of all levels (even beginners), and the guides provide all the gear.
After kayaking, we headed to town and checked into the Hood River Hotel. This hotel is on the National Register of Historic Places. Our room was picturesque and cozy, with historical artifacts as decorations. The location is excellent - you can walk to many restaurants, shopping, wine-tasting rooms, and more. Also, it is a short walk to the waterfront.
The next day we went to the Hood River waterfront and launched our kayak at Nichols Boat Basin. We paddled a short mile along the protected shoreline to The Hook and just beyond to Wells Island. If you go on a self-guided kayak on the Columbia, you should have experience, accurate weather reports, and the correct gear. (Click here for some helpful links.) If you don’t have your own boat and equipment, Gorge Paddling Center provides rentals at Nichols Boat Basin, which are also available at The Hook.
The next day we drove 45 minutes toward Mt. Hood and went kayaking on Lost Lake. This small scenic lake offers stunning views of Mt. Hood and great fishing. I think it must have recently been stocked with some very hungry fish – they were jumping everywhere! Kayaks and SUPs are available to rent at the Lost Lake Resort. Starting in June, the lake warms up, so if you go in May, make sure you have warm gear.
Wine - Columbia Gorge AVA
The wines and the weather patterns in the Columbia Gorge AVA vary greatly. You will find it cooler and wetter in the western areas compared to the eastern parts. The western region can get 36 inches of rain annually; in the eastern region, they get just 10 inches. This is just one example of a wide range of differences. This large AVA (American Vinicultural Area) covers two counties in Washington and two in Oregon. We will explore this in more detail in a future article.
The next day we had an appointment with Peter Cushman, a third-generation winemaker. Peter’s grandfather, Bob McRitchie, was the first generation who honed his winemaking skills in the Willamette Valley of Oregon.
Peter’s winemaker skills blossomed under the guidance of his dad Rich, who has over 25 years of experience. Rich was raised in the small town of Hood River and obtained his education at the UC Davis, California, winemaking program. Rich went to Germany on a one-year apprenticeship program to further his craft. That is when he developed his love for Riesling. Rich returned to the Willamette Valley and worked with Dick Erath, who became an icon in the area. Today Peter and Rich are winemakers for several wineries in the Gorge, and both produce their own wine as well.
We sampled many of Peter’s wines, and our favorite is their cabernet sauvignon from the Walla Walla vineyard. Full of body – it screams to be paired with a steak. This is one of the differences between Peter and his dad; Peter likes the bolder reds, and his dad prefers making much softer reds and Riesling.
Drive 15 minutes from the town of Hood River, and you will find yourself on a high ridge overlooking Mt Hood and beautiful farm country. Trust me; you will want to stay for a while. Sakura is Japan’s national flower, representing a time of renewal. You will feel refreshed and renewed after your stay.
We were greeted with complimentary cider tastings from Nashi Orchards upon our arrival. The owners of the Lodge also own orchards in Vashon, Washington.
Sitting on the porch and enjoying some snacks, we sampled three tastings. We decided our favorite was Airlies Redflesh Single Varietal Cider grown in King’s Valley, Oregon (southeast of Salem.) The Airlie Redflesh apple, also known as the Mountain Rose, has a yellow-green skin and beautiful rose-colored flesh. The cider has a light sugar finish with a very refreshing acidity. We also enjoyed the Sakura Ridge Pippin Cider, which uses 100% estate apples. That is one reason the owners purchased this property - to expand their cider production into Oregon.
The following day, we woke up to an amazing sunrise and a view of Mt. Hood and the moon. Then the sheep strolled by our window. I could have stayed in our spacious room all day, but we had a farm egg omelet for breakfast and other fresh garden delights waiting for us. We started with the upside-down rhubarb coffee cake, which was light and delicious with rhubarb fresh from the garden. Along with the tender, flavorful asparagus in the omelet, most of the delightful foods featured in the multi-course breakfast were sourced on the farm.
Our stay at Sakura Ridge Farm & Lodge was far too short, and we know that when we return to Hood River, this will be at the top of our list of places to stay.
Editorial disclosure: food, beverages, and lodging were generously provided.