THE U.S. ISSUE: HEADS UP
A version of this article appeared in print on May 15, 2011, on page TR4 of the New York edition with the headline: Vines and Valleys in Oregon in the New York Times.
By JENNIFER MARGULIS
Published: May 13, 2011
“Our hiking customer is very sophisticated,” said Brad Niva, the owner of Rogue Wilderness Adventures. “Wine is a product that’s as close to the dirt as you can get. But this is the good life, no doubt about it.”
The good life, in this case, refers to hikes organized by Mr. Niva’s guides, which combine serious hiking with equally serious wine tasting.
On trips organized by his outfit (800-336-1647; wildrogue.com), nature lovers spend four days hiking 10 miles a day on a pack mule trail forged by miners over 100 years ago along the Rogue River in southern Oregon, sleeping in lodges accessible only by foot or by boat. There are nightly wine tastings and oenology talks by a winemaker, as well as fresh-caught Chinook salmon for lunch. A raft carrying equipment and a guide is available to anyone who wants a glimpse of the river’s beavers, otters and black bears. The next trip, starting Sept. 15, costs $1,150, which includes food, lodging and transportation.
Looking for a more immersive wine experience? In mid-July, Oregon’s first hiking trail through wine country will open in the southern Willamette Valley. This nine-mile trail was put together by Byron Williams, the owner of Grand Cru Wine Tours (877-987-4668;grandcruwinetours.com). The hike winds through an oak savanna, over rolling hills and onto a portion of the Baskett Slough National Wildlife Refuge, home to elk, bald eagles, Canada geese and what is said to be the world’s largest population of Fender’s blue butterflies.
Along the way hikers will be able to sample wines at their source. The trail travels over part of the 306-acre property of Left Coast Cellars, where there will be a stop for tastes of pinot noir and lunch, culled from the vineyard’s garden, then continues to Van Duzer, where the winemaker Jerry Murray is known for his rosés. The trail ends at Firesteed, where Mr. Williams recommends the 2008 riesling, rich in melon tones. A guided trip, including three to four hours of hiking, lunch and tastings at four wineries (bottles bought along the way can be picked up at the end of the day or shipped home) is $125. (Because there is private land between the wineries, only the four-mile trail that starts at Left Coast Cellars will be open to the public without a guide.)
On July 5, Wanderlust Tours (541-389-8359; wanderlusttours.com) will offer a four-hour trip along the Metolius River in Central Oregon ($55), where 150-foot ponderosa pines tower above bright yellow monkey flowers. The frigid water of the Metolius is so clear and pure that it is potable. But hikers may instead want to quench their thirst with local wines: guides will carry two whites and two reds from local vineyards like King Estate Winery andSokol Blosser, in bottles wrapped in newspaper loaded into chilled backpacks.
“It’s cool to bounce back and forth between talking about the type of wine you’re drinking — the style, the mouth feel — and then about the natural history of the area and how it was first settled,” said Andy Reddick, of Eugene, Ore., who went on a Wanderlust wine hike along the McKenzie River last year (and admits to a preference for beer). “This was a nice way to introduce myself to wine tasting, and learn the kinds of things I like.”