Off We Drove to Forest Grove

A few weeks back we hit the road to find ourselves some autumn fun in the Pacific Northwest. With the help of our friends, we found it in Forest Grove, Oregon, less than an hour from Portland.

Between huge flocks of birds, a sake tour, wine tasting and a fine mist hanging o’er the hills, I’m sure as heck glad we got off the couch and headed west.

By “west,” I specifically mean west of Portland, where we were visiting our friends Jessica and Chris. Generally speaking, take 26W/NW Sunset Highway out of the city and get off at Exit 59 for Jackson School Road. All told, getting to Forest Grove should take about 35-40 minutes.

Hungry? Well, along the way, we stopped off at the delightfully old-school and clapboard South Store Cafe in nearby Scholls for beautiful cappuccinos, lattes and hearty breakfast sang-wiches. I’d highly recommend the place to get yourselves in a snug, small-town, leaf-peeping frame of mind.

But right in Forest Grove proper, you could also check out the ornate Ironwork Grill at McMenamin’s Grand Lodge, one of a local chain of über-cool (and undoubtedly quirky) hotel/restaurant/pub/movie theater compounds set in lovingly-restored Portland-area landmark buildings. 

We loved our visit to the Fernhill Wetland, which offered a lovely little stroll around a marsh-ful of five gabillion ducks and geese, a couple of herons and a stoic white pelican who looked almost entirely out of place. We saw fiddlehead ferns drying on the stalk, berries dripping dew, and a fleece-clad couple on the prowl with high-tech birding binoculars. We saw a fuzzy brown caterpillar that I refused to hold in my hand for longer than a second, seeing as it was that creepy kind of fuzzy. We also saw more shorebirds than we’ve ever seen in one pond at one time just burst upward in furious formation, only to land a minute later in the center of a wheaty field as though nothing happened.

Absolutely amazing.



Post-wetland, we wafted about the might-be-Europe-if-you-squint grounds of Montinore Vineyards, where autumn was on full display. While we’re already fans of Willamette Valley wines, this was our first trip to the Washington County wine country; Montinore’s warm, glowy tasting room is big enough to serve a crowd, though, so clearly this region has been discovered. After tasting our way through a Pinot gris and a variety of elegant Pinot noirs, we bought the spicy, fruity ’07 Forest Grove Cellars Merlot ($21) and their not-too-sweet Ruby Pinot Noir Port ($25) to share with our friends. 

We then switched to sake. SakeOne is one of the few sake breweries in the U.S., and was established in Forest Grove by its Japanese parent company in order to take advantage of the area’s high-quality water. I highly recommend taking a complimentary tour here: between the murals of pants-less men, the smoothness of perfectly hulled rice and its sweet fragrance when fermenting, this is a rare experience full of humor, sanitary booties and shiny contraptions.

After our tour, we bellied up to the bar for a Saké Shock, a gorgeous little food-and-sake pairing which matches different types of the brew with spicy chili garlic peas, smoked tuna, goat cheese and more. You can take your rose-colored glasses — I’d rather see the world through pink and sparkling plum sake. (free tours are given seven days a week at either 1, 2 or 3pm; Saké Shock tastings are $10 per person)

Our entire outing took about 7 hours and was one of the best days we’d all had in a long time. Getting out into a little autumn can do wonders for the cobwebs in your head, so give it some thought:

Where do you two want to go to experience a taste of autumn?


See also

Portland, Oregon: A (Real Live) Weekend Away


  1. This reminds me – we’ve still got that bottle of Montinore Ruby, waiting for your next visit. 🙂 (Or shall I ship it south?)

  2. M, what gorgeous photos! Looks magical. D

  3. Jess — please keep it for yourselves! (We can always go back together. 🙂 )

    Dini, thank you! It was a most splendid day away.

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