“Our Grand Meander” Willamette Valley – Cooper Mountain Vineyards & Nick’s Italian Cafe

We’re off on our circuitous route out to Whitman College’s parent’s weekend October 19-21.  We may be the only parents who take ten days to get to parents weekend!  Of course, we want to meander through wine country, stopping in the Willamette Valley and Hood River on our way out to Walla Walla.  We’ll be visiting some favorite wineries, trying some new ones and meeting friends along our route.

After arriving in Portland, we scheduled a stop at Cooper Mountain Vineyards which is in the northern part of the Willamette Valley.  As you can see from the photo below, Portland suburbs have gradually grown around the home vineyard and winery.  Convenient if you are in Portland!

The fall rains have started in Oregon

Their website sums it up pretty well: Cooper Mountain Vineyards are “committed to sustainability: organic and biodynamic farming and winemaking and dry farming.”  While some of the precepts of biodynamic farming raise skeptic’s eyebrows, an approach that cares for the health of the vineyard soils, plants, and other occupants is hard to complain about.  The had a display of the biodynamic preparations (see below).  Who would think horn manure is something you’d add to your soil?  Yet the proof is in the wine!

Cooper Mountain Vineyards are managed using biodynamics

We arrived in Portland to a steady rain, and it continued all afternoon and evening.  Even in the mist and rain, it was a beautiful place.  Harvest had happened a few days before we arrived.

A few leftover grapes still hang on the vines, now covered with rain

Our host, Annemarie, took lots of time to explain their approach and each of the wines we tasted.  We had a fun conversation with her and with Jodee & John, another couple from Olympia WA, who were out for an afternoon of tasting.  We enjoyed all the wines and decided to take a bottle of their Tocai Friulano and a couple bottles of their “Life” Pinot Noir, their organic with no added sulfites.

Cooper Mountain’s “Life” Pinot Noir – no added sulfites.

Cooper Mountain Vineyards was a great way to kick off our trip!

Dinner in McMinnville

Friday evening was really fun.  Julie and I referred to it as our “blind date.”  Minneapolis friends Nancy & John had connected us with good friends of theirs who live near Portland and love wine.  We arranged to meet them for dinner on Friday evening in McMinnville.  They suggested Nick’s Italian Cafe, which was new for us.  With a common interest in wine and food, we had a wonderful evening with Barbara and Bill.

An unassuming entrance reveals a welcoming, cozy restaurant

Nick’s is cozy and casual, but elegant

Fun conversation with over dinner and wine.

The meal started with a surprise:  Bill had brought a Soter Vineyards Pinot Noir and shared their story of connecting with this hilltop vineyard.   We followed that with a Winderlea Pinot Noir from their extensive winelist.  The meal started with fresh mussels from Penn Cove, and entrees of their signature crab lasagna, steak, and lamb.  Everything was locally sourced and prepared beautifully.  What an evening – new friends and new wineries to visit on our next trip!

2 Responses to ““Our Grand Meander” Willamette Valley – Cooper Mountain Vineyards & Nick’s Italian Cafe”
  1. Bill says:

    Jeff – we enjoyed the evening with you and Julie. Look forward to your return to Portland to explore wine country with you both. Bill,

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