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The AC Hotel Portland Downtown was our home base at the end of our West Coast Road Trip. We chose this hotel for two reasons 1) The price was right and 2) My recent stay ended up being pretty nice. Our favorite hotel in Portland, the Nines, was going for over $650 per night, which is a price I’d never pay for a hotel room.
We arrived late in the afternoon and found a long line at check-in. Evidently 16h00 is rush hour at this property. Surprisingly, we were moved quickly to the front of the check-in line. Several of the people attempting to check-in didn’t have their identification nor did they have their credit cards – their personal documents were in their bags still on their tour bus. Lucky for us!
I don’t get why the folks working reception have to ask if this is our first visit at the hotel. It is clear in their system that it isn’t. When I say I’ve stayed here before, the guy helping me checks his computer screen and sees that I had been their just two two weeks prior. After thanking me for my loyalty he begins the standard soliloquy of the hotel amenities and details. I was just here two weeks ago, give me my keys and let me go to my room.
We had a more relaxing visit this time – not feeling rushed or obligated to do a lot in Portland, which allowed us to spend more time relaxing in the hotel. The room is quite comfortable for both work and relaxation.
There was one thing off about these rooms, which I touched on briefly last time. There is only one single piece of art in the entire room. Now usually hotel art is pretty abysmal and I’d rather just see a blank wall than some poor quality, high production prints, but the AC Marriott Portland Downtown was different. I was digging the art – but the large blank walls seemed like the hotel wasn’t quite finished.
I wouldn’t hesitate returning to the AC Hotel Downtown Portland again. It is centrally located, new, clean and nicely designed. The staff is quite nice – a little too thorough sometimes though.
Where do you stay when visiting Portland? Are you as surprised as I am about hotel prices in Portland?
We needed a place to stay on the way to Portland, after the final day of hiking the Redwood National and State Park. We had to be in Portland on Friday afternoon and didn’t want to spend a whole day driving up from California. Grants Pass, Oregon, just across the California border made a logical stop for us. We ultimately selected the Weasku Inn and Resort after researching on TripAdvisor and Booking.com.
This independent property was located right on the Rogue River, just a couple miles from the center of town. The Weasku Inn and Resort resort consists of many cabins clustered around the grounds. Parking is located on the upper edge of the property near the main road and lodge.
Our cabin was located just a couple dozen meters from the parking lot, but far enough away not to hear the traffic. We were pleasantly surprised by the sheer size of our cabin. It was a large studio apartment with a combined living/dining area, with the sleeping area towards the back. The bathroom was located opposite of the bedroom wall.
The ample seating area flanked a gas burning fire place. We lounged on the couch, sans fire as it was a hot summer Oregon night. The room had a TV, but we didn’t even turn it on.
The bed was large and very comfortable, but there weren’t any power outlets nearby. One of my biggest hotel pet peeves is the lack of outlets. We live in a connected connected world and you’ve got to put at least a single outlet on each side of the bed. Many people use their phones as an alarm clock now, c’mon!
The bathroom was also surprisingly large, with a separate tub and shower area plus a double vanity. The bathroom was like a galley kitchen – it had everything you needed, but the layout wasn’t stellar. Most importantly the water pressure was great and we never ran out of hot water. The whole property was very clean, despite the rustic vibe.
After dinner at the River’s Edge Restaurant we returned to the hotel and decided to sit on the back deck and enjoy the beautiful property and a few glasses of wine. Our cabin had a private balcony, but we wanted to be closer to the main lodge, so we sat on the common deck for a few hours. We read, snacked and finished our Oregon wine. We only left because the mosquitoes started ravaging my legs. Mosquitoes usually aren’t interested in me, but there is something about Tim that the Southern Oregon bastards just love. I was their summer feast.
There were a few families enjoying the property as well – some of whom were staying for a few days. I was envious of them – stopping the commotion, dropping anchor in this quiet, picturesque locale sounded perfect. A gas fire pit was available too and if you were into it, you could grab some complimentary s’mores kits and make yourself a little treat. The young families were having a blast making this campfire tradition.
We headed over to breakfast the next morning and you all know I’m not a breakfast guy, but even I was disappointed. Breads and cereals were available or you could order an egg dish if you wanted, but no one was around to take that order. I had a conference call for work (yes, while on my vacation), so I scurried back to the room, where the dining table and the desk made for the perfect place to camp out and finish stuff from the real world.
I was really surprised and pleased with this hotel. With a less than $200USD price point, you got an amazing value. The staff at the Weasku was welcoming (except for the breakfast crew who were hard to find), the rooms were large yet cozy and the locale was bucolic. I’d return in a minute.
When you are looking for a quick place to stay, en route somewhere, do you look for quaint little places like the Weasku Inn and Resort, which may be a bit more expensive than others? Or do you realize you’ll only be spending a couple hours in the room, so you save some money and grab a more utilitarian place?
After an amazing first full day at IPNC, Group A, of which we were a part, remained on campus. The breakfast on days one and two are pretty much identical – amazingly fresh berries and stone fruit (if you haven’t been to Oregon in berry season, you are missing out on one of life’s amazing pleasures), fresh buttery pastries, bacon or sausage, some yogurt, juice and coffee. Nothing terribly fancy, but delicious and nothing too wild that will destroy your palate before the tastings.
The main event is the Grand Seminar, where everyone who was off campus the day before goes to Linfield’s gym for a tasting seminar. This year’s seminar was Two Vineyards | Six Hands, which was an in-depth exploration of six wines from two vineyards. These wines were made especially for IPNC. We actually skipped this session. We decided to head off campus and grab breakfast with some local friends. We’ve had mixed results with the Grand Seminar – sometimes they are really great and other times they can drag on for way too long. Everyone we talked to said we missed out on a really great seminar this year.
After the Grand Seminar was the Lunch on the Lawn. This al fresco dining experience, like the Grand Dinner the night before it is a plated and served lunch where each table has a winemaker sharing a selection of wines they brought and the somms providing larger tastings (half glasses) of other wines from the library. We sat with one person we had met before at another IPNC and everyone else was new to us. Our winery partner was Sokol-Blosser – where we had an off-campus experience a few years ago. Our entire table was such fun and Robin Hawley the Associate Winemaker was a generous host as well. She was inquisitive and engaging – a real delight to sit with. We also had a couple of first-timers at our table, so it was great to get their impressions and to offer sage advice.
Following lunch we had our University of Pinot class, which centered on Austrian Pinot Noirs. There were about a dozen different 90 minute courses you could take – and we actively selected into this course as we do visit Vienna from time to time. The class had three Austrian winemakers showcasing the geography, the diversity and the uniqueness of their wines. These wines definitely had a lighter, crisper feel than a traditional Oregon Pinot Noir, but this is really one of the main points. It is the INTERNATIONAL Pinot Noir Celebration, not the Oregon PNC. The winemakers were insightful and made me want to hope on a plane and pay them a visit. The worst part, this class lasted 25 minutes longer than scheduled, which cut into the Afternoon Activities. We could have left, but we sat in such a place that we couldn’t actually leave without being very disruptive. Next time, plan better!
Saturday’s Afternoon Activities were focusing on Rosés and Jamón. I will still pretty full from lunch, but I’ve always got room for proper Ibérico Ham, which was served with heirloom tomatoes, burrata cheese and the most wonderful sardines I’ve ever eaten. The line was long for Jamón, but we had a rosé to keep us company. I will admit, I was in the Jamón line twice – the second time we spent more time chatting with one of the Austrian winemakers too. We’ll be visiting him on our next trip to Austria.
Like the first day, there is an al fresco tasting before dinner. Tables with dozens of wineries pouring a curated selection of wines sit underneath old oak trees. You get direct access to the winemakers and owners of these great wineries. Plus, this is a great time to mingle and chat with the new friends you met earlier in the weekend.
The final dinner is the famous Salmon Bake. This buffet dinner is the only part of the weekend that is open to non-attendees of IPNC. Separate tickets can be purchased ($225 per ticket) from the IPNC website. Like all meals, there is no assigned seating, it is first-come-first-served seating. There are two strategies for the Salmon bake 1) Hurry and select a table for you and your friends or 2) Head straight into the buffet line, then once you have a full plate, strikeout to find a seat.
The star of this dinner is the salmon, which is roasted over an open flame in the style that indigenous people of the pacific northwest would cook it. In addition to the salmon, there is beef and pork, plus tons of salads and sides – all made with fresh, local ingredients by excellent regional chefs.
Like the lunches and previous dinner, the somms are assigned to certain tables and they keep your glasses full. They are always rotating different wines including, chardonnays, rieslings and of course pinot noir. There is a ton of food at the buffets, so multiple trips are required. The separate dessert stations open up about an hour after the main meal is served – dozens of small dessert pastries and even full slices of pie.
The casual dinner allows for easy walking and chatting with new friends. People also bring their own bottles to share with friends old and new. We find our selves walking around the tables, exploring new wines and continuing to meet new people.
At the end of the night, we always grab a few friends and a couple chairs and sit by the remains of the Salmon Bake Fire. We have so much fun at this part of the night, it is a sad time as the great weekend is coming to a close.
The International Pinot Noir celebration is the last weekend of July each year. For the past 32 years pinot lovers from all over the world have descended on McMinnville Oregon, 40 miles south of Portland to eat, drink and celebrate the wonderful Pinot Noir grape.
We have attended this event for nearly a decade now and really look forward to it each year. This year we were in Group A, which means our first day was off campus. After breakfast, we hopped on waiting motor coaches which schlepped our group to the beautiful Archery Summit Winery. The 20 minute drive through the picturesque Willamette Valley and up winding roads would usually be filled with deep anticipation. “Where are we going?”, “What will the tasting focus on?” – these questions and the speculative answers would fill the bus. This time, not so much, our host spilled the beans on our destination before we even left Linfield. Not really a big deal, and he felt awful about it, but I do prefer the surprise and the fun of guessing.
Once we arrived we were greeted by the new winemaker Ian Burch and vineyard manager Tim Scott. While we got acquainted with the vineyard, the winery and their process, we enjoyed a lovely 2016 Eola-Amity Hills Chardonnay.
We moved inside for the main tasting. This blind tasting pitted three Oregon Pinots against a Californian and one from Burgundy. We smelled, tasted and talked about each of the wines and the specific winemaking process, then we had to pair up the wines with each of the wineries. I got three of five correct.
Next we moved outside again, this time for lunch. I strategically took a seat between two reserved (for winemakers) seats and was fortunate enough to sit next to Ian. We enjoyed a lovely lunch prepared by Sybaris Bistro from Albany Oregon.
There were too many people for us all to go on a tour of the wine caves, but Ian asked one of his colleagues to take just us down for a quick tour. It was quick, but quite lovely. We got back with just enough time to order a mixed case and hop on the bus. We kept it a secret that we’d been given a private tour.
Once back on campus we head over to the for the Afternoon Activities, which included some sparkling tastings and lawn games. The tasting continued with the first al fresco tasting, where two dozen wineries pour one of their selections. You get some great time with the winemakers or their representatives while continuing to enjoy a beautiful Oregon summer.
Finally, the first day closed out with the Grand Dinner. This casual dinner is a plated affair. Each table has a winemaker pouring some of their own wines, while the wandering somms (who are paired with just two tables to ensure proper coverage) continue to pour various selections. Your glasses are never dry. The meal is prepared by several chefs from the area. It was delectable.
We were fortunate enough to snag a seat with our friends Scott and Lisa from Coeur de Terre. We always drink great wine and laugh a little too much with them. We met them at IPNC a few years earlier and have always enjoyed reconnecting with them upon our return. That’s the beauty of IPNC, it is full of approachable people, who love wine. Be they on the production or consumption side – in general you are getting to know genuine people without the snobbiness of other wine and food events.
Day one comes to a close. A really great day and a perfect first half of IPNC. Must rest up, this all starts again tomorrow at 07h30!
The last weekend of July each year brings together a wondeful group of winos 40 miles south of Portland Oregon. The International Pinot Noir Celebration is one of my favorite weekends of the year. Wine growers, makers, distributors and most importantly, consumers gather in Mcminnville, Oregon for two-and-a-half days of sheer Pinot bliss.
The festivities are held on the campus of Linfield College, my alma mater, and at various vineyards in the surrounding countryside. The Willamette Valley is home to some truly amazing Pinot Noirs. The volcanic soil brings a certain delightful minerality to the wines. The topography and climate push the Pinot grapes to be their best. The rainy springs and hot dry, summers (with a beautiful coastal breeze that cools down the valley late in the afternoon) make for, what I think, is the perfect wine.
Traditional Oregon Pinot Noirs are (like their cousins from around the world), light bodied and pair well with pork, salmon and duck (remember French Burgundy is a Pinot Noir). They also have an Earthy element. Some would say (yes, I am one) that Oregon Pinots taste like dirt. Delectable dirt.
IPNC includes tasting seminars, vineyard tours, amazing meals and al fresco wine tastings, all culminating in the final dinner, the Salmon Bake. Large slabs of salmon are roasted over hot coals. This buffet dinner has so many great options you must take multiple trips to the buffet line.
Not all meals are buffet though, breakfast is, but the other dinner and the lunches are proper plated affairs. Still casual in nature, but with white table clothes, excellent food and of course fabulous wines. Every event is casual. Shorts, sandals and polos are the standard attire for men. Even the Grand dinner on Friday night is still casual – you may opt to put on long pants because it does get chilly in the valley at night.
I love Oregon summers. The heat and sun of the day re-energize me. The camaraderie of the attendees is intoxicating. This isn’t a snobby event. People are here to talk about wine, learn about wine and share. At the Salmon Bake guests are encouraged to bring their favorite bottles. People do this and share. They aren’t showing off, they want to expose you to their favorite wine. They want to discuss the wine with you. It is a totally refreshing experience. It is Oregon.
Put this wonderful wine event on your calendar and join us at Linfield College the last weekend of July in 2019.