West on Highway 290, It’s Where the Wine Is

West on Highway 290, It’s Where the Wine Is

Texas Hill Country is the second most visited wine region in the United States today. Only Napa Valley receives more visitors on an annual basis.

The expansive multi-county area west of Austin is home to dozens of wineries and the Highway 290 corridor from Johnson City to Fredericksburg is literally packed with possibilities. The question for the curious visitor is where to turn in, because the invitations all look pretty good from the road.

As a Texas resident for 16 months now, and I have much to learn about Texas-made wines. The good news is I am a fast and motivated learner, especially when I love the subject. Therefore, I do have a few significant findings to share with other wine lovers, and visitors to Texas Hill Country.

Tasting Texas Terroir

One of the things I enjoy about wine and visiting vineyards, a.k.a. wine tourism, is the pursuit of terroir. The objective is to sense what a particular place produces. Here’s the question…What do the soil, the climate, and the vines give a winemaker to work with and how has she decided to express this in the wine?

Making wine is part art, part science and a good bit of good fortune. Wine expresses both the terroir and the point-of-view of the winemaker. This makes wine a fascinating beverage, as well as a favorite intoxicant.

In Texas, a great majority of the fruit is grown in the Texas Panhandle, near Lubbock, and shipped hundreds of miles to Hill Country wineries where the grapes are made into wine and bottled for consumption. Therefore, when you visit a Hill Country winery, it’s highly likely that you will experience the terroir of an entirely different place.

My first question upon arrival in the tasting room is often, “What estate wines do you have available?” Sometimes the answer is none. Other times, the answer is an array of hot weather varietals like Tempranillo known to thrive in the Hill Country heat.

Three Kind Finds

If you want to get right to the good stuff, find Lewis Wines a few miles west of downtown Johnson City on Highway 290. Lewis Wines “proudly produces wine from 100% Texas grapes.” Their tagline is “Real. Texas. Wine.”

Lewis Wines 2017 Estate Rosé — $35

This is the second vintage of rosé produced from the Estate Vineyard, which was planted in 2014. The vineyard has very shallow, well-drained clay soil over limestone, resulting in wines with richness, weight, and texture.  The Touriga Nacional and Tinto Cão were hand harvested at night, whole cluster pressed, then fermented separately in stainless steel.

Ron Yates 2016 Cinsault Rosé — $22

We enjoyed a bottle of this locally-made wine at lunch in Johnson City. The light and bright Texas High Plains fruit was an ideal compliment to my deep fried flounder.

The Ron Yates winery is west of Johnson City, situated on 15.8 acres abutting Highway 290 in Hye, Texas. The acreage is currently planted with four acres of Tempranillo grapevines, with an additional six acres of estate vineyards planned for grapes such as Graciano and Petite Sirah.

Signor Vineyards 2015 Pinot Noir — $44

The kind folks at Lewis Wines directed us to Signor Vineyards, a Texas Hill Country winery that works in partnership with Weisinger Family Winery in Ashland, OR. Signor Vineyards near Fredericksburg ships Texas-grown fruit to Ashland to be made into wine and bottled. The bottles then come back to Texas in refrigerated trucks, along with bottles of wine made from Oregon fruit.

As it happens, Oregon pinot noir is my favorite wine in the world and this Rogue Valley vintage is a classic with hints of raspberry on the finish. Our ability to buy it locally and support this unique interstate connection is also a good thing.

Kickin’ Facts and Countin’ Dollars

Texas was home to the first vineyard in North America, established by Franciscan monks circa 1662. The oldest continually operating winery in the state is the Val Verde Winery, in Del Rio, established in 1883 by Italian immigrant Frank Qualia.

The wine industry in Texas accounted for $2.27 billion to the state’s economy in 2016, employing more than 12,750 fulltime workers and paying them $528 million in salaries and wages. In addition, more than 1.8 million guests visited Texas’ 400 wineries in 2016 and while there spent $482.9 million.

Jessica Dupuy, a certified sommelier who covers wine regularly for Texas Monthly, says, “In the past ten years, we’ve seen a significant boost in quality. New, savvy winemakers are setting the standard for wines that reflect a distinct flavor for the regions in which they’re grown. I think in the next decade, we’ll be talking about wine tasting like Texas in the way that we talk about Oregon or Washington.”

On Second Bite: Austin’s Culinary Universe of Flavors Take Flight

On Second Bite: Austin’s Culinary Universe of Flavors Take Flight

Food is an expression of culture and the perfect medium for sharing one’s culture. Philosophers throughout the ages have waxed poetic about the nature and value of food. I like what Wendell Berry said:

Better than any argument is to rise at dawn and pick dew-wet red berries in a cup.

Following our move to Austin in March 2018, we started to experience some of the local food and beverage traditions, from margaritas and queso to Live Oak-smoked meats (at The Salt Lick in Driftwood). Last year, I recorded my early impressions in an article called First Bites: Bat City’s Best Tacos, BBQ and Pasta.

Now, it’s time to update the list!

Austin Eats This Up

El Chipiron: This tapas bar on S. Lamar is the gin and tonic capital of Central Texas. The gin is from Spain and the craft cocktails are served in a large red wine glass. The food is also spot on, and I like the location and the easy-going vibe.

Sway Thai: The top floor at Sway Thai’s new location on Bee Cave Road features one of the best views of the city from anywhere in the city. This is swanky Thai with valet parking and menu items not seen before. It’s hip, but not pretentious, and the food and drinks are delightful.

Pieous: Sourdough-crust wood-fired pizza, housemade pastrami, and excellent salads in a friendly, casual environment in Dripping Springs…SOLD!

The Switch: BBQ is a religion in these parts and everyone has their favorite smokers. The Switch is an offshoot of Stile’s Switch and a nice change of pace from the buffet-style dining that is common to BBQ restaurants. At this new Dripping Springs establishment, you get to sit in a plush oversized booth and order classic items, or you can venture into some new twists on the standards like a smoked turkey BLT.

Valentina’s Tex Mex BBQ: This is the food truck’s food truck. People line up at this S. Manchaca shrine to smoked meats. The great thing about Valentina’s is how the meats they smoke are then used in tacos and tortas. This is the finest of fusions.

Yuyo: Peruvian cebiche, unlike its kissing cousin ceviche, does not soak in citrus until the fish is plated. Essentially, cebiche is crudo plated in a delicate citrus sauce. This stylish yet comfortable restaurant on Manor Road also serves delicious empanadas, craft cocktails and more.

Ramem Tatsu-Ya: Get in line, it’s well worth the wait. Ramem Tatsu-Ya is educating people on what ramen truly is. “It’s the soul food of Japan.”

Cruzteca: This is our local go-to for classic Tex-Mex. After outgrowing its food truck beginnings, the restaurant is now located in a Sunset Valley strip mall. I get the enchiladas with ranchera sauce and crispy taco. It is delicious every time. So are the house margaritas.

Uchi: This is a WOW restaurant for special occasions. Do you have a sushi fanatic in your world? Uchi will rock their world, of that I am utterly confident. Inventive is the first word that comes to mind when I consider their menu. I highly recommend the Machi Cure (smoked yellowtail on yucca crisp with Marcona almonds and Asian pear). The cottage setting on S. Lamar is also a portal into another, more Japanese, world.

Jester King Brewery: Take me home country roads. Jester King makes experimental farmhouse ales and serves wood-fired incredible pizzas on their 165-acre country estate west of the city. This is beer and pizza on an entirely different (higher) level. The property features several bars with unique taps, so it pays to wander around a bit and to save room for another glass.

The Civil Goat: Tucked into a nondescript location on relatively rural Cuernavaca Road, this coffee roaster has the beans and the avocado toast to go with them. In all seriousness, their avo toast is definitive, and I love the lost neighborhood vibe of the place. I feel like I’m in the Santa Cruz mountains when I’m there.

Better Half Coffee & Cocktails: Another ham biscuit, please! This is my favorite place for morning coffee meetings. The coffee is great but the ham biscuit dripping with honey is something to behold and then devour. I also love their easy parking on 6th Street and the large back yard for sunny day sippin’.

Some other notable restaurants that could easily be added to this list: Loro, Perla’s, Contigo, El Naranjo, and Home Slice Pizza. There are also several restaurants we’d like to try for the first time, including Emmer & Rye, Lenoir, Buffalina, Jeffrey’s, and Foreign & Domestic.

On Second Bite: Austin’s Culinary Universe of Flavors Take Flight

First Bites: Bat City’s Best Tacos, BBQ and Pasta

Austin makes a strong impression on the newcomer. It’s sunny and warm, the people are warm and friendly, and there are seemingly a million places of interest for the food and beverage lover to consider and discover.

Both Zagat and WalletHub rank Austin high on their lists of best cities for foodies. And Easter Austin does a great job keeping close tabs on the daily developments here. We’ve also picked up several recommendations from new friends in the city.

I’d like to list some of our early favorites.


Amazing Restaurants in Austin, Texas

Suerte: This new Mexican fine dining restaurant on E. Ceasar Chavez features three different ceviches on the menu. They also ground their own masa from locally sourced heirloom corn. Need I say more?

Fresa’s: This restaurant’s “Pollo al la Carbon” or chicken on charcoal is simply the best. In fact, there’s no better preparation of chicken on the planet. Mix in the frozen avocado margaritas and the sun porch full of happy people, and a new favorite is born.

The Salt Lick: Drive to Driftwood, TX and enter BBQ Holy Land. Do it today. It’s B.Y.O.B. at The Salt Lick, so bring a sixer and mosy up to some bison ribs, turkey, sausage, and more. To top it all off, the blackberry cobbler is divine.

Andiamo Ristorante: Tucked into a midtown strip mall, this classic Italian restaurant is built to please. The dishes here are carefully constructed by a master chef who transports diners to a romantic village in Italy.

Excellent Restaurants in Austin, Texas

Evangeline Cafe: Real New Orleans-inspired food in SW Austin! I’ve had the catfish po’boy and the fried shrimp po’boy so far. The roast beef po’boy is next in line.

Stile’s Switch BBQ: It’s hard to rank high in a city devoted to smoked meats, but I can’t wait to return to this spot for turkey, brisket, beans, slaw and more. It’s all super tasty.

Via 313: This “Detriot-style pizza” is a standout pie that Austinites will stand in long lines for. Order it extra crispy and wait your turn!

Juniper: This stylish Italian spot on E. Ceasar Chavez served us a great brunch on their shaded patio. Our server was slightly off-putting, but the food made it easy to overlook.

Hummus Among Us: This Israeli street food comes from a cart in East Austin. If you want the perfect falafel, and I do mean perfect, this is your place.

The Funkadelic: This cozy breakfast and lunch spot on S. Lamar provides innovative treatments on Americana classics like waffles, pancakes, and the burger.

Outstanding Coffee Shops in Austin, Texas

A friend in Portland suggested that I might not miss much about the Rose City, other than the quality of the coffee. I smiled at the suggestion but had to inform her that Austinites are nearly as fanatical about their coffee.

Patika: This funky and friendly place on S. Lamar serves a lovely avocado toast along with some of the city’s most delicious caffeinated brews.

Stouthaus: Great coffee shop with a dozen craft beers on tap. This coffee-before-beer combo is a lot more common in Austin that other cities, and it makes perfect sense.

Flightpath: Classic coffeehouse vibe thanks to the tables full of UT students and local hipsters. Great service and coffee too!

It’s important to note that Austin is not a pretentious place, and the restaurants and coffee shops in the city support and reflect this reality. On the rare occasion that there is a touch of pretense in the air it stinks like cheap perfume, and the place gets nixed from the list.


In the personal trivia category, Darby and I went our first date together in Austin during South By Southwest, March 2003. We dined at Carmelo’s on Second Street downtown. We recently learned that the restaurant closed in 2017. Later that first night met friends for drinks at Lala’s. The bar where it is Christmas every day of the year remains open for business.

Viniferous Grapes Ripen Into New Economic and Cultural Opportunities

Boise, Idaho and Walla Walla, Washington are inland agricultural empires that have famously produced potatoes, wheat, onions and other staples of the American diet for generations. Today, the farmers in these areas are increasingly growing viniferous grapes and the impact that this crop is making on the local farm-based cultures is significant.

Earlier this month, we drove six and a half hours to Boise from Portland and pulled directly up to Telaya Wine Company’s generous riverfront establishment before heading to the hotel. Their sunny, dog-friendly deck had plenty of room for us and our impromptu picnic. The staff was warm and hospitable, and the wine flights were terrific. The Red Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon was outstanding and we bought a bottle to open on my mom’s birthday, a few days later in McCall.

McCall is an idyllic lakeside community on Lake Payette two hours north of Boise. There are no wineries in McCall, but the scenery is intoxicating, and our waiter at Shore Lodge opened the Red Mountain Cab minus the additional corkage fee, which is always a nice touch.

On the way from McCall to Walla Walla, we stopped for lunch in Lewiston, Idaho at Mystic Cafe. It was here that a clue was given. Our friendly server recommended a trio of Walla Walla wineries to visit, and the next day we took her up on one of her choice spots. Thankfully, Va Piano Vineyards surpassed our expectations in every way. The wine is exceptional, the vineyard is an easy 10-minute drive from town, and their picnic area outside the tasting room, adjacent to the vines is lovely.

Walla Walla is literally overflowing with wineries and tasting rooms. The city takes more than a single visit to orient oneself. While we arrived in town with a hot tip from the road that led us to Va Piano, we also arrived with our favorite producers in mind. That’s why we made a point to visit Waterbrook Winery, a wine we are able to purchase in the grocery store at home.

Waterbrook is a fantastic place to visit. It’s one of the few wineries in the area with a restaurant. Waterbrook’s impressive grounds, helpful staff, yard games, and delicious wine is the ideal combo for a nice afternoon. We had Lucy with us, and the rule is no dogs on the patio where food is served. Before I could protest, Waterbrook’s gracious staff helped us set up our table under a tree in their yard. Delicious burgers, salads, and wine were served. The Reserve Malbec was outstanding. I’m also impressed by the reasonable price points on many of Waterbrook’s wines.

I Vote Yes On Measure 92

On Nov. 4, Oregon voters will decide the fate of Measure 92, which would make the state one of the few in the country to require labeling of GMO foods.

Opponents of the measure, mainly food manufacturers and chemical companies, have pumped more than $7 million into the No on 92 Coalition effort. If you watch TV in the Portland area, the following spot is running regularly:


Proponents of the measure so far have raised about $4.5 million, according to Oregon Secretary of State financial filings. I have not seen this spot on TV:

Meanwhile, The Oregonian reports that Measure 92 is on track to become the costliest in Oregon history in terms of campaign contributions.

Interestingly, Ben & Jerry’s is one food manufacturer that is solidly for the measure. In fact, Jerry Greenfiled, CEO and co-founder of Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream, flew to Portland for a “ceremonial” rebranding of Fudge Brownie to Food Fight Fudge Brownie.

We live in an information-rich society. Honestly, a shopper today may want to scan any and every grocery store item for nutritional data, menu ideas and sourcing, packaging and transit information.

Knowledge is power, and transparency is the reality of our time. Food growers, manufacturers and retailers can sway shoppers with rich information (a truer form of marketing). Provide the food, and the facts about the food—that’s the recipe for eat and repeat.

Fast Food Wages And Angry Idealogues Are Hurting The American Economy

I think every American can agree that wasteful spending by the federal government needs to be corrected. The problem is we can’t seem to agree on the “wasteful” part.

As we have seen, people with radical views on the right want to slash and burn any shred of a safety net for our nation’s most vulnerable citizens. Are they doing this because the most vulnerable among us have little or no voice, and thus can’t fight back? Or are Tea Party anti-populists actually heartless and delusional?

If it is the former, at least I understand the strategy. If it’s the latter, we have a sickness in our land that needs a strong remedy.

Let’s take a closer look at the human side of this problem. According to Fortune, the median wage for fast-food workers nationally is $8.69 per hour, and only 13% of these jobs offer health benefits, compared to 59% of jobs overall in the U.S. Thus, it comes as no surprise that 52% of cooks, servers and other fast-food workers receive public aid — nearly twice the percentage of the overall workforce.

Senator Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), said that “anyone concerned about the federal deficit only needs to look at the numbers to understand a major source of the problem: multi-billion dollar companies that pay poverty wages and then rely on taxpayers to pick up the slack, to the tune of a quarter of a trillion dollars every year in the form of public assistance to working families.”

McDonald’s alone accounts for $1.2 billion of the cost to taxpayers. The massive burger chain and others use a low-wage, no benefits model that forces workers to turn to the public safety net.

Any student of American history knows that labor-management disputes are commonplace, particularly since industrialization. And fast food workers have been busy protesting and asking for fair wages. I hope they keep the pressure on their employers, and I hope consumers will refrain from supporting companies with questionable labor practices. But resisting a cheap burger isn’t easy, especially when you consider the advertising budgets fast feeders have at their disposal. Hell, Carl’s Jr. even makes salad look good.

Jonathan Heller, president of KEJ Financial Advisors, believes it is the wrong time for fast food workers to ask for $15/hour, as protestors have done recently. “If the economy was booming, and labor markets were tighter, wages would rise naturally as there would be greater competition for labor. But not in this tepid economy.”

Wages would rise naturally? Get the hell out of here. Wages do not rise naturally, no matter how strong the overall economy. Owners and operators want to keep costs down, so they can earn more. It’s the name of the game, and we all play it to some degree. But at what cost?

By paying shit wages a company engenders no loyalty from its staff, and this lack of concern then gets passed on to the consumer in the form of poor customer service and a host of other problems. Therefore, paying low wages is un-American — it hurts American consumers directly, and it hurts American taxpayers directly.

Asking American corporations and employers to help fuel the economy via investment in its people is not asking too much. We have all the money in the world in this nation, we simply do a very poor job of distributing it. Partly due to greed, but it’s not greed alone that holds us in this trap of our own making. It’s also the idea that the owner and investor class is a better class of people.

Class, race, income, education, location and political leanings can all be used to stratify and separate us. It happens all the time, and no group is free of this pack-making tendency. We feel more secure when we belong to a pack. In Portland, for instance, one might belong to the rich white liberal Prius-driving pack. Once upon a time, we saw ourselves as Americans. That was the pack we all belonged to, but no more. Now we belong to a subset. Now we’re Christian conservatives or secular humanists or a hundred other labeled things.

The crisis in Washington, DC is merely a mirror onto the larger national identity crisis. We don’t know who we are as Americans any more, and it shows in ugly ways: tragic gun deaths every day, pointless foreign wars, media illiteracy and so on. It can be terribly depressing to look at and consider, but we need to look at it and consider it, if we intend to fix it.

Takhlakh Lake To Rattlesnake Hills And Back: A Journey Around The Lonely Volcano

Takhlakh Lake To Rattlesnake Hills And Back: A Journey Around The Lonely Volcano

I recently pitched Travel & Leisure on a “three days in Oregon food and beverage experience,” and I can see how that article–and the trip it will require to write it–plays out. But more on that another day. Today, I want to detail a different route into the heart of south central Washington.


Mt. Adams, visible on a clear day from Portland, is the lonely volcano in the range. Mt. Hood and Mt. Rainier are iconic and Mt. St. Helens blew its freaking top, so it’s something of an attraction. Where does this leave Mt. Adams? Unheralded. Unpopulated. And unknown. But don’t feel bad for the mountain, it likely enjoys its freedom from modernity.

Speaking of freedom from modernity, once you pass Trout Lake you’re on rough, boulder-strewn roads to nowhere. Or somewhere, depending on your clarity of mind and purpose. After making it all the way to the northwest flank of the volcano, we were handsomely rewarded for our efforts, as Takhlakh Lake at 4400 feet above sea level is spellbinding and the mountain beyond totally intoxicating in its rugged beauty.


See my Flickr set here.

Darby and I set up camp, then hiked around the lake with Lucy and up into a 3000-year old lava flow. Looking back we saw Mt. Rainier in the distance–the place where we got married on July 4, 2009. What a spot this, saddled between the two towering volcanoes on our fourth anniversary.

Our evening was spent fighting off mosquitos, but happily, as we were prepared with wipe-on bug juice. We also collected plenty of “forest hair” a.k.a. dried moss to smoke the little suckers out. Miraculously, no mosquitos managed to make it inside the tent and we spent a peaceful, firecracker and bug free night under cloudy skies.

In the morning we drank iced coffee and packed up camp early, in order to set sail from Takhlakh Lake to Yakima. We proceeded slowly down and out of the Mt. Adams Recreation Area on Forest Road 23, finally reaching State Highway 12, which runs east and west and skirts the southern edge of Mt. Rainier National Park, en route to the sunny desert and fruits of Yakima Valley.

Along the way, we stopped at Dog Lake and prepared a parfait of fresh fruit, granola and yogurt, which we ate lakeside in the cold alpine wind. After breakfast, we descended down into the Tieton River valley and pulled over for a splash-fresh-water-on-your-face-and-head moment. I love to see a river run and this one runs prettily over its rock bed.

Adams view from Zillah

North Park Lodge, our hotel in Seyla just north of Yakima, let us check in early which was a score since we wanted to shower and prepare for an afternoon of winery visits in Zillah. Rested and refreshed, picnic-basket in hand and Lucy on leash, we zipped down I-82 to the Rattlesnake Hills section of the Yakima Valley, and opened up with an uneventful tasting at Knight Hill.

Next stop, Hyatt Vineyards. Three women on horseback rode up as we entered the property to assure us that we were indeed in the West. The tasting room was on the cheesy side, but we purchased a delicious blend for just $14.99 and Darby and I enjoyed our picnic on the winery’s patio (with Mt. Adams views) immensely.

Down the road at Two Mountain Winery, the host was particularly gracious and the wine worth taking home. Following our tasting, she sent us down the road to Cultura, a micro-producer with three of its four acres planted in Cab Franc vines.

Rattlesnake Hills reminds me of Dundee Hills with its high density of wineries, but the terrain and weather are much different. Therefore, the grapes that thrive here are different. The delicate pinot grapes so beloved in Oregon are not hardy enough to survive the summer in Zillah. Varietals that do enjoy the intense desert sun and high temps naturally produce wine with a ton of flavor and character.

At this time, Yakima lacks the wine tourism infrastructure of Dundee or Walla Walla. It’s an agricultural community, with grapes being one part of a much larger whole. But this lack of tourist charm, or “local character,” also makes the place uniquely appealing for wine tourism. This is red, white and blue America. Family farms under the volcano, and there’s not much in the way of fancy. But if it’s flavorful wine that you want to drink at a price you can afford, then you’re in luck as it’s available in copious supply.

Eat Your Peas, Or Feed Them To The Hungry

Eat Your Peas, Or Feed Them To The Hungry

Food waste in America has grown 50% since 1974. Today, the average American household throws out 470 pounds of food every year, making it the largest component in our nation’s landfills.

Naturally, this speaks volumes about our culture. Just a few generations removed from war rationing and The Great Depression, Americans waste about 27% of food available for consumption, costing the average family of four roughly $600 a year, according to Supermarket News.

Supermarket News looked at Shelton Group’s Eco Pulse study and found that 39% of Americans feel guilty about wasting food. By comparison, only 7% felt guilty about not sticking to an energy-efficient thermostat setting, and just 6% felt guilty about using chemical lawn or plant fertilizers. So, we’re wasting an obscene amount of food and we feel bad about it.

Meanwhile, too many Americans are dying of obesity while others are starving. When will we learn to properly allocate our natural resources?

In related news, the decomposition of food waste in landfills produces methane, which is 21 times more powerful of a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide.

Thankfully, there are real answers to all these problems. First, we can reduce food waste through careful shopping and meal planning. Second, the organic waste we do produce can be turned into energy by biogas plants, like the one being built in NE Portland.

Coffee Is Culture. Yes, Please!

Coffee Is Culture. Yes, Please!

Portland is home to a number of top flight coffee shops–Barista, Albina Press, Spella, Stumptown, Ristretto, Heart and Extracto all contribute mightily to the thriving coffee scene in Portland. But their largess does not extend to the suburbs, and as a resident of West Linn I’m somewhat put out by that.

The best place in West Linn to order an espresso drink isn’t even at a coffee shop, it’s inside the Market of Choice supermarket, where they serve Stumptown. Of course, there are coffee shops in West Linn, Oregon City and Lake Oswego, but none of them compare in quality or atmosphere to the shops named above. And none of the shops named above have a location outside the city, except for Stumptown which has locations in Seattle and New York City.

Is it because the ‘burbs belong to Starbucks? Or do the ‘burbs belong to Starbucks because there’s a lack of outstanding indie coffee shops to choose from and support? It’s a “chicken or the egg?” question, and I don’t want to get lost in philosophy. Instead, I prefer to focus on the present-day market opportunities and how culture spreads (or does not spread) from one community to the next.

West Linn is a relatively affluent community, just to the south of extremely affluent Lake Oswego. I mention the economic reality of these two “South Shore” communities because it’s plainly obvious that the residents of West Linn and Lake Oswego can afford to support high-end coffee shops, to say nothing of better restaurants, a food cart scene and a handful of local breweries. Yet, as it stands today there are zero food carts in Lake Oswego and West Linn, although Clackamas County officials are working to create a streamlined, affordable process for entrepreneurs looking to open mobile food carts, drive-through espresso stands and similar developments.

I can imagine that the best coffee purveyors in Portland don’t believe their shops would prosper in a suburb where the number of skinny jeans-wearing hipsters is at a minimum. But I beg to differ. People of the Pacific Northwest who wear wide-legged jeans, chinos and cords also drink coffee, and they will drink exceptionally well made coffee, every day, when provided the opportunity.

Image courtesy of Flickr user, Joseph Robertson.

Adventurous Citizens Of Beervana Raise A Sour Glass

Adventurous Citizens Of Beervana Raise A Sour Glass

“Sour beers certainly broaden the flavor spectrum,” Ron Gansberg of Cascade Brewing says, “and they should interest adventurous wine drinkers and beer drinkers both, because the beers are a sort of middle ground.”

And he is right. After facing the long lines at Portland’s first annual Fruit Beer Festival, we opted to head over to Cascade Barrel House on SE 10th and Belmont instead. It was our maiden voyage to the newly opened and much praised brewery, and after sitting on their sun-drenched patio drinking Sour Ales, we now understand what the excitement is about.

Check out these two part-beer, part-wine descriptions:

The Vine
8.3% ABV / $5.50 Glass
This NW style sour blends soured tripel, blonde and golden ales that were then fermented with the juice of white wine grapes. It’s a delicious offering that appeals to both beer and wine drinkers.

Sang Noir
9.5% ABV / 8 IBU / $6 Glass
This deep, dark double red was aged over a year in Pinot and Whiskey barrels, then blended with a barrel of Bing cherries. This deep and rich NW double red is one of our most complex winter offerings.

Both beers were surprising to our palates, complex and delicious.

“This is a journey,” Gansberg says of the Cascade ethos. “But we want everyone to be a part of it.”

Brady Whalen of The Daily Pull likes the place too. “From the location and the food menu, to the decor and the staff, Cascade Brewing Barrel House has managed to create an extremely accessible and unpretentious environment that works for sour beer enthusiasts and novices alike.”

I know I’m looking forward to my next Barrel House visit.