Tasting Wines in the Columbia Gorge, Adventuring, and the Great Outdoors: Our Hawkins Cellars Winery and Tasting Room is located at the entrance to the Columbia Gorge. Less than an hour’s drive from Portland, the Columbia Gorge is a great location for wine tasting. Not only does the area present diverse world class wines in a breathtakingly beautiful setting. The Columbia Gorge also offers a diverse terrain for growing different varietals that offer virtually limitless options for wine tastings.The Columbia River Gorge is designated as the largest National Scenic Area in America. The vast landscape, defined by the Columbia River, is full of stunning waterfalls to marvel at, amazing trails to hike, and intriguing sites to explore.
The Columbia Gorge and its Diverse AVA
The Columbia Gorge encompasses the river valleys of the Hood River and Deschutes River in Oregon, and the Klickitat River and White Salmon River in Washington. Within the Gorge lies the Columbia Gorge American Viticultural Area (AVA). This AVA exhibits a wide range of terroir in a relativity small region and is known as a “world of wine in forty miles.” The Columbia Gorge AVA was established in 2004 and the total area covers 4,500 acres, 300 acres of which are planted with vines. The AVA runs along both sides of the Columbia River, encompassing vineyards and wineries on both Washington and Oregon. Moving west to east, the region extends from Hood River to Rowena in Oregon and Underwood to Lyle in Washington.
One key feature of this AVA is the immense difference in climates between the east and west of the Columbia Gorge, resulting in a wine region that is “between two worlds.” The western end of the Columbia Gorge AVA is very similar to the cool and wet Willamette Valley, with an average rainfall of about 36 inches a year. This climate favors cooler climate grapes like Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir, and Chardonnay, all of which do well here. Move to the east side of the Gorge, however–toward The Dalles—and things begin to change. The average rainfall here is only about 10 inches a year. This drier climate creates optimal conditions for bigger varietals like Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, Mourvedre, Grenache, and many other Rhone and Bordeaux varietals such as are found in Hawkins Cellars wines. “People don’t immediately think of this as a growing region,” Hawkins says. “This is one of the few areas that has yet to be really discovered, both from a winemaking and a wine-growing perspective.”
Hood River Wine Tasting
The Columbia Gorge is blessed by its small towns. The two closest and most popular towns are Hood River and White Salmon. Hood River is on the Oregon side of the Columbia Valley and it is an intriguing town to stop at and explore. The town of Hood River is about 30 miles north of Mt. Hood, the tallest peak in the state. In addition to the beautiful views it offers of Mt. Hood and the Hood River, this small town is abundant in restaurants, breweries, shops, and jumping off points for recreational activities and fruit. Yes, fruit! Hood River is among the largest fruit-producing regions in the nation. Many of the country’s apples, pears, and cherries come from this area. To experience these, set off to drive the Fruit Loop. This 35-mile scenic drive takes you through fruit orchards, small towns, and back roads of the Hood River Valley. You will get to stop at any of the approximately 30 member stands that offer a variety of wines, fruits, vegetables, flowers, ciders, and food.
Across from Hood River on the Washington side is White Salmon. Here you can look across the Columbia Gorge to view Mt. Hood while sampling some fine local brews and food from its eateries and food trucks. Then hop on a mountain bike or lace up your boots for a hike at a nearby park, or drive just an hour to the trailhead for Mt. Adams.