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Willamette Valley

Michelin Michelin Travel & Lifestyle ePub

The Willamette’s loamy soil gives rise to a feast of foods that enrich the plates of the finest restaurants in Portland. The climate and soil are ideal for vineyards, and more than 500 wineries, mostly west of Interstate 5, draw visitors from around the world to wine-country tasting rooms. Charming small towns, bucolic countryside and farm stands provide additional reasons to stop and savor Oregon’s wine country.

A string of cities, including the state capital of Salem and the free-spirited town of Eugene, are situated along I-5, which runs north to south through the center of the valley. To the west, the forested Coast Range cradles the valley, and 30mi to the east, waterfalls plummet down mossy Cascade Range hillsides alongside wooded hiking trails whose vine maple trees turn crimson and orange in the fall.

SALEMa

The capital of Oregon is the state’s third-largest city (pop. 156,000). Salem traces its founding to 1840, when Jason Lee moved the headquarters of his Methodist mission to this mid-Willamette Valley location. Lee’s house and other early buildings still stand at the Willamette Heritage Center at the Millaa (1313 Mill St.; t 503-585-7012; www.willametteheritage.org; open year-round Mon–Sat 10am–5pm ;$6), a five-acre historical park that includes the 1889 Thomas Kay Woolen Mill. A millstream courses beneath the main mill building, and inside, massive looms operate with water-powered turbines. Four buildings, filled with period furnishings, were moved to this site, and are considered the oldest in the Northwest, dating to the 1840s.

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Historical Sites

Michelin Michelin Travel & Lifestyle ePub

First settled after the Civil War, Central Oregon was sparsely populated for a century until a tourist economy took root in outdoor recreation in the 1960s. Long an Indian home, eastern Oregon was passed up by early pioneers en route to the fertile Willamette Valley. Later arrivals found this country excellent for ranching and mining.

Today, with 120 days of sunshine annually and plentiful outdoor recreation, including snow skiing, mountain biking, golf and white-water rafting, the Bend area is popular with outdoors enthusiasts, and retirees. To the southwest, Mount Bachelor and the Cascade Lakes beckon anglers, skiers and hikers. To the south, the wildlife-rich Hart and Steens ranges thrust skyward. South of Bend, remnants of ancient volcanic activity can be seen at Newberry National Volcanic Monument. To the east, John Day Fossil Beds National Monument affords a glimpse into the distant past of this geologically rich area.

Despite Oregon’s public image as a land of deep forests, almost two-thirds of the state lies within this vast, thinly populated, largely arid landscape of sagebrush and pine, hawk and coyote.

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Must Eat

Michelin Michelin Travel & Lifestyle ePub

Cuisine

Salmon, shellfish, berries and wild game were the mainstays of life for the Northwest’s indigenous inhabitants, and this reliance on fresh, local ingredients infuses the region’s dining menu today. The prevailing cuisine is called Northwest Contemporary (shortened to Northwest in listings below) in Washington and Oregon; the term West Coast covers a similar approach in British Columbia (BC). In both cases, chefs rely heavily on ingredients available fresh daily from local growers and providers: seafood, vegetables, fruit, even meats and poultry grown sustainably at local farms. Many chefs start their day with a visit to a farmers’ market.

Fish and Seafood

Salmon remains the centerpiece of Northwest dining; although most salmon comes from Alaska or the upper BC coast, suppliers go to great lengths to ensure it is handled carefully and shipped speedily to restaurant kitchens. Most connoisseurs prefer king (chinook) or sockeye (red) salmon; other common types are silver (coho) and pink (humpy). Salmon is typically grilled over a gas or wood fire (the traditional presentation) or roasted, with simple seasonings. Crab is also ubiquitous—the main type is Dungeness, a sweet, meaty variety usually served steamed. Other regional seafood delicacies include spot prawns, oysters, clams and scallops; as for fish, lingcod, true cod, black cod (sablefish), rockfish and halibut are delicious and distinctive. Lobster is not native to the North Pacific, so when lobster appears on the menu, it has been shipped 3,000mi from New England or Atlantic Canada.

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Winthrop

Michelin Michelin Travel & Lifestyle ePub

Open year-round daily. Visitor center at 3029 Spirit Lake Hwy., Toutle; t 360-274-0962; www.parks.wa.gov/stewardship/mountsthelens; open May–mid-Sept daily 9am–5pm, rest of the year 4pm; closed major holidays. t 360-449-7800. www.fs.usda.gov/mountsthelens. $5.

One of the world’s most famous volcanoes, Mount St. Helens erupted in 1980 with the intensity of 500 atomic bombs, destroying its northern flank and blasting away more than 1,300ft of elevation. In 1982 the US Congress declared Mount St. Helens a National Volcanic Monument. Today the eviscerated mountain, surrounded by a 172sq-mi preserve, is a leading visitor attraction.

Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument
©MountStHelens.com

Practical Information

When to Go

July is the best time to see flower-filled alpine meadows at Mt. Rainier, but any summer day through September offers the best opportunity for clear weather and great views at both Rainier and Mount St. Helens. Summertime frequently brings fog to the Washington coast, so the best times to visit are the shoulder seasons or winter-storm season.

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UMBRIA

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UMBRIA

Umbria is a marvellously verdant region of mountains, hills, woods, lakes and rivers. Umbrian wines were renowned as early as the Middle Ages, and continue to be today. There is a great variety of native varieties, including Grechetto, Verdello, Drupeggio, Procanico, Verdicchio and Malvasia Bianca, among the white grapes, and Sagrantino, Sangiovese and Ciliegiolo for the blacks. Of these the Sagrantino has garnered the most attention from experts and wine lovers as it produces remarkable wines that age well. To complement the native vines, several varieties have been imported, such as Tocai, Traminer, Chardonnay, Riesling, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.

Vines growing within sight of Orvieto

Gianni Fantauzzi/SHUTTERSTOCK

The terroir

Although Umbria can boast many interesting wines, the most representative are Torgiano Rosso, Sagrantino and Orvieto. The first, which falls within the appellations Torgiano Rosso DOC and Torgiano Rosso Riserva DOCG, is made from Sangiovese and Lanaiolo grapes grown on the hills of Torgiano municipality in the province of Perugia. It is a full-bodied wine with intense fragrances of ripe fruit, jam and spices.

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