Compliments to the Chef: Pinot, Pleasure and Pastor

27 Jan

Recently Evan and I found ourselves in Oregon’s Willamette Valley, famous for its stock of fertile vineyards and authentic Mexican food. Another thing this area is gaining a reputation for is the existence of one of Oregon’s premier hotels, The Allison Inn and Spa, located a few blocks off the main drag in Newberg. While I admit the setting initially threw me off, it quickly grew on me. This may not be the rustic B&B overlooking the valley’s sloping hills you might have pictured in your head when dreaming about wine country, but the hotel itself is undoubtedly an oasis. Nestled on 35 lush acres, The Allison grounds beckon guests to take advantage of the well-groomed gardens and winding pathways leading to their own vineyards, seating and picnic areas. Guests who cannot leave home without their furry companion (—ahem, cough cough—) will find they’re well taken care of here. We appreciate the front row parking reserved for eco-friendly vehicles, the posh indoor hot tub, pool and fitness studio, and what has to be one of the nicest spas I’ve ever had the pleasure of visiting. Rooms are elegantly designed and spacious, and make a point of embracing the rich color palette of the countryside’s vineyards and nearby farmlands— lichen, bark, berry, pear, beet and squash are the inviting neutral tones you can expect to find here. All accommodations come with luxurious bedding, gas fireplaces, a terrace or balcony, window seats with  comfortable throws, and spa-like bathrooms with double vanities, deep soaking tubs with accompanying soaking salts, and sliding wood panels overlooking the bedroom area and outside windows. One gets the feeling that a lot of thought and love went into the construction and design of this place. For example, when a guest complained online about the absence of a coffee maker in the room they received this response from the hotel’s online concierge,

“We do not have coffee pots in the rooms because they are not always the cleanest items, and in most hotels the coffee made for those units isn’t very good – even when it’s clean enough to be safe to use. Instead of the unsanitary proposition of having them in room, we decided to go the greener route as part of our hotel’s philosophy, and offer fresh, local roasted coffee in our lobby. Of course, we are happy to bring a couple cups up to your room if you prefer. Just call us at the desk, and we will be at your door with the immediacy one expects when one wants their morning java.”

I like this composed response. I like it a lot. I appreciate the fact that the absence of a coffee maker was not actually a misstep, but an intentional and thoughtful direction played out by the hospitality team. I also like the fact that if you’re in to a more traditional stay, the staff is more than willing to accommodate you. In fact, they take pride in doing so.

It’s easy to vegetate here. The self-pampering you feel when staying at a place like this is almost enough to induce guilt. Please don’t let me fool you into thinking that everything here is perfect; we’ve had hits and misses at the hotel’s on-site restaurant JORY, but the rest of hotel and its staff pretty well manages to make up for it. Besides, with the existence of such fine restaurants in the area like Tina’s in Dundee and The Painted Lady in Newberg, you’re bound to find something that pleases your palate. Alternatively, you can hit up one of the locals’ favorite taco trucks, but more on that later. What I do love about the hotel’s restaurant and bar is the prompt room service (you know I’m a stickler for this kind of thing), and the ability to taste, in 2 oz. pours, several acclaimed wines from the area (A perfect compromise if you in fact cannot force yourself to leave the comforts of the hotel. Believe me, it happens).

During our most recent (sloth-like) stay at The Allison, we did manage to make it out of our room and into wine country. Understandably, Mondays during the dead of winter in Oregon are not the ideal time to visit this area, as many tasting rooms are closed. That said, we were greeted warmly at Adelsheim, Lemelson and Archery Summit. Standouts from our tastings include: Adelsheim’s 2008 Stoller Vineyard Chardonnay, Lemelson’s 2008 Stermer Vineyard Pinot Noir, and Archery Summit’s 2007 Arcus Estate Pinot Noir. Six years ago, before we were married, Evan and I paid a visit to Archery Summit where we were fortunate enough to grab a bottle of the 2003 Arcus Estate Pinot Noir. Back then, we were more in the habit of immediately opening bottles rather than saving them. However, Evan made the recommendation to save this particular bottle so that we could open it in five years, on our ten-year (dating) anniversary. Little did we know at the time of purchase that this wine would eventually receive plenty of acclaim from the press, including: 95 points from Wine Spectator and eventually a spot on the magazine’s “Top 100 Wines of 2006″ list. This past summer, in celebration of the marked occasion we opened the bottle we had been saving all this time. Archery Summit’s pinots are meant to last, so this trip we decided to take our chances and pick up another bottle from Arcus Estate to save for five more years, hoping for a repeat performance. I gotta say, I’m a big fan of this tradition. I love the idea of our relationship maturing along with a good bottle of wine.

We were hungry after our tastings and had no problem deciding where we should head to fill up. Evan first heard about Pastorcillos, the taco truck parked in downtown Newberg, from several fans here in Portland. When the guy assisting us at Adelsheim also sang its praises we knew we had to go. After eating here I can confirm that we are joining the flock and following this “shepherd.”* This is what Mexican food is supposed to taste like.  The pastor tacos are some of the best I’ve had, and that’s after living in Los Angeles and faithfully pledging my love to a man named Leo. Looks like wine tasting just got a whole lot better.

*pastor in Spanish translates to shepherd

Adelsheim Vineyard
16800 NE Calkins Ln
Newberg, OR 97132
(503) 538-3652
The Allison Inn and Spa
2525 Allison Lane
Newberg, OR 97132
(503) 554-2525
Archery Summit
Archery Summit, 18599 N.E. Archery Summit Rd.
Dayton ,OR 97114
(503) 864-4300
Lemelson Vineyards
12020 NE Stag Hollow Rd.
Carlton, OR 97111
Corner of Main and First
Newberg, OR 97132
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