Wine Tour to the Willamette Valley

How long has it been since you visited the Oregon Wine Region? I’ve been to Portland but never south to visit wineries, so it was high time to visit! So I consider myself lucky to have been invited to celebrate a good friends birthday in the Willamette Valley Wine Region south of Portland, Oregon.

First stop – Portland! We met up the birthday girl at the Jupiter Hotel, had dinner and wine at their Doug Fir Restaurant and visited the Bar Vivant Champagne Bar for Bubbly, Sherry and Tapas.


The next day we got up early, and drove 1 hour south of Portland to the Willamette Valley.

Instead of seeking out a hotel or camping, try this family, couple friendly resort smack in the middle of wine country. The Vintages Trailer Resort – was a nice upgrade from camping, it was casual and relaxed and you have the choice of vintage holiday trailers that have been updated inside for max comfort. Included were cruiser bikes, a bbq and an outdoor “deck”. As well, there are shared showers, a pool and hot tub and general store.

And just 20 minutes by bike along a path from this resort is Dayton, a very small town with a few restaurants, its quaint. But here are some of the wineries we visited within 5 -15 minutes away by car from the resort…

Roco Winery – with a focus on Pinot Noir and Chardonnay – it was their cool climate style Chard that won me over! I love this balanced style, it’s so approachable!

De Ponte Cellars – I wanted to go visit here because I read they were growing Melon de Bourgogne (Muscadet) which is not common in this area. It was well made, and a great representation of the grape! yummy.

Purple Hands – found right off the main road, this little beauty had a lineup of Pinot Noir from different vineyards, a treat, as it really showcased what the soil in the area.

Sokol Blosser – Not only a lovely winery to taste, but to sit down and enjoy the view, snacks and a glass of wine! My favourite was their Sparkling Rosé from Pinot Noir.

White Rose – Definitely a must, not just for the view but the wines are top-notch, small batch and naturally made Pinot Noir. Finessed and elegant.

Shea Wine Cellars – another stellar winery making pristine Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from single vineyards.

There are soooo many wineries, we really only hit a few. This is Pinot Noir and Chardonnay country but I think you’ll discover some talented winemakers experimenting with new varietals and just making beautiful Pinot Noir and Chardonnay! Discover and enjoy what the Willamette Valley has to offer!

Happy Wine Tasting!


A Mexican Food Adventure (Part II)

Hopefully you enjoyed (and remember) my post last week about my culinary adventure in Hamilton, Ontario! That was Part I of an excellent culinary adventure. Here, is Part II 🙂

As mentioned in my last post, my intended destination was Playa del Carmen via Hamilton, Ontario and Cancun. After a non-stop morning flight from Toronto, I arrived to the heat of Cancun, ready to explore.

Make sure you pre-organize your transportation from the Airport to your hotel, so you don’t over pay and wait! Because all you ever want to do is just GET TO THE HOTEL as soon as you can, am I right?! So put on your proactive ‘hat’ and book a private, semi-private or shared shuttle. I used Lomas Travel to organize mine – a local Mexican tour company. And they were the most organized (that I could see) at the Cancun airport!

About 1-1.5 hours later, we arrived in Playa del Carmen, south of Cancun. Usually a shuttle will drop you off right in front of your hotel UNLESS you are like me and book a hotel on the 5th Ave promenade for pedestrians only and doesn’t allow vehicles! ha ha. So my lovely driver,  carried my luggage a block until we arrived at Hotel Lunata.


My intention for 48 hours was to discover a quaint side of Playa del Carmen, which is easily a tourist hub and full of all-inclusive resorts! I am not sure how I found this wonderful little place, but wow, did I do well!

Hotel Lunata – A Spanish style archway entrance, green courtyard with spanish tile work on the stairs up to the rooms. What. A. Gem. And located right on the 5th avenue pedestrian walkway that seems to go for miles parallel to the beach, with shops and restaurants galore.

I did end up with a room facing the pedestrian walkway, which only tires around 12-1am, but had I had a room facing the courtyard it would have been quieter and I could have enjoyed my own private balcony. The staff were wonderful and helpful, it was safe and comfortable.


Upon arrival and fully admiring my quaint little hotel, I headed for the beach, sand between my toes was almost shouting at me, and it had a cold beer and lime waiting!


Now, here are the wonderful places I discovered…

Axiote – Cocina de Mexico. A recommendation by a Vancouverite living in Playa, and a pleasant surprise! YOU MUST go here. Opened by Xavier Pérez Stone, the Mexican winner of the Canadian Iron Chef in 2014. The cocktails are equally impressive and they did offer some wine, however I opted to try their mezcal drinks! I had the “Tomate” cocktail made of mezcal, cucumber, parsley, tomatillo and worm salt rim. It was delicious beyond my expectation plus it was refreshing! It’s on the other end of the 5th Ave promenade from Hotel Lunata, on a side street, so a destination and a bit of a secret, which is nice.

For food I had the most beautiful green salad I think I’ve seen “Salad Verde” with apples, avocado, tomato, dusted with Spirulina. And a dish with Oaxacan cheese with crispy grasshoppers sprinkled on top and ‘coloradito’ mole sauce. I was a little worried about eating crispy hoppers but at the same time intrigued. And all they did was add a touch of crunch (an apparently protein), but there was no other indication they were high hopping insects!


Piola – Another suggestion from fellow Vancouverite. She said “go for the Basil Margarita, trust me.” But you might as well go for food, such as a pizza which is what they do very well. Now, I know it’s not “mexican” food, but sometimes you just need to eat. And if you’re going to drink an entire Basil Margarita, then you’ll need it! Let me tell you, this margarita was sooooo fresh, it was actually worth walking the 20+ blocks to the other end of the 5th Ave promenade! A definite must as I am guessing it’s going to be hard to find a place anywhere else who can match this. The atmosphere here was awesome, lots of plants and breezy.


Tropical – Yes this little place I discovered was right on the 5th Ave promenade. But this particular day I was hungry and thirsty and I really needed shade, the sunshine was hot hot hot! Not only were the staff genuinely nice, the menu was not expensive and they had some unique dishes from this region of Mexico. I am a big fan of ceviche (although not native to this area, they added their local spin) so I had the “Green Ceviche” – fish marinated in coriander, parsley and cucumber sauce with a touch of avocado oil. It was, absolutely delicious. Normally ceviche is quite acidic, whereas this was smooth and tangy. Heaven on a plate.


Mango Margarita from a beachside café…


A ‘Michelada’ made with beer, lime juice, spices and a salted rim…

My Mom Doris and I at the Travel Marketing Conference…

I hope you enjoyed my Mexican food adventure and will add these places to your future travels!

Safe Travels & Happy Summer, Enjoy xo