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Day 4: Wine Country
Having gone thoroughly "ROGUE" the previous day in the Umatilla forest, managing to descend by the lights of the van while on gravel and flatting nearly every tube in their possession, we find our intrepid cyclists on this beautiful sunny morning holed up in a miserable RV Park. Every unpaved inch of ground had been watered by aggressive sprinklers the night before which forced our cyclist to make camp on sharp uneven gravel. But, today they are up ready to explore the wine country of Walla Walla, WA where the epic roads of the day prior had delivered them. Day 4 of "Cycle Oregon" or "Rapha gone Rogue" was about to begin.
We had no prescribed route for the day so we found ourselves doing basic research about the lay of the land and most importantly where the best breakfast and wineries were. Breakfast? We decided should be a greasy spoon and as local as you could get. After some furious thumbing about on our various devices we hopped on our bikes and landed at Tommy's Dutch Lunch.
Replete with all the classic signs of either the best or worst meal ever (squeaky screen door, locals permanently installed at the counter lecturing about the federal reserve, outhouse in the back!), we knew we had found the gem of Walla Walla. Hott Sam ate more food than even Daniel is capable of, in general spirits were lifted and I think we all finally dried off after the night in the sprinkler and I think it had something to do with the liberal application of butter and bacon grease. Next on the agenda, wineries.
Walla Walla is world famous for wine and is home to many, many wineries. Cycle Oregon was on one of their "rest days" with an option to ride a 35 mile loop for through wine country. We still hadn't decided whether to rejoin the prescribed route f the day, but we were certainly going to explore at least some of the rolling vineyards and sample the terroir!
A simple plan was concocted to ride in slightly more formal dress than the usual sweaty jerseys and shockingly revealing, yet deceptively understated bib shorts. We also vowed to stop at every possible spot to taste the wine and smell the roses so to speak. This plan was immediately foiled by passing the first tasting room within three blocks of Tommy's!
We rolled through the extremely bucolic countryside admiring the fastidious nature of grape production and stopped at various wineries where very well informed people immediately exceeded your narrators pay grade in palate talk. After the second winery we knew our day would not be talked about in miles but in how many glass of local wine we drank.
Our third stop was at Beresan winery where we had surprised the owner who was giving a private tasting to a couple from out of town. The lady of the estate took us in and turned out to be a joker of the first water and indulged Cole in elaborate fanciful jokes about her bad twin sister, and explained the many cruel pranks she had performed on her completely undeserving grandchildren. After quite a bit of this, Aaron asked about the signs advertising a second winery. She explained that Beresan is the official winery of the pepper bridge estate we were on, but that they allow their vintner to make his own label wine. So, we ventured over to Balboa to see just how different it really could be.
Now, I'd like to say that with the first tasting a special spark was kindled between the Continental Project and Balboa…it has a nice narrative arc I know. But, it doesn't do the whole story justice.
It was obvious from the beginning that Balboa was different, when Tom (the owner) walked in in a t shirt from my favorite greasy spoon in Seattle it became clear that we had followed our instincts! The wine was remarkable and as we got more and more comfortable at Balboa, Tom started asking about our travels and what we were up to and so the storytelling started.
Along with our stories of riding some of the most amazing gravel roads and seeing parts of Oregon/Washington that we had never know existed we had to tell him also about our sprinkler filled night at the RV Park.
"Well, you should stay here at the winery!" Tom suggested.
So, in a matter of a an hour or so, we had rolled back to the RV park, broke camp and where winery bound for the night.
Dinner was a spectacular grilling session involving copious amounts of wine, storytelling and debates about the weather in the morning.