Riders stop at Remy Wines in Dayton for tastings and tacos. ##Photo provided
Participants in the Slow Ride Wine Country Vespa event travel down the road through the vines. ##Photo provided

Vespas and Vines

Slow Ride Wine Country tours via scooter

By Valerie Estelle Rogers

This ride happened before our current situation, before masks and social distancing, when gathering in groups was common and shared experiences involved others outside family. However, with the proper safety measures, this Vespa adventure could easily have taken place yesterday, again, with some obvious changes.

Scenic turns, sunbursts through trees, and three stops along the journey for rests and lunch awaited 20 Vespa riders. Gathered at Water Avenue Coffee in Portland, the participants chatted, sipped espresso and double-checked their scooters in preparation. Slow Ride Wine Country was moments from starting the trek: a 105-mile round-trip designed to guide guests leisurely along roads lined with acres of vines, all the while allowing riders to embrace the joy of scootering. I learned for some of the riders, this was their first time west of Portland; for some, a first visit to a winery; and for many, the longest day ride they’d ever taken, me included.

In parallel lines, our Vespas snaked out of the city and eventually onto Highway 99W, catching the eyes of onlookers watching us as we passed. The air, crisp in the morning, felt warm by afternoon with the sun beating down, making the ride all the more dramatic, almost cinematic.

South on 99W, past Newberg and Dundee, we approached our first stop: Remy Wines. The charming mustard farmhouse was a welcome sight, as were the drifting smells of spices filling the air. Martha’s Tacos, a mainstay in nearby Lafayette, catered a first-class buffet of street tacos with handmade, hot-from-the-grill corn tortillas. Fresh ingredients and piquant sauces dripped down our wrists as we sprawled across the lawn; some of us lying back on our blankets as if we were transported to an Italian villa. Winemaker/owner Remy Drabkin produces Old World-style Italian varietal wines, so it wasn’t a far cry from Italy. She shared the history of her winery, how she grew up in wine country, stories behind her wines — such as how Three Wives earned its name — and her passionate connection with the Portland Opera.

All fueled up on tacos, our caravan of scooters departed Remy’s tasting room on. We explored wine country roads and the scenery by riding up and over the Dundee Hills on Worden Hill Road and cutting over to North Valley Road, eventually arriving at our second stop on Calkins Lane: Adelsheim Vineyards.

Greeted by Mark Dagg, assistant tasting room manager, we followed him to the Hilltop Garden and discovered a large table filled with charcuterie platters. As we lounged on the garden chairs, under the pergola, surrounded by views of the Chehalem Mountains, Mark described the history of Adelsheim, one of the Willamette Valley’s founding wineries — dating to 1978. Between bites of pâté and cheese, we learned about the collaboration between the Portland Trail Blazers and Adelsheim to commemorate the NBA team’s 50th anniversary.

Rested and ready for more wine country views, our caravan proceeded to what would become the highlight leg of the day’s drive, Woodland Loop Road. An official scenic route, the peaceful, winding road connects Highway 240 to Laughlin Road in the Yamhill-Carlton AVA. We relished the stillness of the middle of the day as we drove the slight elevation, looking over fields of vines. We squinted as the light shone through the trees, and smiled past grazing cattle and a couple of excited dogs who’d heard our little engines revving down the road.

We arrived at our final stop: Roots Wine Co. Met by winemaker/owner Chris Berg, we dismounted and headed to the tasting room. We all took turns on the tabletop Pac-Man machine, snapped photos of the stunning views, snacked on cookies supplied by Newberg Bakery, but most importantly, we hydrated. Chris told us his story of how Roots grew from planting grapes in 1999 on the family’s 20 acres to become the 5,000-case winery it is today. Very much a family business, Roots offers an inviting lightness and warmth that may inspire you to buy one of their “Soil Yourself” T-shirts, celebrating the winery’s good humor and dedication to organic farming.

I estimated we rode by approximately 50 wineries, if not more, not to mention the thousands of vines surrounding them. At any turn, we could have arrived at the driveway of a tasting room or the foot of a vineyard row. While this trip focused on the ride itself, we were all thankful a wine-Sherpa vehicle was available for our purchases to drink later and fondly recall the day’s adventure.

A special acknowledgment to Vespa Portland, Water Avenue Coffee, Martha’s Tacos, Remy Wines, Adelsheim Vineyard, Roots Wine Co, Newberg Bakery, and day sponsor Michael C. Rogers/COUNTRY Financial for making Vespa Portland Slow Ride Wine Country happen.



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