Hood River (population 7,167) overlooks the Columbia River in the heart of the Columbia Gorge American Viticultural Area (AVA), which includes areas in Oregon and Washington. Along a 40-mile stretch of the river are 83 vineyards and 36 wineries, along with 11 brewpubs, close to a dozen cider houses and even a distillery or two. Every kind of wind and water sport is available nearby, as well as biking, hiking, camping, rock climbing, fly-fishing and skiing (often into May). You can cap off the day with a variety of local brews, wines and dining options.
Where to Dine
At breakfast, Ground Coffee and Dog River Coffee are where the locals go for great java and light pastries. Hit up Egg River Café for a bigger menu of egg-centric dishes. Hood River is awash in brewpubs. For a mid-day burger and beer, try Full Sail Brewing Company, Double Mountain Brewery & Taproom or Pfriem Family Brewers. For salads and sandwiches, visit the River Daze Café. Wines, craft beer and ciders are on the menu at the White House Café. If pizza is your thing, go to Andrew’s Pizza at the Skylight Theater or the Solstice Wood Fire Café & Bar. Fancy but friendly, the Celilo Restaurant & Bar features locally sourced entrées and a full bar. Riverside at the Hood River Inn offers panoramic river views.
Where to Stay
Just west of town and right on the river is the historic Columbia Gorge Hotel, which provides elegant accommodations and lovely gardens. Also along the river is the Columbia Cliff Villas, which offers Euro-style lodging. Both have spectacular views. Best downtown options are the Hampton Inn & Suites Hood River (newly remodeled, river view), the Hood River Hotel (a bit noisy, but within walking distance to everything) and the Oak Street Hotel, a 1909 home converted into a cozy B&B.
Blow into Big Winds for windsurf gear rentals, Mountain View Cycles for mountain bikes and 2nd Wind Sports for quality used gear. Visit Tread (formerly Zella Shoes) for funky footwear, Plenty for casual clothes, and Gorge Greenery and High Winds Farms for marijuana, which is legal for recreational use here.
Along a 40-mile stretch of the river are 83 vineyards and 36 wineries, along with 11 brewpubs, close to a dozen cider houses and even a distillery or two.
Drive the Hood River Fruit Loop during the spring or fall. In May, you’ll catch fruit orchards in bloom. In September, there’s fall foliage, apple and pear picking, lavender and chestnut farms, and special harvest-season events.
When to Go
May is stunning, as all the fruit trees are blooming. September is peaceful and the weather is glorious. But summer is most fun.
Where to Taste
No one leaves the Gorge thirsty! Some top spots on the Oregon side include Marchesi Vineyards, which specializes in Italian varieties. The Sangiovese and Primitivo are especially noteworthy. The tasting room at Phelps Creek Vineyards overlooks the Hood River Golf Course. Here, sip estate-grown Chardonnay and Pinot Noir and enjoy a picnic lunch amid jaw-dropping views of Mount Hood. Named for its century-old Zinfandel vineyard, The Pines 1852 can arrange vineyard tours for your group, or pour from a full range of wines in its downtown tasting room. Viento sources its grapes from top regional vineyards, and owner Rich Cushman can fill you in on local hotspots for dining, drinking and adventuring. Wy’East Vineyards is one of Oregon’s highest-altitude vineyards. It has a pet-friendly tasting room, which features picnic areas and two bocce courts. Thunder Island Brewing Company is on the river at Cascade Locks. Stop here for small-batch brews and a kid-friendly menu. For a spirited finale, try the Pendleton whiskies at Hood River Distillers.
Sineann’s Peter Rosback makes cellarworthy, vineyard-designated Pinot Noirs from Wy’East and potent, old-vine Zinfandel from the Pines. Under the Wy’East label, the Pinot Gris is especially good, as is the Acadia bottling from Cerulean. Brooks taps the Oak Ridge Vineyard for its Gewürztraminer, loaded with chunky fruit flavors. Celilo vineyard fruit is sourced by many Northwest wineries, and it’s especially notable for Chardonnay. Phelps Creek’s Lynette Chardonnay is another fine cool-climate version to seek out. On the Washington side, look for Syncline wines.
Local in the Know
Winemaker and Hood River native Rich Cushman opened Viento Winery in 1986 and knows the best food trucks in town. He recommends Leah’s Lunch, El Cuate (try the carne asada torta), Empanadas Maria Elba, Four and Twenty Blackbirds and Lampoei’s Thai Kitchen. “For dinner, head across the river to Henni’s Kitchen & Bar,” says Cushman. “Terrific small plates—shrimp skewers with curry sauce, kale fritters, lovely salads—and burgers that many of us declare the best in the Gorge.”