Wine And Cuisine Cruises

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Photo courtesy of Carol Watts

Columbia River Gorge

If you’re looking for a vacation that visits five different wineries and comes with guest sommeliers, vintners or other wine experts as well as chefs and culinary arts specialists, then we’ve got the thing. Discover extraordinary wine regions, scenic beauty, and history of the Pacific Northwest on the Columbia and Snake Rivers in October and November.

American Safari Cruises, a small ship, all-inclusive, luxury company, has been doing Alaska Inside Passage and Mexico Sea of Cortez sailings for several years. They are classified as soft adventure cruises, meaning that you have an opportunity to kayak, hike, or snorkel, if you wish, or you can just relax and enjoy the scenery from the “mother ship.” Their small ship sleeps 35 to 37 passengers, and offers balcony suites to standard double rooms. Some of the rooms accommodate a third person, and there is one single cabin.

The wine connoisseur cruise itinerary is for seven nights, one way from Portland to Lewiston, Idaho, or reverse. This cruise was named one of the world’s top 10 great trips “you’ve never heard of” by the Wall Street Journal. All sailings feature an onboard sommelier or wine expert and culinary artists or guest chef as well as exploration leaders. Included at no additional charge are five private winery tours, a winery “cave” luncheon, daily wine narratives and discussions, all meals, and premium wine, beer, and spirits. Complimentary massage, yoga classes, hot tub and sauna are also available. Itinerary highlights are kayaking in hidden channels of the Lower Columbia, a tour of the Bonneville Dam, a jet boat ride into Hells Canyon, exploring the Palouse River Canyon, Multnomah Falls, and Columbia Gorge.

A full day is dedicated to the Maryhill Museum and Winery and the Columbia Gorge Appellation. The art museum is located in a castle-like chateau that overlooks the Columbia River Gorge, and contains sculptures and watercolors by Rodin, Orthodox iconographic paintings by Queen Marie of Romania, Native American artifacts, and more than 100 unusual chess sets. Maryhill Winery vineyards produce premium red wines, especially Syrah, or shiraz, and Sangiovese. Larger vineyards include Zinfandel, Viognier, Merlot, and Cabernet Sauvignon vines, and an included tasting will feature these wines. The Columbia Gorge appellations are discussed during a sommelier-hosted wine tasting and cocktail hour.

The Red Mountain and Yakima Valley appellations are explored in a tasting and tour of the Hedges Family Estate Winery, housed in a chateau reminiscent of those in the Bordeaux region of France. Hedges produces blends of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, as well as a Chardonnay. That same day you will visit Terra Blanca Winery and Estate Vineyard, located on internationally recognized Red Mountain in eastern Washington. This Tuscan-style winery offers spectacular views of the lower Yakima Valley. Terra Blanca built the first underground barrel storage caves in Washington state in 1977. A second cave system built in 2004 houses an estate library and an intimate dining area where you will enjoy a cave luncheon.

L’Ecole No 41 Winery is located in an historic 1915 schoolhouse, and the tasting room occupies one of the two classrooms. Here you will enjoy a prized Estate Syrah from the winery’s partner, Seven Hills Vineyard. Nearby Northstar Winery is known for their ultra-premium Merlot. Northstar’s winemaking style is comparable to Bordeaux’s “right bank.” After a tasting and production tour, you have the opportunity to blend your own complex Merlot.

Along the way you will experience the Bonneville Dam, transit several locks, view the Palouse River Canyon, enjoy a jet boat ride into Hells Canyon, and have a port of call at Hood River, the windsurfing capital of the world.

Cruise West also has a Columbia and Snake River cruise, but their emphasis is on historic landmarks and adventure opportunities. Napa Valley winery tours are available from several different providers. Numerous food and wine vacation opportunities are available in Italy, France and Mexico.

Cruise Port Travel will gladly help you plan a wine or culinary vacation to suit your palate. Stop in at 900 W. Driftwood Dr., or visit our website www.travelpayson. Past Rim Review articles are archived in the blog spot.

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