Tuesday, October 30, 2012

There’s Something About Carlton...

Carlton, Oregon may not have the starring role in a Farrelly Brothers movie, but it could certainly have its own reality show about the spirit of collaboration, fine wine, and beautiful living. Yes, there’s something about Carlton, and almost everyone one I spoke to mentioned there was an irresistible quality that drew them to the community.

After WBC12 Portland ended, I was part of a group invited back to Carlton, site of the Cuffed in Carlton extravaganza, for a closer look at what makes the tiny town so appealing for wine tourists as well as those just seeking an escape to a spot that puts the O in hospitality. That’s O, as in "Oh yeah, this is the place.”

Walk in the Park

I’ve been to many walk around tastings over the years but Carlton’s Walk in the Park was one of the most pleasant and relaxing events ever. It was a welcome down shift from the red line of WBC activity. At Walk in the Park we were left to wander at our own pace and just unwind. I sampled many of the wines in the tasting tent and then strolled through the art exhibits. There was a great band jamming out on one end of the park and a row of classic cars on display. I felt like Goldilocks --in that I’d found the perfect size festival, not too big, not too small, just right. O--"Oh yeah."

Republic of Jam

Come for the Jam,  Stay for the COCKTAILS! 

Later on after Walk in the Park we reconvened on Main Street at Republic of Jam with our hosts Amy and Lynette. What’s the best way to revive a tired wine blogger? With cocktails! But not just any old cocktails, no, these were inspired creations prepared from fine ingredients with speciality syrups and jams made on the premises. O--"Oh Yeah, this is the place!!!”

Losing my head at Republic of Jam

When @winebratsf talks...people listen!

Amy and Lynette of Republic of Jam -- the hosts with the most.

Post cocktail hour we stepped next door to the Horse Radish for live music and dinner. I almost did not recognize the place since the last time I was there for the Cuffed in Carlton Dinner. What a transformation. Now it was back to its regular configuration-- perfect for kicking back and enjoying the show. I’m sure we had some wine with dinner but all I remember was the excellent beer from Fire Mountain Brewery.

Casa della Valle
Joe and Eve of Casa della Valle

After dinner we were all given directions to our respective lodging arrangements for the evening. Melanie (@dallaswinechick) and I were pointed in the direction of Casa delle Valle, a few blocks away on Pine Street. We were told to follow Pine for several blocks and bear right as the road curved. You can’t miss it we were assured. We came to a fork in the road but it was very dark and we were unclear which way to head. We stumbled a few more blocks onward and I saw a man across the street from us. “Excuse me.” I yelled. “Is there a B and B around here?”
--A what? What’s a B and B? he replied. 
--Um, it means Bed and Breakfast.
--Oh that – yeah, it’s right in front of you.

Hey, we are wine bloggers not Lewis and Clark. Anyway that’s my explanation and I’m sticking with it. We rang the bell at Cassa delle Valle and were greeted by Eve who owns and runs the B & B with her husband Joe. Eve showed us around and I immediately knew Melanie and I had lucked out with the accommodations. Casa della Valle is more than a B & B-- it’s a treasure trove of antiques and collectibles; a mini museum of all things beautiful and many things kitsch. We spent close to 35 minutes just gawking and gazing at all the fabulous items Joe and Eve had collected over the years. O--"Oh yeah, this is the place.”

That night, tucked into my comfy bed, I got my first deep sleep of the week. In the morning I awoke to a gentle thumping sound that turned out to be Ms. DallasWineChick doing her calisthenics in the other guest room. That girl is in shape!
Breakfast at Casa della Valle--
notice the grape pattern on the china.

Eve prepared us a lovely breakfast and I wondered if she had chosen the grape leaf china pattern just for us. I seemed to be exactly the kind of special touch she would make for her wine blogging guests. I asked Eve how she started collecting. “Well,” she said, “My mother was weird …” Mine too I thought. No wonder I felt so at home there. Cassa della Valle may not be the fanciest or most expensive lodging choice in Carlton, but it is hands down the most fun and interesting. I guarantee that.

Just a few of the many wines of the region
If you are planning a trip to Willamette Valley region of Oregon and looking for a fine wine experience wrapped around great food, small town charm and hospitality-- look no further than Carlton. O--Oh yeah, Carlton is the place.


Featured Wineries & Tasting Rooms:
Link to Melanie’s Account of UnCuffed in Carlton

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