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Searching for Pinot, finding Kombucha; Our Willamette Valley road trip

We rendezvoused with our traveling companions, Kim and Michael, in Portland, Oregon, and dined well at a top notch establishment called Paley’s Place housed in a cozy cottage in an industrial-turned-hipster-haven part of town. We left the next morning ready to start our wine exploration of the Willamette Valley just south of Portland.

Vineyards in Oregon Wine Country

Our first stop was Elk Cove Winery, one of the first of 5 early founders of an area which is now considered one of the largest wine regions in the US, with 700 wineries. We were fortunate to have an appointment to meet the owner/winemakers, Joe and Pat Campbell, their daughter Eartha and her husband Monty, a colleague of my husband’s. We were charmed by the stories of the couple’s modest early beginnings of what is obviously a business grown and nurtured with love, honesty and a hands on work ethic.

Elk Cove Winery Winemakers, owners

After learning of my passion for fermentation, Pat directed me to her friend’s farm down the road. Kookoolan Farms is a small working farmstead, where Chrissie and Manion Zaerpoor, former Intel employees, are pasture raising chickens and beef and brewing kombucha, and honey and walnut mead, all for sale in their self-service honor shop. She and I chatted about her methods of continuous brewing and one step flavoring of the two varieties of kombucha she offers for sale. Farmer Chrissie has researched both the ancient history and craft of mead-making and is publishing a book “The Art of Mead Tasting and Food Pairing”. Her dessert meads have won awards in world wide mead competitions. (See Cinnamon Apple Kombucha recipe below.)

2 5-gallon brewers for Kombucha, with owner showing a SCOBY

We continued winding our way through the valley over the next couple of days, tasting Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc and Pinot Gris. We learned about the 3 types of soil found in the region which make the Willamette Valley single-vineyard Pinot Noir bottles so unique (volcanic, sedimentary and loess or salty loam) adding complexity and appeal for winemakers and wine enthusiasts alike. Some favorite wineries were Domaine Drouhin and Adelsheim.

Beautiful table all set for dining

About the food… don’t miss the Dundee Bistro in Dundee or Thistle in McMinnville. Check out the rooftop bar at Oregon Hotel, also in McMinnville, and view the unusual paintings lining the walls by the McMenamin’s historical surrealist artists.

Artwork, chef's with canning jars
Artwork, a chef with a wooden spoon

I fell in love with the area and chatted seriously with the quintessential English innkeepers, Jack and Denise, of the Joseph Mattey House B &B, about purchasing a bed and supper place of my own. I came to my senses when we reached the coast and had time to ponder.

The Oregon Coast, late afternoon shadows


Apple cinnamon kombucha

Reminiscent of sparkling apple cider, this apple-cinnamon kombucha will be your new favorite fall beverage. Tangy, slightly sweet, spicy, and bubbly, this flavored kombucha is worth the wait.


  • 1/4 medium apple, diced small or 3 Tbsp. apple juice

  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon chips

  • Enough kombucha to fill a 16-ounce vessel.


  1. Add the apple or juice and cinnamon chips to a pint-size container.

  2. Fill with kombucha, leaving 1/2-1 inch of headspace.

  3. Cap tightly and culture 3-7 days or desired level of carbonation is reached.

  4. Pour through a strainer into a glass to remove apple chunks and cinnamon chips before consuming.

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