Written by Cathy Carroll
When the wet west meets the higher, drier East at the Columbia River Gorge, it coaxes from the earth a veritable summer picnic basket, from chardonnay, pinot and zinfandel to strawberries, blueberries, peaches and pears. That’s when the roads winding through Hood River call to take to them on two wheels. With the wind in your (helmeted) hair, the terroir fills your senses with every push on the pedal.
MountNbarreL’s addition of e-bikes to their roster of guided tours makes it that much easier, especially for groups at varied levels of ability or desire to power themselves through an afternoon of exquisite sips and samplings of local savories and sweets.
Best of all, the bike tours have a distinctly insider feel as local guides weave in the stories of area growers and makers of wine, beer, cider, kombucha and artisan foods. Private tastings and access to the vineyards and those who run them adds depth to an experience that’s still casual and fun.
Locals love to bike to their neighborhood wineries, and that’s what inspired Ali McLaughlin to launch MountNbarreL in 2015. Visiting makers in their natural habitats pulls back the curtain on the process.
“Listening to them get all excited about something they tried is really cool,” said McLaughlin. She revels in taking guests to undiscovered vineyards producing wines as beautiful as the ones at tasting rooms attracting crowds.
Having a guide also relieves the burden of navigating as you discover valley backroads lined with farms and orchards with Mount Hood and Mount Adams as the backdrop.
Build up an appetite and satisfy it at spots such as The Gorge White House’s farm-to-food truck for a quesadilla with goat cheese and just-picked pears. Swirl a pinot gris on the patio of Wy’East Vineyards and you’ll be convinced the scene of rolling hills before you is oil on canvas. Pull up your bike to The Old Trunk, cool off with Tillamook ice cream or try the house-made huckleberry soda and plan a return trip.
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Kelsey Swenson contributed to this report.