"The moment I inhaled, and allowed my lungs to fill with the fresh air of the Willamette Valley, I knew my life had changed. And then, I tasted the wine."
My bi-annual visit to Los Angeles to spend quality time with my younger brother, was quickly approaching its end. And I wasn't ready to hop on a plane back to the East Coast.
Then, out-of-nowhere, a friend asked me to join him in Eugene, Oregon for a few days.
I hesitated at first, but was incredibly excited at the prospect of visiting Oregon wine country-- the Willamette Valley. And so, I scrambled and booked my plane ticket.
Over the years, I've covered a lot of ground in my travels throughout the continental United States. However, I had never been to Oregon, which was on my bucket list. This trip provided the perfect opportunity to make my way to the Upper Northwest and explore.
I arrived in Eugene on a Wednesday. On Thursday, I woke up early and started my day at the Willamette Valley wineries, as they were opening - all around noon.
The local cab company, Oregon Taxi proved to be an extremely cost-effective and valuable resource during my trip. My plan was to visit King Estate Winery first. However, when my driver arrived, he asked where I wanted to go. "To King Estate, please," I said.
My driver, Troy, who I'd get to know over the course of the day, told me King Estate was gorgeous and a real treat. But as a first time visitor to Oregon wine country, I should try the smaller mom-and-pops, for a completely different kind of experience. More authentic.
My feeling is - do as the locals do. So, I ditched my original plans, and flew by the seat of my pants. We were off. First stop, Sweet Cheeks Winery.
As Troy drove there, through what can only be described as, "God's Country," I rolled down the window, and took in the views.
The verdant crescendos - trees short and tall, ebbing into open fields, and twisting as we navigated the hilly roads. It was music for the eyes, a song comprised completely of Mother Nature's images. Awe-struck, I was home.
The moment I inhaled, and allowed my lungs to fill with the fresh air of the Willamette Valley, I knew my life had changed. And then, I tasted the wine.