[/caption] My wife and I have now completed our second winery tasting tour and this time we visited several wineries within Yamhill County. Each of the wineries that we visited were also in the small town of Dundee, which is just a short drive from Portland. The weather the previous days were cold and wet but on this day the sun had come out in force and it ended up being a fantastic day to taste wines. Most of the wineries were gearing up for their first day of harvest. Dundee offers some of the most impressive rolling hills in the Willamette Valley and some great views of Mt. Hood and Mt. Jefferson. The first winery that we visited was at Sokol Blosser winery. We were welcomed by a very charming and open tasting room. There are several seating areas outside near the vineyard as well as a patio that overlooks the vineyards. The wines were awesome and we were also able to walk around the grounds and had the opportunity to watch them weigh the grapes in 500 lb tubs and then slowly place them on a moving belt so they could be inspected before preparing to process them. The staff was pleasant and very knowledgeable. Our second stop was at Winderlea tasting room, which was on a slopping hill that overlooked several of the vineyards in Dundee. The building was very modern and had a very urban feel to it. Again, the staff was very polite and was dog friendly. They offer a spectacular view from their enormous deck and on a clear day you could see the Cascades in the distance. You were basically right over the top of the vineyards. We then decided to walk up the hill just yards from Winderlea and visit our third winery…. Barrel Fence Cellars. This winery also has a vineyard in New Zealand as well in Oregon. The tasting room sat near the top of the hill and also offered a great view of the vineyards surrounding the area. There is a also a very pleasant patio seating area outside. Our 4th winery was just 1/2 mile up the road and it was Maresh winery. You can see the top of the barn in the photo that I’ve posted highlighting this article. We were told that the tasting room was at one time a working barn several years ago. They also had used the old Tigard high school basketball court as their flooring inside the Red Barn tasting room. Maresh vineyard had a real country feel to it. It was the most unique winery that I have visited since it reminded me of an old farm house rather than a winery. However, the wine was fantastic and the hospitality was awesome. Our fifth and final winery was at Bella Vida Vineyard. This winery was at the top of a winding hill and offered the most panoramic views in the area. The picture that I posted in this article was taken near their tasting room. I took most of my photos from this area since it offered so many photo opportunities. The tasting room was still under construction but they still had their tasting room open. It was very spacious and the hospitality was wonderful. We were told that once the construction is completed, they will have the tasting room on the second floor with ample seating and even better views. On this day I didn’t use my tripod, bubble level or my remote switch. I found that I needed to move around too often and my tripod would be too cumbersome and time consuming. To get get shot, I was using my 55-250mm Canon telephoto lens. I was also using my UV, warming and CIR-PL filter. I had the ISO at 100 and the white balance at -0.3. The focal length was at 90mm and the F stop was at F-4.5. I was using Program mode and the shutter speed was at 1/50th of a second. The sun was fairly intense even though I took the photo at 4:15pm. The clouds were hit and miss but the vineyards created a very translucent glow. I was really concerned about having my photos turn out blurry since I wasn’t using a tripod and I was using my telephoto at a high focal length. If you love wine and wine tasting, I would recommend visiting any of the wineries surrounding Yamhill County. I believe there are close to 100 wineries throughout the Willamette Valley and I would surely recommend the ones that we visited.
[/caption] My first trip to the San Juan Islands in Washington State was an awesome experience. The weather was stellar and the sights were an amazement of incredible views. San Juan Island is one of the largest of the islands and it’s about 55.3 square miles and about 6,950 residents. However, I’m not sure if that’s full time or part time residents. Friday Harbor is the only town on the island and also where the ferry drops visitors off. We caught the ferry at Anacortes and it was about a 45 minute trip. However, make sure to get there early and plan on waiting for a while before boarding the ferry. It’s pretty expensive on the island so I would recommend bringing as much food as possible and make sure you fill up your gas tank in Anacortes. When driving through the island, it looks more like an agricultural area more than an island. It reminded me a lot of the Willamette Valley in Oregon. However, the rocky shores were teaming with viewpoints that included Mt. Baker to the east, the Olympic mountains to the south and Vancouver Island, Canada to the west. There are also two lighthouses on the southern part of the island, several densely forested areas as well as numerous fresh water lakes dotted along the island. There are plenty of historic places to visit and the interior has several rolling hills that offer some of the best road bike riding I’ve ever seen. We saw several deer as well as several sea otters in Mitchell Bay. There are several places that you can view orcas from the island, but unfortunately we didn’t see any. There is a small winery and an alpaca farm. Several cattle, horses and sheep are raised here as well as wheat and grass. There are several old barns and houses to photograph and with the Olympics always close by, you can sometimes get the mountains in most of your pictures when visiting the southern side. There are two harbors and dozens of coves and bays throughout the island. I was amazed with the amount of kayaks on the island. Most visitors coming off the ferry had either a bike or a kayak strapped to their vehicles. Sometimes they had both. I was able to get a lot of photos with kayaks in the picture, which made for some great sunset photos. I was able to kayak where I was staying, which was at Mitchell Bay on the north side of the island. You could see Vancouver Island, Canada and I paddled near several sea lions, kayaked through a kelp garden, saw several jelly fish and watched as some very expensive sail boats and power boats steamed by. There is also a 1 mile hike up Young Hill, which is about an 800 foot elevation gain. It provides a fantastic panoramic view of the Olympics, the many harbors and Vancouver Island. One of my favorite spots to photograph and visit along the shore was at tiny Reuben Tarte County Park, which is on the north east tip of the island. You have an incredible 180 degree view with several islands in the distance. You can see the mountains on Vancouver Island and photograph the ferries heading to Sidney Harbor as well as the many sailboats and power boats in the San Juan Channel. Since I was limited on time I visited San Juan County Park to get my sunset shots. It was only about a 10 minute drive from Mitchell Bay and there were several areas to set up my tripod. To get this photo, I was using my 55-250 telephoto lens and had the focal length at 79mm. I was using my CIR-PL, warming filter and UV filter as well as my tripod and remote release. The sun had just set so I was able to get the orange glow exploding over Vancouver Island and Andrews Bay. You can also see several homes near Victoria, Canada. Since the glare was fairly bright, I wasn’t able to set my camera mode to Shutter. I kept it at Program mode and the F stop was F 4.5. I set the ISO to 100 which caused the shutter to release at 1/15 second. I have several photos where I had set the shutter to 30 seconds but this photo really shows the colors of the sunset. I would highly recommend visiting the San Juan Islands if you want to really experience an epic journey. There are several other islands that the ferries can take you to, but I was very impressed with what this island had to offer.