Photo Courtesy of Overleaf Lodge and Spa

Wine and Dine

Exploring Junction City’s wine in a Yachats hotel

When a hotel offers a reporter the chance to experience a room overlooking the Oregon Coast, it’s less an assignment than a vacation.

And that’s how I treated my invitation to stay at the Overleaf Lodge and Spa in Yachats. Here was a chance to get out of Willamette Valley (which I rarely do) and see some of the state’s treasures. Yachats, a more or less typical Oregon Coast town, offers visitors ready access to Junction City-area wineries, interesting restaurants and dramatic ocean views.

The first rule of getting out of Willamette Valley is that Willamette Valley never leaves you. When I arrived at Overleaf Lodge and Spa after a two-hours drive along winding highways, I was informed that the night’s wine tasting would feature a Junction City winery.

Overleaf has partnered with Prairie Mountain Wineries, a group of six winemakers. It’s a deal that has apparently boosted the image of the wineries, said Jim McGavin, president of the consortium, in a statement.

That certainly proved true for me. I never thought much of Junction City wines, since Dundee Valley has occupied my mind as a place with some of the finest wines.

The night I stayed at the hotel, Brigadoon Vineyards was offering samples, and boy, did this winery steal the show for me.

The winery offered four pinot wines. Its lighter wines (2018 Pinot Blanc and 2018 Pinot Noir Rosé) walked a fine line of acidity and body — and the rosé was less sugary and more like actual fruit.

Since I’m in the infantile stages of pinot noir fan-boy-dom, Brigadoon’s two pinot noirs stuck out to me most. The Pinot Noir Taproot gives a barrel-front taste — offering more smokiness at first — and then rewards with a backdrop flavor of berry. The 2016 Pinot Noir Lylee, however, lets fruit take the main stage.

Being a seaside town, Yachats does offer a few seafood options. Looking for a gluten-free friendly restaurant, however, makes things a little more difficult. After deciding on the Drift Inn Café (who would’ve thought Yachats was a popular place to stay in March?), I stuck with it despite the wait time nearing an hour.

The Drift Inn Café’s menu is eclectic. It offers the usual burgers, steak and fish you’ll find in any seaside restaurant. But it also includes noodle bowls, mole enchiladas and wood-fired pizza. It’s one of those menus you see on Kitchen Nightmares that gets ripped apart by Chef Gordon Ramsey. But, somehow, this restaurant pulls it off.

I went with the steak, which may have been a little too rare. Nevertheless, I stand by my decision — although looking around at other people’s wood-fired pizza left me wondering: What if?

The hotel’s public relations team isn’t lying when it says Overleaf Lodge and Spa offers an ocean view. In fact, the sound of crashing waves gave me an awakening I wasn’t expecting. Groggy and slightly hung-over, the sound of waves colliding against rocks had me wondering in my first waking moments if I had passed out on a beach, like Doc Ricketts in John Steinbeck’s Cannery Row.

The scenery surrounding Overleaf wasn’t lost on me. From my hotel room, I could glance over and watch waves crashing on volcanic rock as I lay on the bed, watching the amazing light-saber duel on the volcanic world Mustafar between Obi Wan and Darth Vader in Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith.