S.S. Legacy Cruise Review by mgrenby
- Sail Date: July 2017
- Destination: North America River
But you could also enjoy the widely varying scenery along the Willamette, Columbia and Snake Rivers as you cruised east from Portland (Oregon), as well as experience the historical and other highlights along the way, including:
+ A replica of Britain’s ancient Stonehenge overlooking the Columbia River.
+ Furniture from the Queen of Romania.
+ The route followed by American explorers Lewis and Clark seeking the Pacific Ocean.
+ “Meeting” Sam Hill, who built the Peace Arch on the Canada-U.S. border at Blaine, Washington.
This wine-themed cruise featured both resident and visiting wine experts and also knowledgeable speakers/tour leaders – all of whom gave afternoon and evening talks as well as providing information both on and off the buses during the daily excursions.
The boat (44 cabins, renovated in 2013) offered non-stop high quality food (can’t decide which of the three main courses to have? Ask for smaller portions of two or even all three) and open bar from morning to night – plus, if you could find the time, loaner DVDs and books.
While of course the trip highlights were the visits to the wineries, I thoroughly enjoyed the variety of non-wine sights and sites.
On the Saturday we cast off from downtown Portland’s Tom McCall Waterfront Park and sailed a short distance on the Willamette River before turning upstream into the mighty Columbia River, which separates Oregon and Washington states.
Sunday brought us to the Multnomah Falls with spray cascading straight down to break on lower level stone outcrops. It was definitely worth climbing the easy footpath to the bridge about halfway up the falls.
And so to our first winery: Springhouse Cellars, housed in the ruins of a former turn-of-the-19th-20th-century fruit cannery and distillery. Before it got too hot, I enjoyed the tastings held outside, like they were at Springhouse.
Next stop: Mt. Hood Winery, with the winery’s 11,250ft./3,429m volcanic namesake dramatically completing the view in the distance over the vineyards.
We returned to the ship and my complimentary massage by Mari with her soothing firm but gentle hands.
I was so relaxed I slept back in my cabin for an hour – and awoke to an almost surreal experience when I looked outside: giant brilliantly coloured butterflies skimming across the whitecaps…which turned out to be windsurfers and kitesurfers darting back and forth on and above the wind-whipped waves of the Columbia River Gorge, in front of and behind the ship, with the snow-covered Mt. Hood in the background. Magical, wonderful….
I noticed how quickly the vegetation was changing, from the green firs and other trees to the yellow grassy hillsides.
“For every mile east/upriver the countryside loses one inch of rain a year,” freshwater conservationist David told us, as we watched the greenery shrink to a thin line along the riverbank where roots could reach water. This was summer; winter and spring would turn all the landscape green again.
That evening, heritage leader Lilly took us along with Captains Meriwether Lewis and William Clark and their Corps of Discovery as they descended the Columbia River in the fall of 1805 in their quest for a continental water route to the west coast, and then voyaged back upstream the following year.
With pictures and quotes from the Lewis and Clark expedition, she brought to life the encounters with Indian tribes, as well as with the rocks and rapids and other natural wilderness features much like the ones we saw on our cruise and shore adventures.
The next day we visited wineries Basel and Dunham in Walla Walla, then took a walk around town including an excellent French pastry place.
“No cellphone reception: enjoy the peace and quiet!” we were informed as we neared Palouse Falls State Park. And a sign warned us:
“Travel beyond this point is on unmarked, potentially hazardous trails. Users assume all risks. Rescue costs will be at the expense of the injured party.”
Fortunately nobody was injured. And on our return to the boat, several people took the plunge into the Snake River to cool off.
Wednesday and we were heading back downriver, accruing more wine tastes and knowledge at the Walter Clore Wine & Culinary Center and Red Mountain’s Terra Blanca with a very nice $125 “1010 Cabernet Sauvignon.”
Then, there it was: Stonehenge, an exact replica of the 14th century original in the English countryside, built on a hill in Washington State overlooking the Columbia River by Quaker pacifist Sam Hill to honour the military dead of the First World War.
Hill also designed and built the Peace Arch in Peace Arch Park at the Washington-British Columbia border to celebrate a century of peace between Canada and the U.S. And he developed experimental paved roads on his own land around the Maryhill townsite, where both the winery and museum of art with that name are located.
The museum featured an eclectic mix of Rodin sculptures, furniture from Hill’s personal friend Queen Marie of Romania, native Indian art and postwar French fashion miniature “stages” when there wasn’t enough material to clothe regular models.
Next stop, The Dalles, known for producing railway ties and maraschino cherries, and for its 40 brothels during its Wild West days.
Friday found us in Oregon’s Willamette Valley, where it must have been difficult for the organizers to decide which two of the more than 250 wineries we should visit.
They settled on Archer Vineyards and then the very elegant Domaine Serene known both for its Wine Spectator Magazine’s “World’s #3 Wine of 2013” and also for reversing the trend of Burgundy vintners buying Oregon vineyards by becoming the first Oregon winery to buy a French vineyard: Château de la Crée, a Burgundy wine estate in the Côte d’Or.
Back on board S. S. Legacy we wrapped up the final daily 5pm wine tasting/learning session by enjoying a 2011 Chateauneuf-du-Pape which would probably cost around USD$300 a bottle in a restaurant.
The following morning we disembarked in Portland – realizing how much more there can be to a wine cruise than just the wine.
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