If you’re dreaming of taking a trip (and who isn’t, with the dreary, winter weather) your first go-to for travel planning might not be Whatcom Community College. But perhaps it should be. WCC’s Community and Continuing Education Program has your insider ticket to Oregon wine country and a perfect pairing of NW authors with their guided tour “Pinot & Prose: A Taste of Willamette Valley.”

Trip leaders and Village Books co-owners Kelly Evert and Paul Hanson. Photo courtesy: Whatcom Community College

Running May 6-9, 2020, this educational road trip promises wine tastings, winemaking tours, talks with regional authors, and also has an optional reading list compiled by trip leaders Kelly Evert and Paul Hanson of Village Books. Also joining the tour is best-selling author Erica Bauermeister, along with her 2019 novel The Scent Keeper.

“Paul and Kelly brought up Erica being involved,” says WCC Program Specialist Courtney Kendall. “Her research on scents is fascinating. She will be such an interesting resource when it comes to the smells of the wines and the feelings they illicit.”

Ms. Kendall is the mastermind behind this tour and many others operated by the Community and Continuing Education Program.  She, along with Evert and Hanson, will present a free information session about the trip at Village Books Readings Gallery on January 28 at 6:00 PM.

Courtney Kendall is the program specialist for Community and Continuing Education at WCC. Photo courtesy: Whatcom Community College

Tour participants will arrive in McMinnville, Oregon, in Yamhill County late Wednesday afternoon, and then enjoy very specifically crafted day trip itineraries on Thursday and Friday. “I’m really excited about these partnerships,” says Kendall. “I’ve been having lots of conversations and studying reviews to see where to go in Willamette. We’ve put together a wide variety of wineries that showcase different parts of Willamette Valley and diverse AVA regions.” Saturday includes a stop at a tasting room on the Columbia River in Vancouver on the way home.

Oregon wine tasting locations include: Brooks Winery, Sokol Blosser Winery, Durant Vineyards, Lange Winery, Argyle Winery, and the Washington stop will be the tasting room for Maryhill Winery. Behind-the-scenes how-tos and enrichment activities happen at the two facility tour locations: Sokol Blosser Winery and Red Ridge Farms.

Sokol Blosser Winery founder Susan Sokol Blosser will be on site for a discussion of her recommended reading book The Vineyard Years: A Memoir with Recipes. “Susan is going to meet us at the winery she founded and talk about her experiences,” says Kendall. “She was a pioneering woman in the wine industry in the ’70s and ’80s.” Sokol Blosser was one of the first wineries in the region, and was Oregon’s first tasting room.

A group of participants on the 2018 Walla Walla Wine Tour, learning about winemaking at College Cellars. Photo courtesy: Whatcom Community College

Red Ridge Farms is home to both Durant Vineyards and Durant Olive Mill. Although there will be tasting at this stop featuring wines crafted from the grapes grown by five generations of Durants, the tour will be of the Olive Mill. Seventeen acres of trees support the production of olive oil at what was the northwest’s first commercial mill. There will be olive oils to taste, and springtime also brings a showy display from their luscious gardens.

You don’t have to be studious to join in on this exploration, despite the fact that it starts at a college campus. “Personal enrichment is my role at WCC,” says Kendall, “and the trips are no different. Paul and Kelly will be there to talk through the themes of the books for those who want to join in, but you could completely enjoy the trip if you don’t read the books at all.”

Author Erica Bauermeister. Photo courtesy: Whatcom Community College

While two of the featured books are specifically tied to the region—Sokol Blosser’s memoir and Brian Doyle’s documented quest for the best pinot noir—Bauermeister is added purely for a “top note,” because it just made “scents” (sorry). If you’re attracted by the literary angle, Bauermeister will be featured at Third Street Books in McMinnville one evening, talking about her latest book House Lessons: Renovating a Life (available March 2020).

In all, this outing includes transportation via the super comfortable Bellair Charters, three nights’ lodging in McMinnville, all wine tasting fees, two days of lunches, and of course any friendships you make along the way (famous authors, bookstore owners, and winemakers included). The optional recommended books can be purchased through Village Books for a 15% discount.

The deadline to join in this escapade into wine and words is March 2, 2020. Registration can be made by visiting www.whatcomcommunityed.com and choosing “road trips” in the sidebar menu. You can also call 360-383-3200, but if you do, you might miss what you will see online: that this is just one of many enrichment excursions offered by WCC.

When asked about WCC’s tour program, Courtney says, “Community and Continuing Education has a history of doing trips, but day trips. Then, in 2017, we piloted a trip to Walla Walla as a wine tasting tour. Participants learned how wine is made and visited a few different wineries over a couple of days. We did that in 2018, as well. This trip to Oregon represents our first out-of-state overnight. We’re also very excited to be offering a tour to Scotland in 2020. Our trips offer safe travel with a college to experience something new. A lot of care and thought is put into the itineraries.”

Any questions can be answered at the information session on January 28 or directed to Community and Continuing Education at WCC: comed@whatcom.edu or 360-383-3200.

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