Time to say goodbye to California with a 160-mile / 260-kilometer drive along a pretty scenic stretch of the I-5. We spent the next day and a half in Medford, Oregon.
After a hearty breakfast at our hotel’s restaurant, the Woodside Grill, consisting of Woodside Eggs Benedict (English muffin, sliced tomato, spinach, avocado, poached eggs and hollandaise sauce and hash browns), Veggie Omelet (Portobello mushroom, caramelised onions, tomato, spinach, brie cheese and hash browns) and Short Stacks and fresh fruit for the kids, we hit the road.
Sundial Bridge (Redding, CA)
The first stop was only 10 miles along the road: the iconic Sundial Bridge in Redding, CA. Designed by Spaniard Santiago Calatrava, the 700 feet / 210m bridge over the Sacramento river links the north and south campuses of Turtle Bay Exploration Park for bikes and pedestrians. Due to the cantilever support tower design, the bridge spans the entire river, which is done intentionally as not to disturb the upstream migration of the Chinook Salmon to their spawning grounds. The glass and metal surface does get quite hot during the summer: even though we were there around 10am, many people were already carrying their toddlers and dogs!
This stretch of the I-5 isn’t dubbed the Cascade Wonderland Highway for nothing. It was an enjoyable drive through varied landscapes, climbing to an elevation of about 4,000ft / 1,200m.
Besides some scenic pics, Mount Shasta, Black Butte, and the Willow Creek Rest Stop at the Klamath River close to Yreka, CA, are pictured above. The latter had several display signs about the State of Jefferson, a movement for the establishment of a 51st US state – with Yreka as proposed capital – intended for the rural residents of southern Oregon and Northern California feeling neglected by the central state governments. Several attempts to separate have taken place since the 1940s. With the movement getting more traction in the last 5 years and references can be found in very unexpected places.
Dancin Vineyards (Medford)
We already had DANCIN Vineyards (4477 South Stage Road Medford, close to Jacksonville, OR) on our shortlist to visit as it was lauded as the 2017 Oregon winery of the Year, but as their Italian inspired bistro got rave online reviews as well, we thought it would be and enjoy a late lunch here.
As they are only open from Thursday to Sunday, we were in luck ;-). We sat on the covered patio overlooking a beautiful pond and started off with the Select wine flight (consisting of their 2016 Assemblage and Chaîné Chardonnays, followed by the 2015 Adagio and 2014 Ballerina Pinot Noirs and the 2015 Danseur Syrah) and the Formaggio cheese board (Willamette Valley Cheese Co. Brie, Rogue Creamery Brutal Blue, By George Fromage, Seasonal Fruits, Bee Local cherry wood Smoked Honey and focaccia crackers)
As mains we had the Caesar salad with Forage and Plow Romaine, traditional anchovy dressing, Lees Focaccia croutons and shaved parmesan – paired with the 2016 Melange Chardonnay – the Pazzo e Mezzo wood fire pizza with duck confit, Easy Valley spinach, pumpkin seed pesto, and burrata – paired with a 2014 Farandole Pinot Noir – and the kids had their Margarita Pizza with red sauce, plum tomatoes and fresh basil, mozzarella, pecorino, and parmesan cheeses.
After the delightful (shared) desserts (Chocolate Mousse for the kids and Fresh Berries with Zabaglione that we paired with a glass of their 2012 Finale Pinot Noir Port), we headed over to the tasting room where the owner Dan let us sample some other great wines of which the 2015 Pas de Trois Pinot Noir – which hadn’t been released yet at the time – was truly outstanding. We picked up a few bottles of our favorites to savor back home: the 2012 Finale port, the 2015 Adagio, and Pas de Trois Pinot Noirs as well as the 2016 Assemblage Chardonnay.
We could immediately check into our room at our hotel, Inn at the Commons (200 N. Riverside Avenue), and had a lovely dinner that night at Larks, the hotel’s restaurant. Due to the full lunch, we limited ourselves to just one course.
Not very surprising, the kids opted for the Mac & Cheese (with cheddar, parmesan, and fontina) and fresh fruit. Chantal chose the daily special: Pilaf with a delicious gremolata-topped roasted cauliflower. I went for the good old’ Meatloaf, which was served with bourbon ketchup, mashed potatoes, green beans, and fried onion rings. From their very extensive wine list, we chose 2014 4-2,A Syrah by Quady North, which confirmed our choice to shortlist that winery for a tasting.
We decided to catch our breath with only a short morning drive: up north to Shady Grove and back down along Rogue River on the Rogue-Umpqua Scenic Byway, around Table Mountain, and then via Goldhill to the quaint Jacksonville, where there was a small fair (and I believe half a dozen churches as parking on a Sunday proved quite a challenge…).
Quady North, Jacksonville
The tasting room of Quady North is located on 255 E California Street, where Sara expertly guided us through the tasting. We ended up purchasing bottles the 2012 Sam’s Valley Syrah, the 2013 Serenade Syrah, the 2014 GSM (our favorite red), and the refreshing 2016 Dry Rose, also a GSM blend.
Common Block Brewing Company (Medford)
For a change, lunch was at a brewpub 😇, Common Block Brewing Company (315 E 5th Street), across the street from the hotel. As the restaurant is located in a showroom of a former car dealership, not many pictures were taken; there simply was too much light.
We kicked off with some sharing plates of Fried Cheese Curds and Sweet Potato Quesadilla (spinach, pumpkin seeds, cumin sour cream). For mains, Chantal opted for the soup of the day, which was a Tomato Sriracha soup. The kids went for the Mac ‘n Cheese, and Grilled Cheese sandwich and I chose their Bacon N’ Bacon Burger (🥓+ 🥓 = 🤤; crispy bacon, bacon-red onion jam, Block sauce, pepper jack cheese, and lettuce) Too bad that their Block sauce was slathered on the burger and therefore overpowered the bacon goodness. Otherwise, a great burger and fantastic sweet potato fries!
From their own beer list, we tried their Common Block Pale Ale, Gold Ray Wheat and Tunnel 13 Cascadian Dark Ale as well the Pilsner from Hood River, OR’s Pfriem Brewing Company. The CDA was a bit too heavy for us, but very nice beers altogether. It appears that beer bikes are not just a Dutch phenomenon… 😫
We had dinner at Kaleidoscope Pizzeria & Pub (3084 Crater Lake Highway) that – despite being in the outskirts of town – was incredibly busy. As the anticipation of our next stops in Oregon, we decided on Bend’s Crux Fermentation Project’s Cast Out IPA, and Portland’s 10 Barrel’s Pearl IPA. We needed to be prepared for mega-hoppiness….
We had 3 small (10″) pizzas: The Margarita (Romas, fresh basil, parmesan, garlic and olive oil), The Popeye (spinach, roasted red peppers, red onions, mushrooms, feta, parmesan, oregano, mozzarella, provolone, garlic and olive oil) and their award-winning Thai Chicken (roasted chicken, red onions, bean sprouts, carrot threads, cilantro, mozzarella, provolone and peanut sauce). Our eldest wanted to have the Pulled Pork Nachos (yellow corn chips, pulled pork, scallions, provolone and lightly smoked mozzarella cheese, but minus the pickled jalapeños, sour cream, and diced Roma tomatoes). He couldn’t even finish half of this appetizer…