It’s on the car.

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I just put my new bumper sticker on my car tonight. I saw one when I was in Oregon in July. When I went to the website, after you request a free sticker they ask you to donate (I’m not surprised by this). I wasn’t on a secure connection so I figured that I just wouldn’t get a sticker. On Monday, after my first day back to work in an un-air-conditioned school, with 95 degree temps and a heat index over 100, this arrived in my mailbox. It made my day.

Oregon Wine Wrap-Up, For Now…

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Does it look like we tasted a lot of wine? Well? We did! But we hardly made a dent in what is out there. My trusty “Oregon Wine Country” book has several pages of maps with vineyards. We did a fraction of the Willamette Valley Central – Salem map. On that particular map, we went to: Airlie, 3 Fools, Emerson, Illahe, Johan, Firesteed, Van Duzer, Bethel Heights and St Innocent. On an earlier visit, we went to Willamette Valley Vineyards. Their Riesling is still one of my go-to wines and I can get it here. The Flying Dutchman is in Newport and Springhill is on a different map.

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As I said earlier, my favorite places were the ones where the people pouring were the ones that directly worked with the wine. Illahe, Emerson and Airlie would be my top picks. The photo above is from Emerson. Tom Johns, the owner, was doing the pouring. My cousin and I had a great time joking around with him. He even offered me the vineyard if I could guess the 5 grapes in his blend. I’d never heard of most of the grapes. It was a pretty safe bet on his part. But they are listed in the trusty book! Emerson needs a MN distributor and they had great wines. While we were at Emerson, a person from 3 Fools was using their tasting room. They are there most Saturdays and they use the Emerson facilities. The three fools are actually down to one fool now.

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Have you seen this label? I think they’re in all 50 states. They were right by the road so we stopped. They weren’t even on the map in the trusty book. Maybe I should’ve taken that as a cue. The wines were fine, but it’s a big production facility. They’ve got at least 300 acres in the area. I’d probably pass on this one and go to a smaller one, now that I know what I like.

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With my Norwegian heritage, I really wanted to like Johan. I got a bottle of the Pinot Gris. But I didn’t get excited about their wines. The wine maker is from Norway and fell in love with Pinot Noir and decided to make it. They do all sorts of fun celebrations of Norwegian holidays.

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Eola Hills has a tasting room right off 99W. You can pick seven wines to taste for free. I particularly liked their dessert wine. This was stop #4 on our first day, so we were a little happy at this point. Eola Hills sources their grapes from other locations, so they make a pretty wide variety. Some of their grapes come from Washington state. They have some fun activities that they host.

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Van Duzer has a beautiful location and a great place to enjoy a picnic. They’re tasting room gets more traffic and have hired people to pour. I particularly liked the Zephyra dessert wine. They had a nice port style wine too. We were limited to 4 pours, so we were selective about what we tried.

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Bethel Heights is a very beautiful vineyard. There are several right in that area. We first stopped at Bryn Mawr, but didn’t taste. It was getting close to closing time and I was the only one tasting reds. They had five different Pinot Noirs. Too bad I didn’t taste, but that’s for another trip. Bethel Heights had some good Pinot Noirs, but they were over $50 per bottle. They were a little out of the range that I like to spend. I think I got a bottle of their Gewürztraminer.

The last stop was St Innocent. Their Pinot Noir, Temperance Hill Vineyard was one of my favorite wines. We tried a variety of others, including their special blends that are used at their event center. This was at the end of the day and was our fourth vineyard. We were a little goofy and thanks to my cousin, my photos from St Innocent are all rather silly. Check out the website to see the location.

All in all, I love wine tasting in Oregon. It’s a nice, relaxed pace with fun interaction with the people making  and working with the wine. There are so many wineries that you can’t hope to put a dent into your tasting repertoire. Decide on a strategy and go with it. Mine was smaller, lesser-known vineyards in an area that was easily accessible to our location.

Here we go again…

Every August for the past 4 years I’ve had a skin scan. I have them every 6 months. I’m one of those people who has lots of moles and I had a few bad sunburns as a kid. In August of 2009 I had a melanoma in situ. If you have one, that’s the one that you want. It’s in the top layer of skin. I haven’t had a melanoma since, but anything that seems strange, we get rid of.

For some reason, it’s usually the August skin scan that yields something that is weird. I’ve had three re-excisions and they’ve all been at this time of year. My February scan is usually ok. Last February I was quite excited because I didn’t need to have any moles removed or biopsied. Well, we made up it this time. About 2 weeks ago I had 5 moles removed. My doctor likes to keep the max at five. I think she’s done seven on someone.  But five is about as much as she does at a time. Just the mathematics of it didn’t surprise me that I’d have at least one re-excision. But this time, I’m having three.

None are melanoma. “Moderate to severe dysplasia” is the terminology to describe them. The bottom line is that they have to come off and have clear margins. What does that mean for me? Stitches. The doctor cuts out a football shape of skin and then stitches me up. She did two of them today and will do the third on Friday. So far I’m up to 19 stitches. Both sites have 3 internal stitches. One has 7 external and the other six. They’re in places that will be easy to bandage. Right now I’m just taking it easy, taking Tylenol, icing, etc. I can’t do anything strenuous for 2-3 weeks. That’ means I’ll be taking a break from the pool. 😦

This process has become fairly routine for me. By the time I’m done, I’ll have 6 sites that have had re-excisions. Do I have scars? Yes. Are they a big deal? No. I’d rather have scars than cancer. It’s pretty simple when you think of it that way. I can’t figure out any rhyme or reason as to which sites turn into the rogue moles. The places that I’d expect to have a higher chance have been fine. One of my spots this time was a mole that looked pretty regular. But the day I went in for my scan I noticed a darker dot on one side. Sure enough, that’s one that was re-excised today. The big thing is if your moles change. 

If you’re someone who has a lot of moles, it’s worth it to get a full body skin scan. Ask your doctor to refer you to a dermatologist. They know what to look for and what is ok. Taking a photo of your moles is also a good idea. You are able to track the changes easier when you have something to compare them to. Since I’ve had more “activity” lately, I’m now having a quarterly check instead of semi-annually. That’s fine. I’d rather be safe than sorry.

So what’s the message here? Wear sunscreen! Looking tan is NOT healthy. Skin cancer is on the rise and it’s deadly. It’s not something where you have a pain someplace and find out it’s skin cancer. It’s a sneaky thing and you’ve got to be diligent about it. Be smart. We know so much more now than we did twenty or thirty years ago. If you’ve got questions about spots on your body, get them checked out. You may have a situation like me where you must have some skin removed. But that’s way better than a diagnosis of skin cancer.

Visiting Airlie

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Airlie was a fun vineyard to visit. Mary Olson is the owner and she’s from Wisconsin. She also went to Augsburg College in Minneapolis. So she’s got midwestern roots. Another weird coincidence is that she took a history class from a different uncle of mine while at Augsburg. Small world. My trusty “Oregon Wine Country” book has her vineyard on the cover. She also said that the authors went to pretty much every winery that is listed in the book.

Here is Mary:

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Mary is the one that did our tasting. We tasted many wines and the “tasting fee” was a donation jar for local food shelves. I like that idea. We tried their Rose, Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, Gewürztraminer, Riesling, Seven, Muller Thurgau, Pinot Noir, Marechal Foch and Port style wine. My favorites were the Seven – which is a blend of 7 grapes, the Gewürztraminer and the Port. The port style wine is named Nudge. The proceeds go to help pay for health care for the workers. The name, Nudge, is an effort for others to do the same. Airlie does have a MN distributor. And I did find it in Colorado when I was there last week. If I can’t wait for my aunt and uncle to get here in the fall, I can go to Surdyk’s to get some.

If you check out the website, there are lots of cool events that happen at Airlie. Later this month, there’s a weekend where people can camp overnight and Mary makes blackberry pancakes for breakfast. What made this visit so memorable, was listening to Mary tell about the wines and being in such a lovely atmosphere. I like the personal touches that these Oregon wineries have.

Wine in the Willamette Valley

I love wine tasting in the Willamette Valley. There are so many wineries that it’s impossible to even make a dent in one area map. Since my aunt and uncle live near Corvalis, we stuck to that area. I think I went to 12 wineries.  This was split into several days. At most, we tried four wineries in a day.

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One of the first wineries we stopped at was Illahe. It turned out to be one of my favorites. We were the only ones there. They were bottling the current vintage of Pinot Noir. I purchase the first bottle! 🙂 We tasted their Gruner Veltliner, Dry Riesling, Pinot Gris, Reserve Pinot Noir and Estate Pinot Noir (being bottled). They were sold out of their Viognier and Tempranillo Rose. Bethany Ford did our tasting. Her husband is the winemaker and her father-in-law is the one that has been growing the grapes since 1983. If you click on the link above, you can get the whole story.

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At Illahe, they do pretty much everything by hand. I really liked their wines. But the neat thing about tasting in the Willamette Valley is that you can go to these smaller wineries and the people doing the tastings are the ones that actually work with the wine. They’re not someone who is hired to pour the wine and give the spiel. You see the workings of the vineyard and many times you see them doing the work!

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Illahe has a nice patio area if you just want to enjoy the view. Their website is quite interesting. They do most everything by hand. They even have a horse that pulls the cart when they harvest the grapes. They don’t have a MN distributor, so I’ll need to wait until my aunt and uncle drive out here in the fall for my wine. I’ll have something to look forward to.

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