The Drake Magazine, Winter ‘19
Whether or not there are 400 fish per mile along Oregon’s Metolius River isn’t really the point. Nor is access, which is so candy-sweet that you’re bound to stumble into the ethical waters of proper distance when leap-frogging a fellow angler. And there is surely no questioning the majesty of the place.
The point is that I’ve had days on the Met where I’ve caught more bats than trout, yet it remains a contender for my favorite watershed on the planet. A temple of beguiling blues, the Metolius flows nearly 30 miles from its spring-fed source—a geological sleight of hand just north of Black Butte—through the sleepy outpost of Camp Sherman en route to Lake Billy Chinook in Central Oregon’s high desert.
Along the way it’s a slideshow of postcard images. The river’s many pronounced ledges and channels produce a broad range of depths, currents, and riffs on water color—from brooding midnight blue to coral so bright it seems plugged in. Standing watch are countless brick-red Ponderosa Pines, with their puzzle-piece-shaped bark and enough rings to prove they were here long before the fishing became tricky.
Since they stopped stocking the river in 1995, the conversations have changed. Talk of 30-fish days transitioned to neurotic recollections of what nearly cracked the code: A size 18 Rusty Spinner tied to a 12-foot leader, caught in a little whirlpool on an overcast Tuesday; a BWO fished wet just after a rain; a Little Yellow Sally trimmed to look like it’s injured, preferably on the first 80-degree day of the year.
It’s practically a tall tale in these parts, but it should be just standard non-fiction fare.
“The story starts with my father,” says Elena Rodriguez, the founder of Alumbra Cellars. Her father, Leo, planted the vineyard in 2005. Earlier this year, the estate-minded label was officially launched, under an elegant title that essentially means “to light.”
“He grew up on a farm in Mexico in the state of Durango. He was pulled out of the fifth grade to help his grandfather work on the farm to support the family,” she continues. “But he envisioned himself doing more in the United States to better himself and his future family.”
In the 1970s, Leo headed north to the U.S. In the mid-’90s, he bought a small parcel of land in Dayton, raising livestock until realizing the potential for viticulture. A wine industry friend approached Leo to shed some light on the site’s promise. “The first block in 2005 was five acres, followed by another six acres in 2006,” Elena says. “This year, we will be planting an additional seven acres.”
The vineyard, at the base of the Dundee Hills, between the McMinnville Airport and the Willamette River, rests just off Highway 233 on the outskirts of Dayton. It’s a mix of Pinot Noir clones set at a fairly low elevation in soils transported by the Missoula Floods.
The Manual, June '19
Anthony Bourdain died just over a year ago and it still stings. The chef, author, personality, former addict, and philosopher of sorts left a gaping hole not only in the culinary world but in the world in general.
The guy preached truly exploratory travel. He wanted you to open your mouths and minds anytime you packed a bag or reached for your passport. He wanted you to question stereotypes, whether they involved authentic dishes or geographic destinations.
Bourdain’s highlight reel for Parts Unknown alone is a lengthy one. There was the time he visited Iran despite America’s troubled relationship with the country, only to be treated like royalty. Or the time he clanked beers with President Obama, sporting a noticeable twinkle in his eye. He went on any number of Heart of Darkness-like treks into some jungle backcountry to become a lovable local for a few blurry, stomach-filling days.
The great food minds convince you to not just step out of your comfort zone but blow the whole thing up. The late great Jonathan Gold (of LA Times fame) did this, persuading an entire generation of city dwellers not to overlook what’s being cooked in, well, the overlooked places. Strip malls, food carts, corner stores, and flea markets can house some of the most memorable flavors on the planet. Ratings and narrow-minded press be damned, Gold and Bourdain often thought, there’s real quality beyond what gets the buzz.