wine-country-tour1Just an hour’s drive from the Oregon Coast and about a half-hour from downtown Portland, Forest Grove enjoys the amenities of a healthy urban setting and the benefits of a rural environment.

Home to high-tech fab plants and verdant valleys, Washington County ranks first in manufacturing and third in agricultural production in Oregon and hosts a uniquely diverse array of cultural and recreational activities.

Nowhere are the county’s bounties more evident than in Forest Grove and the surrounding communities. Where else can you find a world-class sake brewery just down the road from a Bison ranch?

In downtown Forest Grove shoppers can chose from two wine shops, a half-dozen quality restaurants, a weekly farmers’ market and a renovated cooperative arts gallery. Or, they can stroll the grounds of Pacific University which, thanks to a partnership with the city parks department, boasts some of the best athletic facilities in the state. And, within minutes they can be paddling on Hagg Lake, hiking the coast range or biking through one of the most fertile valleys in the nation.

From wine tastings and a sidewalk chalk art festival to a combine demolition derby, medieval faire and Pacific’s annual lu’au feast, western Washington County is bursting with attractions and activities to see, do, taste and experience. Among the options:

  • Take a drive on the rural side: Discover the beauty Oregon’s rich agricultural history by driving the Vineyard & Valley Scenic Tour Route. This sanctioned route is part of the Discover Oregon Scenic Byways program and allows for plenty of wine tasting and shopping.
  • Play world-class golf courses: Watch a heron take flight on the back nine as you experience one of the many courses dotting the landscape of Washington County, where there’s both natural beauty and world-class play.
  • Take a hike: Nature is nearby in Washington County, where lakes, rivers forests and bike paths make biking and hiking a real treat.

And, of course, there are the people – some of whom live on century farms built by their grandparents, others who have moved into the newer subdivisions that ring Forest Grove, a city of 21,000.

“We have all the conveniences of a modern, commercial-industrial center without the hustle and bustle of big-city life,” Mayor Pete Truax says. “There’s a community spirit here that can’t be found in larger cities. Neighbors care about each other; parents can feel comfortable about letting their children play outside and our residents take an active role in preserving the trees and greenery that make our city so beautiful.”

And while there’s never a guarantee on the weather, Concours weekend comes close. The event’s late founder, Allen Stephens, checked with local meteorologists and determined that the third weekend in July offered the best chance at a dry Sunday. And so far, it’s been true, with rain falling only twice in the nearly four decades that the event has been held.

Paul Duchene is a 40-year automotive journalist, who has written for the Chicago Tribune, New York Times, The Oregonian and numerous magazines. He announces at the Portland and Monterey Historic races and is a judge and emcee at the Forest Grove Concours d’Elengance.