If you're a big cherry lover as I am, you’ll want to mark your calendars for June in the Columbia River Gorge of Oregon, the eastern part of the gorge is where you will find the freshest cherries and experience the joy of immersing yourself in the goodness and fun of the cherry harvest.
Hood River and Mosier are your cherry time destinations. The year I went the harvest was early. The rains came, the farmers got out blowers to protect their crops and, believe me, they were picking like mad. This luscious time only lasts a few weeks each June.
Columbia Gorge U-Pick Cherry Orchards
It’s always fun to pick your own cherries and see what they look like on the trees. This year, most of the orchards are opening mid-June. It’s been a late growing season.
You can find cherries for sale at most of the U-Pick locations. Baskets and bags of cherries are a little more expensive than the ones you pick yourself, but still very reasonable. A great place to stop for bags of cherries sold by the pound is Mosier Grange on 900 4th St. in Mosier. The proceeds help fund several projects including scholarships for area high school grads, dinners for families in time of need and to help run the Grange Hall.
During the height of Cherry season, you'll also find roadside stands as far west as restaurant parking lots in Cascade Locks. Usually there are several varieties. Ask for a sample and choose a basket of the cherries that you like best.
Cherries and Wine
We were in the eastern end of the Columbia Gorge following the Gorge Wine Adventure itinerary. So, of course, we stopped at some wineries for tasting and views. As we drove into Garnier Vineyards at the historic Mayerdale Estate in Mosier we passed rows upon rows of cherry trees with fully-laden branches hanging to the ground.
The 300-acre spread includes fruit trees along with eight different grape varieties. As we sampled the wines in the tasting room overlooking the vineyards and the Columbia River, we couldn’t help to reach for the fresh cherries in the bowl too.
Our last taste was of Garnier Vineyards’ L'Amour Cerise, an Oregon cherry dessert wine fit for sipping or spooning over some ice cream. It’s made from their estate grown sweet cherries. Cherry lovers must stop there for the views and the cherry wine.
As we toured the fruit-rich area, we stopped at Analemma Vineyards for wine tasting and a delightful picnic in the vineyards. We chose a crisp white wine for our relaxing break overlooking the vineyards. Analemma made up a lovely lunch box to take up to their vineyard picnic area. Since it was June, we had cherries, of course. Analemma is located on 1120 State Road in Mosier.
Take and Bake Cherry Pie
The Apple Valley Country Store in Hood River, you might just fine a house-made cherry pie to take home. While they are famous for their Huckleberry milkshakes, it is cherry season, after all. Some of the pies are baked and some are ready for your oven. After you peruse their extensive offering of jams and other local gourmet treats, consider a cherry pastry. If you are traveling, you can purchase a jar of their cherry pie filling to take home.
Chefs and Cherries
At most of the restaurants featuring locally sourced ingredients, you’ll find that cherries have found their way onto the menu. While dining at Celilo Restaurant and Bar in Hood River, we noticed the predominance of such local foods as asparagus on Chef Ben Stenn’s ever-changing menu.
But it wasn’t until the dessert menu came that we were instantly certain what we wanted to share. The beautiful cherry tart in flaky pastry with ice cream and a swoosh of cherry sauce hit the spot and provided a fitting end to our day touring wineries and hunting down the best of the cherry crop to take home.
When You Go
Gorge Wine Trails are offered seasonally. We followed the spring trail and enjoyed cherry harvest season. Be sure and check the cherry farm websites before you go to ensure you arrive at the height of cherry season. It's different every year.
This experience was part of a tour hosted by the Columbia Gorge Winegrowers Association. While this has not influenced this content, the writer believes in full disclosure of all potential conflicts of interest.