Born into a winemaking family in Hungary, Josef immigrated to the United States in the late 1950s to pursue baking. After more than a decade, however, he cooked up a new idea. Together with his wife Lilli, he purchased a scenic plot of land in the Willamette Valley and planted his first grape vines in 1978—making St. Josef's one of the earliest wineries in Oregon. Even as his ambition grew, Josef never forgot his roots; his first varietals—namely, riesling, gewürztraminer, and pinot gris—harkened back to his youth in central Europe amid the Adriatic's glistening waves of chablis.
Today, the 40-acre winery—now by a third generation of Josef's family—produces bottles of crisp whites and earthy reds, filling at least 90 percent of each batch with grapes grown on the St. Josef's vineyard. Even as Oregon's wine industry has grown over the years, Portland Monthly praises the well-aged coziness of St. Josef's, saying they've “yet to find a better sipping spot” in all of Willamette Valley.
In Aurora, visitors can find antiques that are as old as the town itself. Founded back in 1856, Aurora has been lauded as one of the best destinations in the U.S. for antiquing, and many of the historic buildings are now occupied by locally-owned businesses including Aurora Mills Architectural Salvage, Time After Time, White Rabbit Bakery, and Aurora Antiques. In addition to antiques, the town is home to a number of artisanal wineries, candy shops, and galleries where artists showcase their hand-made wares.
Taking advantage of the region's specialty in wine production, Topaz HomeStyle Bistro offers an enviable selection of the region's fermented goods, including complimentary wine tastings. The winery on show changes weekly, providing motivation to come back and check out which grapes are impressing the owners during any particular fortnight.
In addition to that focus on wine, the kitchen proudly sends out its chefs' own twists on classic dishes and internationally inspired small plates, which give diners the chance to gather, share food, and feel like they're part of the Topaz family. Executive Chef Adam keeps the menu fresh, taking advantage of the harvestable bounty of wine country to make his signature dishes. Customers can enjoy the tequila-lime chicken quesadilla—stuffed with jalapenos, tomatoes, fire-roasted bell peppers, onions, cilantro, and cheddar-jack cheese—and the three signature slider sandwiches, such as the turkey burger with mixed greens and cranberry aioli, each of which can be shared or purposefully withheld from tablemates.
A refurbished relic of the Lewis and Clark Centennial Exposition, Portland's first and only "World's Fair," the Aurora State Bank building has gone on a hundred year journey to become the landmark it is today. Transported from Portland to Aurora in 1905, its vaults have played host to robberies, Hollywood productions, and dental cleanings. Though the bank's two original vaults remain, they now house racks that Pheasant Run Winery fills with their small-batch, locally sourced wines. Winemakers harvest their grapes from local and sustainable vineyard estates in Willamette Valley, Walla Walla, and Horse Heaven Hills and ferment them into New World-style wines. They cold-soak grapes in small bins to extract more color and flavor for their signature pinot noir and blend merlot, syrah, and cabernet grapes to create a rich red with notes of blackcurrant and plum and the power to unite feuding grape vines.
This grey brick building is also home to their tasting lounge. Guests walk through the original doors and across the original lobby tiles to savor glasses at tasting tables surrounded by dark wood-trimmed windows. Visitors can also find a rotating collection of prints, paintings, ceramics, and jewelry from local artists. The winery owners also connect to the community through their donations to local charities and non-profits.
Spread across 52 acres of varied pastureland, Rosse Posse Acres shepherds 70 head of elk on a working ranch with a vast natural habitat and plenty of orchard grass hay for meals. A guided tour takes guests through the ranch, beginning with an educational lecture in the barn where they can learn about antlers and the difference between a bull's and cow's ivory teeth. Tours then travel through the handling facility for a view of the hydraulic squeeze chute and handling pens before a stop in the pasture for a close-up look at the elk to see if their antlers are really made of marshmallows.
Though guests are not allowed to touch the elk, they can release their urge to pet at an on-site petting zoo, where smaller animals such as Fallow deer, pygmy goats, miniature donkeys, and a wallaby named Tucker are eager to make friends. In addition to ranch tours, Rosse Posse sells wapiti roasts, tenderloins, and strip steaks by the pound, when available. The meat is processed at Buxton Meat in Sandy, OR under USDA inspection.
Even though it was founded in the 1930s, the 43-acre Pat's Acres Racing Complex is still a crowd pleaser. Originally designed as a motorcycle racing course, the grounds were later re-built as a go-kart track. Thanks to the allure of its tree-shaded straightaways and tight, tire-squealing turns, the track has since hosted a slew of national championship kart races, including Superkarts! USA's National SKUSA ProMoto Tour. The track also sees pulse-pounding action on a normal day: drivers as young as 14 take spins in a fleet of rentals, which include Sodikart GT 5s. Each cart is equipped with a Honda 9-HP motor, which allows it 1.5 lateral Gs when cutting through tight corners, and the ability to reach speeds up to 60 mph when outrunning a flaming 18-wheeler. Pat's Acres Racing Complex also helps visitors improve their technique with lessons in track etiquette and kart maneuvers that include ample time on the track. Meanwhile, a full on-site paintball facility poses a different, colorful challenge to individuals and teams.