Milton-Freewater inspires flavorful trip

Kelsey Kennedy

The town of Milton-Freewater, Ore.––affectionately known among locals as “Muddy-Frogwater” for its ubiquitous frog imagery––is within easy reach of Whitties looking for a day trip off campus.

Just 10 miles south of Whitman, Milton-Freewater’s location in the Walla Walla Valley Wine Appellation attracts many tourists to the area for tastings. However, the town’s appeal extends far beyond grapes.

The Blue Mountain Cider Company, one of the most celebrated attractions in the area, offers a change of pace from winery visits with its variety of ciders made exclusively from apples grown in the Walla Walla Valley.

“Cider is not as filling as beer and it’s something different . . . there’s something for everyone,” said Nancy Cazele, one of the co-owners of the family-run company.

The company offers sweet, dry and cherry varieties of cider year-round, and special seasonal flavors in spring and summer. Peach cider, the company’s most popular springtime flavor, will be available at tastings starting on the Walla Walla Valley Wine Alliance’s spring release weekend, May 4-6.

The Blue Mountain Cider Company is open for visitors 11 a.m.-4 p.m. on Monday-Saturday.

For the more food-motivated taster, Milton-Freewater’s chocolate shop Petit Noirs is the perfect place to indulge in a myriad of unique truffle flavors, including pumpkin white chocolate, rhubarb ginger, Pendleton whiskey hazelnut praline and rosemary pink peppercorn.

Petit Noirs owner Lan Wong attributes this mix of sweet and savory flavors to inspiration from the natural environment of the area.

“Our inspiration comes from wines and fresh produce grown around here,” she said.

Petit Noirs prides itself on making chocolates with high concentrations of cacao (at least 64 percent in dark chocolate and 35 percent in milk chocolate) that are free from preservatives and artificial flavoring. According to Wong, the  shop offers “a little of everything for everyone,” accommodating all budgets. Wong’s homemade nougats are a steal at $1.50 and truffle boxes start at $15.

The Petit Noirs tasting room is open 11 a.m.-5 p.m. on Thursday-Sunday.

Only a couple miles down Highway 11 is Clay in Motion, an art studio specializing in hand-decorated traditional American pottery. Clay in Motion owners Bob and Corina Neher focus on creating pottery that is functional, lead-free and dishwasher-, oven- and microwave-safe. Their biggest selling item, the original hand-warmer mug, is a practical and affordable purchase for students (only $18), glazed with color combinations inspired by nature such as “ocean tide” and “desert sand.”

The Clay in Motion studio, gift shop and espresso stand are conveniently located in the same complex on the east side of Highway 11. In addition to pottery, the Art in Motion gallery houses other crafted goods including blown glass and artisan jewelry.

The studio and shops are open 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Saturday and 10 a.m.-4 p.m. on Sundays.

After a day of shopping and visiting tasting rooms, day trippers to Milton-Freewater can go back in time in the comfort of their own cars at the local drive-in movie theater. As of press time, the current shows at the drive-in were “The Hunger Games” and “One for the Money.” Tickets are $6 per person and information about upcoming shows and showtimes is available at http://m-fdriveintheatre.com/.