Could I Live Here?

Mcminn1 If, when you travel, you don't ask yourself, "Could I live here?", then I suspect you aren't traveling with your head, but rather just with your feat. And that's no way to travel.

I was recently sitting at a window seat on a bus, watching McMinville, Oregon move past me as a returned to Linfield College from a Winery luncheon at Lemelson Vineyards as part of the Friday festivities at the International Pinot Noir Celebration. McMinnville is a small town with Linfield College at its center. The town is surrounded and supported in large party by the vibrant wine industry of the Willamette Valley.

Watching the small, spread out town move past my line of sight I leaned over to Kathy and asked, "Could you live here?"

She wasn't sure. But she suspected that the Big City or at least a big city cultural vibe was too far away from McMinnville to satisfy her. I get that. But given that Portland is merely an hour away, I think I'd be satisfied.

Yet the real difficulty with McMinnville is not Kathy's concern, but the weather. Despite the fact that the IPNC has a reputation of attracting 100+ degree heat without fail, It rains here. And I mean rain. This year the denizens of McMinnville endured Forty some odd days in a row of rain. While this is unusual, it does point to the fact that there is generally much more rain and gloomy skies in Eastern Oregon than in my neck of the woods: Napa/Sonoma.

On the other hand, I could buy a 2000 square foot home with a 1/4 acre of land for under $400K. This seems like cheating to me given the cost of real estate in Napa/Sonoma and it is very attractive.

Lemelson Recently I've learned that not all wine countries are overly expensive. There's the McMinnville example and there is the Walla Walla example. Both are vibrant wine countries, yet both very affordable. Both are agricultural communities, yet maintain a certain cosmopolitan air to them. Walla Walla however is in the middle of nowhere and would probably drive Kathy AND ME crazy due to its remoteness. C'est La Vie.

Of course, McMinnville would be much easier to relocate to were their always an International Pinot Noir Celebration occurring. Were their always a jazz band playing, a group of Petanque players tossing metal balls and laughing, wine flowing, food prepared and ready, happy Pinot-filled people milling about. Yes, this would lead me to relocate to McMinnville. I'll talk to the organizers and see what they can do about adjusting the festival dates to year round.

But who knows what this will do to real estate prices.


8 Responses

  1. Andy Perdue - July 26, 2010

    Walla Walla in the middle of nowhere? Au contraire mon frere! Milton-Freewater, Ore., is just 15 minutes away!
    For those of us who have fled to Eastern Washington’s wine country, being in the middle of nowhere is just about perfect. That said, we are glad when the folks from Puget Sound (and California) visit for a few days then leave. 🙂

  2. Daniel - July 26, 2010

    I can understand your thoughts on McMinnville. I have considered moving there, but not sure if I can handle the heat. Currently living in the Puget Sound region, and I like that it always cools off at night, due to the cold water around us.
    Also, I found it very funny that you had a typo (or not!) saying “supported in large party”, I think you meant “part”, but you might have been drinking Pinot at the time….
    And I’m pretty sure that the Willamette Valley is in Western Oregon, not Eastern, but then again I’m just picky. Eastern Oregon is a vast wasteland.
    And yes, Walla Walla is in the middle of nowhere, and you have to go through miles and miles of nowhere just to get to the crap that is the Tri-Cities.
    Portland is an hour a way from McMinnville, but you can never make it in that little time unless it is 2 in the morning. More like 2 hours on a bad day.

  3. Jeff - July 26, 2010

    geoarbitrage! Move to Indianapolis and that $400K will have you living in high style with enough money leftover to travel to CA, OR and WA however you desire!
    A lot to be said for $250 flights to Oakland via Southwest.

  4. Pamela @ Enobytes - July 26, 2010

    …or you could relocate to Hillsboro, Oregon which is a pretty cool area – conveniently located to both Portland and wine country – and no need to sacrifice conveniences! Tell us more about your #IPNC experiences.

  5. Andy Perdue - July 26, 2010

    Regarding the “crap that is the Tri-Cities”: Keep saying that because we want folks like you to stay away. Much appreciated.

  6. JohnLopresti - July 27, 2010

    That bottom photo looks like a Napa condominium in style, but Napa had a logging epoch that removed more trees than evidently still make up the Oregon forestlands.
    One of the tricks in Napa Sonoma is to find the small gems of land in which the logging was done carefully, so there remains a pocket of 1 sq mi with conifer and mixed evergreen forest community types, as biologists call them, surrounded by what is known as oak woodland or foothills, or oak savannah. There is an extensive jargon about microclimates which occur close to these carefully managed patches of land and forest. Admittedly, prices are elevated in these parts of the CA northcoast.
    Perhaps a compromise could be looking at parcels to develop with a plan to build. Personal preferences influence planning decisions extensively. Just wanted to sing the praises of Napa Sonoma, with a few qualifiers, and add encouragement to any search which may be in the works in the Fermentation household.
    Also, work-from-home and ‘proximity to market’ might be hidden components in the cost equations; Napa and Sonoma easily are within 2+ hours of a 20 million population metropolitan area with a strong component of viticulture-enology related private enterprise.

  7. Tamara Belgard - July 28, 2010

    Ha, I tend to play the “Could I live here?” game a bit too seriously when traveling. It’s how I ended up living in Durango CO and almost buying a dive outfit in the Caribbean and even what landed me right here in Portland. McMinnville’s a great town, but did you know they have the largest UFO gathering in the country besides Roswell?

  8. Sharon Scott - July 29, 2010

    Hi John,
    I had the good foturne to meet you and Kathy on Friday night. We were all sitting at the “fun” table. Yeah I think I could live in McMinnville. Although I like Carlton too. Ask me again, after spending 40+ days in rainy weather. Both times I’ve been to Oregon, it’s always been sunny. Look forward to reading your blog.

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