By Kirby Neumann-Rea • Of the News-Register • 

Back, and Forth: Uncorking a few thoughts on ‘cozy’ towns

A confession: I love lists. The media term “listicle” faded a few years ago, but the items are still around, and we get them all the time in the form of press releases.

Like some of these lists, full-on travel section write-ups don’t always get things right. I saw it repeatedly in my days in tourism-heavy Hood River, where magazine and newspaper content got facts wrong and often reflected the fact that the person writing the piece relied on other travel articles — and had not actually visited the place. Such was the case of a recent list that came via press release stating that Crater Lake was listed as the 26th favorite visitor destination in the country. Multnomah Falls was 78th, Oregon dunes 110th.

The tone-deaf description said Crater Lake has “a significant island” and is “surrounded by cliffs.” It’s actually a caldera, and there are two significant islands.

When McMinnville got a write-up two weeks ago inThe New York Times’ Frugal Traveler section, “Savoring Oregon’s Wine Country, No Driving Required,” I opened it, fearful of two things. First, that we’d get scooped on things such as the Nov. 5 opening of The Grove Wine Bar (didn’t happen, and most of the things mentioned were familiar places and topics.) Second, that the story would get it wrong.

With one small exception, writer Elaine Glusac got it right, as she listed the wine- and food-rich attractions in our midst that are walkable in downtown, and that you can get to McMinnville from Portland via public transportation: MAX to Hillsboro, Yamhill Transit from there. The fact that got glossed over is that the Hillsboro connection does not happen on weekends, which could “trip up” some readers when they get to the MAX station and find out they actually need to rent a car or an Uber on a Saturday to get to wine country.

(Reporter Starla Pointer addressed the discrepancy in the Nov. 4 Along the Street.)

Writes Glusac, “I was looking for an accessible wine region — in terms of price, transportation and hospitality — when I went to the Willamette, which runs just over 100 miles from the outskirts of Portland to just south of Eugene. Here, in the mid-1960s, pioneering winemakers began growing grapes, particularly the finicky pinot noir variety that has since flourished, attracting more than 750 wineries today, many intimate enough for the winemakers themselves to guide tastings.”

The article was thorough, and folks from transit were pleased with the publicity (and kudos to the Times for playing up the power of public transportation. ) I also spoke with Anna Matzinger of Matzinger Davies wines, who we meet in the first paragraph of the story. I had not met Anna, nor was I aware of their appointment-only tasting room, two blocks from our downtown office. She said she enjoyed the article and appreciated it shedding a national light on the amazing wine industry in Yamhill County.

Wine bars, meanwhile, I learned are not necessarily a measure of “coziness.”

Where did the Walnut City rank in the list of “coziest small towns in the U.S.” from the matchmaking platform

Not in the top 100. Not at all.

These Oregon towns are considered the coziest: Joseph (ranked No. 23 coziest in the nation), Manzanita (65th), Cannon Beach (89th), and Hood River (99th).

Their study compared 170 of the coziest small towns in the U.S. in the following categories: weather, food, and activities. In addition, they looked at data points like average winter temperature, snowfall, cafes, bakeries, and craft shops. See the list at

The study led to my email exchange with creator Amy Pritchett, which ended on friendly terms and my assuring her that “most of my remarks were purely whimsical or satirical, just having a little fun.” Here is our Q and A:

I started by saying, “Curious list. Coziest?” A: Yes, the very coziest.

“How do you even measure that?

A: By looking at cozy things in each town such as bakeries, cozy activities, and cold weather that invites us to snuggle close.

“How is any place 99th coziest? That far down the list and it’s almost like Not Cozy.” A: All the places in the study are cozy places (some are more or less cozy) depending on the factors.

“What’s the scale and criteria involved? Snowfall, bakeries, cafés and craft shops? Not wine bars, tap rooms, tea shops or art galleries?” A: I can’t include everything in the study and tried my best.

“And, first through fifth might be easy calls, but get out to 48th or 84th, and how are they any different?” A: As mentioned above.

I added, to no specific response: “Is downtown Cannon Beach cozy or just quaint? Is Leavenworth cozy or just vicariously attractive? Is Manzanita cozy or ‘cute’”?

As to the national “cozy towns” map she provided, I told her “pretty much south of Mason-Dixon line is Cozy-deprived, same with the entire California coast.

“I lived in Hood River, Port Townsend and now, McMinnville, where, as people stroll down their respective main streets of Oak, Water and Third street — the quaint-cozy hearts of these burgs, someone always says, ‘this downtown is so cute.’ I want to see you guys put out a list of Cutest Little Towns.”

Amy: You’re asking a lot of me. I’m one woman making these reports and crunching the data, writing the article, reaching out to newspapers.

I told her if she did, “I nominate Sisters and Ashland for Cutest.” A: (diplomatically) I hope you have an awesome weekend.

And while I suggested a “Cutest” list, what I did not add was that if other locals are like me, it’s actually kind of irritating to hear people stroll Third Street and say “This is such a cute town.”

Kirby Neumann-Rea, the N-R’s managing editor, enjoys books, craft beer, Celtic music and basketball. He can be reached at


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