By Roberta Kent
for the Mail Tribune
The wine world has discovered Southern Oregon.
The region’s hills and valleys offer many climate variations and soil types, from granite to clay, sandy loam, alluvial gravel and volcanic ash. Southern Oregon lies at the same latitude as northern Spain, southern France and northern Italy, so the grape varieties typical of France’s Bordeaux and southern Rhône Valley and Spain’s Rioja region thrive here.
Local vineyards produce excellent syrah, tempranillo, cabernet franc, malbec, sauvignon blanc, malbec, mourvedre, viognier, rousanne and marsanne, along with Bordeaux varietals such as merlot, cabernet franc and cabernet sauvignon. The area also produces pinot gris, gewürztraminer and riesling.
Pinot noir, typical of France’s northern Rhône Valley, is the most widely grown grape variety in Southern Oregon. The region’s climate produces a riper, fruitier pinot noir than the grapes grown Willamette Valley and much of the local harvest goes north for blending with the lower-sugar and -alcohol grapes of the Willamette Valley.
There are nearly 50 boutique wineries within an afternoon’s meandering from Medford. In the summer, most tasting rooms are open daily from noon to 5 p.m., with some opening as early as 11 a.m. and closing as late as 7 p.m. Tasting fees vary, with most charging $5 for three to five tastings. The fee is usually waived with the purchase of bottles of wine. Many wineries feature food pairings with their wine, while others have a menu of small plates or larger offerings such as wood-fire baked pizza or sandwiches to enjoy on their patios or decks.
Several local wineries honor Southern Oregon’s ongoing transition from pears to grapes.
EdenVale Winery, 2310 Voorhies Road, south of Medford (www.edenvalewines.com), is on the site of Eden Valley Orchards, the valley’s first commercial pear orchard. The tasting room is located beside the historic old Voorhies mansion and is still surrounded by pear orchards.
The tasting room for Roxy Ann Winery, 3285 Hillcrest Road, Medford, (www.roxyann.com) is in the old “Honor Barn” on the former Hillcrest Orchards property. The tasting room, along with 10 other buildings on the property, is on the National Register of Historic Places.
Del Rio Vineyards and Winery, 52 N. River Road, just north of the town of Gold Hill and on the Rogue River, was formerly Del Rio Orchards. The tasting room is in the Rock Point Hotel, originally built as a stagecoach stop on the property in 1865.
Only a few years ago, there were only two wineries at the south end of the Rogue Valley. Now there are 11 boutique wineries — “the Bear Creek Wine Trail” (www.bearcreekwineries.com) — clustered around the south I-5 corridor.
Weisinger Family Winery, Belle Fiore, Grizzly Peak Winery and Dana Campbell Vineyards are near Ashland. Trium Wines, Paschal Winery, StoneRiver Vineyards and Aurora Vines are located near Talent. Pebblestone Cellars is in Phoenix, while 2Hawk Winery sits between Medford and Phoenix. DANCIN Vineyards is located just outside of Jacksonville.
The Jacksonville Winery Association (www.jacksonvillewineries.com) was formed two years ago as a collaborative effort by five small wineries to showcase their wines and the historic mining town, “where wine is the new gold.” South Stage Cellars and Quady North Wines have their tasting rooms in town. Daisy Creek Vineyards, Caprice Vineyards and DANCIN Vineyards are within a mile.
If you take Route 238 from Jacksonville toward Grants Pass through the lush Applegate Valley, you will find the 18 vineyards and wineries known as the Applegate Valley Wine Trail (www.applegatewinetrail.com).
A left turn onto Applegate Road at the small town of Ruch takes you to Valley View Winery, Cowhorn Vineyard and Garden, Wild Wines and Cricket Hill Vineyard.
If you continue on Route 238, you’ll reach Fiasco Winery, LongSword Vineyard, Devitt Winery, Red Lily Vineyards and The Academy of Wine. Turn right on Humbug Creek Road for John Michael Champagne Cellars. Turn left at Williams Highway for Plaisance Ranch.
At the town of Applegate, a right turn onto North Applegate Road takes you to Bridgeview Vineyards, Troon Vineyard, Wooldridge Creek Winery, Serra Vineyards, Rosella’s Vineyard & Winery, Schmidt Family Vineyard and Soloro Vineyard.
North of Medford, set among the rolling hills of Sams Valley, in the shadow of the Table Rocks, are six wineries — the Upper Rogue Wine Trail (www.upperroguewinetrail.com). You can travel from La Brasseur Vineyard, in the foothills below Butte Falls, across the valley to Agate Ridge Vineyard, Folin Cellars, Cliff Creek Cellars and Kriselle Cellars.
Planning a visiting to Rogue Creamery and Lillie Belle Chocolates in Central Point? Tucked between the cheese and chocolate shops is Le Petit Tasting Room, the home of Ledger David Cellars, showcasing wines made from their vineyards in Talent.
Wineries in the Rogue Valley come in all sizes — except big. Their tasting rooms vary from elaborate to intimate, from rustic to elegant. They may offer only four wines or 14. But wherever you go, you will always find a warm welcome from people who are passionate about crafting fine wines.
Roberta Kent is a freelance writer living in Ashland. Reach her at email@example.com.