Idyllic natural settings, rich history, extensive theater and arts opportunities combine with award-winning wines and wineries to claim many a heart of those who visit the Rogue Valley American Viticultural Area (AVA).
With communities such as Medford, Ashland and Grants Pass, the Rogue Valley forms the cultural and economic heart of Southern Oregon near the California border. The valley is home to a pair of well-known attractions – the Britt Music Festival and Ashland’s Oregon Shakespeare Festival – and to dozens of museums, art galleries, theaters, fine restaurants and lively music venues.
It’s also the site of Oregon’s 19th-century gold rush, an era preserved within the boundaries of historic Jacksonville.
You’ll find world-class fishing and rafting along the Rogue River, hiking up on Table Rock Mountain near Medford and at Ashland’s Lithia Park, mountain biking and road cycling in the neighboring foothills, and sight-seeing at the Oregon Caves.
You’ll also find green valleys that produce high-quality wines.
The Rogue Valley AVA offers perhaps the richest diversity of climate and widest variety of grapes in Oregon. It’s a great place for a full-spectrum wine-touring experience.
Located along the middle Rogue River across Jackson and Josephine counties, the Rogue Valley AVA is the southernmost grape-growing region in Oregon as well as the largest within the Southern Oregon AVA. Bisected by Interstate 5, it’s made up of three adjacent river valleys (Bear Creek, Applegate and Illinois valleys) that extend from the foothills of the Siskiyou Mountains along the California border north to the Rogue River. It is 70 miles wide by 60 miles long.
Rogue Valley’s wine history dates back to the 1840s when European immigrants began planting grapes and eventually bottling wines. In 1852, an early settler named Peter Britt joined in on the grape growing adventure, and later opened Oregon’s first official winery (it eventually closed in 1907). It wasn’t until after an Oregon State University professor planted an experimental vineyard here in 1968 that winemakers rediscovered Rogue Valley as a superb winegrowing region. Rogue Valley became an official appellation in 1991.
One sub-appellation, the Applegate Valley AVA established in 2001, is wholly within the boundaries of the Rogue Valley. Two other sub-regions, Illinois Valley and Bear Creek Valley, lie within the Rogue Valley AVA as well.
Rogue Valley is made up of three distinct valleys with progressively warmer microclimates, enabling the region to successfully grow both cool- and warm-climate grape varieties. To the west, the Illinois Valley region is affected by mountain and ocean influences, making it suitable for cool-weather varieties. Farther east, Rogue Valley has the highest elevations (nearly 2,000 feet) of Oregon’s winegrowing regions, but it is also the warmest and the driest, making it well-suited for warm-weather wines.
The Rogue Valley soil types include mixes of metamorphic, sedimentary and volcanic-derived soils ranging from sandy loam to hard clay.
Source: Oregon Wine Board
Rogue Valley’s diverse landscape is derived from the convergence of three mountain ranges of varying ages and structure: the Klamath Mountains, the Coastal Range and the Cascades. Vineyards here are typically at elevations of 1,200 to 2,000 feet and are planted on hillsides rather than valley floor.
Source: Oregon Wine Board
Similar to France’s Bordeaux region, the Rogue Valley’s warm dry climate benefits Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, Tempranillo and Syrah and Sauvignon Blanc. To the west end of the Rogue Valley, you’ll find cool-weather varietals such as Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Riesling, Muscat and Gewürztraminer. Dolcetto, Grenache and Zinfandel are among other varietals found here.