Wine Touring in Southern Oregon

The Southern Oregon region is filled with vineyards and wineries producing some delicious wines with many grape varieties being grown in the area. I had a chance to tour a couple of different areas on my recent trip to the region, one of which was the Umpqua Valley and the other being the Applegate Valley to the South, a unique wine trail that is located just to the North West of Ashland, over a two day period I visited five wineries, each was so unique and different.

The first winery that I visited was the spectacular Abacela Winery known for their Tempranillo, as they are located along the same latitude as Portugal they are able to grow these grape varieties and produce some incredible wines. The property is stunning, it is high up the in the hills with terrific views, I had a chance to taste several of their wines including the Grenache Rose 2016 which was gorgeous.

I also loved the Tempranillo Reserve 2014, Tempranillo 2013 Barrel Select, and the Tannat 2014 all beautiful tasting reds.

Proprietors Earl and Hilda Jones, long admirers of fine Spanish Rioja wines, were curious why Tempranillo had never produced exciting wines in the New World, even after 100 years of cultivation in California. In this dichotomy they saw both a challenge and an opportunity, so, in the early 1990s they purchased 500 acres of rolling oak savannah in the Umpqua Valley AVA and established Abacela. The name comes from the Spanish/Portuguese word abacelar, which means to plant a grapevine. Today, Abacela is considered a modern era pioneer and leading producer of Tempranillo and other Iberian varietals in America.

You can visit their Vine & Wine Center which is open daily for wine tasting 11:00 am-5:00 pm November through April, 11:00 am-6:00 pm May through October. Closed New Year’s Day, Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day. The winery is located at 12500 Lookingglass Road in Roseburg, Oregon.

David Ledger

The next winery was in what’s called the Central Point Artisan Corridor, here it was to visit Ledger David Cellars known for their reds including some delicious Syrah.

Visited their new tasting room located in Central Point, between the Rogue Creamey and Lillie Belle Farms. With European-Bistro ambiance, visitors have a chance to enjoy small plates daily featuring Rogue Creamery cheese, Pomodori signature soup or Lillie Belle Farms chocolates.

2016 Sauvignon Blanc

2014 Syrah

Here I had a chance to try several of their wines including the 2016 Sauvignon Blanc as well as the 2014 Syrah.

Working in the vineyard is a family affair, pulling from Lena’s deep roots in the Rogue Valley. The core vineyard crew includes: Lena and her family members: Heather Davis (Lena’s sister) and Uintah Keever (Lena’s mother), as well as David when he has time away from his “day job”. The vineyard is managed by Lena Varner and Mariano Gonzales.

The Le Petit Tasting Room is open daily from 12-5pm, they are located at 245 N. Front St in Central Point, Oregon.

The next day, I visited a selection of wineries along the Applegate Valley Wine Trail, starting off with a visit to Troon Winery another beautiful vineyard.

The Southern Oregon wines of Troon Vineyard are inspired by the wines of the Mediterranean coasts of Southern Europe. Place names like Madiran, Cahors, Bandol, Languedoc, Priorato, Campania and Sardegna have provided the varieties which shine in their vineyards high in the Siskiyou Mountains.

At Troon you’ll find wine from varieties selected by their vineyards, not market research. They feature wines produced from exciting varieties like vermentino, marsanne, roussanne, tempranillo, sangiovese, syrah, tannat, malbec and, of course, our heritage zinfandel first planted in 1972.

Surrounding their tasting room are beautiful lawn and gardens perfect for sipping a glass of wine as you soak in the natural beauty of the Applegate Valley.

Here we enjoyed tasting a selection of their wines along with some meats and cheeses from nearby purveyors.

They are centrally located between Grants Pass, Medford and Jacksonville and just a half-hour drive from I 5.

Troon Winery is located at 1475 Kubli Road in Grants Pass, Oregon

After a short drive, the next winery that we visited in the valley was Schmidt Family Vineyards, a gorgeous property with beautiful flower gardens and vineyards throughout.

Schmidt Family Vineyards, owned by Judy and Cal Schmidt, began with a life-long dream of farming the land.

Cal Schmidt (right)

Vineyards of Merlot, Syrah, and Cabernet Sauvignon were planted in 2001. The first vintage consisting of 300 cases, was produced in 2004 and released in 2006. The wines were very well received and quickly sold out. The 2005 harvest yielded about 1200 cases. They now produce over 7,000 cases per year. New vineyards have been added, which include lesser known varietals such as Albarino, and Tempranillo, of Spanish origin. Other varietals include Barbera, an Italian varietal, and Malbec, a Bordeaux varietal. Here I learned about how they make one as I got a tour around their production rooms.

Along with the fertile vineyards, and a large picturesque pond, several acres of herb and flower gardens, gazebos, and walking paths have been created which are available for private events.

They have a bistro on site which serves up home-made pizzas, salads and other dishes, I enjoyed tasting some of their pizzas and salads, perfect accompaniments to the wine.

Schmidt Family Vineyards is located at 330 Kubli Road Grants Pass, OR

A few minutes away it was to visit the last winery of the day and this one was my personal favourite in Applegate Valley, Wooldridge Creek Winery.

The winery and vineyards are located on a rolling hillside overlooking the Applegate River Valley.  The first grapevines were planted at Wooldridge Creek in the 1970s.  Their vineyard has now expanded to 56 acres planted in twelve varieties: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Syrah, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Viognier, Sangiovese, Zinfandel, Malbec, Petit Verdot and Tempranillo.

Greg Paneitz (winemaker)

After exploring the vineyard on my own, I enjoyed the visit to the warm and inviting tasting room where I had a chance to sample Wooldridge Creek’s wines. The tasting bar is crafted from madrone wood, and you can view the barrel room from the bar.  Panoramic views are enjoyed from the tasting room and outdoor patios.  CrushPad Creamery, Oregon’s first joint creamery and winery opened in the Applegate Valley at Wooldridge Creek Winery, here I had a chance to enjoy some of their cheeses with their wines.

My favourite wines that I tasted were the 2014 Tempranillo, 2013 Merlot, and the 2014 Pinot Noir.

Richard Wolak (aka Vanfoodster)

Greg Paneitz

Afterwards Greg toured us through the Upper Bench (2,000 feet above sea level) providing a chance to learn a lot more about their growing season and see their vineyards.

Wooldridge Creek Winery is located at 818 Slagle Creek Rdin Grants Pass, OR

Travelling through Central and Southern Oregon in the late Summer is the perfect time to enjoy warm dry weather as well as the many vineyards the region has to offer. You can plan your own visit through the area here.

By: Richard Wolak

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