Southern Oregon Wine Country!
In September of 2015, I made my first visit to the Rogue Valley AVA and visited the sub-AVAs of the region. In 2014, Zach lived with me for several months so that he could save up for his next hike on the Pacific Crest Trail. He started in Mexico, but unfortunately acquired a tailbone injury in the Sierras and eventually ended up in Ashland, staying at the home of one of the “trail angels,” those folks who open their houses to hikers in need.
I got a phone call from him and he told me in no uncertain terms that he was not returning to Vegas. Apparently, a dozen-plus years of in-depth experience in the hospitality industry in Vegas may be an everyday thing here, but it’s golden everywhere else. And yes, he’s thriving, And he’s a Wineaux. I couldn’t be prouder.
As a side note, I’m going to do a YouTube slideshow/video to showcase the photos I took during the adventure. Stay tuned.
Since my visit in September of 2015, I’d been pining to go back and revisit. I had planned to visit the same wineries that I had visited before, but that didn’t really happen. I went to Weisinger Cellars and Troon Vineyards, but otherwise, every other winery was new. This visit was more about music, scenery, and training some staff on wine (I’ve been a trainer for nearly 30 years) more than doing the winery journalism work that I’d hoped. Am I disappointed? Not a bit.
My next visit will have to be at least a week so that I can truly learn more about the wines and wineries of Southern Oregon.
The wineries are so far from each other that it requires AT LEAST a compass and GPS to find one’s way around! I guess that’s not that unusual; after all, visiting every winery in the SLO AVA means needing a vehicle with great gas mileage and off-road tires. Jeep Prius, anyone?
One thing I figured out pretty quickly when I visited before and that was confirmed this time; one of the reasons I like it so much is because it really does remind me of Paso Robles and a little of downtown Napa. Except with hills. Lots and lots of hills.
The Wineries, Part Uno
Just as we did last time, the first winery we visited was Weisinger Family Vineyards. Weisinger is the first winery when heading south from Ashland, and its warm tasting room combined with a killer patio area makes it difficult to leave once you’re settled in. When I last visited, there were two wines that I absolutely fell in love with – the Merlot and the Gewurztraminer.
First a disclaimer: My intentions were to cover each winery, each wine, and to make a photographic and narrative text documentation of each winery and wine, showcasing my journalistic prowess. But, dammit, I ended up just having a good time instead. I’m more or less good with that.
I enjoyed the wines and was very pleased to see that they still have the quality that I was expecting. I liked the Gewurtz, the Viognier, and, especially, the Pinot Blanc. (Pinot Blanc = honeyed weight, good fruit and acidity with almost Alsatianesque character, delicious), and the reds. We received a tasting flight and went outside on the patio to enjoy the wines.
What is it about sitting outside at a winery that makes all your stress go poof?
Dana Campbell Vineyards
The first impression after walking through the doors of a very lovely but largely unadorned building was WOW. The expanse of glass after entering showcased the incredible vineyards, landscapes, and mountains beyond. The photo doesn’t do it justice. I was, as the British would say, gobsmacked.
The building and views notwithstanding, the winery wouldn’t mean much if the wines weren’t good. The first exclamation when I sipped the Viognier was the same that I gave when I entered the building. Wow.
The Viognier was delicious. Period. Beautifully flowery on the nose, with white fruits on the palate. Eminently refreshing and probably one of the best examples of an American Viognier that I’ve had in years. As we tasted through the lineup, we found each one refreshing but were particularly taken with the “Vionillo,” their Viognier/Tempranillo blend. The color of a dark Rosé, it has all the hallmarks of an outstanding summer red.
This winery was a treat to the palate as well as the eyes.
If you look up the word “quaint,” chances are that you’ll see a photo of Jacksonville. Walking down (or up – hills there, too) the main street can easily bring to mind women in long dresses, men on horseback, and even the occasional stagecoach. Because it sprung up during its Gold Rush in the 1850s, that’s not too farfetched, and because of its history, was declared a National Historic Landmark in the 1960s. With a city population of less than 3,000, it is tiny. And gorgeous.
We explored the streets a little, did some shopping – okay, there wasn’t much “we” in the shopping arena – and finally stopped to taste wine at one of the wine shops within city limits.
South Stage Cellars has its own labeled wines, many of which are made by others. The vintage one-story brick building holds a generous bar, and the wine pourers are knowledgeable about the wines. We tasted through the lineup, and I was surprised to see a Pinotage on the menu. The Pinotage, while not the smoked meat, Serengeti, and banana bomb of South African fame, still showed subtle hints of all of the above, along with the expected new-world fruit character.
Yet our day had just begun and there were several more to go! Stay tuned!
Coming next: More Wineries, Downtown, Farmer’s Markets, Concerts, and Pinot!