Getting There

Oregon Part 1 - 7As I sit here looking at people board Allegiant Air Flight 556, I’m struck how much I’ve gotten out of the habit of people watching. People come in all shapes and colors. There’s a man sitting two seats away who looks older, but is tanned and very slim and fit. I’m guessing he’s a bicyclist. A woman just got on board and looks to be older, but also appears as if she’s six months pregnant, which is one of the sure signs of having fibroids. Yeah, personal experience. The young attractive girl across the aisle is sporting a black cast on her arm and a “what the hell” expression on her face.

All of the people here have stories which the writer part of me is dying to know. But today, my story is the only one that’s on my mind. I haven’t been on an airplane since before 9/11. There was never any need! My travels have all consisted of day and/or road trips. Even those few times that I’ve been lucky enough to get some training through The Day Job™ in the form of conferences or conventions, I’ve only been able to do so when they’ve been in Vegas.

So as you can imagine, my first trip to Oregon in over 16 years is quite an adventure. My last trip was through Salem, Bend, and Boring; this will see me in the Rogue Valley AVA towns of Medford and Ashland. Apparently the trip between those two towns is a corridor of wineries. I’m good with that.

The plane arrived in Medford late Thursday morning and I rented a car through Budget Rent-A-Car.  The entire Medford airport is about the same size as the D Gates at McCarran.  I had walk Way. Out. There. to get the car, and that was fine. Little did I know that that was just the beginning of my “hoofing it” weekend!

Oregon was kind of accidental. Because of my focus on Nevada and California – I do have a California Wine Appellation Specialist certification, after all, and have worked hard to see Nevada wine come to the attention of aficionados – I thought that Oregon, despite its stellar Pinot Noirs, was out of the picture.

Then about a year and a half ago, Zachary, The Oldest Son™, landed there after a semi-disastrous Pacific Crest Trail hike (injuries. not good.) and let me know that he was not leaving. He was there to stay; he had found his Shangri-La. He now lives in Oregon Wine Country.  Am I envious or what.

No, he doesn’t live in Willamette, that bastion of stellar Pinots. He lives in Ashland, which is in the Rogue Valley AVA.  Located in Southern Oregon, Ashland is about 15 miles from the California border; it’s apparently where old hippies (and young ones) go to escape the rat race.

He has been insisting that I needed to come up to visit.  I had no idea that a simple weekend trip would change my life.

A Little about the Rogue and Ashland

Scenery at Red Lily Winery alongside the Rogue River
Scenery at Red Lily Winery – Rogue River

Rogue Valley is an AVA in Oregon. Since it is not as well-known, people – including myself – think that it is another place where there is beautiful Pinot Noir, just like up in Willamette.

With Rogue Valley’s location in southern Oregon, you will find some Pinot Noirs there just because it’s Oregon, but there are mostly Rhône and Bordeaux varietals with Pinot playing a decided second fiddle. Pinot is the king up in Willamette, but in the Rogue, not so much.

Ashland is about a 25/30 minute drive from Medford. I gloried in the green scenery! It is so different from the browns, tans, and occasional reds in the desert where I’ve lived for most of my life.

Ashland itself is a beautiful little town. It is a resort destination, particularly among the Shakespearean Festival crowd. The Festival takes place from May through November every year. Yes, they make the Shakespearean Festival in Utah pale by comparison.

Everybody walks there, so comfortable shoes are a necessity. Otherwise you will be either driving a car, riding your (probably power assist) bicycle or have achin’ dogs. There are hills there! I know that if I were there for six months I would be in shape just. like. that. In fact, just a couple days after returning home here in Las Vegas, my legs and behind are still aching from tackling those hills and walking everywhere. I did not miss using the car at all.

The mornings saw me picking up Zach and driving the few minutes into town. I’d find a place to park – and take a video of a deer strolling down the middle of the street – and then walk, walk, walk. Whether we were looking for a new apartment/house for him or just visiting some of the quaint businesses downtown, we just walked everywhere. I had brought some comfortable old shoes and despite the fact that the hills were killing me, I braved it and enjoyed every second there.

Deer are omnipresent in Ashland. They are everywhere. EVERYWHERE! According to the locals, they are the pigeons of Ashland. As a visitor I was charmed and fascinated by the fact that the deer were in every yard and on every street corner. In fact, on my first morning when I heard noises out on the front deck of the house where I was staying, I peeked through the window and there were two fawns nosing around the cup of tea I had left out on the small table. I looked at them, they looked at me, and by the time I grabbed my camera, they had disappeared. Dammit!

As soon as I arrived and got settled in, we began our winery visits. The first winery we visited was a small winery called Weisinger Vineyards and set the tone for the weekend. In fact, now that I think of it, it was also the last winery that we visited!

Next: The Wineries





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