Escape to the Rogue Valley Wine Country
by Linda Stewart
Like most travel and wine writers during this time, my current mode of transportation and state of travel adventure has been via computer with virtual presentations. Recently, on an International Food, Wine and Travel Writers Association webinar, my fellow members and I were introduced to the Rogue Valley wine region by Ashley Cates of Travel Medford and Rogue Valley Vintners. Wine and vineyard representatives from Irvine & Roberts Vineyards, Troon Vineyard, Kriselle Cellars, Cliff Creek Cellars, Del Rio Vineyards, and Awen WineCraft, along with Katharine Cato from Travel Ashland joined in the video seminar. They were all excited to share the news that officially as of May 15th, all Southern Oregon counties will be entering Phase I of reopening, with safety measures and protocols in effect.
The 60-mile long Rogue Valley wine region begins south of the Willamette Valley (just north of the Rogue River) and extends south to the Siskiyou Mountains along the border of California. Designated an American Viticulture Appellation (AVA) in 1991, the first grapes were planted in the Rogue Valley in the mid 1800s, and the first winery was established in 1873. The region now consists of 88 vineyards, over 50 tasting rooms, and encompasses three separate valleys, Illinois Valley, Applegate Valley, and Bear Creek Valley, which include eponymous Rogue River tributaries. And, within these valleys are four wine trails to explore: Upper Rogue, Bear Creek, Jacksonville, and Applegate. The Applegate Valley was established as a separate AVA within the Rogue Valley AVA in 2001.
Integral to the resultant variety of micro climates and diverse soils is the concourse of three mountain ranges: the Coastal Range, the Klamath Mountains, and the Cascade Mountains. Along with hillside elevations of 1000 to 2000 feet, and a vast diurnal temperature range (difference between daily high and low temperatures), these valleys are able to grow over seventy grape varieties.
I received a shipment of wine from Troon Vineyard which included Kubli Bench Amber and Côtes du Kubli, and I was delighted to sip along with the discussion of this Rogue Valley winery. Craig Camp is the General Manager of Troon, and his enthusiasm for the winery’s bio-dynamic agricultural philosophy is contagious. Located in Applegate Valley, the winery takes on the role of environmental caretaker, embracing regenerative agriculture, ensuring the land is restored and the soils are enriched with nutrients, which in turn will be reflected in the flavor of their wines. Troon uses only native yeast and ferments the wine in mature French Oak barrels.
The Kubli Bench Amber (2019) is an “orange” wine blend of 74% Riesling, 16% Vermentino, and 10% Viognier. Orange wines are made by fermenting white wines with their grape skins, but they must be labeled “amber” because they are not made with orange fruit. According to some archaeology reports, the origin of orange wines can be traced back 8,000 years to the country of Georgia and have become increasingly popular in the last few years. The color is a soft, golden citrine, with an herbal and citrus aroma. I tasted bright mineral and apricot flavors, with a touch of anise on the finish.
The deep purple Côtes du Kubli wine (2018) is 72% Syrah and 28% Grenache. The alcohol content is 12.9%, but this lively red has clout. Typical of both Syrah and Grenache, the tannins are tame, but the Syrah adds a bright acidity along with vibrant blackberry flavors. The Grenache contributes a velvet elegance by adding polished tastes of ripe red raspberry.
As Southern Oregon becomes more accessible, you will not only be able to take advantage of various recreational opportunities including beautiful, pristine Crater Lake, Oregon’s only National Park, but with all the health precautions and protocols in place you will also be able to feel at home in the Rogue Valley with welcoming accommodations and artisanal restaurants. Most wineries are now accepting reservations for wine tasting. For information on wineries, accommodations, and things to do like fishing and hiking in the Rogue Valley, go to the Travel Medford website. If you would like to stay a little farther south, in Ashland, contact Travel Ashland. May is Oregon Wine month, and with the area’s safe reopening, the Rogue Valley Wine Country is the ideal escape – a home away from home – for you to explore, sip, and savor. However, if it isn’t possible for you to travel to Southern Oregon now, you can still experience a taste of the Rogue Valley by checking the winery websites to see if wine can be shipped to your state.
Vineyard photo credits: Travel Medford (Ashley Cates)
Wine photo credits: Linda Stewart