Exploring Oregon’s Wine Country

If you think about wine in the US your mind immediately goes to Sonoma, the Russian River…CALIFORNIA. And while some wineries pop up around the country, few have the prestige and influence as those California wines.

As an admitted snob, I generally prefer European wines, largely as a reminder of some trip I was on. Riesling – that Rhein River Day Cruise from Frankfurt. Chianti – my summer in Tuscany. Italian Whites – hiking Cinque Terre.

However, as I realize the benefits of US based wine and the versatility, I have softened to some of the varieties my local Costco offers. That $12 box of Chardonnay is quite the steal for a glass with my nightly decompression.

What surprised me recently was that Southern Oregon, specifically the Rogue Valley, is coming into its own as a wine producing region, and blowing away the competition. Not only is the area pristine for creating wine, but the verdant soil is ideal for growing a rich variety of wines. The soil, along with decades of produce growing (home to Henry & David) has allowed the region to create a fabulous country home for what is likely to be the next star in American wineries.

While visiting my sister recently, who moved to Medford in September, I stumbled upon not only the listings for wineries on websites and tourism catalogs, but also in every grocery store. Unlike Colorado, Oregon sells the lovely grape liquid in their food shops. Which means you can get your standard foreign fare OR go for an OR wine. How cool is that? Not to mention, it’s not a wine that was made 7 hours away with grapes imported from California, but rather a born and raised Oregon baby wine.

While easily accessible at the food stores, I decided it was worth visiting three of the local establishments to enjoy the liquid in person. I love wine tastings, and since I had not been to a proper one in at least 8 years (I don’t think friend’s couches count) it was a perfect excuse to celebrate my 30th and the local fare.

Tastings Are Better

Some people love grabbing some bottles and having a girl’s sampling is the perfect night. Which, no doubt, that’s a damn good time. However, there is something about going to tastings, having a flight of wine, and taking in the atmosphere of a local wine maker that cannot compare. My first real wine tasting was in Tuscany, where, in the heart of Chianti, I got to sample some amazing wines, honey, balsamic, and cheeses that deeply reflected the heart and soul of the region. Keeping on that same tradition, I have found that wineries offer a similar important intimacy with the creator and consumer. It removes the somewhat pretentious Aire of wine and brings forth the true people that make it. Most of them are passionate farmers, that find the utmost joy in creating something so smooth and elegant to be consumed locally and around the world. Facing a bottle, and a label, while seemingly romantic, removes that extra touch of personality and uniqueness that in-person brings.

In Oregon it was no different and we spent a fabulous afternoon in a drizzle that was filled with great friends, conversations, a double rainbow, and memories to last a lifetime.

Dancin’

Located close to the old gold rush town of Jacksonville, this winery celebrates its Italian sentiments with a Tuscan styled patio and welcome center. All Covid restrictions in Oregon meant only outside dining or drinking, which was PERFECT due to the 1) heaters 2) drizzly but comfortable day 3) wood canopy that provided ample cover. It was here that we started the day with flights of red and white wines, and solid whites, giving us a great taste of their specialties and excellence. While the most expensive per bottle, it was very economical to order a flight, allowing visitors to track down what their taste preference might be. Additionally, they offered a fabulous lunch selection, including gluten free options and options that my sister could eat with her allergies to nightshade plants(tomatoes and potatoes). The service was FABULOUS and we felt like we were at home dining on our own patio. Reservations are HIGHLY recommended, especially on the weekend.

Note they are only open from around 11:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.

If you can’t make a tasting, I recommend their Chardonnays (white) and Syrah (red).

RoxyAnn

If you like a place with plenty of country charm, then this is the location. Home to a century of fruit farming, they took up grape growing and wine making 20 years ago, and it has been a local success. This location is set up in old farm structures is very popular with the locals. If you’re doing a flight – this place has the big pours – but also very nice wine. We spent the most time here and enjoyed sitting a picnic table, laughing our asses off, watching the rain storms move over Medford farmland, and a fabulous double rainbow! They don’t have their own kitchen, but they did have a food truck, and I imagine that’s a frequent weekend staple.

They also have limited hours of 12 to 6 p.m.

If you can’t visit in person, I saw their wine EVERYWHERE in Medford and I have to say I quite enjoyed their Rose.

Edendale

Edenvale was nothing but pure joy. It might have been the late afternoon crowd that was so cacophonous, or the charming Victorian house, of the really fun bottle of wine we split. All around it was just a delight. The area screams old world charm, and the team operating it was nothing short of welcoming and warm. We had a blast sitting by a Christmas tree (in February), and listening to our fellow merry makers laugh in a large outside tent. This had the most mix of age groups and backgrounds, all around offering a vibrant mood.

I was only able to try their “White Rabbit” which was a lovely dry wine, but I am sure many of their others were equally enjoyable. All around the pricing and experience here was more buy a bottle and enjoy your friends rather than tasting. However, they offer events most years, and different styled pours and gatherings for each unique preference.

Note that their hours are also limited to the 12 to 6pm range.

Purchasing wine would best be done in person, or at most grocery stores in the area.

Final Thoughts

It’s hard to know what you might get when you go in blind to a situation. Yet, as if the descriptors above weren’t clear, we had a perfect day in the late winter of Medford, Oregon. If you are in the area, it is well worth a stop, or two, maybe three, to taste the local wines, or grab a bottle for later. I know I look forward to going back some day soon.

If you can’t make the tastings or wineries, and maybe only have one chance to stop, I recommend going to the Harry & David store to grab a few types to enjoy at your leisure.

Happy Travels!

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