by Nickolas Neely | Photo © Bollywood Theater
Southern Oregon is loaded with worthwhile wineries to visit, not only crafting some of the greatest wines in the Northwest, but also creating some of the most idyllic locations to taste them. Comprised of three distinct AVAs (American Viticultural Area), the Southern Oregon wine region can take up as much time as you’re willing to give. But for those on a schedule, try sticking to these three main wine treks (we suggest two to three wineries per AVA, but half the fun is discovering your own favorites).
Umpqua Valley AVA
Recommended Days: Tuesday through Saturday
Holding bragging rights as Oregon’s oldest wine region, the Umpqua Valley enjoys considerably cooler temperatures and more rainfall than its southern counterparts. Of all three wine loops, you’ll find the Umpqua Valley trail acts as the only true “loop,” letting you both begin and end your trek in beautiful Roseburg. Start your journey heading south out of Roseburg and take highway 99 straight to Abacela.
Abacela Winery (abacela.com) is credited with selling Oregon’s first tempranillo and dedicates a significant amount of effort to Spanish wines such as garnacha and albarino. Abacela’s Hispanic influences come through not only in their wine, but also their architecture. While Abacela’s tasting room serves as a fantastic way to sip through their wines, September in Southern Oregon makes for one of the best climates you can find. Grab a bottle of your chosen wine, sit outside on the patio and enjoy the waning summer air.
Reustle Prayer Rock Vineyards (reustlevineyards.com), true to its name, has an actual prayer rock on the south-facing slope of the property, a monument that the owner and his son pray to every morning. With every single bottle selling out annually, it may just be their special ingredient. The estate covers both Reustle Prayer Rock and the adjacent Romancing Rock, both steep gradient cliffs that allow their grapes a wide variety of sun exposure. The tasting room is built into this cliff, letting visitors taste their wines in a European-style cave. Both an observation deck and concert venue were built on top of the cave, giving you a great look at the vineyards and the Umpqua Valley in its entirety. Other spots of relaxation exist scattered across the estate for quiet reflection and tasting. The locale’s prime spot is a duo of chairs sitting on a lakeside dock.
Henry Estate Winery (henryestate.com), a family estate dating back 30 years, is one of the oldest vineyards in the Umpqua Valley. The family’s current patriarch: 13-year engineer-turned-vintner, Calvin Scott Henry III, brought his mechanical expertise to the vineyard. He designed a new trellis system adopted by wineries around the world. Currently his vineyards support gewürztraminer, chardonnay, pinot noir, merlot, pinot gris, müller thurgau and white riesling. To accompany your wine, bring along a picnic to enjoy in the Memory Garden next to the vineyard. The garden, dedicated to the late Ella and Cal Henry gives the perfect setting to a relaxed late lunch or a romantic early dinner.
Once you’ve completed your Umpqua loop, head east back to I-5, then south back into Roseburg. You can either stay there for the night (try the Windmill Inn, windmillinnroseburg.com), or drive south to Ashland, the starting point for the Rogue Valley trail.
Recommended Days: Thursday through Sunday
With tourism hotspots Ashland, Jacksonville and Medford, the Rogue Valley has no shortage of ways to lead you astray from your wine itinerary. You have a fun day of wine tasting ahead of you, and there’s no better way to begin than filling your belly at Morning Glory (1149 Siskiyou Blvd.) in Ashland.
Belle Fiore Estate and Vineyard (bellefiorewine.com), located right outside of Ashland, features impressive Italian-inspired architecture that transports you directly to the sweeping fields of Northern Italy. “Expansive” hardly begins to cover the arching ceilings and spacious patio overlooking the vineyards. The recently-created pavilion is steeped in dark woods and warm lighting, a perfect environment to taste their Bordeaux-style wines. Take the wrought-iron staircase to the second floor of the pavilion. This second tier allows you a view of the mountain range and your itinerary for the day. A tucked-away wine bar allows you to continue drinking in both the wine and the scenery. You can come back to the pavilion at night for live music any Wednesday, Thursday, Friday or Saturday.
2Hawk Vineyard & Winery (2hawkwinery.com) has been constructed almost entirely with reclaimed wood. The building can date its ancestry back to the Lithia Building in Medford, a shipyard in Pennsylvania and a brewery in Wisconsin. In alignment with its 20s-era California “ranchero” aesthetic, 2Hawk Winery offers a wide variety of Spanish tempranillos. While their placement on the east side of Medford predicates them towards hot, red wines, 2Hawk also fosters an impressive number of white grapes. Their viognier’s floral and almost buttery texture creates a great balance to their more bold tempranillos. After you have nabbed your chosen bottle or bottles, enjoy them on the back deck for another stunning view of the Rogue Valley.
DANCIN Vineyards (dancinvineyards.com), located just west of Medford, is all about pinot noir, their specialty, an uncommon varietal in Southern Oregon. As DANCIN vineyards continues to expand, they have created three separate micro-vineyards for pinot noir. The winery itself includes many different visitor areas, giving you plenty of locales to enjoy your wine on site. Sit by the koi pond garden or in the large heated outdoor space underneath the trellis. DANCIN even constructed a specialty tasting room built into the hill for ideal storage temperature. If you visit on a Friday or Saturday night, you’re likely to find yourself in the middle of one of their many events they hold under the trellis.
For the night’s accommodations, head back into Jacksonville, which serves as the entryway into the Applegate Valley. If you can, grab a room at the Jacksonville Inn (jacksonvilleinn.com).
Recommended Days: Any
From Jacksonville, head southwest into the Applegate Valley, one of the newest AVAs in Southern Oregon with 18 wineries. The Applegate Valley trail makes for a simple trek, with almost all wineries directly on or next to Highway 238.
Red Lily Vineyards (redlilyvineyards.com) sports modern architecture, reflecting the relative youth of the Applegate Valley. The name “Red Lily” comes from a rare flower found only in Southern Oregon. Thoroughly specializing in the Spanish varietal, tempranillo dominates their portfolio. Their tasting room is a must-visit as their expertly-crafted tempranillos are as hard to find outside the winery as is its namesake flower.
Schmidt Family Vineyards (sfvineyards.com) produces tempranillo and widens their list a bit more with varietals like merlot and malbec. The winery employs modern architecture similar to Red Lily. One the best spots in the house are the shaded tables on the front patio. Sit back and relax after a long journey of wine tasting accompanied by your bottle of choice and a whispering waterfall nearby.
After finishing at Schmidt vineyards and stopping in on one or two of its neighbors, it’s time to head north and tuck in at Grant’s Pass (see if you can get a room in the Lodge at Riverside, thelodgeatriverside.com).