Oregon’s wine industry has grown leaps and bounds in the last 50 years, but did you know that wine making dates to the pioneer days of the 1840s? It may also surprise you that it wasn’t the now famous Willamette Valley that produced the region’s first grape vines, but rather the fertile Rogue Valley in southern Oregon.
Valley View Vineyard, near Jacksonville was the first in the state, established by Peter Britt in the 1850s. Growing Zinfandels and Rieslings, Oregon’s first wine makers were a hardy bunch of pioneers that would have traveled the arduous Oregon Trail to reach the Rogue Valley in search of lush farmland and bright futures. Anyone who’s visited this region, boasting views that could make Tuscans jealous, will understand what drove them to battle the fierce “Rogue” tribes and settle on this fertile land.
If you’re ready to move past sipping Pinots in Portland and journey to the rugged roots of Oregon’s wineries, consider a rafting trip on the Rogue River. Many outfitters offer trips that highlight the region’s vast varietals with wine tastings each evening after your day of play on the river. You’ll experience the solitude and scenic vistas as a pioneer might have, albeit with vast improvements in comfort and cuisine. Each afternoon, your party of fellow rafters will either make camp riverside or spend the night at one of the Rogue’s rustic lodges.
These trips travel the most scenic section of the Rogue River on a 3 or 4 day trip. Most are accompanied by vintners from top wineries throughout the region that will share tastings and perhaps some special reserves. Some trips also feature tastings accompanied by Rogue Creamery’s award winning cheeses or guest chefs for foodies seeking a epicurean meal in a natural environment. Between paddling the mighty rapids, you can relax on your raft to take in the sweeping views, watch for the plentiful wildlife and soak in the simpler time. Don’t miss the Rogue River Museum where you’ll find farm tools and photos of the Rogue’s first settlers.
Trips vary, so contact the outfitters below for specific details on each trip.
Rafting on the Rogue River with OARS featuring Valley View Winery
4 days, 3 nights – $1,499/adult, $949/youth – Camping
Food & Wine with ROW Adventures featuring Illahe Vineyards
3 days, 2 nights – $1,075/adult, $980/youth – Lodging
Whitewater & Wine with Rogue River Journeys featuring Foris Winery
3 days, 2 nights – $1,095/adult – Camping
Wine & Whitewater with ECHO River Trips featuring Valley View Winery
4 days, 3 nights – $995/adult & $895/youth – Camping