You don’t have to be a sommelier to appreciate the unique wines of Elkton.
Located in the little town of Elkton in the Coast Range, the Elkton American Viticultural Area (AVA) is situated in the Umpqua Valley in Southern Oregon. It’s small — just 100 acres. And while Southern Oregon is best known for its hot, dry climate and wines best produced in such conditions — tempranillos, albariños and cabernets — Elkton differs.
“That’s exactly why we petitioned for a new AVA,” says Terry Brandborg, owner of Elkton-based Brandborg Vineyard & Winery with his wife, Sue. “Our climate is significantly cooler than the rest of the Umpqua Valley.”
Brandborg says fog coming in from the Oregon Coast just 36 miles away and the breeze off the Umpqua River create a cooler, more temperate climate where pinot noir, pinot gris, gewerztraminer and riesling thrive. While the Elkton AVA was designated in 2013, the wine-growing region actually dates back to the early 1970s, when its first grape vines were planted.
A trip to Elkton (about 2.5 hours south of Portland or just over an hour from Eugene) will bring you to all of the tasting rooms within a 2-mile radius, mostly along a slow-trafficked section of Highway 138 where businesses are adorned with cheery, colorful flower baskets. “People will be pretty wowed by the wine we are making here,” Brandborg says. Here’s some of what you’ll find.
River’s Edge Winery
At the western edge of Elkton on the north bank of the Umpqua River, River’s Edge Winery was the first to set up in town, having founded in 2000 with the aim of producing sustainable wine from extremely local grapes, with all their wines sourced from within the Elkton AVA. Book an appointment and sample the Dry Rosé and Cascade Petillant Naturel Rosé. Ask about pairings and tasting notes — hint: not all rosés are pink and sweet; some are bone-dry, and come in hues ranging from salmon to orange.
Launched in 2016 by winemaker Christopher Hudson and French-Swiss winemaker Monja Hudson-Desmeules, Lexème Wines (half a mile east of River’s Edge) is named for the French term for “root of a word.” Book a a tasting on the cozy covered patio and sip the 2019 Rosé of Gamay Noir, made with 100% estate-grown grapes and delightful notes of strawberry jam, pomegranate, violet, lemon balm and a hint of green tea and apricot.
One block east of Lexème, book an appointment at Brandborg Winery to sample some of Oregon’s top sunny-weather varieties on the patio, or under tents with heaters in the cool weather. A 2018 Fleur De Lis White Pinot Noir is a unique choice, with notes of stone fruit, Rainier cherry, wild herbs, jasmine and fragrant honeysuckle. There’s also the bone-dry 2019 Scarlett Cuvee, a rosé of pinot noir, reminiscent of the first warm summer days with scents of strawberries, raspberries, watermelon and wildflowers.
A short 2-minute drive east, off Highway 138 and directly into the vineyards, Bradley Vineyards offers a more scenic experience. As the largest producer of grapes in the Elkton AVA, the vineyard includes more than 20 acres of pinot noir, riesling, gewurztraminer and baco noir grapes mostly planted in 1983 by brothers John and Richard Bradley. Since John passed away, his wife, Bonnie, runs the operations today along with their son, Tyler, who is also the winemaker at River’s Edge. Book an appointment for a tasting outside and try their 2017 Sparkling Rosé of Pinot Noir or 2018 Francois Baco Noir, an unusual hybrid grape variety with a rich, velvety texture and toasted vanilla undertones.
If You Go:
- Check out What to Expect at Oregon Wineries During COVID-19 for visiting tips before you set out.
- While visiting Elkton, explore the beauty of the Umpqua River and take the Umpqua River Scenic Byway out to the Oregon Coast. Find places to eat, sip and enjoy hands-on farm experiences along the Great Umpqua Food Trail.
- When you’re ready to take a bottle of Oregon wine country home with you, remember that Oregon wines fly free on Alaska Airlines. The Roseburg Regional Airport is 40 miles southeast and the Southwest Regional Airport is 60 miles southwest in Coos Bay.