Yes, there really is a place in Oregon where you can sip wine, nibble on perfectly paired cheese and charcuterie made on site, ooh and aah over the baby goats and then stretch your legs with a long walk in the vineyard.
Wooldridge Creek Winery, in Southern Oregon’s fertile Applegate Valley, is that uniquely magical place, and the winemakers just celebrated their 40th year of giving back to the land.
“It’s a whole functioning agricultural system,” Monica Kyle, a winery spokeswoman, says of the vineyard, farm and cheesemaking operations — all certified by Salmon Safe and LIVE (Low Input Viticulture & Enology) for practices that go far beyond organic, although they are certified organic as well.
Visitors may enjoy house-made charcuterie (pate and smoked sausages) in addition to a variety of cheeses made with local organic milk produced onsite at Crushpad Creamery — literally the spot where the grapes are crushed at the winery. Purchase wine, cheese, sausages and other farm-fresh products at either of their two locations. The downtown Grants Pass tasting room —Vinfarm, hosts prix-fixe dinners and brunch on Sundays.
Tasting here is not a formal event. Patios with shade umbrellas make it easy for couples and groups to linger over a flight with meat and cheese pairings, with views of the lush gardens and Applegate River Valley all around.
Summertime calls for the sparkling rose with herbed goat cheese or perhaps the chardonnay with marinated feta or bright pink beet chevre. A soft, silky merlot is a dynamite pairing with a best-selling cheese called Midnight Valley Bloomy, a brie-style cheese with a layer of grape leaf ash, for a deep earthy profile.
Wooldridge Creek produces a dozen varietals — from pinot noir and malbec to viognier, riesling and gewurztraminer — on 56 acres of vineyard, where the owners have been planting grapes since 1978.
Today the grounds are vibrant with a fruit orchard and pollinator garden, a seasonal veggie garden and lots of two- and four-legged friends, including chickens, baby goats, donkeys and horses.
Visitors can schedule a full tour of the property or peek at the cheese-making through the window and purchase some to go for their next picnic. When it comes to the age-old question, “How do I pair the cheese with the meat with the wine?” the Wooldridge Creek experts encourage personal taste, above all.
“Our first tip is always to just eat what you like; to not worry too much about what’s the right thing, but what do you enjoy,” Kyle says. “We do put together chef boards, with a [cheese board of] brie-style plus a harder style, soft style and a couple types of cured meats so you get a chance to explore. It doesn’t need to be difficult. It can be fun.”
If you go:
Pair a Southern Oregon winery visit with a hiking or mountain biking adventure on the uncrowded North Umpqua Trail; whitewater rafting or jet boating on the Rogue River; or stop off en route to nearby Crater Lake National Park, the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, the Oregon Caves National Monument.