Oregon wine is famous for its sultry, spicy, smooth and sophisticated pinot noir — but there’s so much more to the Beaver State’s fertile wine scene.
In recent years, the vineyards of Southern Oregon have become known for their diversity of grapes (at least 50 varieties) and their ability to produce so many exquisite types of wine: everything from warm-weather reds like syrah, merlot, cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc, tempranillo and malbec to mouth-watering whites like pinot gris, chardonnay and viognier.
About 180 vineyards have taken root in the Rogue Valley winegrowing region, the southernmost in Oregon, stretching from the Rogue River south to the California border and situated at the same parallel regions as Spain and Southern France.
The Rogue Valley is prized for its unique terroir — warm days and cool nights, nestled between the Cascade, Siskiyou and Coastal ranges and the Pacific Ocean; the temperature flux enhances the sugar-acid balance and the flavors of the grapes. The hillsides here provide some of the highest elevations in the state, which means that vineyards are planted on hillsides rather than the valley floor. All of that means that winemakers are happily innovating, producing award-winning wine — and visitors to Grants Pass, Medford, Ashland and Jacksonville get to reap the bounty.
Richard and Pat Ellis have been welcoming visitors to their winery, Pebblestone Cellars, at the base of the foothills just west of Medford in Talent since 2006. Pebblestone Cellars focuses on their acclaimed tempranillo, viognier, cabernet franc and pinot gris as well as other varieties. In 2018 the Ellises opened their tasting room, with visitors sampling the wines and enjoying live music every Sunday afternoon.
“We built the tasting room in middle of all the vineyards so people get chance to have a mountain view and vineyard view and enjoy wine on the deck,” Richard Ellis says. A new lawn space with picnic tables also provides space for unwinding and soaking up the views.
For your next tasting trip to the Rogue Valley, here are some other fabulous tasting rooms to explore.
Near Grants Pass
Nibble on made-to-order flatbreads and calzones as you sip your flight at Schmidt Family Vineyards. Venture far off the beaten path to Williams to visit Plaisance Ranch, a working ranch since 1858, with grapes and cattle on site.
Rocky Knoll Vineyards is known to have some of the earliest modern grape plantings in the Rogue Valley, planted in the mid-1970s. Sip your new favorite wine and nosh on wood-fired pizza at Kriselle Cellars, set on a gorgeous property next to the Rogue River. Gather around the fire pit or bocce court at 2Hawk Vineyard and Winery, powered by solar arrays and other natural viticulture techniques.
The Tuscan retreat-inspired Dancin Vineyards was named Oregon Winery of the Year in 2017 by Wine Press Northwest, noted for their chardonnay and pinot noir. Red Lily Vineyards focuses on its all-star lineup of earthy, Spanish-style reds like Tempranillo and various blends. LongSword Vineyard is also a family farm and a landing zone for local hang gliders and paragliders, so guests on the tasting patio are often greeted with the spectacle of colorful wings as well as friendly flocks of chickens, geese and sheep.
Try the pear and honeydew melon-inspired viognier, a visitor favorite at Paschal Winery and Vineyard. Linger around the fire pit at Dana Campbell Vineyards, with tasting room views of Pilot Rock, Mt. Ashland and the outskirts of Talent. Lounge outside on the modern and elegant patio at Irvine & Roberts Vineyards, with sweeping views of their estate vineyards as well as the Cascade and Siskiyou mountain ranges.