One of my last wine country trips was in December on a self-guided press trip to Southern Oregon wine country with Neal and Alyse of Winery Wanderings. We met a few years ago at the Wine Media Conference and became fast friends! This was our second trip together, the first one being to Napa Valley back in March of 2019.
When you think of Oregon wine country, you think of the Willamette Valley, which spans 150 miles from north to south and is bordered by the Coastal Range to the west and the Cascades to the East. But there are other wine regions in Oregon, specifically the Rogue and Applegate Valleys in southern Oregon. Southern Oregon boasts warmer temperatures and a more diverse assortment of grapes grown in the region. This is in contrast to the sea of Pinot Noir to be found in the Willamette Valley. Below are some of our stops along the way that I would recommend a visit to!
For a true home visit in Oregon wine country, Fences Winery is the place to go, as the tasting room is, quite literally, in Jody and David Lennon’s beautiful house. This is a tiny operation in the Rogue Valley with less than 300 cases made each year. Their lineup is simple. From all estate fruit (8 acres) they make a Cabernet Sauvignon, a Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, and a Rosé of Cabernet Sauvignon. Private tastings are by appointment only.
The standout wine that I tried that day:
Came out a bit tight, but quite awesome once it opened up. This wine is powerful and has some oomph…like Jody! Ripe fruit, plus bramble on the back palate. No pyrazines to be found. A warming red. This is a wine that wraps you in a big hug.
This is not the first time I’ve written about Irvine & Roberts in the Rogue Valley. I documented this Oregon wine country stop in a late 2019 blog post. In hindsight, with everything going on in the world, this visit was such a treat. The warm, inviting tasting room. The holiday decorations. The million-dollar vineyard views. It almost feels like a different time. Doug & Dionne Irvine are at the helm of Irvine & Roberts. They are both the type of people that you meet and can spend hours chatting with. A lovely couple and an equally lovely property. And the wines, oh the wines. Read my past blog post for a full run down.
But my standout wine from that day:
Earlier this year I tried the 2016 and was blown away. This one also did not disappoint. A focused and acid-driven Chardonnay with notes of stone fruit, white flowers, and wet stone/minerality. This is HANDS DOWN my favorite of the Irvine & Roberts portfolio.
Red Lily makes their mark with a focus on Spanish grape varieties. Named after the local red lily and their youngest child, Lily, this Jacksonville business is a family affair. We had a nice, intimate visit with Rachael Martin, one of the owners. In fact, she opened up just for us! The tasting room is warm and inviting, and we even got to enjoy some wine in their gorgeous, rustic barn outback. Definitely worth a visit when you are in Oregon wine country!
Having tried Troon’s wines over the years, I was delighted to make a visit to this biodynamic vineyard and winery in Oregon wine country, specifically the Applegate Valley. Craig Camp is the general manager, and really is the face of Troon Vineyard. I wrote a piece a while back focusing on Craig and his commitment to Troon and biodynamics. Troon is a 100-acre property with 50 acres planted to vine.
As we drove through the property for a tour, Craig told us that within the next six years, all the vines onsite will be replanted. This is due to virus issues and moving out of the varieties they no longer wish to grow (i.e. Zinfandel and Vermentino) and into the varieties they’d like to focus on (i.e. Grenache, Carignan, Mourvèdre, and Syrah). Some other changes coming: apples are being planted (French Normandy style cider anyone?), a barn with an irrigation center and biodynamic prep room is being built. And don’t forget the biodynamic education center for consumers. A visit here will become part of the tasting experience. Craig was the one responsible for the property’s conversion to biodynamics. I think it’s safe to say that Mother Earth thanks you. Oh, and did I mention that their wines are STELLAR.
My standout from the Troon visit:
Beautiful blue/floral notes of blueberries and violets. A great acid lift. The perfect cheese and charcuterie wine that is versatile enough to work with both.
A visit to Oregon wine country and the Rogue Valley would not be complete without a stop to Rogue Creamery. This little joint bolted to fame after their Rogue River Blue Cheese took home 2019 Best Cheese in the World at the World Cheese Awards. This cheese is to die for, and worth every penny ($43.99/lb).
I hope you enjoyed my recap of my visit to southern Oregon wine country, and perhaps I gave you a few ideas for your next visit!