BY JASON CANTER
The Willamette Valley is fantastic, with its bright Burgundian style Pinots and proximity to the thriving music and food scene that is Portland. But if you go 200 miles south, not too far north of the California border, you find the beautiful Rogue Valley wine lands in Oregon. The Rogue Valley is breathtaking, replete with beautiful mountains, rivers, quaint towns, great restaurants, and also world class wine, but with Rhone varietals. Think Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre blends for the reds, and Marsanne, Rousanne, Viognier for the whites.
It all starts at a Rhone Rangers winemaker dinner in San Francisco. Each person is seated at round tables of 10, and one of the winemakers bring copious amounts of wine to pair with various courses, including some select library wines. After all of this “wine tasting”, aka drinking, they start the charity auction. At this point, all of the packages sound appealing, but somehow I actually get outbid left, right, and center. But, as luck would have it, friends of ours, Kay and Stuart, “win” a great package in the Rogue Valley for four, co-sponsored jointly by Folin Cellars and Quady North. So we choose a weekend in early fall (best time of year, summer is great too if you can stand the heat!), book our flights (into Medford), and head up!
Folin Cellars, stunning with its sprawling vineyards, is surrounded by rolling hills and towering mountains. We meet Rob Folin, the owner and winemaker, who looks much younger than he is. His wine is made in small batches and is amazing. He makes all the usual Rhone varietals, but my two favorites are his Misceo, a blend made from Grenache, Syrah, and Mourvedre (commonly called a GSM) and his non-Rhone Tempranillo.
The next day Herb Quady, the owner/winemaker at Quady North, takes us on a tour of the area, then to delicious lunch and tasting at Troon Vineyards, where he is also their winemaker. His Syrah and Rose are fantastic, but he also makes a mean Bordeaux varietal Cabernet Franc!
There’s so much to do in this area, so without further adieu, here are my top things to do in the Rogue Valley and surrounding area. Drum roll please…
1. Visit Folin Cellars and Quady North. Ask for Rob or Carole and Herb.. Join the wine clubs and/or take some home with you to impress your friends at your next dinner party. Don’t forget lunch at Troon Vineyards!
3. Attend a performance at the Britt Festival. Check the schedule, choose an act, pack a picnic, and enjoy fantastic local wine. Tickets are super cheap. We saw Ziggy Marley. All I can say is “Lo-o-o-ove is my religion!”
4. Stay a night in the Jacksonville Inn , amazing restaurant with an award winning wine list right in the center of town. Or stay at Morrison’s Rogue River Lodge, and don’t miss a fantastic dinner on their huge patio under the stars. This is also a stop on the river rafting trip. Split your stay so you can stay in both at least a night each.
5. The Ashland Shakespeare Festival. This is among the oldest and largest in the country. If this is your thing, do it!
6. Go Heisenberg, aka Walter White, and hit up Medford for a thriving Crystal Meth scene. On second thought, maybe skip this one…