South Stage knows that wine pairs well with the arts

Camelot Theatre patrons don't know how close they came to being deprived of wine at intermission.

In early October, Artistic Director Livia Genise gave her traditional curtain speech minutes before "The Best Man" was to open on the Talent stage. In between thanking sponsors, Genise mentioned that after six years, Weisinger's of Ashland would no longer be donating wine to sell by the glass in the lobby, and much-needed revenue for the nonprofit Talent troupe would drop.

The audience applauded Weisinger's years of support. Traute Moore, whose family owns one of the largest winegrape-growing operations in the Rogue Valley, tracked down Genise afterward and assured her that the Moores, already decades-long subscribers and donors, would give 30 cases of their South Stage Cellars wine.

"Their offer has made my life easier," Genise said later.

It's not unusual for a regional wine producer to come to the aid of an arts group. The valley's family-owned wineries and tasting rooms are well-known for their generosity. Locally made wine is poured at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Britt Festivals and smaller stages.

There are uncountable other requests from arts groups. Throughout the year, wine producers field pleas for wine to be poured or bottles to be auctioned off at arts fundraisers, VIP receptions, post-season parties and new-season announcements.

Over the years the Moores, among the valley's pioneering viticulturists, have donated a large percentage of their wine production.

Making only 1,500 cases a year — until this year when the quantity may double — Traute and her husband, Don, consistently give to all kinds of causes. To arts groups alone, they donate hundreds of cases of wine each year, as well as certificates for tastings, vineyard tours and winemaker events.

They also give their time.

Traute Moore, 79, spends hours with high bidders, explaining grape growing and winemaking decisions.

She's been talking about wine ever since the Moores' Griffin Creek label merlot was named by Wine Spectator as the best wine from Oregon in 1996, placing Southern Oregon in critics' scopes for the first time.

Traute and Don, who is now 80, landed in Talent in 1989 after their car was broken into and needed overnight repair. At the time, he was an internist teaching at the University of Southern California, and the family lived in Pasadena.

They had sold a hobby orange and avocado farm in Morro Bay, Calif., and were looking for a small farm to move to when he retired.

Traute fell in love with the view from a vineyard property in Talent, and since then the family's original 2 acres of pinot noir and four acres of gewürztraminer have grown to 300 acres of vines in Talent and Jacksonville. Their company, Quail Run Vineyards, is named after the street where they live.

In 2008, they started the South Stage Cellars label to make wine from the grapes they were selling to winemakers. Linda Donovan of Pallet Wine Co. in Medford and Joe Dobbes of Dobbes Family Estate in Dundee are their primary winemakers.

Three years ago, the Moores' son Michael moved here from the Bay Area, where he was a documentary filmmaker. Almost immediately, Michael joined the board of the Ashland Independent Film Festival. Since then, the nonprofit group has rarely had a fundraiser or reception in which South Stage Cellars wine hasn't been poured.

In the next weeks, Michael Moore will be releasing 50 cases of sauvignon blanc with the film festival's logo on it. Next year, the festival will have 130 cases of chardonnay and syrah to sell, pocketing all but a few dollars for the cost of each bottle and printing.

The wine was made from grapes donated by the Moores, and equipment and expertise volunteered from winemakers Donovan and Eric Weisinger.

"The festival benefits from the proceeds, and the winemaker benefits from the exposure," says Michael Moore.

This spring, South Stage Cellars' marketing director Porscha Schiller dreamed up the idea of hosting a music competition called Rising Stars to raise money for Rogue Valley charities and spotlight local performers. After eight weeks, more than $7,000 was collected for CASA of Jackson County, and guitarist Jeff Kloetzel won an opening-act spot at the Britt.

Next year, the finalists will compete on the Britt stage, and contributions will go to La Clinica, where many vineyard workers and their families get medical care, says Traute Moore.

In South Stage Cellars' downtown Jacksonville tasting room, local musicians perform inside the historic building, and every month a local painter, photographer or other artist is invited by resident artist and metal sculptor Cheryl D. Garcia to exhibit artwork without paying a commission on sales.

It's almost too many donations to keep track of, but Traute Moore sees it as more than accounting.

"We feel great about supporting the visual arts at the tasting room and plays and music on different stages," she says. "There is more to operating a winery than selling wine. It has to do with people — the people you meet and what you do in the community. We all help each other."

Reach reporter Janet Eastman at 541-776-4465 or

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