I’m continually amazed at how often I come across unfamiliar Rogue Valley wines that have me scrambling to find out the who, what, when and where of a new label. Here are three brands that had launch events over the past several weeks.
Bayer Family Estate of Eagle Point began life as a 90-acre commercial equestrian center, a facility offering horse-training services ranging from dressage to working cattle. It was the dream of eight-time U.S. national champion equestrian Toni Bayer, a Las Vegas native who received her first horse as a gift from singer Wayne Newton. Toni knew the Rogue Valley from spending summers here with her grandparents. When daughters Sara and Samantha started elementary school, she and her husband, Jim, opted to leave Las Vegas for Eagle Point.
With Toni’s death in 2012, Jim decided to get into the wine business. He began by planting vines, mostly Italian varieties, because those were Toni’s favorites. Today the 16-acre vineyard includes nebbiolo, sangiovese, barbera, dolcetto, primitivo and three different clones of pinot noir.
Bayer’s first vintage was produced under the Brook Horse label by Eric Weisinger in 2013. “He’s doing a fantastic job,” Bayer says. “We just took a double gold with our 2015 Barbera at the San Francisco Chronicle competition.” Going forward, estate wines will bear the Bayer Family Estate label, while Brook Horse will denote vintages sourced elsewhere.
This past June the estate tasting room opened, giving the public the opportunity to taste Bayer’s wines in an exquisite park-like setting. With a reception area that seats 200 to 400 and a quarter-mile of Rogue River frontage, the estate is a perfect spot to hold anything from weddings to charity events such as a recent rafting excursion to benefit the Butte Creek Mill.
Future plans include planting a block of chardonnay, converting a 5,000-square-foot barn into a winery and opening a new tasting room with commercial kitchen. For more information, see pheasantbrookvineyards.com.
Goldback is the common name of Pentagramma triangularis, a species of fern abundant in the Northwest. Ashland resident Andy Myer chose the name of the plant for his new Rogue Valley label. The Southern Oregon distributor for Handcrafted Wines, Myer began working harvests in 2008, getting several years of diverse winery experiences in Washington, Oregon, California, Australia and New Zealand. He met Eric Weisinger in New Zealand and in 2015 moved to the Rogue Valley and joined the winemaking team at Weisinger Family Winery, where his own brand is made.
Myer’s first Goldback vintages, 2016 Grenache, 2016 Cuvée (a grenache/syrah blend) and 2017 Grenache Rosé, were officially released at a launch party at Ashland’s Hither Market in July. Made with extended maceration and as few additives as possible, Myer’s wines reveal natural fruit qualities, emphasizing freshness and vitality. Myer has “pop-up” tastings at Weisinger Family Winery. You can also find Goldback at area wine shops, restaurants and markets, including Ashland Wine Cellar, Ostras!, and the Ashland Co-op. Check Facebook for upcoming events and releases.
My third introduction is a new wine by an old hand in the industry. Well, new-ish. Diamondback is the label of John Quinones, RoxyAnn winemaker from 2009-2014. He started making his proprietary label wines while working in California and revived the enterprise in Oregon in 2012. But this is a brand that flies well under the radar, so to me, and I suspect to many of you, it’s a recent discovery.
Quinones produces a pinot noir sourced in Mendocino County, California, from a site at 2,000 feet in elevation that yields fruit well worth the 11-hour round trip required to pick up the grapes. He also makes a chardonnay and a merlot sourced from RoxyAnn, a sauvignon blanc from an Eagle Point vineyard and a port-style wine made from touriga nacional and tinto cão from Gold Vineyards in Talent.
Because Diamondback wines are made in such limited quantities, they are not ordinarily offered for tasting. But that’s not to say Quinones wouldn’t welcome the opportunity to provide a private tasting for eight to 10 people or even a food pairing or winemaker dinner in your home for you and your guests. The winemaker would love to sit with a small group, chat about wines and answer questions. It’s something to keep in mind if you’d like to mark a special occasion with a unique wine experience.
Diamondback sells at the Jacksonville Inn wine shop and at the tasting room at RoxyAnn Winery in Medford. Check diamondbackwine.com for details and contact information.
What’s your take? Email MJ Daspit at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more on this topic, check out her Backstory Blog at mjdaspit.com.