Have grapes, will make some wine

Some wineries just make the wine. Instead of growing their own grapes, they buy from others.

And then there are vineyards that grow the grapes but don't have a production facility. They arrange for their wines to be made at an existing winery somewhere else.

In a few instances, wineries produce wines without growing grapes or having a production facility.

A local example is Volcano Vineyards. Owners Scott and Liz Ratcliff live in Bend and have a tasting room there. But they buy their grapes from various Rogue Valley vineyards and make the wines at RoxyAnn Winery in Medford.

Volcano is not a "virtual winery," says Scott, because he plays a central role in making his wines, along with guidance from consulting winemaker Gus Janeway of RoxyAnn. (With a true virtual winery, the owner simply writes checks while others do the work.)

"We currently don't own a brick and mortar production facility of our own," the Ratcliffs state on their Web site www.volcanovineyards.com. "Being called a 'winery' without a physical structure is a fairly new use of the term. We are a licensed Oregon winery because we — Volcano Vineyards — produce wine from grapes."

To start up a winery facility would cost millions, they point out, and the break-even time line for a winery that grows its own grapes and makes its own wine is 15 years.

Instead, they rent space and use the RoxyAnn equipment "for a fraction of what it would have cost to outfit our own facility." They put what money they do have into "the product rather than equipment."

The plan has paid dividends. Volcano makes only about 1,200 cases of wine a year but has been winning awards left and right — gold medals at such competitions as the San Francisco Chronicle, Grand Harvest Awards, National Women's Wine Competition and Riverside International.

Here at home, Volcano won four medals at the World of Wine Festival in September at Del Rio, near Gold Hill, second only to Schmidt Family Vineyards, which won six.

The Volcano medals, all silvers, went to its Lava Red blend, 2006 Fortmiller Syrah, 2006 Lakeside and Serenade Syrah and 2005 Cabernet Franc.

And the October 2008 issue of Oregon Wine Press lists two Volcano wines — 2005 Rogue Valley Red Blend and non-vintage Rogue Valley Lava Red — among its top six Oregon "value picks" (priced below $25). I've tried both, and they are excellent. Overall, Volcano wines are priced from $19 to $40, with a majority under $25.

"We are fully committed to Southern Oregon fruit," says Scott Ratcliff, adding that there's a possibility the couple may eventually move here.

PACIFIC WINE CLUB plans its annual Holiday Extravaganza from 5 to 8 p.m. Friday, Nov. 7, at its facility, 3588 Heathrow Way, Medford. More than 50 wines will be available for sampling. Finger foods will be served. Tickets are available at the club's store. In advance, they cost $20 for club members, $25 for non-members. At the door, prices will be $5 higher. For reservations, call 245-3334.

LOCAL WINES ENJOY EMPHASIS at the new Pomodori Ristorante in three ways: The regular wine list includes several. There's a separate sheet featuring local wines of the month. Signs and bottle displays here and there encourage support for the Southern Oregon wine industry. Locals include Rosella's, Schmidt, Troon and Valley View, all of the Applegate Valley. I went with Valley View's Anna Maria chardonnay and merlot, each $7 a glass. Overall, Pomodori — in southwest Medford at the old Pablo's/Linda's site — offers more than 40 wines, starting at $6 a glass and $18 a bottle


  • Sonoma-Cutrer 2006 Sonoma Coast Chardonnay. While other Sonoma-Cutrer wines are available only at restaurants, this one sells in retail shops for about $24. It's a fine chardonnay.
  • Stone Cellars by Beringer 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon. When I sampled the 2005 vintage of this California red, I wrote, "Excellent. Great taste. Not too strong but still robust." The 2006 wine is not in the same league but is still a decent value for a little over $9 for the 1.5-liter bottle. It gets better a day or two after opening.

Cleve Twitchell is a retired Mail Tribune editor and columnist. E-mail him at clevelinda@msn.com.

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