Local boutique wineries join forces

If you own a boutique winery with limited resources, how do you promote yourself? Banding together with others is a good way to go.

Quite a few of the smaller locals have done just that. Six of them put on a "boutique winery tasting" in late June out at Sams Valley Vineyard.

Visitors could taste wines from Cliff Creek of Sams Valley, Crater Lake Cellars of Shady Cove, Daisy Creek of Jacksonville, LongSword and Madrone Mountain of the Applegate Valley and 12 Ranch Winery of Klamath County.

Sams Valley Vineyard — an oasis surrounded by very dry land — is home to the Cliff Creek label. That's where its grapes are grown. Joe Dobbes, winemaker for a number of Oregon labels including Paschal of Talent, also makes Cliff Creek's fine reds, among them syrah, cabernet sauvignon and claret. Grapes used by 12 Ranch also come from Sams Valley Vineyard.

Some of the smaller wineries and vineyards produce just a handful of wines. Others like Crater Lake make a bunch. By putting on a group show they can offer quite a variety.

Some of the wines I admired at this event were Crater Lake Cellars 2005 Gewurztraminer, 12 Ranch Kenzie Red (cabernet-merlot blend), Daisy Creek 2006 Viognier and Cliff Creek 2004 Syrah.

LongSword poured samples of an interesting new rose it has on the market called Touche. It's 83 percent dolcetto, 14 percent syrah and 3 percent chardonnay.

And at the Madrone Mountain booth, I was intrigued by that winery's 2006 Starthistle Cuvee. Co-owner Don Mixon explains that it is "100 percent Huxelrebe, a pre-war hybrid of two old varieties, Chasselas (also known as Gudelet) and Courtillier-Musqué." The wine is a little like muscat and delicious. The name is an insider's joke, says Mixon, since "the starthistle is, perhaps, the single most hated weed in the viticulturist's pasture of enemies."

Madrone Mountain also poured its 2005 Late Harvest Gewurztraminer, which won a gold medal at the 2007 Dallas Morning News Wine Competition and a silver at the 2007 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition.

MADRONE MOUNTAIN IS PART OF another group of small wineries and vineyards, the Rogue Appellation Garagistes Society (RAGS), along with Daisy Creek, Trium and Bendock Estate, among others. The group recently presented a wine dinner at Summer Jo's restaurant west of Grants Pass.

Yet another way in which small local wineries help each other is to pour each other's wines. This works especially well if the winery has only one or two releases of its own. Bendock Estate (Windridge Vineyard) of Cave Junction, for example, has only one wine for sampling, its 2005 Pinot Noir. But visitors also can taste wines from LongSword, Daisy Creek and Madrone Mountain.

NEW ON THE APPLEGATE Valley wine trail is Cricket Hill at 2131 Little Applegate Road. It's open from noon to 5 p.m. weekends or by appointment (899-7264), pouring its 2002 Hillside Select Merlot. More about it in a future column.

TWO NEW LOCAL WINES on the market carry a Vortex label — Vortex White and Vortex Red. They were made at Del Rio near Gold Hill for Gold River Distributing. I saw them at Bi-Mart for $10.11 each.

The white is 50 percent chardonnay, 40 percent viognier and 10 percent muscat. The result is a crisp, somewhat sweet wine with a hint of bubbly.

Four varietals are in the red — 50 percent syrah, 37 percent cabernet sauvignon, 10 percent cabernet franc and 3 percent merlot. Both are good, made with local grapes. The white is especially appropriate for sipping on hot summer days.

WINES FROM SOUTH OF THE equator generally excel in two areas: they're good and often remarkably inexpensive.

Two that I liked during a recent tasting at Pacific Wine Club in Medford were El Portillo 2006 Sauvignon Blanc and Bodega Norton 2006 Malbec, from Argentina. The white costs about $10, the red $9.

This sauvignon blanc is one of the best I've tasted, with rich, crisp, fruity flavor. The malbec is hearty and offers a hint of sweetness.

ANOTHER SAUVIGNON BLANC-based wine of interest is Bennett Lane 2006 Napa Valley White Maximus. It's 87 percent sauvignon blanc, 11 percent chardonnay and 2 percent muscat. The result is a fruity, refreshing picnic wine with a bit of a sweet tooth. Retail is a bit steep at $28, but it is a really good wine.

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

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