New wines make an impressive debut

More high-quality, upscale wines are on the way from Southern Oregon wineries. That was the obvious conclusion reached by visitors to a recent Southern Oregon Wineries Association tasting.

Winemakers and owners from two dozen local wineries poured tastes of their latest releases for buyers from restaurants, hotels, wine shops and retail stores.

Some that stood out for me:

  • Trium 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon ($38), rich and elegant, possibly the best wine at the tasting. Trium also has a top-notch 2007 Pinot Gris ($19).
  • Jacksonville Vineyards 2005 Merlot ($24), an unusually rich red aged for two years in French oak.
  • Agate Ridge 2007 Sauvignon Blanc ($18), full of flavor. It's also notable since few locals make this varietal.
  • Carpenter Hill 2005 Petite Syrah ($38), really robust and another varietal you don't often see locally.
  • Spangler 2006 Syrah ($25), blended with a little viognier and petite syrah for a hint of sweetness.
  • RoxyAnn 2006 Syrah ($30), nice lingering flavor.
  • Schmidt Family Vineyards 2006 Soulea ($32), excellent blend of cabernet sauvignon, syrah and merlot.

There were many others of note like Carpenter Hill's 2005 Tango Red blend, Weisinger's Heron Hill Merlot, Daisy Creek's 2005 Syrah, Troon's 2007 River Guide White, Trium's 2006 Cuvee, Rocky Knoll 2005 Claret and Slagle Creek's syrah dessert wine.

Not all the good, local wines are priced in the over-$20 range.

Valley View poured its 2006 Chardonnay — not the more expensive Anna Maria label, just the regular Valley View you'll find at the supermarket for $10 to $12 and on restaurant wine lists for $18 to $21. It's very good.

And Wooldridge Creek is coming out with two relatively inexpensive blends in July. Its 2007 Twilight White blends gewurztraminer and viognier while the 2006 After Hours Red mixes syrah, cabernet sauvignon and merlot. Retail figures are not yet set, but these wines will wholesale for $11 and $13, respectively.

Bridgeview, noted for making many wines for $10 or less, has a 2006 Semi-Sparkling Muscat that's a good choice for a light summer wine.

As with many tastings of this sort, it was impossible for one person to sample everything. I skipped Devitt and Foris since they were covered in our May 14 column on A Taste of Ashland.

The overall purpose of the Southern Oregon Wineries Association event — as with a similar one in Ashland a year ago — was to acquaint local restaurateurs and retailers with the wealth of local wines available. It seems to be working. I've noticed an increase in local representation on quite a few restaurant wine lists around the Rogue Valley.

TRADE TASTINGS such as the one above dotted the calendar in late April and early May. Two others were arranged by local distributors Gold River and Columbia. We'll have more about them in a future column.

THE NEW CHEF'S TABLE on Main dinner house downtown has a commendable wine list. Most of the 15 or so choices are from Southern Oregon — labels like RoxyAnn, Wooldridge Creek, LongSword and Velocity. Prices start at $4.75 a glass and $19 a bottle.

LongSword Chardonnay from the Applegate Valley paired nicely with a halibut special preceded by salad topped with some of the best blue cheese dressing I've tasted.

NEW RELEASES FROM ROXYANN Winery of Medford will be served during a wine dinner at 6:30 p.m. June 6 at The Jacksonville Inn. Chef Jesse Bartyzal will prepare a six-course meal. Cost is $90. Call 899-1900.


Two Kendall-Jackson reds from California. Its 2006 Vintner's Reserve Zinfandel is a surprisingly good zin for $13. The 2005 Jackson Estates Vintner's Reserve Merlot seems rich and robust at first, loses something a day after opening but actually improves a day or two later. It's $19.

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

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