Applegate Valley wineries offer plenty of variety. Some have elegant tasting rooms, others more modest digs. Some make a variety of wines; others concentrate on a few. Some make only reds. Hours and fees vary.
With 16 Applegate sites open for tasting in the summer, it pays to do your homework and plan an itinerary.
For my most recent Applegate visit, I chose two I hadn't visited in at least three years: LongSword and Cricket Hill. Neither charges a tasting fee. Beyond that, they offer different experiences.
When LongSword first opened, it had just a tasting patio. Now it has an attractive tasting room with places to sit. Hours at the 8555 Highway 238 site are noon to 5 p.m. daily.
As you peruse the list of wines available for sampling, you may note that while some say "LongSword," others are labeled as "Fly High Vineyard." That's because these wines are a blend of two enterprises: Matthew Sorensen's LongSword Vineyard and Sandra King's nearby Fly High Vineyard.
The day I visited the tasting room, wines offered for sampling included LongSword 2009 Invitation Chardonnay ($19), nonvintage "Accolade" Semi-Sparkling Chardonnay and 2007 "Salute Atrevido" Syrah ($25). And then there were two from Fly High Vineyard: 2009 "White Room" Pinot Gris ($19) and 2008 "Barnstormers Red" Tempranillo ($19).
Accolade may be LongSword's most popular wine, but I also like the chardonnay. The Fly High tempranillo is a good value, priced below other local tempranillos.
Fly High also has a good 2008 Viognier while LongSword offers a fine dessert wine called Conversation "Vin de Glace."
And the name is "LongSword," not "longs-word."
Cricket Hill, at 2131 Little Applegate Road, specializes in Bordeaux-style reds. In a 2007 column, owner/winemaker Duane Bowman explained: "We're like the little cricket — small, friendly, cute but when you hear its song (our wine), it's hard to believe it came from such a tiny source."
Visitors taste two wines, 2006 Midnight Diamond Merlot ($24) and nonvintage Vin Enchante ($21). The Enchante is especially interesting because it blends merlot and cabernet franc from 2003, 2004 and 2005, in each case 60 percent merlot and 40 percent cabernet franc. The Midnight Diamond is 80 percent merlot, 20 percent cabernet franc.
I enjoyed both but preferred the Midnight Diamond — soft with a hint of sweetness.
The tasting room is open from noon to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday (also Monday during the summer).
DEL RIO'S 2007 CABERNET Sauvignon earned a double-gold medal at the San Francisco International Wine Competition in June. Winning silver medals were Del Rio's 2007 Syrah, 2008 Pinot Gris and 2007 Claret.
CRATER LAKE CELLARS 2009 White Grenache won first place in the people's choice competition at the recent Battle of the Bones in Central Point. Second was South Stage 2008 Early Muscat and third, another Crater Lake wine, 2009 Riesling.
VALLEY VIEW WINERY is now serving lunch on Friday and Saturday at its tasting-room patio near Ruch. Hours are 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. The fare includes salads and daily pizza and sandwich specials, made with local ingredients.
MCMINNVILLE-AREA WINERIES plan a "Discover McMinnville AVA" event on Aug. 14. Twelve wineries will pair their wines with local appetizers. Site is the new Maysara Winery Barn, 15765 S.W. Muddy Valley Road, McMinnville. Tickets are $25 in advance online or $35 at the door. Proceeds go to Juliette's House Child Abuse Intervention Center. Check www.mcminnvilleava.org.
ALSO SAMPLED RECENTLY:
- Two new wines from Carmel Road of the Monterey, Calif., area. The 2008 Pinot Noir ($20) seems smooth and delicious at the outset but loses a little when open for a couple of days. In contrast, the 2008 Chardonnay ($18) gets better with age — overly fruity at first, more evenly balanced later.
- Murphy-Goode 2008 Pinot Grigio ($12.50) is the first pinot grigio made by this winery of Healdsburg, Calif., and the result is an excellent value. The wine is delicious — fruity and smooth.
- Matanzas Creek 2008 Sauvignon Blanc ($19). This California winery has been making sauvignon blanc since 1980, and the experience shows. The wine emphasizes fruit and minerality over grassiness and comes off as crisp, spicy and tangy.
Cleve Twitchell is a retired Mail Tribune editor and columnist. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org