It's an encouraging trend: More and more Southern Oregon wines are finding their way onto shelves of supermarkets and other chain stores.
For years, the selection didn't go much beyond Valley View, Bridgeview and Foris. When you did see these, they were the lower-end, cheaper releases. If you wanted to find other local labels and/or higher-end wines, you had to go to a wine shop or the winery, itself.
Now that's changing. Wine shops continue to play an important role, but it's nice to see more local products at the supermarket, enjoying greater exposure and presumably more sales.
Two markets near my Central Point home, Ray's Food Place (especially) and Albertsons, have made significant improvements.
Shopping at the Central Point Ray's recently, I saw special displays of EdenVale wines, including its less-expensive R label, along with another section devoted to Abacela and Brandborg of Douglas County.
Mixed in with wines from elsewhere were such locals as RoxyAnn, Slagle Creek, Cliff Creek, Del Rio, Griffin Creek and Trium. The selection of Valley View, Bridgeview and Foris included more of the higher-end wines, like Valley View's Anna Maria label and Bridgeview's Black Beauty
Albertsons of Central Point has added a special section devoted to Southern Oregon wines, among them Crater Lake Cellars, Del Rio, Vortex, Table Rock and Anna Maria. I've seen similar displays at both Medford Albertsons stores.
Ray's in Phoenix also displays a number of locals, although not as many as at the Central Point store. Food 4 Less and Bi-Mart have stocked a growing number of Southern Oregon wines in recent years. No doubt there are others.
And finally there's Troon's Druid's Fluid. This popular red blend from the Applegate Valley seems to be everywhere, even at several 7-Eleven stores.
WHEN IT COMES TO THE South Coast, Brookings is closer and has better shopping, but I prefer Gold Beach for food and wine.
Dining at Spinners' in Gold Beach recently, I enjoyed a glass of organic chardonnay from Chateau Lorane. It was a bit spendy at $7.75 a glass but notable. For less money ($4.75), one could get a chardonnay from California.
With a main course of salmon served with zinfandel sauce, I went with Portland-area Dimmick Cellars pinot noir for $6.75. The wine list at Spinners' is extensive, with many Northwest choices. Southern Oregon's presence is minor, but I did see mentions of Foris, Abacela, Ashland Vineyards and Brandborg.
The list is smaller but still respectable at Nor'Wester in Gold Beach. Daily wine-by-the-glass specials are listed on a blackboard. I tried some Kramer pinot gris followed by a "California red," each $5 a glass. When asked, the server said the red was a meritage from California, but she didn't know the brand. Whatever it was, it was surprisingly good for $5.ROSARIO'S ITALIAN RESTAURANT in Medford now offers two wines under its own label, both from Valley View Winery of Ruch. A chardonnay is on the list, along with merlot. For me, the white paired well with an entrée of crepes stuffed with chicken, spinach, ricotta and Parmesan covered with a rich alfredo sauce
The restaurant continues to present a good wine list — 23 labels, almost all from either Oregon or Italy and all but one by the glass, as well as by the bottle. Bottle prices start at $14, by the glass at $3.75.
THE UPPER ROGUE SATURDAY event resumes in February with a special wine dinner. Called "Wine in the Woods," it's set for Feb. 9 at the Prospect Hotel. A wine-tasting reception begins at 5:30 p.m., followed by a prime rib dinner at 6:30 p.m. Wines from Crater Lake Cellars, Agate Ridge and Del Rio will be served. The dinner will feature some farm products from Butte Creek Mill. Cost is $75. Guests can book overnight rooms at the hotel if they wish. Call 878-4200.
ALSO SAMPLED RECENTLY:
- Frei Brothers 2005 Dry Creek Valley Reserve Merlot. One of the better California merlots around for about $20.
- Oak Knoll 2006 Pinot Gris. This Northern Oregon white improves after opening — pretty good on day one, delicious on day two. It costs about $12.
Cleve Twitchell is a retired Mail Tribune editor and columnist. E-mail him at email@example.com.