Taste the Eugene-Medford connection

Silvan Ridge-Hinman Vineyards may be located near Eugene, but it has strong Rogue Valley connections.

"We consider ourselves a Medford winery," says Don Fassett, national sales manager. That's because six of its best wines are made exclusively with grapes from this area and carry the words "Rogue Valley" on their labels. Another four are blends of Rogue Valley and Willamette Valley fruit.

Fassett was in Medford recently, placing the winery's Rogue Valley wines on more local supermarket shelves.

Hinman dates back to 1979, making it one of Oregon's oldest wineries. The Silvan Ridge brand was added in 1993. The winery's better wines carry the Silvan Ridge name while Hinman is used for its lower-priced line. Bryan Wilson, now at Foris in Cave Junction, was the winemaker there for a time, succeeded in 2004 by Jonathan Oberlander.

The Rogue Valley wines currently on the market include five under the Silvan Ridge label: 2007 Reserve Viognier, 2005 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, 2006 Reserve Merlot, 2006 Reserve Syrah and 2004 Portage Syrah dessert wine, each retailing in the $19-$20 range. I especially like the viognier, cabernet sauvignon and syrah.

The sixth is a Hinman wine, 2004 Rogue Valley Red, a good value at $11. It's a blend of merlot, syrah, cabernet sauvignon, grenache and malbec.

Grapes from Del Rio Vineyard were used in all six wines. Some also contain fruit from Ousterhout and Ellis.

The four other wines that mix Rogue and Willamette grapes are Hinman 2007 Pinot Gris, $11; and three Silvan Ridge wines: 2007 Pinot Gris, $14-$15; 2006 Chardonnay, $13; and 2007 Early Muscat, $11-$15.

For me, the chardonnay is the clear winner in this group, but the semi-sparkling early muscat is popular and also low in alcohol (just 5.2 percent compared to the usual 13 to 14).

Among the winery's non-Rogue products, the Silvan Ridge 2006 Reserve Pinot Noir is a classy wine for $28.

Silvan Ridge-Hinman is at 27012 Briggs Hill Road, about 11 miles west of Eugene. The tasting room is open from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. There's no fee except for the more expensive reserve wines.

VALLEY VIEW WINERY OF Ruch plans to waive its usual $5 tasting fee on May 10 and 11 in conjunction with its spring case sale. "Every wine we make (as well as some library and pre-release wines) will be available for tasting," says the winery's president, Mark Wisnovsky.

Two you might want to sample are the 2006 Anna Maria Viognier, which has won gold medals in three competitions, and the 2003 Anna Maria Syrah, which won a platinum award at Greatest of the Grape in Canyonville in March and compared favorably with a European equivalent at a recent Ashland tasting.

A CALIFORNIA LABEL WITH an unusual name can be found on some Rogue Valley supermarket shelves. It's Little Black Dress of Hopland, Calif. The name relates to a charity the winery supports, Clothes Off Our Back Foundation, which auctions celebrity dresses to raise money for children's charities.

The wines are 2006 Chardonnay, Merlot and Syrah Rose and 2007 Pinot Grigio. They retail from $10 to $12.

All four are quality wines and good values at that price range. The chardonnay is smooth and fruity, the pinot grigio crisp and refreshing. I liked the earthiness and lingering aftertaste of the merlot and thought the syrah rose had a surprisingly rich flavor.

One drawback: In some cases, the plastic cork would not fit back into the bottle once opened.

TRIUM 2005 GROWERS CUVEE won a silver medal at the Dallas Morning News International Wine Competition, which drew more than 3,500 entries. Trium won the same award two years ago with its 2003 Cuvee. The wine is a blend of 62 percent merlot, 22 percent cabernet sauvignon and 16 percent cabernet franc. It also won a silver at the 2008 National Women's Wine Competition in Santa Rosa, Calif.

Trium wines come from three local vineyards, Pheasant Hill and Gold, both of the Talent area, and Evans Creek near Rogue River. Pheasant Hill has a tasting room that's open Friday through Sunday, May through October, by appointment otherwise (535-4015). And this year, Evans Creek will offer tasting by appointment (582-1520), starting in May.

WINNING BEST OF SHOW at that National Women's Wine Competition in California was Volcano Vineyards 2005 Syrah. It also won a double gold medal and was voted best red varietal. The winery is in Bend, but the grapes came from Lakeside Vineyard near Jacksonville.

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

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