Times, and local wines, have changed

If you attended a Southern Oregon wine-tasting event 15 years ago, most of the wines would have been chardonnay, merlot or cabernet sauvignon.

Times have changed.

When local wineries recently hosted a tasting in Medford for the "trade" (restaurateurs, retailers and media), some of the best wines were:

  • Spangler 2008 Malbec ($28), a rich red made by the Winston-area winery with grapes grown near Ashland. It won top honors in both the professional and people's choice categories at this year's Greatest of the Grape in Canyonville.
  • South Stage 2009 Morning Glory ($16). It's a rosé that is 68 percent malbec, 27 percent grenache, 3 percent muscat and 2 percent syrah — smooth, interesting blush with a hint of spiciness.
  • Carpenter Hill 2006 Tango Red ($19.50), a blend that's 78 percent merlot and 22 percent petite sirah — very different.
  • Abacela 2009 Albarino ($17-$18), a smooth white, not often made locally.
  • Two petite sirahs: Spangler 2007 ($35), made with Rogue Valley grapes and best-of-show winner at a recent Astoria-area wine and seafood competition, and Carpenter Hill 2006 ($29) are both superior.
  • Pebblestone 2008 Viognier ($19), double-gold winner in the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition.

Some other wines of interest:

  • Daisy Creek 2007 Syrah ($24), a wonderful, juicy red.
  • Slagle Creek 2008 Chardonnay ($17), an elegant new release from the Applegate.
  • Rocky Knoll 2007 Dunbar Red ($18), a blend of 76 percent merlot, the rest cabernet sauvignon and cabernet franc, a pleasant red. Family of the late Dunbar Carpenter honored him with this wine's name.
  • Agate Ridge 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon ($24), winner of gold medals in two recent competitions.
  • Troon 2005 Old Vine Meritage ($29), double-gold winner at the U.S. Professional Wine Buyer's Competition.
  • Valley View 2006 Tempranillo ($24), a personal favorite.

And some excellent values:

  • Cliff Creek 2008 Red, Red Wine ($12-$14), silver-medal winner at Finger Lakes in New York. The syrah-merlot blend is a nice table wine.
  • Crater Lake Cellars 2008 Pinot Gris ($10), gold-medal winner at a recent Portland festival.

THE TASTE OF HISTORY comes up Saturday, June 12, in downtown Medford. The event combines wine-and-food sampling with historic locations around town. The overall program runs from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., starting in Vogel Plaza. Free historical tours will be offered at 10 and 11:30 a.m. Tastings of wine and food run from 1 to 5 p.m., with 18 wineries taking part.

Tickets for the wine-and-food tour are $25 in advance, $30 on June 12. To buy tickets, go to www.thetasteofhistory.com or call 541-779-5455.

EIGHT UPPER ROGUE wineries will join forces to offer a Spring Passport Tour, also called Roam the Rogue, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, May 29. It's intended to become an annual event.

The eight wineries are Agate Ridge, Cliff Creek, Crater Lake, Daisy Creek, Del Rio, Folin Cellars, Madrone Mountain and RoxyAnn. There will be seven stops on the tour because Daisy Creek and Madrone Mountain share a tasting room in Central Point.

Tickets are $20 and include wine tasting and appetizers at each location, plus a Reidel glass. Buy tickets at www.roamtherogue.com or call 541-855-2062, ext. 6.

WINERIES OF THE WILLAMETTE VALLEY — 158 of them — will observe the 20th annual Memorial Weekend in Wine Country May 29-31. For details see www.willamettewines.com.

TICKETS GO ON SALE June 1 for the 2010 World of Wine Festival. The event takes place Aug. 28 at Del Rio, near Gold Hill. Tickets, costing $75, will be sold online at www.worldofwinefestival.com and also at Del Rio, RoxyAnn Winery of Medford, Schmidt Family Vineyards in the Applegate and Elegance of Grants Pass.

MURPHY-GOODE WINERY of Healdsburg, Calif., has released a pinot noir after an eight-year hiatus — good move. The 2008 Pinot was the best of three reds recently sampled, an all-around superior wine. Also out are a 2007 Merlot and 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon. I'd give a slight edge to the cab. If you like fruity chardonnays, try Murphy-Goode's 2008 release. The best news: Each of the four retails for $14.

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

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