Wine club touts region's varieties

Stop at one table, and you could sample a new red table wine from Sams Valley. Nearby would be an inexpensive French Bordeaux, a classy malbec from Argentina and an interesting red blend from Washington state.

This unusual kind of wine event has been happening each November at Pacific Wine Club in Medford for the past five years. It's called the Holiday Wine Extravaganza. The common denominator seems to be interesting, quality wines and good values from all over the place.

This year, Southern Oregon was represented primarily by Cliff Creek, LongSword, South Stage Cellars and Trium. But patrons also could sample tempranillo from Spain and Roseburg, riesling from Germany, Australian sparkling wine, California and Washington reds and Italian Chianti — more than 80 wines from around the world.

Some personal highlights:

  • Dona Paula 2007 Malbec from Argentina ($14), an excellent red;
  • Cliff Creek Red, Red Wine 2006 red table wine, a pretty good $15 table wine from the folks in Sams Valley who make award-winning (and more expensive) syrah and claret;
  • South Stage Cellars 2007 Monte Rosa ($20) from the Jacksonville area, a blend of sangiovese, dolcetto, grenache and a touch of viognier;
  • Kestrel nonvintage Lady in Red — Holiday Edition ($20) from Washington state, a blend of cabernet sauvignon, merlot and syrah with smaller percentages of sangiovese, malbec and cabernet franc;
  • Charmeroy Brut Bourgogne from France, a great sparkling wine value for $9;

And a previously unfamiliar label that caught my eye, Aurora Vines. Its 2004 Merlot ($23) was made at Eden Valley Orchards in Medford with grapes grown at Aguila Vineyard in Talent and marketed by Wino Distributing of Coos Bay. It's an offbeat merlot with ripe and dark fruit.

LongSword Vineyard of the Applegate Valley initially made a splash with its chardonnay. It has since added two reds of note, 2007 Dolcetto ($19) and 2006 Reserve Syrah ($25).

I also enjoyed some old favorites, Trium's 2007 Pinot Gris ($17) and Viognier ($20) and its 2005 Growers Cuvee red blend ($25). Prices listed were those charged at the "extravaganza" and may be a bit lower than regular retail.

Pacific Wine Club, at 3688 Heathrow Way, Medford, functions in three areas: as a club offering various wines to members, as a retail store and as a site for tastings (every Friday night and during the day on Saturday).

In the club arena, it has added a "Green Vine Wine Club — for the Conscious Consumer." It will distribute wines made from grapes grown without chemical fertilizers, weed killers or insecticides.

The retail store has expanded into the adjacent warehouse space used for functions like the Holiday Wine Extravaganza, adding more wines. The theme will be values and discounts, says co-owner Victoria Guantonio. Shoppers will have the opportunity to taste (for free) before they buy. Hours will be 1-6 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday (except holidays).

The warehouse space also will be the site of an art show by the Rogue Review Artists Group (RRAG) Dec. 6 through Jan. 3. The opening reception will be from 2-5 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 6. Artists are Peter Coons, Bruce Barnes, Steve Bennett, Barbara Andersen, Kandee McClain, Olin Jones, Mary Jo Heath and Lara Huggins.

FORIS PINOT NOIR has received some national attention in the Wall Street Journal. Wine columnists Dorothy J. Gaiter and John Brecher recently bought more than 50 Oregon pinots and did a blind tasting. They singled out eight wines for special mention. Foris 2006 Rogue Valley Pinot Noir was listed second and tied for "best value" since it cost them $18.99 while others in the top group ranged in price up to $54.95. Of the Cave Junction wine they wrote, "Classy, with tightly wound fruit and a raspberry-spice-oak-nutmeg finish. Even a touch of chocolate. Lovely."

SPEAKING OF PINOT NOIR, one of the best California pinots I've sampled is Blackstone's 2007 Winemaker Select, notable for rich fruity flavor. And it's only $12.

Blackstone is sold widely in the Rogue Valley. The pinot was the best of three of its wines I recently tried. The 2007 Chardonnay and 2006 Merlot, also $12 each, were good but not in the same league.

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

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