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Andy Atkinson / Mail TribuneDylan White sets up survey equipment between the railroad tracks, 4th St and Fir St in downtown Medford measuring the lot next Pallet Wine Co.

Grower, consumer demand have Pallet Wine Co. eyeing expansion

When it comes to supply and demand, downtown Medford’s Pallet Wine Co. is in an enviable position.

As Oregon’s accelerating vineyard production creates greater demand for Pallet’s custom crush services, the company’s Urban Cork tasting room also has developed a steadily increasing clientele, and the processing and winemaking have pushed the operations capacity to its limits.

On the heels of an expansion two years ago, Pallet Wine now leases a nearby basement for barrel storage, and founding partner Linda Donovan is gearing up to expand to an adjacent vacant lot that would spread the business over an entire block.“Honestly, I never thought we would outgrow the first building,” who launched the enterprise along with Texans Dan and Olivia Sullivan in 2009. “When we moved in, I was looking for a long-term tenant to sublet part of the building.”

But with the paralleling growth of the industry in Southern Oregon, Pallet has outcrushed its capacity twice. The Urban Cork tasting room, featuring Donovan’s crush clients’ vintages, has found a niche for afternoon and after-hours gatherings.

“I didn’t think the tasting room would be as successful,” she said. “But it’s been fun and attractive location, which mean making more wine. Honestly, it’s because they’re selling more and more wine.”

She has 31 custom crush clients, including long-standing Southern and Central Oregon customers, including Schultz Wines, Dana Campbell Vineyards, Grizzly Peak, Long Walk Vineyards, Earthsong Vineyards, Apricity Vineyards, and Faith Hope and Charity.

Over the past seven vintages, Pallet Wine has processed between 400 and 450 tons of grapes. This fall, Donovan anticipates her staff of nine year-round and four seasonal employees will handle 500 tons. With the recent addition of eight new tanks, capacity is closer to 600 tons.

“As long as we are making such a good product, I don’t want to limit capacity. I don’t want to lose sight of quality, but I’m willing to make as much wine as people want me to make.”

In May 2017, Donovan secured a vacant half-acre most recently used for auto storage. After securing an easement from the city, her next step is still taking shape.

This week, Terrasurvey of Ashland is taking measurements of the property before Donovan sits down with architect Ken Ogden to sketch out expansion.

“It’s taking a little longer than it did in 2009 when we were building the winery,” Donovan said. “Fortunately, everybody is busy right now.”

Pallet Wine’s south-facing wall is decked out with artistic flair added this spring. Eidan Gidon, a renowned Israeli mural painter who was traveling from Southern California to Seattle, collaborated with local artist Brandon Rands from Rands Art Design to produce a colorful mural depicting an array of wine barrels, bottles and glasses.

When the next addition is completed, Pallet Wine will occupy the block bound by Third and Fourth streets and Fir Street to the west and the Central Oregon & Pacific Railroad tracks.

“People keep coming by and telling me this is the best thing in Medford,” Donovan said. “It makes me so happy to look at it, a positive downtown statement. We’re hoping more businesses will not only keep their properties neat and tidy, but invest in downtown.”

In general, the region’s wine-tasting rooms have seen the kind of growth they were hoping for this summer.

Scott Steingraber, owner and winemaker at Kriselle Cellars in Sams Valley, said his business is up 20 percent, and he suggested there is a widespread uptick.

“I keep hearing positive things from everybody,” Steingraber said. “Vacation season started up aggressively. We were especially finding a lot of people on the road to Crater Lake who were taking side trips.”

The weather has cooperated, as well.

“The spring was warm, and we haven’t had those high temperatures like we’re going to have in the next few days,” Steingraber said this week. “When it gets over 100 degrees, things tend to slow down, and it’s that way on rainy days, too.”

Denise White, one of Troon Vineyard’s new owners, said her staff has noticed both an increase in tasting room activity, a wide age range, longer stays, and more charcuterie board orders.

“People are bringing picnic baskets and bottles of wine,” White said. “They’re coming back and bringing friends, who are buying wine too.”

— Reach reporter Greg Stiles at 541-776-4463 or gstiles@rosebudmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/GregMTBusiness or www.facebook.com/greg.stiles.31.

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