Editor's note: This is the second of an eight-part series showing what's in store for 2019 in Jackson County. Yesterday's focus: Hands-on education.
Southern Oregon’s wine industry is passing from adolescence to young adulthood, vigorous yet sometimes perplexing.
The Rogue Valley American Viticultural Area and its Applegate Valley sub-AVA have witnessed explosive growth and extensive investment in recent years, from hundreds of acres of new plantings to burgeoning custom-crush facilities, wineries and upstart labels. Local vintners have strutted their stuff in front judges from coast to coast and adorned tasting-room walls with the resultant medals.
Local wines are winning acclaim and market share, while vintners are challenged by land-use law debates, smoke taint and such.
During 2019, the Rogue Valley will see tasting rooms open their doors and new labels join the scene, while the pace of planting will likely slow down. It will also mark the implementation of the Rogue Valley Vintners’ strategic marketing plan.
Among the tasting rooms scheduled to open this year are two with historical roots: Suncrest Winery at Naumes Family Vineyards on Suncrest Road east of Talent, and Hummingbird Estate off Old Stage Road.
During the past decade, the Naumes Family, once the largest pear grower in the world, has delved into the wine industry, planting and processing grapes at its own custom-crush facility, producing its own vintages, and expects to open a tasting room around Memorial Day.
Naumes Inc., added Suncrest Orchard to its holdings in the 1980s. Although much of the Suncrest Orchard property is on the market, the century-old residence at 1950 Suncrest Road will take on a new life this spring. It was primarily used for special events hosted by Mary Pat Naumes until she retired. More recently it has been used for wine club releases.
“Once you get the bug to start making wine, you think you could do this, and this is something beautiful we should continue on this path,” Laura Naumes said. “Suncrest reflects who we are and our farming heritage.”
The Suncrest tasting room is clustered near Paschal Winery, Jaxon Vineyards and Talent Cellars, which plans to open a tasting room on the old Newbry Orchard property off Valley View Road. It’s also close to Ashland, making it a prime stop-off for Oregon Shakespeare Festival visitors.
“We’re not too far from the Bear Creek wine-tasting trail,” Naumes said. “There are a lot more tasting rooms in the valley proper now, especially for tourism that works well.”
The northwest-facing property with panoramic views is soon to be surrounded by 20 acres of tempranillo, syrah, mourvèdre, gewürztraminer, barbera, malbec, petite sirah and viognier vines.
“Each was planted because they’re some of the better grapes that grow in Southern Oregon and they fit with the style of wine we’ve been making.”
Across the valley, in the hills north of Jacksonville, Hummingbird Estate is ready to roll. Having negotiated through permitting and other usage obstacles, the first of two tasting rooms is due to open March 1.
The erstwhile Topsides mansion, built by Alfred and Helen Carpenter in the 1920s, and a National Register of Historic Places location, has been a work in progress for a couple of years.
“Remodeling a 100-year-old house that has been remodeled before was challenging,” said local builder Tim Alvarez, whose in-laws, Ed and Susan Walk, acquired the 47-acre estate in the spring of 2017.
The tasting room, with views of Mount McLoughlin and the Crater Lake Rim peaks, is on the lower floor of a bed and breakfast and event venue.
“We’re pretty much lucky because everywhere in the house we’ve been able to bring the antique floors back to life,” Alvarez said. “It felt like we were in a ski lodge, it was phenomenal.”
About three-fourths of the 20 acres designated for malbec, tempranillo, chardonnay and pinot noir varietals have been planted, with the rest planned in coming months.
Located a couple of minutes out of Jacksonville on Old Stage Road, Hummingbird Estate has built-in advantages, Alvarez said.
“If you have a wedding somewhere up in the Applegate, you have 150 people drinking wine in need of a cab or having to drive a half-hour from Jacksonville,” he said. “We’re right here, with an ambiance that is original and authentic.”
A second tasting room, closer to the road, will have a second use, Alvarez said. “We’ve been given the OK to brew our own beer here.”
After years of concentrating on efforts to distribute the region’s wine, Rogue Valley Vintners was formed this year. The first coordinated marketing plan is slated to emerge next spring and be implemented over the course of 2019.
After months of writing and rewriting, a final comprehensive marketing plan is due for completion in January.
“The big thing is that we’re continuing to watch Rogue Valley Vintners grow into a fully functional organization,” said Ross Allen, 2Hawk Vineyard & Winery owner and president of the Rogue Valley Vintners board. “This is really a milestone for our industry in the region.”
On the docket is a coordinated, broad-based blueprint includes hiring a marketing firm, branding, and developing a logo to tie the region together.
“It will give us a platform for marketing outreach and a social-media presence, telling people who we are,” Allen said.
RVV is working closely with the Asante Foundation, which has grown the Oregon Wine Experience to new heights and has been instrumental in expanding the Jan. 18-20 Oregon Tempranillo Celebration into a three-day event. The vintners are also collaborating with local and regional tourism efforts.
“Working together makes us a stronger unit to get the word out about our wonderful region, beautiful valley and the quality wine.”
Reach reporter Greg Stiles at 541-776-4463 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @GregMTBusiness or www.facebook.com/greg.stiles.31.