The new downtown Grants Pass expansion of Wooldridge Creek isn’t just another tasting room. Nor is it just another wine bar. Vinfarm’s significant culinary component is helping to define the region’s wine-country cuisine.
It’s a business motto upheld by the efforts of Chad Hahn, formerly of The Haul restaurant in Grants Pass. Building on a decade-long relationship with Wooldridge Creek partners Kara Olmo and Greg Paneitz, Hahn took charge of the Applegate winery’s burgeoning farmstead charcuterie program.
Deciding they were “all in,” Olmo, Paneitz, Hahn and his partner, Gabrielle Rysula, relocated production this summer from rural property to a prominent downtown storefront. Wines by the glass and bottle, along with plates of hand-crafted meats, cheeses and accompaniments draws travelers off Interstate 5, as well as more local customers, than the Wooldridge Creek estate on Slagle Creek Road ever could, Olmo says.
While Wooldridge Creek’s label is widely offered by the glass, dispensed from kegs, in a number of Southern Oregon restaurants, its artisan cheeses are relatively unknown, available only at the Applegate tasting room since 2015. Vinfarm brings CrushPad Creamery chevre, feta and aged cheeses to a wider audience. Partnering with Pholia Farm and a neighboring dairy in Rogue River, CrushPad obtains all of its goat and cow milk locally, Olmo says.
Meats for Vinfarm’s cured sausages, prosciutto and paté don’t come with the same pedigree. Although winery partners are raising a few hogs and hope to entice nearby farms to raise some ducks, quantities needed for Vinfarm surpass their ability to provide it.
Vegetables the region has aplenty, giving Hahn free rein with pickles and other fermented tidbits to round out Vinfarm’s platters. Seasonally fresh produce also helps to inspire Vinfarm’s weekly six-course dinners that pair each dish with wine from the Wooldridge Creek portfolio. Rather than concluding with dessert, Vinfarm serves a final course of CrushPad cheese.
Three cheeses are offered daily during Vinfarm’s regular hours. Presented with house-made, gluten-free crackers, the cheese board costs $10. Three house-cured meats, along with roasted almonds, fermented vegetables and Spanish-style fig cake, compose the charcuterie board for $12. Combining both cheese and charcuterie selections, the “chef’s board” costs $20.
Attractively plated, the chef’s board portions are appropriate for two people to share as a snack or appetizer. My husband, Will, and I intended to dine at another Grants Pass eatery after beginning our date at Vinfarm but found our appetites significantly diminished by the time we had polished off its generous portions of soft cheeses and paté.
I decided to try a mixed flight ($10) of Wooldridge Creek wines while Will ordered a glass of the 2017 Viognier ($8). I couldn’t wait to nibble a cube of feta cheese once our chef’s board arrived, although my 1-ounce taste of 2015 Twilight White hadn’t been poured. Will dove right into the liver paté, a nice match for his varietal, particularly given the topping of preserved lemon.
Spreads, both meat and cheese, don’t crumble Vinfarm’s hearty house-made crackers. The sturdy oblongs studded with seeds number about a dozen, so there’s plenty for conveying each item, including CrushPad chevre, flavored with paprika and cumin. The spice was nicely soothed by sips of 2016 Chardonnay while mild tannins in the next varietal, 2015 Pinot Noir, cut the paté’s richness.
Wooldridge Creek’s earthy 2013 Syrah complemented the slight gaminess of duck prosciutto, and the 2013 Warrick Red Reserve’s four blended varieties heightened the complex notes of Vinfarm’s cured sausage.
Noting bottles of dessert wines displayed on the wall facing us, my husband and I agreed that one of Vinfarm’s six-course meals would make for a lovely evening with wine-loving friends.
Paired entirely with vintages of malbec, this week’s Vinfarm dinner, today and Saturday, features country terrine with sautéed mushrooms and brown butter, grilled cauliflower in a coconut-tahini sauce, rosemary-potato-phyllo roll with wilted mustard greens and lamb chops with feta pan juice.
The months’ final dinner, Oct. 26 and 27, showcases a salad of sunchoke, apple and frisee, wild mushroom bisque, pumpkin agnolotti and chicharron-crusted chicken thigh with molé and a sweet corn cake. Commencing with the “chef’s choice” of appetizer and sparkling wine, dinner is by reservation only and costs $100 per person, or $85 without wine.
View menus and make reservations at wcv.farm. Dinner service begins at 7 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays.
A sneak preview of Vinfarm’s cuisine is planned for the weekend after Thanksgiving, when a variety of small plates will entice holiday shoppers, Olmo says. Ultimately, a larger daily menu incorporating hot food is Vinfarm’s goal, she says. In the meantime, nearly all of Vinfarm’s cheeses, charcuterie and fermented vegetables are available to take home from its retail counter.
Located at 111 S.E. G St., Vinfarm is open from noon to 7 p.m. daily. Call 541-226-2664.