Horses and a mule enjoy the peace and quiet of picturesque Applegate Valley.
A Goldilocks of wine regions ― dry and warm but not too dry and warm ― the Applegate Valley does well by more grape varieties than most. Almost every winery's top wine takes advantage of that fact by being a blend: Valley View's "Anna Maria" Meritage, for instance, and Wooldridge Creek's Warrick Red and Warrick White. Mounting evidence suggests that Viognier, Tempranillo, and Syrah especially thrive here.
Still, for winemakers, and visitors, too, there's a sense of being in on something from the ground up ― quite literally, as boot-clad wine-makers can be seen tracking mud into their tasting rooms as they go from checking vines to pouring wine. Here, you don't see bus tours and grand châteaux, just down-home folks enjoying a glass of Chardonnay on a sunny afternoon. As Paneitz puts it, "We're like Sonoma in the '70s."
Until just a few years ago, you didn't see much of anything at all here, recalls Michael Wisnovsky, of Valley View Winery, one of the area's first vineyards, planted in 1972. Back then, there were no wineries. No tasting rooms. "Savvy wine lovers from San Francisco and Seattle still managed to find us," says Wisnovsky. And the wine pavilion built in 2001, with its airy tasting room and patio seating, certainly helped expand Valley View's fan base.
So has the region's proximity to the restaurants of Jacksonville just 8 miles east, and the Shakespeare and shopping of Ashland a little further down the road. Some of the new tasting rooms in the valley are pretty posh ― and you can get a lovely wasabi-spiked fillet of ahi at funky Magnolia Grill, in Ruch.
Otherwise, there's not much about the refreshingly rugged Applegate Valley you'd call gentrified. Yet.
The closest major town to Applegate Valley is Medford, a 5-hour drive from Portland. Or, fly to Rogue Valley International-Medford Airport. From I-5 in Medford take exit 30 and follow signs west 7 miles to Jacksonville; continue on State 238 into Applegate Valley. There's more lodging and dining in Jacksonville; visit www.jacksonvilleoregon.org or call the chamber of commerce at 541/899-8118.