Local’s Guide to Southern Oregon Wine Country
Meet the undiscovered wine country of your dreams
Smithfields. The motto of this carnivorous restaurant and bar is emblazoned on the staff T-shirts: “Bacon, the gateway meat.” It’s almost a call to arms in Ashland, an artsy town prone to attracting vegan types. But Smithfields wants you to go whole hog, with pulled pork, brisket, burgers—and, oh, a 14-ounce Umpqua Valley lamb porterhouse, if the craving strikes. Beware: The weekend brunch here—best relished on the back patio—leaves little room for dinner. $$$; 36 S. Second St.; smithfieldsashland.com.MEDFORD
Jaxon Vineyards. Someone less visionary might have seen just an abandoned 1970s double-wide trailer parked on an old pear farm and moved on, but Jamie McCleary and his wife, Katherine, knew this 16-acre property could grow grapes. In 2009, they cleared the land themselves; planted Syrah, Grenache, Tempranillo, and Viognier vines; and brought on local star winemaker Rob Folin, of Folin Cellars, to make the juice. For now, tastings are by appointment on their terrace, overlooking their vines and the Fern Valley. In the spring, look for an open-air “farmstand” in the field next door for tastings. $5 tasting; 5709 Hughes Rd.; jaxonvineyards.com. We recommend: Jaxon 2012 Syrah (Rogue Valley; $28).Dancin Vineyards. You’ll vow to ditch crowded tasting-room counters forever after a sunny afternoon at this beautifully pastoral setting. Here, you sit at a picnic table under a giant walnut tree, enjoying a wood-fired pizza and a bottle of Dancin’s limited-production estate Chardonnay or Pinot Noir. Owners Dan Marca and his wife, Cindy (Dan-Cin, get it?), are building a gravity-flow winery on-site, which should be ready just in time for this year’s harvest. Tasting from $5; 4477 S. Stage Rd.; dancinvineyards.com. We recommend: Dancin 2014 “Mélange” Chardonnay (Southern Oregon; $29). JACKSONVILLE Quady North. Those who do know Southern Oregon wine know Herb Quady. Born to central Californian Muscat-making parents and schooled at Randall Grahm’s Bonny Doon, Quady decided to move his winemaking talents north after falling in love with Southern Oregon. “The bar keeps consistently getting higher here,” Quady says of the region’s snowballing top scores. “There isn’t room to put out anything mediocre.” Pop into Quady’s brick-lined tasting room on Jacksonville’s cute main drag, and you’ll see (and taste) that he’s right. $5 tasting; 255 California St.; quadynorth.com. We recommend: Quady North 2014 Rosé (Rogue Valley, Southern Oregon; $15). McCully House Inn. Location, location, location. Next to Stim Coffee, across from Quady North’s tasting room, and with a grassy park behind it, McCully House has the best setting in downtown Jacksonville. The seven spacious rooms were renovated in 2013 or just constructed, one with a sunken tub and sweet little patio. But the preferred place to sit and sip is in one of the red Adirondack chairs on the front lawn, where you can watch all the action, or lack thereof, in this charming small town. From $165; countryhouseinnsjacksonville.com. Cowhorn Vineyard & Garden. The leafy country road that leads to Cowhorn is a far cry from Wall Street, where Bill Steele toiled through 2004, when he and his wife, Barbara, began testing soil in the Applegate Valley. They discovered that the terroir of this particular slice of Southern Oregon was remarkably similar to the Rhône region of France. The Steeles planted their first grapes in 2005 and now are known for rich Rhône-style wines, as well as for a rigorous biodynamic ethic. The wines they make are elegant, earthy, and vibrant, with a sense of the soil they come from. $10 tasting; 1665 Eastside Rd.; cowhornwine.com. We recommend: Cowhorn 2014 “Spiral 36” White (Applegate Valley, Oregon; $28). GRANTS PASS The Haul. We’re touting wine here, but let’s not forget beer. Southern Oregon has hops too! And you can taste those hops put to their best use at this straight-out-of-Portland gastropub featuring live music, housemade-soda fountain—and about a dozen American and Belgian-style microbrews on tap. Most of the beers come from Applegate Valley’s Conner Fields Brewing; the excellent food is the product of Rogue Valley food truck–catering company Fulcrum Dining. $$; 121 S.W. H St.; thehaulgp.com. ROSEBURG Paul O’Brien Winery. Scott O’Brien Kelley ditched the big-name wine countries to join forces with his longtime buddy Dyson Paul DeMara at what some call “the next great wine region”—aka the Umpqua Valley. With its marine influence, crazy mix of microclimates and soil types, and ability to grow cool-climate grapes like Pinot, Chardonnay, and Riesling (and ripen bigger reds like Syrah, Merlot, and Tempranillo), this northerly valley is the most diverse AVA in an already diverse region. The friends work with grapes from eight Umpqua growers to produce Old World–style Chardonnay–Pinot Blanc blends, spicy Tempranillos, and single-vineyard Pinot Noirs. $10 tasting; 609 S.E. Pine St.; paulobrienwines.com. We recommend: Paul O’Brien 2013 “Cask 11” Tempranillo (Umpqua Valley; $36).