Situated in Southern Oregon lies an emerging wine viticultural region full of intrepid winemakers and good value wines.
Oregon is well known for Pinot Noir grown in the prestigious Williamette Valley, but another region is emerging as a place for newcomers and new varietals.
The Rogue Valley Wine Country boasts of 4 distinct wine routes that highlight the beauty and diversity of the region including Upper Rogue, Southern Rogue Valley, Jacksonville, and Applegate Valley AVA.
Rolling green hills, pleasantly paved roads, and historic small towns make these wine visits so pastoral, pleasant, and most of all not overly populated.
Located a couple hours from Crater Lake National Park and 4 hours north of San Francisco, it makes for an alternative wine country getaway away from the crowds of more well known regions.
Below is a sampling of wineries in the region paired with a "bite" of local food as presented at the Wine Media Conference in 2021.
A Rogue Valley Cheeseboard
One of the best organic cheese companies in the country lives in Southern Oregon. Rogue Valley Creamery lays claim to the first non-European cheese to win the title of "Best Blue Cheese" at the World Cheese Awards in London in 2003.
While the Rogue River Blue is their hallmark cheese, they also make many other varietals of blue cheese including an Oregonzola, caved aged, and smoked wheels along with various cheddar cheeses, including a chocolate stout variation.
All the milk comes from their own grassfed dairy cows or from other organic farms they source from. A trip (physically or virtually) to Southern Oregon is not complete without a taste of cheese from this world class creamery.
Wine & Bites Pairing Menu
Hummingbird Estate - 2020 White Pinot Noir
Pairing: Rogue Creamery TouVelle Cheddar Cheese
White Pinot Noir is a bit of a thing in Oregon that I've seen a few wineries do. It is made like a white wine and fermented in the absence of skins, so it is not a rose wine.
If you love pinot noir, this is yet another way to enjoy the grape, especially if you actually like white wine more (like me).
Dwell Wines - 2020 Rose of Pinot Noir
Pairing: Rogue Creamery TouVelle Cheddar Cheese
Dwell was recently started by a couple in Texas who fell in love with the beauty of the Applegate Valley. Their mission is "to create moments of togetherness over wine," hence the name Dwell, which is rather appropriate.
Coventina Vineyard - 2017 Chardonnay
Pairing: Crostini with Tomato Jam, Dill Cream Cheese
One of my fave pairings of the evening with the crunchy crostini, creamy cheese, and sweet tomatoes. It all jammed together with full bodied Chardonnay.
Irvine & Roberts Vineyards - 2018 Estate Chardonnay
Pairing: Saffron Risotto Fritters with Red Pepper Aioli
Another winning pairing, especially with the addition of the red pepper dip. Though who wouldn't be delighted to receive a fried ball of risotto?
Foris Vineyards - 2019 Estate Pinot Noir
Pairing: Bacon Wrapped Chevre Stuffed Dates
While many vineyards have turned to sustainable growing practices, the proprietor of Foris Vineyards swears by conventional techniques. It makes the wines VERY affordable, and he likes making wines that can be enjoyed by everyone. And while the grapes are conventionally grown, they still are tasty.
Naumes Family Vineyards - Barbera
Pairing: Rogue Creamery Caveman Blue Cheese
This particular cheese has a fudgy texture and more moderate blue cheese flavor, so it doesn't overpower a wine.
Quady North - 2018 GSM
Pairing: Rogue Creamery Blue Cheese Mousse Crostini with Red Grapes and Hazelnuts
Quady North is a certified organic winery with a tasting room in the very quaint and historic town of Jacksonville. Called Quady North because Quady Winery is located in Madera, CA owned by the founder, Herb Quady's parents. Herb Quady saw the potential of Southern Oregon as a wine growing region and started Quady North in 2005 with his wife Meloney.
The pairing too worked quite nicely, and many loved the light, fluffy mousse with the sweet/sour grape with the "meaty" wine.
RoxyAnn Winery - 2018 Claret
Pairing: Brownie Tartlets, Tahitian Vanilla, Fleur de Sel
Weisenger Family Winery - 2018 Temperanillo
Pairing: Scharffen Berger 70% Bittersweet Dark Chocolate
Weisenger is a small, family winery, a very short drive away from the downtown Ashland. Though small production, they have made a name for themselves with award winning wines, including several treasured Temperanillos.
Belle Fiore - 2016 Reserve Numinos
Pairing: Scharffen Berger 82% Extra Dark Chocolate Bar
If you do have a chance to visit the region, Belle Fiore has a veritable French Chateau tasting room that also offers tours of the grounds with wine tasting.
Scharffen Berger, while founded as an American chocolate company in Berkeley, California, was sold to Hershey and then relinquished to private ownership. The company has since relocated its production facility to none other than Ashland, Oregon making this local chocolate company another must try Rogue Valley delicacy.
The Last Drop
My mouth is still salivating thinking about that Rogue Valley blue cheese. Among the many burgeoning US wine regions, Rogue Valley is definitely one to watch. The diversity of grapes they are growing, beyond Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris from Willamette Valley and far away from the Cabernets of California, keep the region from blending into other West Coast wine regions.
You could say they are a bit "rogue," a fitting name for this unique wine region in the US.