Wine Tasting in Southern Oregon
A visit to Southern Oregon’s beautiful vineyards is always on my itinerary during my summer visits. The outdoor concerts, cobalt blue sky and hot, dry oven-like breeze combined with the valley’s wonderful wines is perfection to me. But what about the rest of the year? On a couple of recent trips to Southern Oregon, one in late Autumn and the other in Winter, I found that cool weather wine tasting is no less wonderful. The chill in the air this time of year offers the perfect setting to sip some wine. Bundling up and braving the elements to find yourself in the warm cozy setting of a rustic tasting room sipping wonderful wine – what could be more idyllic?
Schmidt Family Vineyards
First on our agenda is one of the most lovely wineries in the region, Schmidt Family Vineyards. This gorgeous vineyard was established in 2001 by Judy and Cal Schmidt and as the name implies this is a family business spanning multiple generations. The location is especially picturesque; surrounded by mountains with ponds, gardens and grape vines covering the expansive grounds.
At the center of this beautiful setting is their tasting room with its large stone fireplace and rustic charm. We came for not only a tasting but also for lunch. Neither disappointed. Their wine was exceptional. The Merlot, Soulea (which is their red blend and most popular wine), Pinot Gris, and Albarino were favorites. To accompany our wine we had the antipasto platter and their woodfired margarita calzone. The food took a while to prepare so we were offered and happily accepted an additional generous pour of Merlot, on the house. In perusing the wine offerings I was surprised at how many varietals there were to choose from. In learning more about their approach to winemaking I found that they produce a large variety of small case lots in order to keep things interesting and new.
After finishing our tasting and lunch we wandered the beautiful grounds in the ever-present drizzle of this January afternoon. Before we went on our way we purchased a case including wines from our tasting as well as the Zinphony, which is a 50/50 blend of Zinfandel & Cabernet Sauvignon and the Perennial White, a blend of Viognier, Roussanne, and Chardonnay. In the end, there was nothing not to love about Schmidt Family Vineyards: the food, wine, setting and warm inviting service. We’ll certainly return. Schmidt Family Vineyard is located at 330 Kubli Road in Grants Pass.
Del Rio Vineyard
A favorite anytime I’m in Southern Oregon is Del Rio Winery. This winery established in 1997 produces exceptional wines and features a tasting room located in the former Rocky Point Hotel built in 1864. This tasting room is full of warmth and charm. Tastings are primarily done at the bar during the cold days of winter while in the summer the grounds have numerous picnic benches for guest to linger. I’ve been to this vineyard many times and it’s always busy with guests enjoying the tastings. Located along Interstate 5, it’s a convenient stop for tourists exploring the popular wine region.
In addition to the delicious wine, historic tasting room and beautiful grounds is one rather unique point of interest: Hattie Beach Haymond, the ghost said to occupy the vineyard and nearby cemetery. Her picture hangs in the tasting room and when asked the tasting room staff usually have a tale to tell. If you’re wine tasting with kids her story will keep them happily occupied, ghost hunting, while you sip Del Rio wine. A gift shop with local goods occupies a portion of the tasting room so it’s very easy to shop while you sip. On a cold day, their Pinot Noir is a perfect choice. Try their Premier Wine Flight to sample their many fantastic wines. Visit Del Rio at 52 N. River Road in Gold Hill.
2 Hawk Vineyard and Winery
On another occasion, we ventured to nearby Medford where there are a few wineries located very close to the city center unlike most of the Rogue and Applegate Valleys where the vineyards are usually a bit of a drive, albeit a scenic one. We visited 2Hawk Vineyard & Winery for a tasting and lunch. This is one of the newer vineyards in Southern Oregon, completed in 2012 and purchased by Jen and Ross Allen in 2014. The location is beautiful and the tasting room full of charm. But what about the wine? Well, in the wineries short life it has garnered dozens of awards. Not bad for the new winery in the region. We opted for the flight of Whites and Reds and enjoyed our both our tasting and lunch. This is a charming spot with wonderful wine. I look forward to returning. 2Hawk is located at 2335 N. Phoenix Road in Medford.
Roxy Ann Winery
Perched on a hillside a short 3 miles from Medford’s city center you’ll find Roxy Ann Winery. This picturesque location has been a farm since the 1860’s and under the ownership of the Parson’s family since 1908 as Hillcrest Orchard. Unlike many such farms who converted completely to the growing of wine grapes Hillcrest still produces pears, the crop the Medford area has long been known for. Jack Day, the grandson of the original founder of Hillcrest Orchards saw the potential to produce wine and Roxy Ann Winery was born. In 2001 the winery produced it’s first 150 cases of wine and has since grown dramatically.
You get an immediate sense of the history when you walk through the barn doors and enter the historic landmark that houses the tasting room. The Honor Barn was built in 1900 and is packed full of history and charm. It was bone-chilling cold with a crisp breeze outside so the warmth of this old barn was a perfect escape. Judging by the number of guests in the tasting room this wasn’t a novel idea. We tasted the Claret which was the first wine produced back in 2001 with the following vintages continuing to win multiple awards. We left with a bottle Chardonnay for my father whose birthday dinner was that evening. Roxy Ann is located at 3283 Hillcrest Road in Medford.
Each of the wineries we visited was well worth the effort of traversing a bit of cold, wet weather. In fact, the drizzle added to the experience. Winter and Fall are ideal times to warm up at the areas exceptionally charming tasting rooms and vineyards. The Southern Oregon Winery Association has information and interactive maps to help you plan your winter wine tasting. If you’re looking ahead to the warmth of summer I highlight some of my favorite summertime vineyards and activities in my Week in the Rogue Valley story. To sample some fabulous Oregon wines, The California Wine Club has a great selection of Pacific Northwest wines, delivered right to your door.