White Water and 70-Plus Wine Varietals Await in These Beautiful River Valleys

Wines from A to Z thrive in southern Oregon.

By Danielle Centoni October 11, 2017


This article originally appeared in the August 2017 issue of Seattle magazine.

Check out the rest of our 7 Best Wine Destinations in the Pacific Northwest here.

In southern oregon, it’s entirely possible to sip your wine-tasting flight with your feet in a river. It’s also possible to go both antiquing and jet-boating before you’re even hungry for lunch. And it’s also possible to sum up this ruggedly beautiful wine-growing region in just one word: diverse.

While the Willamette Valley excels at cool-weather varietals like Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Riesling, the Southern Oregon AVA is the state’s vinous overachiever, growing all that and just about everything else. More than 70 varietals thrive here in the southwest corner of the state, from Albariño to Zinfandel, thanks to the diverse range of geography, topology and climate zones in the Umpqua and Rogue river valleys, where most of the grapes are grown. In fact, there are about as many wineries as there are microclimates—55 to be exact—and this wide range of wine styles is matched by the area’s many attractions.

To get a taste of it all in one loop, steer yourself over to the Applegate Valley Wine Trail, a scenic 35-mile drive along Oregon Route 238. Start at the charming Old West town of Jacksonville and tuck into a belly-filling breakfast at the friendly Mustard Seed Cafe. Afterward, walk it off by shopping in the boutiques along the main drag. At the far end of that street, which is just a few blocks long, you’ll find stairs leading up to Britt Gardens, home to the lauded Britt Music & Arts Festival outdoor concert series held each summer, as well as a jumping-off point for the Jacksonville Woodlands Association’s network of hiking and biking trails. 

Kick off your wine tasting with a visit to Quady North, a winery known for Rhône varietals such as Cabernet Franc, Syrah and deliciously dry rosé; then, follow the scenic highway out of town to Cowhorn Vineyard & Garden, home to exquisite, biodynamically grown Viognier, Grenache and Syrah, served up in a sleek, modern tasting room built to Living Building Challenge standards (an international sustainable building certification program that’s even more rigorous than LEED). Next up is farm-chic Red Lily Vineyards, where you can order your wine flight in a portable rack of glass cylinders, or get a chilled bottle in a bucket full of ice and walk to the Applegate River at the property’s edge (truly a gift for anyone traveling with kids or dogs).

Photograph by Red Lily. The Red Lily Vineyards’ tasting room near Jacksonville.

As the road turns north, other activities beckon. Stop at the 37-year-old Pennington Farms, where a wide variety of blackberries, raspberries and blueberries come fresh by the pint, baked into flaky pies and turnovers, or turned into jam. In this Grants Pass area, activities range from the thrilling (white-water rafting and jet-boating on the Rogue River) to the sedate (antique stores and the Saturday Growers Market). Stay in a riverside cabin at the historic Weasku Inn.

The next day, spend the afternoon riding zip lines, rafting and wine tasting with Rogue Valley ZipLine Adventure’s Zip, Dip & Sip tour. When it’s time to head back to Jacksonville, go back the way you came, but take the turnoff for Applegate Road, where a concentration of the region’s pioneering and acclaimed wineries—including Wooldridge Creek, Schmidt Family Vineyards, Serra Vineyards and Troon Vineyard—await for more wine-drenched exploration. 

Insider tip
Save an hour or two for Central Point, where Rogue Creamery, Lillie Belle Farms Chocolates and Ledger David Cellars form a holy trinity of cheese, chocolate and wine tastings in one blessedly convenient spot. You can even take gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches and other picnic provisions to go.

Getting there: The Applegate Valley Wine Trail is in southern Oregon, about a seven-and-a-half-hour drive from Seattle. 


Weasku Inn
, Grants Pass, 5560 Rogue River Hwy.; 541.471.8000 

Cowhorn Vineyard & Garden, Jacksonville, 1665 Eastside Road; 541.899.6876
Ledger David Wines, Central Point, 245 N Front St.; 541.664.2218 
Quady North, Jacksonville, 255 E California St.; 541.702.2123 
Red Lily Vineyards, Jacksonville, 11777 Oregon Route 238; 541.846.6800
Schmidt Family Vineyards, Grants Pass, 330 Kubli Road; 541.846.9985 
Serra Vineyards, Grants Pass, 222 Missouri Flat Road; 541.846.9223
Troon Vineyard, Grants Pass, 1475 Kubli Road; 541.846.9900

Mustard Seed Cafe, Jacksonville, 130 Fifth St.; 541.899.2977; Facebook, “Mustard Seed Cafe”

Applegate Valley Wine Trail
Britt Music & Arts Festival
Jacksonville Woodlands Association
Pennington Farms, Grants Pass, 11115 Williams Hwy.; 541.846.0550
ROGUE VALLEY ZIPLINE ADVENTURE, Central Point, 9450 Old Stage Road; 541.821.9476
Rogue Creamery, Central Point, 311 N Front St.; 541.665.1155
Lillie Belle Farms Chocolates, Central Point, 211 N Front St.; 541.664.2815

Quady North:
 2016 Rosé Counoise, $19.50
Cowhorn: 2013 Sentience, $55
Red Lily Vineyards: 2012 Tempranillo, $35
Ledger David Cellars: 2013 Orion’s Nebula Red Blend, $32
Wooldridge Creek Vineyard and Winery: 2012 Warrick Red Reserve, $40
Schmidt Family Vineyards: 2011 Soulea, $15
Serra Vineyards: 2011 Syrah, $55
Troon Vineyard: 2015 Troon Blue Label Longue Carabine, $29


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