Travel

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

Ledger-David-Vineyard-photo-by-Marc-Salvatore_NEW

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. 

Coordinates

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

SIP:
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

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

DO: 
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

FOR YOUR CELLAR
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

 

Follow Us

A Stunning BC Beauty

A Stunning BC Beauty

Check out Manning Park. Just don't tell anyone about it.

During early spring, when the snowpack is deep in the Northwest, and the ski resorts are still buzzing with enthusiasts getting their last turns in before the season runs out, my wife, Kristy, and I like to head further north to Canada. Photo by Sophia Yip/Getty Images

Chasing the Solar Eclipse: Seattle to Indianapolis

Chasing the Solar Eclipse: Seattle to Indianapolis

The city is near the center of the totality of the eclipse

On April 8, the heavens will put on a spectacular show as a total solar eclipse graces the skies, forging a path from Mazatlán to Montreal. For those seeking this unforgettable experience many prime destinations beckon, from the Texas Hill Country to Buffalo. For us, Indianapolis emerged as a prime destination, lying near the center

Ruby Beach Recognized as One of the World's Best  

Ruby Beach Recognized as One of the World’s Best  

Sparkling red and strewn with sea stacks, Washington's rugged shoreline stands out

Situated on the Olympic Peninsula, a three-and-a-half-hour drive from Seattle, Ruby Beach is known for its towering sea stacks sculpted by centuries of wind and waves, and its thriving tide pools.

Whale Watching is Extremely Popular

Whale Watching is Extremely Popular

New study pinpoints visitors, dollars in Washington state

A study for the Pacific Whale Watch Association by Martin Associates finds that whale watching expeditions in Washington state create $119.1 million in economic value and support 1,125 jobs...