Magazine article Sunset

Escape to Applegate Valley: In the Wilds of Southern Oregon: Wine Country the Way It Used to Be

Magazine article Sunset

Escape to Applegate Valley: In the Wilds of Southern Oregon: Wine Country the Way It Used to Be

Article excerpt

METICULOUSLY TENDED GRAPEVINES--Chardonnay and Viognier, Syrah, and Cabernet Sauvignon--march up the steep, narrowing canyon above Wooldridge Creek's wood-and-stone winery. Curiously, tangled along the vineyard's edge are a few unkempt rows of Chardonnay. A sacrificial hedge, explains Applegate Valley winemaker Greg Paneitz.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

"The bears like it," he says with a grin.

Once the blackberries shrivel, the resident black bears (one of which is featured on Wooldridge Creek's label) start munching on grapes. That's when keeping these hulking pests occupied--in addition to keeping the wild turkeys out of the Merlot vines--becomes chief among Paneitz's day-to-day concerns.

Selling his wine is the easy part. Local restaurateurs, wine club members, and tasting room visitors snap up Wooldridge Creek's entire 2,500-case annual production. Luckily for the increasing number of eager-to-taste tourists making the trek to this rural oasis of small farms in the foothills of the Siskiyou Mountains, there's plenty more where that came from.

Blessed with crisp mountain air, early springs, and long, luscious summers, Applegate Valley became a distinct wine appellation in 2001, splitting off from the surrounding Rogue Valley. Today, it has close to a dozen wineries, almost all with tasting rooms. A Goldilocks of wine regions--dry and warm but not too dry and warm--the Applegate Valley does well by more grape varieties than most. Almost every winery's top wine takes advantage of that fact by being a blend: Valley View's "Anna Maria" Meritage, for instance, and Wooldridge Creek's Warrick Red and Warrick White. Mounting evidence suggests that Viognier, Tempranillo, and Syrah especially thrive here.

Still, for winemakers, and visitors, too, there's a sense of being in on something from the ground up--quite literally, as boot-clad winemakers can be seen tracking mud into their tasting rooms as they go from checking vines to pouring wine. Here, you don't see bus tours and grand chateaux, just down-home folks enjoying a glass of Chardonnay on a sunny afternoon. As Paneitz puts it, "We're like Sonoma in the '70s."

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

Until just a few years ago, you didn't see much of anything at all here, recalls Michael Wisnovsky, of Valley View Winery, one of the area's first vineyards, planted in 1972. Back then, there were no wineries. No tasting rooms. "Savvy wine lovers from San Francisco and Seattle still managed to find us," says Wisnovsky. And the wine pavilion built in 2001, with its airy tasting room and patio seating, certainly helped expand Valley View's fan base. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.