The Applegate Wine Trail (link)
I enjoy a good glass of wine, two buck chuck or a really fine glass of Pinot Noir, it’s all fun. I spent a lot of years in California, and went wine tasting with friends in the Napa Valley when tastings were free. I am certainly not educated about wine, and usually have to read the label to know what I am supposed to be thinking when I taste something. My palate is just barely sophisticated enough to recognize oak-ey, which I love, and a few others now and then. Going wine tasting always seems to be a bit more than I want to tackle on my own, and Mo and I will drop into a tasting room now and then if it isn’t pretentious and looks like fun.
Enter our neighbors and friends, Wes and Gayle. We couldn’t ask for better neighbors, but I am a bit sorry that they are only here in the summertime. The advantage of this is that we can visit their gorgeous Tucson home during the winter months if we get down that way. Having them here in the summer is great for selfish reasons as well, since they are our house sitters when we are gone and Wes does a mean job of taking care of the lawns.
Wes and Gayle know how to travel and how to have fun, and one of the things they do periodically is travel the Applegate Wine Trail between Medford and Grants Pass. We all decided to spend a sunny summer day together enjoying the beautiful vineyards and wineries on the Applegate. It was fun for us since Wes did the driving and they both know the area well, including which wineries we wouldn’t want to miss and which ones might be something to save for the next trip.
I spent most of the day in awe of the incredibly gorgeous blue skies, with just enough puffy clouds to make it interesting, breathing in the fresh air and trying to capture the brilliance of the summery moments with my camera. I couldn’t capture the smell of the grape vines, and hard as I tried, I couldn’t capture the feel of the summer breezes filled with the fragrance of rich soil, moist riverbanks, lush flowers, and leaf heavy maples, oaks, sweet gums, and all the other unnamed deciduous trees we can’t grow on our side of the mountain.
Of course, the happy ambience created by a few tastings of vino certainly added to the warm, fuzzy feelings that I carried around with me all afternoon. Spending time with good friends doing happy things was wonderful as well.
We started at the southern end of the valley, near Ruch, Oregon, just a few miles west of Medford and Jacksonville. Valley View Winery was one of the first in the Applegate, and while the website says it was first established in the 1850’s, the attendants mentioned that when they opened their tasting room in the early 70’s they were one of only 4 wineries in the valley. Now there are 20 and more coming every year.
I discovered that the websites tell what the tasting room policy is for tasting fees, which might have been nice to know ahead of time. Wes and Gayle thought that almost all the wineries they visited a couple of years ago had no fees, however things have changed as the Applegate catches up to the rest of the wine tasting world. Still, a few had no charge for tasting, and a few refunded the tasting charge with a purchase, and the standard $5. fee was certainly less than the $25 and more fees in Napa or Sonoma.
While searching about for the winery links, I also found this little treasure about Tasting Room Etiquette. Might have been a good idea to read this before we embarked on our day trip!
After a lovely flight of whites and reds, and a purchase of a 2006 Anna Maria Cabernet, we ambled on down the road to the Fiasco Winery. I am not quite sure how the name came to be, but with another tasting fee and an attendant who wasn’t quite as personable, we decided that we were happy enough to check out the tasting room and move on to the next winery.
The best part of Fiasco was the winery dog, and in their tasting room shop was a little book called “Every Winery has a Dog”, with some great photos and stories of the companion dogs that many wine makers seem to have. We even met a few more as we continued on our way.
With a few stops in between, we came to the newer and incredibly lovely Red Lily Vineyards . Only opening their tasting room last fall, they have been making excellent wines for several years from their own vineyards around the valley.
The grounds were gorgeous, and the attendants delightful. We tried a taste of their beautiful and tasty Lily Girl Rose and decided it would be the perfect choice for our picnic wine for the day. I am still wishing that I had purchased a few bottles of that lovely summer wine, but I’ll know where to find it.
Gayle had come prepared with a wonderful spread of cheeses, crackers and flat breads, amazing gourmet pickles, olives and a feta olive oil garlic spread she had made, all with fine little dishes and pretty napkins. The winery has a delightful picnic area by the river with shady tables and a bandstand for music. They even provided us with a bucket of ice and glasses to enjoy our purchase with lunch.
After our relaxing and tasty repast we ambled on up the highway to Gayle and Wes’s favorite winery, the big old barn housing the tasting room for Bridgeview Vineyards and Winery. With no tasting fee here we enjoyed a flight of excellent, very reasonably priced wines, and discovered the great Pinot Gris and Dry Reisling that the valley had made famous. After another purchase of some nice wines, I walked around in the vineyards trying once again to capture the feeling of that air and light. Impossible.
In our happy haze ( the girls, not the driver!) we continued north along the east side of the valley to Wooldridge Creek Vineyards and Winery. We had all decided that perhaps we had tasted enough but that didn’t dampen our enjoyment of the beautiful grounds and tasting room. Again we met a winery dog and even a winery cat.
Passing several more vineyards, we stopped in at Troon Vineyard to check out the digs and appreciate the beautiful gardens and vines. Skipping the tastings for the rest of the afternoon was just fine. After awhile it all starts to run together and I have no idea how you could keep on tasting all day. Must take practice!
We ended the afternoon at the Schmidt Family Vineyards , another of the oldest in the valley and possibly the most beautiful gardens of any of them.
The porches were cool and inviting, with views of the gardens and many comfy chairs and tables set about for relaxing with a glass of wine, or just relaxing and enjoying the conversation and the views. Once again I tried to take photos of the breeze. I am sure some great photographer knows just how to do this, but not me. Still, when I look at the photo, I remember that warm breeze even if no one else has a clue.
I took a LOT of photos, and if you want to check them out they are here.
Here is the google map of our little day trip in case you are ever in Oregon and decide to do a little wine tasting in the lovely Applegate Valley.
We are now packing up for our three week jaunt to Colorado, South Dakota and Wyoming and by this afternoon the lush green of Oregon will give way to the wide open deserts of northern Nevada as we head east on curvy Highway 140 and then south to Winnemucca. Yay! We are on the road again!!