Once known for its Shakespeare festival, wine now steals the show in Ashland.
Oregon MapThe story of Oregon wine no longer begins and ends with Willamette Valley Pinot Noir, as many of the state’s most exciting new offerings hail from Southern Oregon. The region’s six American Viticultural Areas (AVAs) begin at the California border and extend north nearly to Eugene, with many of the 120 wineries clustered around the town of Ashland, famous for its annual Oregon Shakespeare Festival. Crater Lake, the Oregon Caves, Rogue River rafting and miles of pristine seashore are among southwest Oregon’s plentiful year-round attractions, rounding out a visit for any wine lover. —Paul Gregutt
Where to Dine
In Ashland, head to Amuse for a French-influenced, locally sourced menu and an excellent wine list. At Liquid Assets Wine Bar, great by-the-glass options and a full bar go along with outstanding gazpacho. In warm weather, opt to try the French menu on the terrace at the intimate Loft Brasserie. Granola pancakes are the must-order dish at busy breakfast joint Morning Glory.
Roseburg is another source of great eats: Salud Restaurant & Brewery has a wealth of tapas and live music. Brix Grill serves a steakhouse-style dinner menu with local wines.
Where to Stay
Five acres of lush gardens, hiking trails, mountain views and live music events are highlights of the cozy Country Willows Inn in Ashland. Located downtown is the restored, circa-1925 Ashland Springs Hotel. For a Roseburg pick, Delfino Vineyards has a wine country cottage nestled in the midst of a picturesque ranch and vineyard. On a budget? The Victorian Hokanson’s Guest House dates to 1882 and offers comfortable, affordable rooms.
The Oregon Shakespeare Festival is the centerpiece of the summer season, but Ashland’s three stages host a wide range of both contemporary and classic works year-round. Don’t miss the region’s breathtaking natural scenery, including Crater Lake National Park (the site of an extinct volcano), hiking, rafting and fishing in the Rogue and Umpqua rivers, or the state parks along the Southern Oregon seashore.
Want to drink with the locals in Ashland? Join the crowd at Standing Stone Brewing Company downtown for a Double IPA. (You’ll find good, cheap eats here, too).
When to Go
Go in May or early June, when the blossoms are out and the roads are clear, or September and October for splendid, sunny harvest days and cool nights.
Where to Taste
Along the I-5 corridor between Ashland and Medford are numerous tasting rooms, ranging from the rustic RoxyAnn Winery to the grandiose Belle Fiore Winery. Dancin Vineyards is one of the newest and most impressive, with an all-star lineup of Chardonnays and pizza.
Driving further west, you’ll find the Applegate Valley, a rustic hideaway that’s home to Cowhorn, a biodynamic vineyard and farm with exceptional Rhône-inspired wines.
In nearby Jacksonville, a charmingly authentic gold-mining town, stop at South Stage Cellars to taste wines from over a dozen wineries that use its grapes. Driving further west, you’ll find the Applegate Valley, a rustic hideaway that’s home to Cowhorn, a biodynamic vineyard and farm with exceptional Rhône-inspired wines. Nearby, Red Lily Vineyards has a well-appointed tasting room.
The city of Roseburg is another important location for wining and dining. Must-see wineries in the vicinity include Abacela, where Tempranillo and other Iberian grape varieties constitute the main focus; and Delfino Vineyards, a mom-and-pop operation with an excellent Dolcetto.
Local in the Know
Marilyn Hawkins, president of public relations firm Hawkins & Company, lives and works in the Ashland area and is an unabashed wine lover. She recommends the Ashland Tuesday Market for everything from fresh salsa and chèvre to morels, Japanese eggplant, pottery and more.
Hawkins also recommends First Friday Artwalk. “Ashland has a strong and diverse art gallery scene,” she says.
And if you want views of the gorgeous Rogue Valley, get outside and take “an invigorating 90-minute stroll around Roxy Ann Peak, just east of Medford.”
The all-inclusive Southern Oregon AVA was approved in 2004. Wrapped into it are the Rogue Valley, Applegate Valley and Umpqua Valley AVAs, plus tiny Red Hill Douglas County and Elkton. Generally warmer and drier than the Willamette Valley, the region supplies much of the value-priced Pinot Noir in bottles labeled, simply, “Oregon.” Tempranillo is the defining grape—pioneered 20 years ago by Abacela, it’s now almost ubiquitous. Be on the lookout for racy Rieslings and Gewürztraminers in cooler locations. Rhône and Bordeaux varieties thrive, as do Chenin Blanc, Dolcetto, Mondeuse, Petite Sirah and even Zinfandel.”
– “10 Best Wine Travel Destinations 2016 | Wine Enthusiast Magazine.” Wine Enthusiast Magazine. 7 Jan. 2016. Web. 06 Apr. 2016.