Where to eat, drink, and play for two days in wine country
By Andrew Collins
Variety is the hallmark of Southern Oregon’s Rogue Valley, a sunny swath of undulating vineyards and orchards surrounded by rugged mountain ridges carpeted with juniper, cedar and ponderosa pines. From full-bodied Malbecs and Syrahs to lean, racy Pinot noirs and Rieslings, a veritable United Nations of grapes thrives outside these friendly towns known for both thrilling outdoorsy diversions — this is the western gateway to Crater Lake National Park — and engaging cultural draws.
Start your day in the bustling college town of Ashland at sleek Hither Coffee & Goods for a breakfast of avocado toast with Meyer lemon or a ricotta tartine with blackberry jams before setting out on a stroll among Main Street’s colorful boutiques and galleries. Walk through leafy Lithia Park — a 93-acre oasis of neatly groomed gardens, including a newly opened Ashland Japanese Garden, tranquil duck ponds and some surprisingly remote wilderness trails — stopping at one of the historic water fountains fed by mineral springs to admire the adjacent grounds of the world-renowned Oregon Shakespeare Festival.
The surrounding countryside offers several opportunities for wine touring, including Irvine & Roberts Vineyards, where you can sip an elegant Pinot noir in a gracious terrace high on a slope overlooking nearby Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument. Just a few minutes away, Weisinger Family Winery has been an icon in the region for more than 30 years. Drive 20 miles northwest to Central Point to try the earthy cave-aged blue cheeses of internationally acclaimed Rogue Creamery. Then walk next door for a luscious marionberry truffle at Lillie Belle Farms chocolatier and finish your visit with a stop into The Rogue Grape – a cozy wine bar filled with local and international wine by the glass or purchase by the bottle to take with you. Nearby, don’t miss Cliff Creek Cellars, known for its beautifully balanced red wines, and Kriselle Cellars, the latter known for its crisp Sauvignon blancs.
Return south to Medford, whose pastoral outskirts abound with exceptional wineries like RoxyAnn Winery, 2Hawk Vineyard & Winery and Upper Five Vineyard. Then head downtown to Elements, which occupies a stately 1906 building, to feast on authentic Spanish tapas and paellas.
Set in an Old West-style brick saloon constructed during Jacksonville’s 1850s gold rush, convivial GoodBean Coffee is your morning go-to for fluffy biscuits with rich sausage gravy. This laid-back village in the Rogue Valley AVA is known for its summertime Britt Music & Arts Festival. Check out the distinctive boutiques and several excellent vintners, including Anchor Valley Wines for gold-medal Primitivo and Chardonnay and DANCIN Vineyards Pinot noir, Barbara and Port paired with wood-fired pizzas and perfectly paired sharables on their expansive patio.
Continue west into the Applegate Valley, home to nearly 20 wineries. On a warm, sunny day, stop by Red Lily Vineyards and sip Spanish varietals on the banks of the Applegate River. At Troon Vineyard, an exemplar of Biodynamic, Regenerative Organic farming and winemaking, sip nonpareil Rhône-style wines while sauntering through fragrant herb, vegetable and flower gardens. Drive 90 miles southwest to tour the otherworldly landscape of calcite rock formations of Oregon Caves National Monument, finishing your afternoon with a glass of aromatic dry Gewürztraminer at Cave Junction’s Foris Vineyards.
From here it’s a scenic 50-mile drive back north to Grants Pass, a hub of whitewater rafting and jet-boat excursions on the exhilarating Rogue River. Whet your appetite with a wedge of perfect cheese and a wine pairing at Partake Shop & Lounge before indulging in a spectacular dinner at The Twisted Cork, a casual farm-to-table restaurant that stocks bottles from nearly 120 Pacific Northwest wineries.