Where imagination is just the start!
By Margarett Waterbury
Variety is the hallmark of Southern Oregon’s Rogue Valley AVA. More than 70 different grape varieties grow here, from full-bodied Malbecs and Syrahs to lean, racy Pinot noirs and Rieslings. As the western gateway to Crater Lake National Park and home to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, the region is also known for thrilling outdoorsy diversions and engaging cultural events, making it a wine destination that truly offers something for everyone.
The Rogue Valley is home to incredible grape diversity, but there are still a few key variet-
ies you’ll see at many tasting rooms, including Viognier, Syrah, Grenache and Mourvèdre. Those Rhône-style grapes shine at Quady North, where visitors can taste elegant rosés and benchmark red blends while overlooking estate vineyards and the Applegate River.
With such a remarkable landscape in every direction, it’s no surprise sustainability is a major focus in the Rogue. Sip Syrah at Biodynamic- certified Cowhorn Vineyard & Garden while you stroll through fragrant herb and flower gardens. In the hills above Ashland, Long Walk Vineyard cultivates a robust ecosystem with beehives, bat boxes and native-plant restoration projects. Troon Vineyard in the Applegate Valley is Biodynamic- and Regenerative Organic-certified, and uses a minimalist approach in the cellar to preserve each vintage’s unique qualities.
Many Rogue Valley producers also serve food alongside their flights. Dunbar Farms/Rocky Knoll in Medford serves paninis, salads and soups on a welcoming patio with views of the family’s century farm. Wood-fired pizzas and a huge selection of wines — from Tempranillo to Teroldego — served in a parklike setting make Schmidt Family Vineyards another crowd-pleasing lunch choice. Some vineyards also grow orchard fruits like apples, peaches and pears that are available for purchase in-season, including EdenVale Winery and RoxyAnn Winery.
Get morning coffee and a ricotta tartine with blackberry jam at Hither Coffee & Goods in Ashland, or a vegan doughnut and zippy cold brew at Cerberus Coffee in Jacksonville. Decant brings destination dining to Medford, with a globe-spanning wine list and exquisitely prepared dishes inspired by Europe and the Northwest. Or head downtown to Elements, which occupies a stately 1906 building, to feast on authentic Spanish tapas and paellas.
The Rogue Valley Food Trail connects 52 different growers, producers and businesses committed to showcasing the ingredients of the Rogue Valley. One stop is the internationally acclaimed Rogue Creamery, which specializes in earthy cave-aged blue cheeses. Walk right next door for a luscious marionberry truffle at Lillie Belle Farms chocolatier. In autumn, the Rogue Table festival brings a series of ticketed pairing dinners, tastings and other events celebrating local flavor.
Equal parts culture and adventure await visitors to the Rogue Valley. In Ashland, walk through leafy Lithia Park — a 93-acre oasis of neatly groomed gardens, tranquil duck ponds and some surprisingly remote wilderness trails — stopping at one of the historic mineral-springs water fountains to admire the adjacent grounds of the world-renowned Oregon Shakespeare Festival. Jacksonville is known for its summertime Britt Music & Arts Festival. Reserve tickets online, then enjoy a glass at one of the village’s many wineries before taking your seats.
Grants Pass is a hub of whitewater rafting and jet-boat excursions on the exhilarating Rogue River. Drive about an hour southwest to tour the otherworldly landscape of calcite rock formations of Oregon Caves National Monument. Or head in the opposite direction and extend your trip with a visit to Crater Lake National Park.
The Jacksonville Inn occupies a building dating back to the town’s Gold Rush heyday. Keep an eye out for the resident ghost, who’s said to be an old lady wearing an old-fashioned dress. Pack your bathing suit for Compass Hotel Medford by Margaritaville, featuring an outdoor pool, indoor-outdoor bar and restaurant, and serious vacation vibes. For private mineral-water soaking tubs and intimate wine tastings before the theater, opt for Lithia Springs Resort.
WINE TRAILS Upper Rogue Wine Trail
Named a Top 10 Global Wine Destination by Wine Enthusiast, this sweet little trail stretches along Highway 234 in the Gold Hill area, a quick detour off of I-5 and an hour southwest of Crater Lake. Get to know the four family-owned wineries that run these tasting rooms and their four different winemaking styles.
WINE TRAILS Jacksonville
Nine exquisite family-run wineries, all within minutes of each other, await visitors in this historic gold rush- era town. Enjoy sipping at a stately mansion with large patios and lawns at Hummingbird Estate, or soak up the laid-back vibe at Rellik Winery, which includes an alpaca farm on-site. When you’re hungry, don’t miss out on some of the best restaurants in the region.
This article appears in the 2023-24 Oregon Wine Touring Guide. Order your free copy today.