While pinot noir tends to steal the show in Oregon’s Willamette Valley, there are a number of varieties coming out of the Southern Oregon AVA and its encompassing four appellations – Umpqua Valley, Rogue Valley, Red Hills Douglas County and Applegate Valley – that break this association.
Tempranillo, malbec, viognier and claret are just a few of the unexpected varieties found in this region, with these Southern Oregon-specific wine experiences showcasing a full-range of what the valley has to offer. From tasting wines over a luxury picnic to visiting the state's first winery and creamery, you won't want to miss out on any of these unique encounters – especially if it’s your first trip to the area.
Try tempranillo at the vineyard that debuted the variety in Southern Oregon
Tempranillo may be native to Spain, but it's becoming a signature grape in Southern Oregon — Photo courtesy of Abacela
In 1995, the owners of what would become Abacela Winery, Earl and Hilda Jones, dedicated one-third of their 463 acres to tempranillo, obtained by UC Davis and grafted by a local nursery. The Spanish black grape thrived in the valley as it shares the same latitude as its native Rioja, Spain.
Today, tempranillo has become Southern Oregon’s signature grape, with about 300 acres planted throughout the valley. Abacela pioneered the trend, so why not taste this variety where it all started?
Sip Spanish-inspired varieties surrounded by nature at Red Lily
Enjoy Spainsh-inspired wines offered at Red Lily Vineyards — Photo courtesy of Jim Craven
As tempranillo’s repertoire gained local clout, winemakers were attracted to its success in the region, including Rachael Martin of Red Lily. Visit this winery for not only the beautifully ripe expression of tempranillo, but also their entire Spanish-inspired wine portfolio, including sparkling cava and verdejo.
Whether you’re cozied up in the barnyard on a chilly autumn day or dipping your toes in the river on a sweltering afternoon in the summer, wine and nature are married at Red Lily Vineyards. The mountains and lifeline of water here emphasize the best that Southern Oregon has to offer.
Enjoy a gourmet picnic
You've probably never had a picnic like this one, put together by Rogue Picnics at Del Rio Vineyards — Photo courtesy of Danny Hall
Throw away your expectation of wooden baskets and checkered blankets: Rogue Picnics works with local purveyors and artisans to create luxurious and whimsical spreads out of a fairytale. They work with wineries throughout the valley to elevate traditional tastings, and they're ideal for group getaways, allowing you to sip through larger collections at your leisure – and with hearty sustenance.
Visit the Quady North tasting room
Enjoying wine in Quady North's tasting room — Photo courtesy of Jillian Dara
Born from a California legend, Quady North quickly created a legacy of its own in Southern Oregon. Though the grapes are harvested from vineyards throughout the valley, the downtown tasting room is not to be missed – especially as owner, Herb Quady, is a local celebrity with T-shirts reading “Herb is my winemaker” – and it's a change of scenery from tasting among the vines.
Enter the unassuming brick edifice on the corner of East California Street and North Fifth in Jacksonville, and a library of bottles greets you; all boasting labels designed by Quady’s wife. Make sure to try Quady’s leading varieties, including grenache blanc, mourvedre, viognier and cabernet franc.
Appreciate the parallels of wine and ballet at DANCIN
Wine is an art form, and at DANCIN Vineyards, it's treated as such — Photo courtesy of DANCIN Vineyards
For Dan and Cindy Marca, their combined names comprise their vineyard’s nomenclature, however, so does their passion for dance and music. To honor this artistic theme each year, the vineyard hosts a winemaker dinner that features wine pairings, food and vignettes of ballet between the courses.
For an everyday experience, the winery offers a full menu of locally sourced foods, paired with the Italian-inspired varieties (with labels depicting dancers in a colorful splash of wine). DANCIN Vineyards may have started with a humble pinot nero plot, but it has grown to produce award-winning barbera, sangiovese and chardonnay.
Indulge in the classics at Irvine & Roberts
Take in the view of the southern Cascade and Siskiyou mountain ranges at Irvine & Roberts Vineyards — Photo courtesy of Jillian Dara
A trip to Irvine & Roberts Vineyards allows you to appreciate their celebrated chardonnay and pinot noir wines, all while looking out at their respective vine, with a backdrop of the southern Cascade and Siskiyou mountain ranges.
Reserve a tasting on their terrace and order a locally sourced charcuterie board to amplify the regional notes of the earthy pinot noir and bright chardonnay. If you’re lucky, you may be able to try their limited offering of pinot meunier, which is sold out online but available during visits.
30 of the most adorable dogs you can meet at wineries
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Drink to the beat at RoxyAnn Winery
RoxyAnn Winery is located on one of Southern Oregon's oldest continuously operating farms — Photo courtesy of Kali Kraum
Located on one of the oldest farms in Southern Oregon, continuously operating since 1908, this land’s past is not lost on RoxyAnn Winery, with its renovated barn serving as a tasting room and planted vineyards among fruit orchards. Throughout the summer and into October, RoxyAnn hosts a series of summer concerts, which is considered a local highlight. If you miss the music, their sprawling outdoor space is perfect for enjoying the winery’s award-winning claret or pinot gris varieties.
Savor fresh cheese with your wines at Wooldridge Creek
Wine with a view at Wooldridge Creek Winery — Photo courtesy of Travel Medford
For years, Wooldridge Creek Winery was recognized for their 12 varieties, including syrah, viognier and zinfandel, planted across 56 acres. In 2015, however, Wooldridge Creek’s cheese offerings added to the winery’s acclaim, as it became Oregon’s first joint creamery and winery. Guests can witness the happenings at the creamery as they pass by the wine tanks, or they can appreciate the fresh soft and hard cheeses with an accompanying wine tasting.
Discover the perfect pairing of pizza and wine at Kriselle Cellars
The stunning entrance to Kriselle Cellars — Photo courtesy of Travel Medford
Every weekend, Kriselle Cellars fires up their wood oven and churns out handcrafted pizzas, served on their rustic deck, overlooking the Rogue Valley. The woodfired pizza pairs deliciously with Kriselle’s bold reds, including cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc and malbec – the varieties that Kriselle finds the most success with due to Southern Oregon’s warm summers.