Saturday, December 17, 2011

Wine Tasting in the Fog at HillCrest Vineyard - Roseburg, Oregon

As I left Giradet Vineyards and Winery the fog began to come over the mountains like a wave of the ocean and settle in the valleys and the temperature suddenly dropped. I visited Giradet because they produce a unique wine, the Boco Noir. My next winery, HillCrest Vineyard, was also chosen for their uniqueness – among other things, they are the oldest estate and continuously running winery in Oregon. They are also the first to in the state to produce Pinot Noir, which is increasingly becoming Oregon’s most sought after varietal of wine and they produce a couple unique wines, a white Pinot Noir and a Hungarian styled blend.

The winery was founded by Richard Sommers in 1961 with the help of Adolph Doerner, who’s family first planted wine grapes in the Umpqua Valley in 1888. Today Sommers is considered by many to be the father of Oregon winemaking world. When visiting, you might notice the “BW 44” notation here and there — it’s a reference to the fact that HillCrest Vineyard was the 44th bonded “alcohol producer” in Oregon and the first winery bonded after Prohibition. After selecting the estate site, Richard planted over 35 varieties, many of which had never been planted or produced before in Oregon. 
  Richard Sommers
In 2003 Dyson and Susan Demara, along with their three children Hanna, Parker and Tucker, became the next generation to further Richard Sommers’ pioneering legacy by continuing to produce premium wines from the estate with an annual production of around 1400 cases.

HillCrest Vineyards has some unique wine making practices, such as using patented concrete red wine fermentors and they have the Umpqua Valley’s most sustainable vineyard practices using the state’s oldest naturally farmed vineyards. All of this is performed without using any outside the family employees. So, from planting their own vineyards, to bottling and managing the tasting room, only their family’s hands touch these wines.

When I arrived nobody was in the tasting room and I was greeted by two friendly dogs. After hearing them bark Susan Demara came out from their adjacent home to pour the wines and while she was pouring she was making various arrangements for the kids over the phone… but THAT is what it is like visiting a family owned and run winery! Nothing too fancy schmancy, just real people making real honest wine with mom working as both the household and tasting room manager. Like, most of the wineries in Southern Oregon that are really small production (under 3,000 cases) HillCrest Vineyard is are family-owned and run rather than being just one of many belonging to a huge conglomerate. In comparison, most of the larger wineries in the Napa Valley are no longer owned by the family that founded them as they have been bought out by multi-winery corporations such as Constellation Brands and Diageo.

Due to the weather conditions and the temperature of the room tasting the wines evaluating the wines accurately was a bit of a challenge so didn’t take any extensive notes and I am hesitant to make any dogmatic conclusions about them.  Tasting a wine in a tasting room can be challenging enough as there are so many environmental influences that one has to be aware of, but on a really cold day (around 42 degrees) in a very cold tasting room that was barely heated the wines are not being shown at their best. So, I look forward to tasting the wines I purchased again from the comfort of my home.

While most wineries tend to serve their white wines first, the truth is if they have sufficient acidity a good white wine will actually cleanse the palate and therefore should be served AFTER tasting red wines. While visiting I first tasted five red wines and then two white wines. The red wines were the 2006 Right Bank (St. Emilon inspired Meritage blend of 60% Merlot, 40% Cabernet Franc), the  2007 Phenom Cabernet Sauvignon which comes from their “Old Vine” estate vineyard planted in 1964, the 2007 Nonihc Cabernet Franc, the 2008 “Bulls Blood” a Hungarian style blend (which I bought but is not currently listed on their web site), the 2009 “Le Pig” Barbera (which I also bought but is not currently listed on their web site) followed by the 2009 “Les Charmes” Chardonnay, and the 2010 Pinot Noir “Inside Out” Blanc. This was the first time I ever tasted a white wine made from Pinot Noir, it seemed to me to be way too light and definitely not a winter drinking wine. Of all these I liked and purchased a bottle of the Barbera and the “Bulls Blood” because it was unique.

When I arrived at the winery the fog had settled in, making it near impossible to see from one side of the estate to the other so taking pictures was a bit of a challenge. So after sampling their wines I drove up into the surrounding mountains to get a bird’s eye view of the clouds in the valley below.
To visit or for more information:

Hillcrest Vineyard

240 Vineyard Lane

Roseburg, Oregon 97471

Phone: 1-541-673-3709

Friday, December 16, 2011

Giradet Vineyard and Winery - Roseburg, Oregon

 After visiting Pyrenees Vineyard and Cellars in the Umpqua Valley my next stop on my second day of wine tasting in Southern Oregon was at Giradet (pronounced “Jee-ar-day”) Vineyards and Winery. 

While visiting the tasting room I was able to meet both the founder of the winery Philippe Girardet and his son Marc Girardet who is the current wine maker and talk to him about their wines. THAT is one of the advantages of visiting small family-owned wineries, it is not uncommon to be able to meet the artisans that make the very wine you are tasting.

While talking to Philippe he pointed to a panoramic picture of his home town on the wall where he learned the art of handcrafting wine back home in Switzerland working on his great uncle’s vineyard. Philippe and his wife Bonnie Girardet established the winery and vineyards in 1971 and his first vintage of commercially released in 1983, and the following year received two silver medals at the Oregon State Fair.

I was also able to talk to Philippe’s son and the current winemaker, Marc Girardet, who learned the family business from his father and then in 1999, at age of 24, he became the youngest winemaker in the state. We talked a bit about what it is like to grow up in the wine business and how it is not until one gets away from it that the family wine heritage is truly appreciated. Marc went off to college to study computer programming and business accounting, but then returned to become a wine maker because although it entails a lot of hard physical labor, it seemed to him to be a lot more fun working outdoors and in the elements rather than being stuck behind a desk in an office building.

And I must add… that hard work and family heritage of wine making bearing good fruit as I did not leave Giradet Vineyards disappointed.

While visiting I tasted two white wines and five red wines:

My first wine was the 2009 Chardonnay. It was served a bit too cold (a common theme in tasting rooms this time of year) but after swirling the glass and warming it my hands for a while I was able to coax some floral notes, followed by red apples, canned pears and a hint of oak. On the plate it has a slight creaminess to it and yet maintains good acidity. A fair priced wine at $15 a bottle.

My next white wine was the 2011 Riesling (Estate Grown) from which I picked up apricots, peaches, canned peaches and a noticeable minerality.  Another fair priced wine at $15 a bottle.

My first red wine was the 2008 Pinot Noir, Barrel Select. Dried roses, black cherries, and a hint of cinnamon. I wish I had my Pinot Noir stemware with me but unfortunately left them at home. This wine was just “okay” which is what I expect for Pinots in the $20 price range.

My second red wine was the 2008 Bonnie’s Barrel Zinfandel. A lighter style zin that seems like its Italian cousin, Primativo. This is not you “over the top” jammy styled zin that are common in the central valley and Sierra foothills of California. On the nose I picked up dried plums, licorice and a hint of pepper and mouth watering acidity on the palate. So if that is how you like ‘em, you’ll like this one for $29 a bottle.

My third was…. interesting… the 2008 14 Vines Field Blend a “secret, old family recipe using 14 different grapes” It was originally called “Vin Maison Rouge” and later “Grand Rouge” and although there is no indication as to what is in the blend a “reliable informant” said that there it contains Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, Tempranillo, and Syrah amongst other grapes… but that’s just a rumor. This wine sort of reminds me of a Super Tuscan, it’s a deep dark wine with earthy-chocolate aromas followed tart dried cherries and some spice and a whole lotta other things I couldn’t quite put my finger on. It is a little out of focus as it seems like it is fighting with itself as to what flavors are going to become dominant. But… for $14, it ain’t a bad pizza wine.

My next wine was THE reason why I chose to visit Giradet Vineyards. For me, travelling the wine country is about seeing the vistas, meeting the people, learning about the winemakers and getting a “sense of place” where the wine comes from. But it is also about being on the hunt for something new and different to expand the palate. So the next red was the 2009 Baco Noir which I had never heard of let alone tasted before. Baco Noir is a hybrid red wine grape variety produced from a cross of Vitis vinifera var var, Folle Blanche, a French wine grape, and an unknown variety of Vitis riparia indigenous to North America and it is the brain child of French hybridizer, Francois Baco. On the nose I picked up wild berries, mocha, red plums and a hint of vanilla. It is a very bold wine and yet soft on the palate and medium bodied with good acidity. It reminds me of a cross between Zinfandel and Sangiovese. I brought two of them home to share with friends at $25 a bottle.

My final red wine was the 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon. Somewhat green in character on the nose that tells me “I’m a cool climate cab.” I picked up red currants, red plums, bell pepper, eucalyptus, mint and anise. An “okay” Cab for $19 a bottle but I prefer more black fruits and earthy/tobacco tones in my Cabs.

The final wine in the line-up was the 2008 Frostbite Gewurztraminer. On the nose this wine has aromas of honey, canned pears, fresh peaches, and dried pineapples. On the palate it is somewhat weighty and viscous, delightfully sweet and has a very long fruit cocktail finish. A nice wine for $25 a bottle.

To visit or for more information:

Pyrenees Vineyard and Cellars – South
15332 Old Highway 99 S.
Myrtle Creek, Oregon 97457
Phone: 1-541-863-7797

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Exploring the Umpqua Valley at Pyrenees Vineyard and Cellars - Myrtle Creek, Oregon

While visiting Southern Oregon I stayed in Grants Pass and visited three wineries further south in the Rogue Valley. On my second day I headed north to the Umpqua Valley and visited another three wineries.
 My first stop of the day was at Pyrenees Vineyard and Cellars which is located in Myrtle Creek along the South Umpqua River surrounded by 30 acres of vineyards and rolling hillside. 

Across from the tasting room is an observation deck that overlooks the river and (weather permitting) you can relax while tasting their wines. 

But since I was visiting on a cold day in December, I sampled all their wines in their cosy tasting room, just big enough for about a half dozen people.

While visiting I tasted five white wines and five red wines:

The first white wine was the 2010 Pinot Gris. Fermented in neutral oak, this wine displays wonderful aromas of white peaches, apricots and a little lemon zest. It has great minerality, is slightly creamy with a full mouth feel and yet still maintains its crispness followed by a long citrus finish. This is probably one of the best Pinot Gris I have had in a long time and at $18 a bottle I had to bring one home.

My next wine was the 2010 Sauvignon Blanc. It displays a classic Sauv Blanc profile – grapefruit, a hint of grass, a chalky minerality and a delightful acidity all of which is well balanced. This wine could be mistaken for a New Zealand so if that is the profile you prefer, this one is for you. A fair price at $20, so I brought one home.

My third wine was the 2009 Chardonnay. A full bodied Chard, I picked up a hint of butterscotch, canned pears, and crème brûlée, good acidity, well balanced with a medium length finish. A really nice Chard for $20. I have tasted many like it that sold for $30+, so I bought a bottle.

My fourth sample was the 2009 Gewürztraminer. Classic profile of lychee, white flowers and slightly sweet. Not as crisp as I’d like it to be, but not bad for $18 a bottle.

The final white wine was the 2009 Riesling. Slight band-aid/petrol on the nose followed by orange blossoms, melon and sweet apricots. Slightly creamy on the palate but it still maintains its crispness. A nice wine for $18 a bottle.

I then transitioned to the red wines, the first being the 2005 Pinot Noir. On the nose I picked up cigar box, dried cinnamon stick, red apple skins, followed a good dose pepper and gritty tannins. If I didn’t know better, I would have guessed that this was from the Santa Cruz mountains as it didn’t have earthiness I have come to expect from Oregon. Still, a nice wine for only $20 a bottle.

My second red was the 2009 Merlot. On the nose it has aromas of cherries, cola and wild berries. It is very soft on the palate and has a medium-length finish. An “okay” wine for $20 a bottle.

My third red wine was the 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon. This wine is rather soft for a Cab, on the nose it displays black currants, anise and eucalyptus on the back end. It sells for $28 and there are many like it in the $15 - $20 range on the market.

The next red was the 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon. This wine is much more expressive than the ’08, bigger on the nose and more intense. I picked up chocolate covered cherries, cassis, a hint of eucalyptus and mint. On the palate it has a creamy texture and yet maintains bright acidity and has a bit more tannin. A well balanced wine and I’d buy this one before the ’08 for only $25 a bottless.

My next two wines were very similar in profile, the 2008 Syrah ($24) and the 2009 Reserve Syrah ($35). Both of these wines had WAY too much fresh ground black pepper and I could barely pick up any fruit, though they had some blackberries and anise faintly in the back ground. So… unless you’re like super peppery Syrahs, I’d have to say “pass.”

Overall, I preferred the white wines over the red wines, which is funny because on a cold day I tend to be more in the mood for a big red wine. The winery is beautiful (even in the winter) and the service was great. If you’re in the area, I highly recommend checking this winery out!

To visit or for more information:
Pyrenees Vineyard and Cellars - South

15332 Old Highway 99 S.
Myrtle Creek, Oregon 97457
Phone: 1-541-863-7797

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

EdenVale Winery, A Real Gem in the Rogue Valley - Medford, Oregon

After visiting Paschal-Tenuta Winery my final stop for the day was at Edenvale Winery in Medford Oregon. 

The EdenVale Winery facility and visitor center is located at the birthplace of Oregon’s commercial pear industry at Eden Valley Orchards, founded in 1885 by Joseph H. Stewart and later expanded between 1899 and 1932 by Colonel Gordon Voorhies. The original house on the 160 acre parcel was built in the 1860’s by Addison Ball and Martha Justus Ball.

It is believed that Stewart moved his family here while constructing the larger home, completed prior to 1898. By 1896, the output from the acreage he had named Eden Valley Orchard was ninety-five carloads of pears and apples.  Widely recognized as the “father of the fruit industry” in southern Oregon, Joseph Stewart had an extremely successful business.

In 1899, at 65 years of age, Stewart sold his property to Gordon Voorhies of Portland, Oregon. Voorhies was born and raised in Kentucky, a graduate of the Military Academy at West Point, served in the US Infantry and Fourth Calvary, volunteered for the Spanish American War and later served in World War I as a Lieutenant Colonel of the Army. He married Helen Burrell, daughter of a prominent Portland merchant family and pioneer citizens, in 1893.

By 1906 the orchard industry was beginning to boom in southern Oregon.  Local fruit set world records for quality and price received. Voorhies in partnership with his brother-in-law, Walter Frazar Burrell, acquired additional lands.

The property remained in the Voorhies family until 1986 when it was sold to Edward Earnest and then sold again in 1999 to the long time orchard family of Betty F. Root and her son, Tim Root, its present owners.

The property remains much as it did when Voorhies and his wife lived in the house.  There also remains a few trees from the original Stewart planting.  The property was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on July 14, 2000.

So, while they have been producing fruit since the 19th century, it is in the 21st century that they also began producing wine when EdenVale wines released their inaugural vintage in 2003. Today their wine portfolio includes Rhone varietals such as Syrah, Viognier, and Grenache as well as Bordeaux varietals such as Malbec and Cab Franc and Burgundian varietals Pinot Noir and Chardonnay as well as the Spanish varietal Tempranillo.

While visiting the tasting room I sampled the following red wines:

My first in the lineup was the 2008 EdenVale Reserve Charonnay. Seriously, this may be one of the BEST Chards I have ever tasted. Up until this point my impression of Southern Oregon wines was somewhere between “ho-hum” and “okay” - good wines but nothing really exciting. But THIS wine was absolutely phenomenal! With the first whiff I was taken back as my nose was enthralled with its rich caramel and butterscotch aromas followed by apricots, baked pears and touch of cloves. Served at the perfect temperature in Reidel stemware, on the palate this wine is seductive with a full creamy mouth-feel and flavors that linger for days. It sells for $32 a bottle and I have tasted many California Chards twice this price that weren’t half this good. So, I brought four of them home! I don’t normally give wine scores, but if I did I’d give this one 95+ points.

My second wine was the 2006 Reserve Pinot Noir. THIS is a classic Oregon Pinot, it has the fruit of California and the earthiness of Burgundy. Strawberries, cinnamon, brown sugar and pomegranate followed by forest floor and a slight hint of mushrooms. A really nice Pinot for $36, I brought two of them home.

My third wine was 2005 Grenache.  Although this is an ’05, this is not a library wine. EdenVale holds on to their wines a little longer before releasing them than most so when you buy them, no cellaring is needed. An elegant lighter style red with a lot of acidity. Red currant, tart plums and a hint of pepper. A nice wine for $21 a bottle.

My fourth sample was the 2003 Reserve Cabernet Franc, a library wine. If you like Cab Franc as a single varietal wine, this one displays a classic Cab Franc profile – red currants, violets, graphite and a slight hint of bell pepper. This wine sells for $38 a bottle.

The fifth wine I sampled was the 2003 Reserve Claret, another library wine.  A blend of 67% Merlot, 18% Cab Franc, 11% Cabernet Sauvignon, 4% Malbec I picked up aromas of black currants, chocolate covered cherries, with a little eucalyptus and a hint of mint on the back end Refined tannins, well balanced and ready to drink now. A really nice wine for $29, I have tasted many like it for twice this price.

My sixth wine (remember, I am spitting) was the 2005 Syrah. This wide exudes fresh cracked pepper… followed by blackberries and dark roasted coffee grounds. A little too peppery for my taste, but a quality wine that would pair well with a steak for $25 a bottle.

My seventh and final wine was the 2005 Reserve Malbec. This is not your big jammy style Malbec so if you’re expecting and hoping for an Argentinan styled Malbec you’ll be disappointed. Black cherries, mocha and blueberries on the nose, soft on the palate with a slight earthiness on the finish. A bit pricy at $39 a bottle.

If you are visiting Southern Oregon, EdenVale is a “must visit” as this winery made my day’s Oregon Wine Tasting Adventure a success!

To visit or for more information:

EdenVale Winery

2310 Voorhies Road

Medford Oregon 

Phone: 1-541-512-2955


Monday, December 12, 2011

Winter Wine Tasting at Pashal-Tenuta Winery and Vineyard - Talent, Oregon

After visiting Roxyann Winery my next stop was a little further south of Medford in Talent Oregon. The name of the winery confused me a little when I arrived for I knew that there was also a winery in Livermore California, not far from where I live, that is named Tenuta Winery.

“Are they related? Do they belong to the same people?” I wondered.

When I asked the server in the winery she acted like she was unaware of any winery with the same name, but later a local at another winery informed me that Ron Tenuta had founded Tenuta Winery in Livermore with his first wife Nancy. 

They then got divorced and Nancy kept the winery in Livermore and the name. Then Ron and his second wife Donna purchased Paschal Winery and Vineyard in Oregon and added “Tenuta” to the name. Sadly Ron Tenuta then passed away on Saturday, August 13, 2011 at the age of 68, leaving the winery with his name to his second wife. It has been reported that the second wife Donna intends to sell the winery and its eleven-acres of vineyards. But this has not been confirmed.

The winery tasting room has a beautiful view of the vineyards below (though this time of year they are barren and not much to look at) and the mountains and valley with a small pond where geese stop in for a visit, a definite plus for attracting tourists. 

If I were in the market for buying a winery in Oregon these visual factors would be two if its strengths. However, there are a number of things I would immediately change both in their wine production and the manner in which they are served. 

The stemware that they use is outdated - cheap miniscule narrow rimmed glasses that exaggerate certain aspects of a wine rather than display them in a complimentary fashion. To my nose and palate all the red wines seemed overly oaked, but was this due to the nature of wine glasses? Or do they need to back off the oak treatment so their wines don’t taste like they are made by Chateau Two-By-Four?

While visiting I tasted 3 white wines:

Served ice-cold, the first pour was the 2009 Pinot Gris - a simple wine, somewhat tart flavors of grapefruit and followed by slightly nutty undertones and a long citrus finish. A palatable wine but I wouldn’t pay $24 for it. The tasting room was really cold and the wine was served chilled. They would be better off serving them room temperature for I had to cup the glass for a lengthy time to coax any aroma out of it.

The second white was the 2009 Chardonnay. Aged in 75% in second year French Oak and 25% in new Hungarian oak and aged sur lie. On the nose and plate I picked up dried peaches, baked apple and pie crust and a slight nutty finish. A narrow fluted wine glass is the worst possible type of stemware to serve this type of wine so had to use my imagination to anticipate what it might be like if served properly. It sells for $22 and to be fair I would need to re-taste the wine under better circumstances to give it an accurate assessment.

The third white wine was the 2009 “Indulgence,” a blend of Muscat and Riesling. On the nose I picked up oranges, white flowers, honey. On the palate it has good viscosity and it is only semi-sweet but lacks crispness. It might be better appreciated on a hot summer day than in the late fall in a chilly tasting room. This wine also sells for $22 a bottle.

I then sampled the following red wines:

My first red wine was the 2007 Civita (pronounced “Chivita”). A unique blend of Tempranillo, Sangiovese, Dolcetto and Syrah. This is a very earthy wine with heavy oaky wine and cedar tones followed by dried cherries and tobacco leaves. It sells for $26 a bottle.

My second red wine sample was the 2006 Sangiovese-Dolcetto. Another earthy-oaky wine with notes of beef-jerky and cherries and a slight nutty finish. It sells for $25 a bottle.

My third wine was the 2009 Estate Pinot Noir. This wine should have been served BEFORE the previous red wines and sadly I didn’t have my Pinot Noir stemware with me. The server gave me another glass that was only slightly better than the narrow fluted one, but it didn’t help much. This wine sells for $35 and there are many in the $10-$15 range that faire just as well.

My fourth red wine was the 2006 Syrah. On the nose and palate it has WAYYYYY too much oak. I did pick up some blackberries, beef-jerky and a little pepper and some vanilla on the finish but it was difficult to get pass the oak. This wine sells for $25.

My final wine was the 2007 Rouge Melange, a Bordeaux blend of 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 33% Malbec, and 17% Merlot and it was aged in 18 months in New French Oak. Another overly oaked wine that might benefit by being served in a Bordeaux Reidel glass (or its facsimile). I have tasted wines that seemed overly oaked that came into balance which served in better stemware so I hate to judge this wine “as served” but I don’t have any other choice. This wine sells for $35.

Overall, this winery could benefit from a tasting room manager who will change the stemware and make the tasting room environment more comfortable in the winter. If after doing so the wine still seems overly oaked, then the wine maker needs to back off the oak treatment.

If you visit (or have visited) this winery and have a different experience, I would appreciate hearing about it in the comment section of this blog. The next time I am passing through this region I may bring my own stemware and re-taste some of the reds.

To visit or for more information:

Pashal-Tenuta Winery and Vineyard

1122 Suncrest Road

Talent, Oregon 97540-9642

Phone: 1-541-535-7957


Sunday, December 11, 2011

Christmas Season at Roxyann Winery - Medford, Oregon

Having explored hundreds of wineries in every wine region in California (109 in the Napa Valley alone) and posted videos, pictures and reviews for several years on California Wine Tasting Adventures I decided it was time to venture outside of my home state to my neighbors in the north. So this past week I visited six wineries in two Southern Oregon AVAs – three in the Rogue Valley and three in the Umpqua Valley.
As far as wine country photography goes I probably didn’t choose the best time of year to begin exploring Oregon as most of the vineyards are dormant and have naked vines and bare canes. What few leaves remain are withered and dried out. 

But the wine country is still very beautiful in the late Fall season and the geography and topography of Southern Oregon is really impressive so I look forward to returning again soon in the Spring, Summer and Fall seasons of 2012. 

I was also blessed to have intermittent sunshine in between the morning and late afternoon fog with no rain and brisk temperatures as low as 27 degrees in the morning and 45 degrees in the afternoon, a bit chilly but fair enough to enjoy the day.
My very first winery stop was at Roxyann Winery in the Rogue Valley AVA. RoxyAnn Winery was founded in 2002 at the historic Hillcrest Orchard in east Medford. One of Southern Oregon’s oldest orchards, Hillcrest Orchard has been directed by members of the Parsons family since 1908.

The winery name RoxyAnn comes from the earliest settlers of the Rogue Valley in the 1850’s and named the tallest mountain peak after a pioneer woman named Roxy Ann Bowen. Roxy Ann Peak’s summit rises 2,000 feet from the valley floor and is the northernmost peak in a twenty-mile long, northwest/southwest trending ridge system that parallels the contact between the older sedimentary rocks of the valley floor and the younger volcanic deposits.
Jack Day, grandson of Hillcrest founder Reginald Parsons, oversaw the planting of the original 20 acres on the southwest slopes of Roxy Ann Peak in 1997; where the property's shallow, limestone-clay soils and southern solar exposure seemed ideally suited to producing Bordeaux style varietals.
In 2001, the first harvest of grapes at RoxyAnn produced only 150 cases of a proprietary red “Claret” that was a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot; with the entire production selling out in two weeks. Today, RoxyAnn Winery produces nearly 15,000 cases of Claret, Pinot Gris, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Tempranillo, Syrah, and Viognier.
There are some challenges that need to be kept in mind when tasting wine this time of year. Subjectively, the cooler season can lead one to prefer certain wines over others. A rose for example might not be as appealing as it might during the summer. And, even if a tasting room is heated the wines tend to be too cold and consequently may seem muted. So, I spent a lot of time cupping the wine glass in my hands to coax the aromas from the wine.
While visiting the winery I sampled the following wines:

My first sample was the 2009 RoxyAnn Pinot Gris. On the nose I picked up stone fruit, apricot, lemon zest and a chalky minerality. On the palate the wine is medium bodied, crisp and has a lingering pear/apple finish. A nice wine for $16.50 a bottle.

My second wine was the 2009 RoxyAnn Viognier. This was my favorite wine in the line up. Fermented in neutral oak, this wine has a rich buttery nose with a floral background of honeysuckle and white flowers followed by orange peel, canned pears and tropical notes. On the palate it has a full mouth feel and a medium length hazelnut finish. It sells for $20 a bottle and I brought one back to California.

My third wine and first red was the 2008 Claret which is a blend of 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 24% Merlot, 23% Cabernet Franc and 3% Malbec. On the nose I picked up red currants, ripe plums and cherry cola. On the palate this wine is extremely soft, seeming lacking in tannin, it has a hollow mid palate and an extremely short finish. A major disappointment for $26 a bottle.

My fourth sample was the 2008 Tempranillo which was a new release and not on the menu. This wine as a huge contrast from the previous, it has a seductive nose and is a real pleasure on the palate. I picked up aromas of blueberries, chocolate covered cherries, and bacon fat. It has a great development from the initial sip through the mid palate and finish with a lot of fruit, good acid and lengthy finish. A great wine for $30 a bottle so I brought one home.

My fifth taste of wine was the 2008 Syrah. An inky wine with a dense and concentrated nose of blackberries, plum and just a hint of pepper. On the palate the tannins are expressive but not overwhelming and the weight and mouth feel are well balanced. A really nice wine for $30 a bottle.

My sixth and final wine sample (keep in mind that I ALWAYS spit!) was the 2009 Founder’s Reserve Petit Syrah Desert Wine. When it comes to port-style wines I tend to prefer ones made with a blend of the traditional Portuguese grapes as they provide more complexity. Many that I have taste in California over the years made from Zinfandel, Syrah or other grapes tend to be simply sweet with a single fruit characteristic. This wine however was a pleasant surprise as it provide an array of aromas and flavors of dried fruits, figs, caramel, vanilla and even a touch of spice and at $24 a bottle it doesn’t break the bank.

The tasting room was pleasant, the server was informative and hospitable and there was a host of other fruit products (jams, jellies, pear wines) from the orchard available for sale. I wish they had been available to sample as I might have taken some of them home too! But as my first introduction to an Oregon winery, I didn’t leave disappointed as I took two bottles home.
To visit or for more information:

Roxyann Winery

3285 Hillcrest Road

Medford, Oregon 97504

Phone: 1-541-776-2315