Well, this is what we came here for, but today wasn’t a great success. As much as we loved the tiny wineries of the Umpqua, we struggled to find good wineries around Rogue River. Our first winery was Weissingers, which we did like. They were in the middle of harvesting, and they were laying out a big lunch buffet for the volunteer pickers. We were briefly filmed by a local TV station as we were poured a sample. We bought a Syrah. Armed with suggestions, we set out to visit several other wineries, but met disappointment at every turn. We went next to Paschals, where a winery has developed from a fruit orchard, and has recently merged with another winery. All of their wines seemed to be in an Italian style, and we found nothing we liked. Then we went to Eden Vale, and found that they were also making Italian and Spanish kinds of wine like Sangiovese and Tempranillo. This is not what we envisioned when we set out to see what they were up to in the south of Oregon. We knew that new wineries here were breaking out of Oregon’s Pinot Noir rut, but we hoped to find bold new wineries doing bold new things, not old world wines grown on new world soil. We did find some wineries where they were growing lots of different kinds of grapes, as if they were experimenting to see what they could produce best. Unfortunately, they often experimented with blending them together, sometimes in classic combinations, sometimes in untried new mixes, as if they didn’t think any of the varieties had turned out well. The lady there tried very hard to find us something we would like, and we did buy another Syrah. Perhaps this region will find its niche, and if it does, I suspect it will be Syrah. We found a great range of them from light, easy-drinking pale reds suitable for having with apps, to heavy dark dinner wines.
We visited Valley View, where we ate our picnic lunch on their lovely terrace. Naturally, my mood improved. Their wines were mostly light and affordably priced, and we bought a cheery little Viognier. We tried to find one more winery, but missed a turn somewhere. We did stumble across John Michael Champagne, which might be the only winery around here specializing in sparkling wines. I was really only interested in Blanc de Noir, which can be a fascinating copper-hued sparkling wine with more flavour than your average ‘white bread’ champagne. I was poured a sample in a thimble-sized plastic cup. If you aren’t willing to wash a few wine glasses, why would you open a tasting room? It didn’t seem to have any special colour or taste, but at least the guy didn’t actually charge me the $5 tasting fee for the half-ounce of wine.
At this point we gave up and went back to our hotel to read by the pool.