Murder in the Willamette Valley

Unholy Alliance by Judy Nedry

  I was sent a copy of Judy Nedry’s “An Unholy Alliance” and got hooked on it after only a few pages. It’s a fast-paced mystery set in the beautiful wine country of the Willamette Valley in Oregon. Joe and I had a great tour of this wine country when we attended the Wine Bloggers … Read more

Wineries in the Columbia River Gorge

Following the Wine Bloggers Conference in Portland, Oregon, we took one last look at the Northwest wine country with a trip to the Columbia Gorge wineries in Oregon and Washington. These wineries are about an hour to an hour and a half just east of Portland on Highway 84. What a terrific and scenic ride along the Columbia River! Without a doubt, this is one of the most different and varied wine countries we have visited in recent memory.

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Exploring the Willamette Valley wine country of Oregon

Johan vineyards in the Willamette Valley
Dag Johan Sundy of the biodynamic Johan Vineyards
The Willamette Valley is where wine lovers flock to visit boutique and small family-owned wineries and to taste Pinot Noir and other cool-climate wines. We had a chance to get an insider’s look at the Willamette Valley at the 5th Annual Wine Bloggers Conference held last week in Portland, Oregon. We were bused to several wineries and got a chance to meet owners, winemakers, and growers. Back at our hotel we also had a chance to taste and compare many wines from this region. The three days were not nearly enough time, so we shall return again to this remarkable wine country.

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Umpqua Valley Wine Country

Our last Southern Oregon stop before heading to Portland for the Wine Bloggers Conference was the Umpqua Valley, also known as the “Hundred Valleys of the Umpqua.” Here we discovered two very wonderful but different wineries.

Abacela is a wine country traveler’s paradise. The estate is located on rolling hills, affording fantastic views from their plush and spacious tasting room. Abacela produces many fine wines, but it is the Spanish Tempranillo wine that was behind the beginnings of this winery. With a love of Tempranillo, Abacela owners Earl and Hilda Jones set out on a search for the perfect location to grow the king of Spanish grapes. In 1995 they planted the first Tempranillo in Oregon on the grounds of what was to become the Abacela winery.

Abacela winery in Southern Oregon
Information galore at Abacela

The picnic area is beautiful and a terrific spot to enjoy lunch, or just relax with a glass of wine, and take in the beauty of the area. Within a short walking distance, Abacela has created a series of information boards. They give visitors a quick guide to the geology, climate, and various aspects of the Abacela vineyards. There is also a set of rocks that are the source of the various soil types found in the Abacela vineyards.

We enjoyed all of the five wines on the tasting menu, especially the Viognier, the reserve Tempranillo, and the Dolcetto. We just had to purchase a chilled Viognier to have with a long and relaxing lunch at Abacela. It was an enjoyable and picturesque way to spend an hour in the vineyards!

Abacela winery and picnic area
Picnicking at Abacela

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Oregon Wineries in Applegate Valley and Upper Rogue Valley

We spent the last two and a half days exploring the wineries in Southern Oregon. Having not been to this area before, we asked the folks at the Ashland Liquid Assets winebar and the Ashland Wine Cellar to give us a list of “must visit” wineries in the Southern Oregon AVA. The AVA extends from Ashland in the south to Roseburg in the north. Armed with our list of recommended wineries, we set out to visit wineries in the sub AVA’s of the upper Rogue Valley, the Applegate Valley, and the Umpqua Valley. A good source for understanding this area is the Southern Oregon Winery Association.

First, a few observations about wineries in Southern Oregon. The wineries are very spread out and on backroads that are here and there. For us, the GPS device was a godsend, but even with that we lost our way a couple of times. We have been impressed with the overall quality of the wines. Not many Southern Oregon wines are available in wine shops where we live, so this is our first experience in tasting these wines. In general the wines are restrained with moderate alcohol levels and good acidity. We rarely found any big, over-the-top, jammy wines.

The four AVA’s that make up Southern Oregon are happy to unite with one another to promote their wines. The Willamette Valley is, in a sense, the Napa Valley of Oregon. Almost everyone interested in wine knows about the Willamette Valley, with Southern Oregon having little recognition. I believe that will change dramatically over the next five years with more wineries opening and wine lovers discovering the wonderful wines produced here.

Upper Rogue Valley Wineries
The Upper Rogue Valley is near the town of Gold Hill. It is about a 30-minute drive from our Ashland hotel. Of the five wineries we visited, we highly recommend a visit to Del Rio, Folin, and Cliff Creek. All excellent! We found both Bordeaux and Rhone-style wines well crafted with an old world touch. I would add LaBrassuer to the list although we did not visit; we’d tasted their wines at the Liquid Assets wine bar in Ashland the day before. The Upper Rogue Valley has its own wine trail and a wine map to guide your way.

Folin winery in the Rogue AVA
Delicious dry Rosé

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Discovering the wineries of Southern Oregon

Rogue Valley wine countryWe love exploring wine country, especially where we have not been before. In Southern Oregon, near the touristy towns of Jacksonville and Ashland, are numerous wineries waiting to be discovered. We are on our way to the 5th Annual Wine Bloggers Conference in Portland, Oregon, and decided to drive from our Bay Area home just so we could spend time visiting wineries in Southern Oregon. We are spending two nights in Ashland and another night in nearby historic Jacksonville before heading north to Portland.

We stopped into the Liquid Assets wine bar in Ashland. On many Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays in the summer, the wine bar invites a nearby winery to pour their wines. On this night it was Fred and Cindy LaBrasseur. They own the LaBrasseur Vineyard in the upper Rogue Valley near the town of Gold Hill. The LaBrasseur wines are polished, well made and very tasty, indeed. I like the wine prices, with no wines in the LaBrassuer lineup over $25. When you buy wine in Oregon, vs California, there is a hidden 8.25% discount. There is no sales tax in the State of Oregon. Whoopee!

LaBrasseur vineyards and winery
Fred & Cindy LaBrasseur

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