Scenery, Sun and Sipping
The days are sunny and long, the scenery is beautiful and inviting and the wine is divine. Visitors to the Rogue Valley have long reveled in great weather and plenty of outdoor activities, with Medford as the basecamp for all the amazing getaways. The incredible wine scene is a newer pleasure, growing and thriving into a world-class destination in the last two decades.
But it turns out even the wine isn’t new to the region’s charms. While the Willamette Valley is often thought of as Oregon’s finest, and oldest, wine growing region, in fact the first wine grapes planted in Oregon were planted in the Rogue Valley. Peter Britt—one of the region’s first renowned pioneers who settled in Jacksonville and became the namesake of the Britt Festival—established a vineyard in the Applegate Valley in the 1850s. Named Valley View winery, the property languished with Britt’s death in 1906. In 1972, the Wisnovsky family revived the vineyard and re-established the winery.
Today, Valley View Winery is one of many dozen in the beautiful Rogue Valley. Named a top ten global wine destination by Forbes Magazine, the Rogue Valley has become a destination in its own right for the wine alone. Thousands of visitors a year spend a weekend to a full week exploring the vineyards, getting to know the winemakers and sipping on a wide variety of tasty wines from Viogniers to Cabernets.
So where to begin on your own wine tour of the Rogue Valley? Book a lodging in the Medford area as basecamp, and start exploring. Luckily the Rogue Valley has been designated with four separate wine trails to help guide your sipping and exploration journey.
The Upper Rogue Wine Trail covers four wineries in the uppermost waters of the Rogue, which descend from the flanks of Crater Lake. Here waters flow clear and fast, and the agricultural land is rich and lush, especially around the iconic Table Rocks. These volcanic mesas are rich in diverse flora and fauna. Take a hike here for great 360º views of the valley.
The Jacksonville Wine Trail circles the oldest community in the region, as well as one of the oldest in the state. This charming gold rush era town is surrounded by 10 wineries, lovely tasting rooms and wines from Rhones and Bordeauxs to some of Oregon’s most sensational Pinot Noirs.
The Bear Creek Wine Trail is nestled in the hills along the back roads of the Bear Creek Valley, the southernmost portion of the Rogue Valley AVA. Visit carefully tended vineyards and estate wineries in and around Medford, the heart of the valley.
The Applegate Wine Trail is the most remote of the four trails, winding through the steep mountains and valleys of this river valley, made famous by pioneers who settled here as an alternative to the Willamette Valley. As Sunset Magazine printed, this is “wine country the way it should be.”
The Rogue Valley is located in Southern Oregon along the I-5 corridor, just three hours south and west of Bend. The climate is warm and balmy, with mild winters. The terroir varies widely, ideal for growing a wide variety of wine grapes. Seventy different wine varietals are found here—a more diverse array of wines than found in most wine grape growing areas in the world.
At the same time, the region is still relatively undiscovered, which means it’s also authentically unpretentious. It’s not uncommon to find the winemaker or owners on site, ready to share their trade knowledge with visitors. Tasting rooms are staffed with knowledgeable, friendly locals who are as happy to share travel tips as they are tasting notes.
While you are touring wineries, it’s easy to enjoy Southern Oregon’s other charms to be found along the way, from farmers markets to u-pick flower farms to lavender fields. This region is a culinary dream, too, with farm to table restaurants and food trucks at every turn. Many restaurants have outdoor dining options, the perfect way to spend an evening enjoying the fresh evening air.
This summer, don’t miss the chance to take a trip to Medford and the Rogue Valley, where 6000 acres of vineyards are just the beginning of the charms awaiting you. Wine, dine and play the day away in one of Oregon’s most scenic, adventurous and fine-wine-producing regions.