The Party Winery
Melrose Vineyards is party central and Cody Parker, winemaker, seems to be the source. We think he got it from his dad Wayne. We caught up with Parker at the much anticipated, sold out, annual Crab Feed. Imagine if a yellow lab were magically turned into a man - a winemaking man that throws parties. Parker is kind of furry, has big paws, excitement in his blue eyes and is just so darn excited to make wine in the Umpqua Valley he can hardly stand it. If he had a tail, it would be wagging. He spent the evening of the Crab Feed giving out hugs, telling stories, and making the rounds. His enthusiasm is infectious. When a glass inevitably broke the sound was followed with a seemingly practiced group cheer of “Opa” - apparently a staple of a good Melrose party. Sample fun wines including unusual varieties such as Pinotage and Baco Noir. MelroseVineyards.com
Don’t go to Reustle Prayer Rock Vineyards expecting to taste wine. Go expecting to experience wine. This is a place to take a little break. From the blue “door to Narnia” to the “outhouse” that appears plucked from Dr. Seuss’ Whoville, everything is designed to transport guests to a peaceful and happy place. Wander garden paths bordered by blooming roses, lavender, and grape vines. Then venture inside to find a whole other world awaits underground. Tastings take place in catacombs designed by Tom Pappas, a local resident who also designed the Indiana Jones ride for Disney. The most elegant room in the cave, and there is a high bar for elegance, is adorned with a vaulted ceiling and crystal chandelier. Look up as you pass this room and you will see a reproduction of “The Creation” painted on the ceiling.
A wine educator sits down with guests for a guided tasting paired with small bite appetizers. The Grenache paired with pecorino drizzled in honey and black pepper was genius. Be sure to sample the Gruner Veltliner. Owner/Winemaker Stephen Reustle explains, “I became the first to produce this varietal stateside with our 2005 vintage.” ReustleVineyards.com
The New “Kidd” on the Block
Cooper Ridge Vineyard is Umpqua Valley’s newest tasting room - just opened Mother’s Day 2015. The first thing you’ll notice inside is the outside. A multi-level deck offers views beginning with vines and ending with mountains and Oregon sky. The tasting room is open until 7 pm making it easy to squeeze in one more tasting. A bites and nibbles menu could serve as appetizers before dining in town. Recently joining owners Lesa and Robin Ray is Winemaker/Vineyard Manager Charlie Kidd. Kidd was formally trained at California Polytechnic University San Luis Obispo, has been designing vineyards since he was 21 and has worked 15 vintages in California, North Carolina, Texas and Oregon. Tasting through the line-up, he pauses to share his vision. “With our new winemaking facility we will have complete control of our wines, which will make them even more complex, rich and wonderful.” CooperRidgeVineyard.com
The Lifetime Achievers
A trip to Umpqua Valley isn’t complete without a stop by Abacela. It feels like a privilege to visit this beautiful property, the realized dream of visionaries Earl and Hilda Jones. When they first showed Earl Jones’ ordinarily circumspect father the raw property he responded, “Have you lost your mind?” Today the winery is globally recognized and earlier this year the couple were honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award at the Oregon Wine Symposium. Earl Jones is a man of science and guests can take a self guided tour stopping to read educational signs about this unique property. You might even see Jones go by in his Jeep - his office on wheels. Hilda Jones is a lady of hospitality who calls everyone “honey.” Walk in tastings are welcome and if time allows schedule a private tour and tasting of five wines. Order the cheese pairings to complete the experience. The shortest tasting program Terroirs in Brief showcases three wines grown in different climates and terroirs on the estate, Albarino, Tempranillo, and Port. Oregon’s first commercial varietal bottles of Tempranillo were from Abacela. Abacela.com
The Trading Floor
Winemaker/Options trader Patrick Spangler approaches Spangler Winery like he approaches his “day job.” He has done his research, calculated the risks, and he knows his next move. If a grower has fruit that Spangler wants, he goes after it “I don’t take shortcuts,” Spangler explains. This determination results in some mighty fine wine. There are too many awards to list and most of them involve a medal Midas would have admired. He offers a surprisingly outspoken unoaked Chardonnay with a pinch of Viognier and a long line-up of Bordeaux and Rhone style reds with refreshingly prominent varietal characteristics.
A special treat is the rare opportunity to taste the black-fleshed Alicante Bouschet. Visitors will also enjoy the gnarly old vine Cabernet Sauvignon planted right outside the tasting room between 1968-1971. SpanglerVineyards.com
Eating, Sleeping, Doing
Wine tasting requires sustenance. Start the day off like a champ at Brix. If you are lucky their pear, bacon, and blue cheese omelet may be on the specials menu. Looking for a hot spot for dinner? Salud Restaurant and Brewery serves up Latin inspired tapas and entrees plus live entertainment - Tapas and Tunes on Thursdays and Salud Night Life on Saturdays. Roseburg has ample hotel options and wine country lodging is in the works. The Wildlife Inn offers inexpensive rooms convenient to Southern Umpqua wineries like Abacela and Spangler and is across the street from the Wildlife Animal Safari. For other “wild” adventures plan a hike this autumn in the Umpqua National Forest. Visit waterfalls, see fall foliage, and of course taste some wine.
This story was originally published September 2, 2015 5:39 PM.