September 9, 2012
Wine Hopper Tours provides a unique approach to the diverse and exciting Rogue Valley and Applegate Valley wineries, which is in fact the oldest wine region in the state. The cost covers your transportation, delicious local snacks which keep coming throughout the day, waived tasting fees, a discount on wines during the tour (same as wine club members), a walk-through of at least one of the three vineyards you visit, and a barrel room tasting. This full day tour not only takes you to and from the wine region in a big black luxurious Mercedes Benz van, but it also creates a fun learning experience that you would not be able to get out of a self-guided tour. Trust me, I have tried! With the combination of the historical and current knowledge between the professional driver and the winery employees, you are bound to walk away with a handful of memories and facts about our booming industry of wine. To read more about the Southern Oregon wine region go to www.winehoppertours.com
Currently, our region has 127 vineyards and is growing! Southern Oregon has been identified as one of the most unique growing regions in the world. We can boast over 170 microclimates and the opportunity to grow over 70 varietals which include:
- Baco Noir
- Cabernet Franc
- Cabernet Sauvignon
- Grenache Blanc
- Petit Verdot
- Pinot Noir
- Pinot Blanc
- Pinot Meunier
- Tinta Rouriz
- Tinta Amarillo
- Touriga Nacional
The first stop during my tour was Wooldridge Creek Vineyards! The winery and vineyards are located on a rolling hillside overlooking the Applegate River Valley. The first grapevines were planted at Wooldridge Creek in the 1970’s. The vineyard has now expanded to 56 acres planted in twelve varieties: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Syrah, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Viognier, Sangiovese, Zinfandel, Malbec, Petit Verdot and Tempranillo. Not being a typical lover of Chardonnay, I was pleasantly surprised how I did in fact LOVE this wine! One of my favorite things about this winery in addition to the view of course, is the cat who greets you and hangs with you as long as you let him, Lewis. Yes, this is the cat in my picture! After tasting five of their wines and topping it with a sparkling brut, we were able to tour their barrel room where the French oak barrels were wrapped with willow branches and Paul gave us more information than I could take in. And I mean this in a very good way of course! Some fun facts I learned here were: a) a barrel holds about 145 bottles of wine, b) it will sit 1-4 years before being sold, and c) they organically control the humidity and temperature. Before our departure, he also showered us in goodies ranging from the world famous pears from Harry & David as well as one of the blue cheese favorites from the Rogue Creamery (also world famous as I am sure you are aware of). Additionally, we nibbled on green olives stuffed with garlic, Italian dry salami, apples, and another cheese from the Creamery. If you have never tried the Touvelle Lavender it is a must! To learn more about them visit their website at www.wcwinery.com
Troon Vineyard is one of the first in the Applegate Valley, opening in 1972. Forty years later, with the guidance of the Martin family, this stunning estate has grown to 100 acres with over 40 acres of grapes planted and has become one of the leading producers in Oregon. Known for their signature Zinfandels and unique blends, they are also pioneering varietals such as Vermentino and Tannat. We were able to taste seven of these during our tasting. Hands down, their blend 2010 Druid’s Fluid red (also known as their greatest mistake) is one of the BEST reds I have ever had (even claimed by those who mainly love white). To pair with our wine, SOWT provided us with yet more tasty treats! We enjoyed a French baguette with fresh basil and mozzarella, tomato, pesto, and blue cheese crumbles. I love this winery because it makes me feel like I am in Italy again with the Tuscan style tasting room, so beautiful! Not only do they have the relaxing patio, they also have recreational sports at Troon. If you want a challenge for volleyball or botchy ball it is on! Maybe even a little more fun after you have some wine? Hmmm yes, I think so.
At Troon, we were lucky enough to get a barrel tasting of their Malbec and a tour from the winemaker himself. Brian Gruber, who is both the Vineyard & Production Manager, took us through the vineyard and gave us a wealth of knowledge to walk away with. What, you ask? Well, for one they fertilize their grapes through a drip system. Seems simple but this is one of those things that was an “aha” moment for me. What a great idea! A second fun fact is that each vine has a bushel of roses at the end. Do these actually serve a purpose other than being pretty? In addition to their simple beauty, the health of the vine is indicated through the health of the rose. Another great idea if you ask me. For more information on Troon go to www.troonvineyard.com
Last stop, Red Lily Vineyards. Here, they are committed to a single goal which is producing the finest tempranillo wine possible. Well, if you ask me the goal has been met and then exceeded. Not only does this winery have an amazing tasting room both in and out, they sit on the Applegate River with a very picturesque beach setting. I don’t know about you, but I feel that enjoying good wine (and food of course) with good company AND the river does not get much better than that. During out visit we tasted four different wines, and although I love red I fell in love with their 2007 Madrone Mountain Starthistle Cuvee. The perfect amount of sweetness to end the day. Speaking of ending the day (right), my new friend Paul treated us one more time. We paired a ginger spice thin cookie with Rising Sun Farms chocolate mocha mousse cheese torta (gluten-free and all natural). Okay, if you happen to like the sound of this in the slightest I say pack a picnic and GO! You will not be disappointed. Check out Red Lily at www.redlilyvineyards.com
If this tour does not sound like something you are interested in, and maybe too relaxed for your liking? Try Wiking! Yes, really this is not a joke. Wine+hiking=wiking. Thanks to the owner of this company and his love for adventure in Southern Oregon. This is one of the other three tours they offer. Wine hiking on the Rogue River trail with our very good friend Liz Wan of Vino Verse Consulting. Hikers experience a beautiful hiking trail averaging about 10 miles a day and spend evenings in a different wilderness lodge along the trail. Okay, a little too adventurous? We understand! How about trying a Twilight Wine Float on the Rogue River? Book now, the season will end early October. These trips are operated by their parent company Rogue Wilderness Adventures, an award winning river outfitting business for over 40 years. Relax with a late afternoon float through Hellgate Canyon (where bald eagles and nests are often spotted). Frequently, the riverside wildlife awakens to play as twilight threatens the day. The raft floats silently downstream while families of otters frolic on the sandy beach and beavers emerge to make their rounds. Stop for a light meal and enjoy wine tasting before continuing on. Still too much? How about a group wine tasting event? If you fancy catering to some out of town friends or a special occasion but do not want to do the work of it, simply call Wine Hopper Tours and let them take care of it all. Driven to and from in the big black Benz? Have I not sold you yet? Make sure to go to our album on Facebook to view the rest of the photos dedicated to this adventure!
Lastly, I must give a big huge thank you to thw owner, Brad Niva, for making this tour happen. Also, it would be a shame to leave out Paul Harris. Paul was our driver who kept us well fed and entertained along the way. Thank you for your expertise and charm!