The Applegate Valley, located about 25 miles to the east, is warmer and dryer and Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot dominate. The region is 225-miles south of Portland and 55 miles from the Pacific Ocean It extends to the California border.
This is the driest and warmest of southern Oregon’s wine producing regions, with many areas exhibiting a Mediterranean like climate. The corridor between Medford and Ashland in the south resembles a large bowl that traps heat resulting in elevated temperatures.
Cooler climate varietals like pilot noir, sauvignon blanc and chardonnay are more often found in the western portion of the RogueValley and on select north and east facing slopes at elevation. Soil types range from alluvial sand and gravel to metamorphic rocks, marine sedimentary bedrock and decomposed volcanic.
Soil texture ranges from quick draining sandy loads to hard clay. The area between Grants Pass and Medford is generally lower in elevation and warmer than the Applegate or Bear Creek Valleys.
Del Rio Vineyards produces a rosé from grenade (2017) that, at an average price of $13, represents an outstanding value. The resulting wine is very floral, with pronounced strawberry and raspberry aromas and crisp acidity.
Del Rio’s pilot exhibits hints of forest floor, along with red fruit notes of dried strawberry and sour cherry with medium acidity. This is a different style than the typical Willamette Valley pilot, lighter, less floral, with less aromatic complexity and intensity but very drinkable.
Brook Horse Wines are produced at Pheasant brook Vineyards and feature a range of Italian varietals, including nebbiolo, mangroves, concerto, Barbara and primitive. The Primitive (2013) is produced from vineyards at 1300 feet ASL, and features strawberry notes, and dried herbal and potpourri aromas with medium acidity and ripe well-integrated tannins.
The resulting wine exhibits a layered complexity of herbal and dried floral potpourri notes, along with elements of citrus, green fruits and just a hint of tropical fruit while still maintaining a brisk acidity. It features blue and dark fruit, especially plum and prune, with medium acidity and well-integrated ripened tannins.
It offers distinctive red and blue fruit, but without the jasmines typical of warm climate pilot noir. It’s petite Sarah (2015), a consistent medal winner in competitions, offers big, ripe red fruits with a hint of milk chocolate, with medium acidity and a structured, pronounced tannin backbone.
Combined with different elevations, a diurnal swing of 40 to 50 degrees F and persistent afternoon winds, which slow down ripening, the region can grow a variety of both cool and warm climate grape varietals. Among the region’s more outstanding wines are pioneer, tempranillo, various rosé blends and, surprisingly, pilot noir.
This is a full-bodied, complex pioneer that shows floral notes of white flowers and honeysuckle, along with elements of citrus and stone fruit and a hint of apple and pear. Irvine and Roberts also makes a similar pioneer (2015) with pronounced creamy citrus and white flower notes.
Like the Ump qua Valley, tempranillo does exceptionally well in the RogueValley, especially when it is vilified in a fruit forward style. The original 4 acre planting at Araceli Winery has in turn provided many of the cuttings used by other vineyards in southern Oregon.
See also the tempranillo from 2Hawk (2015); a more robust wine, which leans toward black fruits rather than red and has a more pronounced tannin backbone. Eden Vale Winery crafts a rich and bold Reserve Tempranillo (2008) from four different sites in the Applegate and Rogue Ava.
The sites have very different diurnal swings, soils and elevation allowing the winery to create a layered flavor complexity. This tempranillo also features more black fruits than red, and also offers a distinctive milk chocolate note.
Other tempranillo from Pebble stone Cellars (2014) and Wei singer Family Winery (2014), all consistent medal winners, are also worth exploring. Pilot slated for rosé is typically cropped at higher levels, usually 3.5 to as much as 4.5 tons an acre, rather than the usual two to three tons an acre typical of pilot slated for red wine production.
One of the challenges of growing pilot noir in warmer southern Oregon sites is that to ensure that sugar ripeness and tannin ripeness coincide, sugar accumulation is slowed down by cropping pilot at much higher levels. In addition, grenade, which thrives in the warmer areas of the RogueValley, and tempranillo also make excellent, more robust rosé.
These wines typically exhibit pronounced red fruit flavors along with ripe, well-integrated tannins, medium acidity and higher ABV. In a blind tasting Rogue pilot noir is often difficult to distinguish from the Willamette Valley’s offerings.
Despite the region’s Mediterranean like climate, pilot is the most widely planted grape variety in the RogueValley by a ratio of 3:1. Dancing Vineyard s produces single clonal bottling of pilot noir grapes, as well as a multi-clonal cover blend.
The northeast facing site, at an altitude approaching 2000 feet, is often 10 degrees F cooler than the valley floor. Single clonal bottling allow consumers to appreciate the aroma and flavor characteristics of individual pilot noir clones.
The winery’s multi clonal pilot blend, Septet (2016), consists of Dijon clones 114, 115, 667, 777, 828, as well as Board and Wädenswil. The wine is distinctly floral, with pronounced notes of red fruits, especially strawberry, along with elements of cola and wood spice.
See also their outstanding chardonnay (2017) which features citrus and green fruit and crisp bright acidity. Other pilot noir offerings worth exploring include Belle Fire (2015), a bolder style of pilot noir that is earthier, with more dried black cherry and dark fruit, as well as bottling from Irvine and Roberts.
The result is a pronounced mineral core, with notes of gun flint and citrus wrapped around a brisk acidity. Augustine also produces a lush deeply colored pilot noir (2015), redolent with aromas of raspberry and cherry.
Their Sentience (2014) bottling is a heavily extracted Sarah featuring intense flavors of red and black fruit, along with distinctive milk chocolate notes. The wine exhibits good structure with smooth, ripe, well-integrated tannins and notable acidity.
Troop Vineyards, another biodynamic winery, produces a powerful concentrated blend of 62% Cannot and 38% Male called Estate Cover Pyrenees. Like the Ump qua AVA, the RogueValley area offers a complex geological jigsaw featuring widely different soils, microclimates, aspects and elevations.
Provence style roses, more heavily extracted with more pronounced tannin structure, could also emerge as the region’s signature wine. Either way, like the Ump qua Valley, this is potentially a world-class wine region whose vinous evolution is just starting.
Anchor Valley Wine, mastered by the rock n’ roll duo Morley and Herrera and infamous winemaker Matthew Cases, offers three wines from the Agate Ridge Vineyard and one from Anchor Valley Vineyard, both in Eagle Point. The 2017 Pilot Noir is “elegant, sexy and seductive,” with perfumes of cranberry and raspberry, swirling tobacco smoke, pomegranate seeds, and tannins.
The 2017 Petite Sarah is “big, bold, and beautiful,” boasting layers of juicy plum, blackberry, anise, and Earl Grey tea with chocolate hints. $28The 2018 Pilot Gris is “fresh, concentrated, and dry.” Find notes of Meyer lemon, wet stone, and green apple on the nose, with sweet nectarine and jicama flesh finishing the palate.
Winemaker Vince Vitrine, is famous for his world-class Pilot Noir and Chardonnay. The 2017 Estate Pilot Noir possesses find bright cranberry, red cherry, dried hibiscus, and wet fir needles on the nose, backed by orange peel and grated nutmeg.
Ripe raspberry, leather, and rewinds tea finish the palate. Flavors of bright cherry, porcine, and forest floor finish the eloquent palate.
The 2018 Estate Chardonnay offers aromatic notes of crisp peach, lilac, sunflower, and tarragon. The 2019 Rose of Pilot Noir opens with springtime wild strawberry, honeysuckle, and grapefruit, with a hint of spring flowers, honeycomb, and fresh raspberry.
Join the Irvine & Roberts wine club or buy individually online. Troop Vineyard Estate Wine, from Oregon’s Applegate Valley, is Organic Certified.
The winemakers practice biodynamic regenerative agriculture, where they put back more than they take from the plants and soil. The 2019 Kublai Bench Amber, Estate Orange Wine, Applegate Valley, is a series of unique blends of Riesling, Fermenting, and Marianne.
The 2019 Kublai Bench Rose, Estate Applegate Valley, is a pretty pink wine made from Tina Robin and primitive grenade varieties, delicately whole-cluster pressed then barrel-fermented, with native yeasts in seasoned French Oak barrels. The 2018 Cotes du Kublai Rouge, Sarah/Grenade, Cow horn Vineyard, Applegate Valley combines wildflowers and spices with layers of dark fruit, earth, and herbs, creating the complex personality of the Sarah and grenade.
During Oregon’s COVID-19 freeze for on-premise winery experiences, check out ways to experience your favorite RogueValley Wine Country wines at home with our up-to-date winery hours & offerings listing. Southern Oregon wine tasting routes bring a surprise around every corner.