Wednesday, November 17, 2021

Oregon’s Umpqua Valley Wineries Deliver Boutique Excellence

The second of our two-part look at Oregon’s Umpqua Valley, a region ripe with innovation and diverse grape varieties.

Our trip to Umpqua Valley during the Wine Media Conference was a true eye-opener. The WMC, held in Eugene, Oregon, featured an excursion hosted by the Umpqua Valley Winegrowers, and we gleefully hopped on board.

See Part 1 of our Umpqua Valley feature here.

What surprised us was the diversity packed into this relatively small AVA, sized 65 miles north to south and 25 east to west. The microclimates varied drastically as we traveled from cool maritime regions to warmer inland areas.

It is said that this region, which boasts 23 wineries (mostly family-owned and operated), should rightly be called the Hundred Valleys of the Umpqua due to its unique topography. We loved this unique aspect of the region and the bountiful boutique wine.

Here we continue our look at Umpqua wineries:

Cooper Ridge Vineyard – 1389 Old Garden Valley Road, Roseburg

Cooper Ridge would make our list of top wineries on its smashing location alone. Perched on top of Dynamite Ridge, the tasting room has a sweeping view of the 25-acre estate and scenic mountains. The winery makes limited-production premium Oregon wines from estate-grown Merlot, Viognier, Syrah, Tempranillo, Riesling, Grüner Veltliner and Pinot Noir.

Favorites here included the vibrant 2020 Vineyard Cuvee, a fresh blend of Viognier, Grüner and Riesling. In red wines, we loved the 2016 Tempranillo, which had lovely savory notes with dried fig and mocha. The cooling breeze in the valley allows the production of robust reds, like the 2016 Syrah, that just aren’t possible in northern Oregon.

Spangler Vineyards – 491 Winery Lane, Roseburg

Visiting Spangler Vineyards is akin to taking a masterclass in premium red wines. Winemaker and owner Bob Spangler has been making wine for 32 years with a focus on big, bold reds. After becoming enchanted with Pacific Northwest wine, he purchased what is now Spangler Vineyards in 2004. The rest, as they say, is history.

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He makes wine from all six major Bordeaux varieties and also includes Italian and Rhone varieties in his range. He produces a blockbuster 2017 Claret with Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, and Petit Verdot. This is a balanced wine with rich cherry, herb, and spice notes. Another standout is the 2016 Khayan’s Block Dolcetto, which enchants with blackberry, pepper and violet flavors.

Abacela – 12500 Lookingglass Road, Roseburg

Abacela is a pioneering winery that produces world-class wine. The conditions were perfect for our visit as we enjoyed a charcuterie plate and sipped in the superb wines and panoramic scenery. Owners Earl and Hilda Jones launched a quest to see if the Spanish grape Tempranillo could be grown in the US. In 1995 Abacela became the first commercial Tempranillo vineyard in the Pacific Northwest. The winery’s name derives from the Spanish verb “bachelor,” which means to plant a grapevine. In 1998, the Tempranillo won double gold in an international competition against all Spanish Tempranillos.

The winery has 30 different combinations of soil types and elevation changes across its 76 acres of vines. Another Spanish grape, Albariño is also grown. The crisp and light wine rivals that of Spain’s finest region: Rías Baixas. We sampled two Tempranillo: the 2018 Fiesta and the 2017 Reserve Tempranillo. The Fiesta is a lighter, fruit-driven wine. The Reserve is from the oldest block of Tempranillo and, on the Spanish scale, would fit between a Reserva and a Gran Reserva. It is a spectacular wine. If you are looking for a unique grape, try the Tinta Amarela which features flavors of blueberry, vanilla, and dried raspberries.

Delfino Vineyards - 3829 Colonial Road, Roseburg

Delfino is a 160-acre boutique winery growing Tempranillo, Syrah, Zinfandel, Cabernet, Dolcetto, Merlot and Müller-Thurgau grapes. Owners Jim and Terri Delfino also have 10 cows and 22 chickens. Jim was asked if he was going to farm or have a winery to which Jim responded, “Why can’t we do both?”

I was very pleased to see Müller-Thurgau on the wine list. Leading with peach and citrus flavors it has a crisp finish and is a delightful change of pace from Riesling. We tasted the 2017 vintages of Dolcetto, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Syrah – the latter hitting it out of the park with blueberry and plum notes and integrated tannins.

Melrose Vineyards - 885 Melqua Road, Roseburg

Melrose is a landmark winery in Southern Oregon. Located on the bench of the South Umpqua River, it is on the site of an early French settlement and since the 1880s a variety of crops have been grown there. Today, luckily for us, the crops are a dozen grape varieties used for premium wine.

The tasting room is located in a 100-year-old barn rebuilt to maintain its structural integrity and with breathtaking views. Our roasted vegetable lasagna meal showed that Melrose is an unforgettable location for food and wine experiences. We found some great surprises in the wine with Pinotage, Baco Noir, and the 2016 Parker’s Pinot – perhaps the best Pinot we enjoyed on the trip.

HillCrest Vineyard – 24 Vineyard Lane, Roseburg

With all the attention focused on Willamette Valley Pinot Noir, it’s tempting to overlook the unique premium wines of Umpqua Valley to the south. That would be a mistake since Oregon Pinot Noir originated here – at HillCrest Vineyard to be more specific. Founder Richard Sommer is credited with planting the first Pinot Noir in the state in 1961 and is also home to the oldest Cabernet Sauvignon vines (1964). HillCrest is the first post-Prohibition winery in Oregon.

With current owner Dyson Demara, the heritage of the winery is in good hands. He focuses on “slow wine” with dry-farmed vines, low yields and traditional techniques. “If it wasn’t used 100 years ago, I don’t use it,” said DeMara. The wines are simply superb with the 2007 Pinot Noir having bright cherry notes with light body and subtle oak. The 2016 Old Stones Teraldago is a rare grape with intense blackberry and plum flavors.

Paul O’Brien Winery - 609 SE Pine St., Roseburg

The first thing to know is that there is no Paul O’Brien. The winery is a collaboration between Scott O’Brien Kelley and Dyson Paul DeMara, winemakers and good friends. Together they launched Umpqua Valley’s first urban winery in a historic Chevy dealership building.

The wines represent Old World traditions and New World techniques. We love Sauvignon Blanc, especially when it is offered as Fume Blanc. The 2020 vintage is smoky with tropical fruit notes and a crisp finish. We tasted the 2020 Pinot Noir as a barrel sample. It has a long way to go, but the prospects are intriguing. The 2016 Tempranillo is rich and oaky thanks to two years of French oak aging. The flagship wine is the 2014 La Dame, a Merlot-focused blend with Cab Franc and Malbec. It is a wine fit for royalty.

More Umpqua Wineries To Savor

There is so much to see and experience in Oregon’s Umpqua Valley wine county. Be sure to check out these wineries we also tasted/visited during our trip along with two “can’t miss” Umpqua restaurants.

Knostman Family Winery – Enjoy small lot wines along the scenic North Umpqua River.

Lexème Wines – Exceptional wines with a European flair. Tasting room in Elkton.

Trella Vineyards – Vines from the base of the Callahan Mountains produce an array of wines including Grüner Veltliner, Baco Noir and Sangiovese. Tasting room in Roseburg.

Triple Oak Vineyard – Micro-producer of fine wines located in the historic community of Oakland.

The Parrot House – World-class cuisine served in a historic home and restaurant in Roseburg.  Established in 1891. Features Reform Bourbon Bar.

Catch 22 Fish and Chips - Specializing in British style "Fish n' Chips" with a focus on fresh, local fish and sustainable seafood with a Pacific Northwest styling.

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