Earlier this summer, we stumbled across J. Scott Winery in downtown Eugene which sources many of their grapes from vineyards in the Applegate Valley in southern Oregon. We fell in love with the wines – especially the Albarino – and knew we wanted to explore the area in person, some day.
When the opportunity for a long weekend recently opened up, we decided to head south to see what we could see. While there are many communities in southern Oregon, we picked Grants Pass as our base so we would be right on the Rogue River. As we packed the car Thursday morning, we knew we were going to spend the weekend tasting some good wine and do some hiking, but we weren’t sure what else to expect. Okay, I’ll be honest here, I actually wasn’t expecting much. No one I know goes to Grants Pass for vacation.
In the end, I came away very impressed. Grants Pass turned out to be an amazing base for exploring southern Oregon. We spent a day at the Oregon Caves and a day hiking along the upper Rogue River. Tucked amongst these day excursions, we tasted wine, sampled cheese, and enjoyed good food at local restaurants. The scenery was beautiful. We ended up enjoying an exceptional weekend, and best of all, we were an easy two hour drive from home.
Here’s what we did, though I encourage you to investigate and try out your own southern Oregon adventure, if you haven’t already.
We started our wine tasting at Woolridge Creek Winery in the Applegate River Valley, chosen because they have a micro-creamery (called “Crushpad”) on site. According to one of the owners – who talked with us for quite a while – they are the only combined winery/creamery in the state, which is a shame because it was so much fun to sample the wine and cheeses together. Over the weekend we also enjoyed the Albarino and gardens at Schmidt Family Vineyards, and the amazing views from Kriselle Cellars.
Even though I’m a native Oregonian, and have lived here most of my life, I had never been to the Oregon Caves until last weekend. I am so glad I finally experienced it. There are also tons of hiking opportunities in southern Oregon. We chose Talkema Gorge along the Rogue, where the vine maples were showing their beautiful fall colors.
While in Grants Pass, we were reminded that the Rogue Creamery was nearby, so we stopped in to sample cheese after hiking the upper Rogue River. We also drove past Taylor’s Sausage in Cave Junction and I’m still kicking myself for not stopping at Lillie Belle Artisan Chocolates in Central Point. It made me realize that a person could probably create a whole foodie-focused weekend in southern Oregon. It could be an interesting exploration.
With only a long weekend, there is so much we couldn’t do; given more time I would have explored history in Jacksonville and at Wolf Creek Inn, tried rafting or jet boating down the Rogue, and checked out the plays in Ashland.
Talking with one of the owners at Woolridge, he mentioned that many people vacation in the Grants Pass in the late fall because their weather stays nicer and hotter longer than many other parts of the state. It seemed like an interesting recommendation, though many of the businesses (like the rafting and jet boat tours) seem to close up after Labor Day.
In the end, we were surprised by Grants Pass — there is a lot to do, the food was excellent, and the trip there was short and easy. It made for a relaxing vacation.
We’ll be back.