Fall is here and, for me, it brings thoughts of wine tasting.
Over the past 25 years or so, I feel like I’ve had a front row seat to the blossoming Oregon wine industry. With family and friends I’ve sampled wine in historic buildings in downtown Hood River, up dusty lanes lined with oak trees in Douglas County, amongst Christmas tree farms in the Willamette Valley, and overlooking the beautiful Applegate Valley outside of Grants Pass. With over 400 wineries located around the state, there are always new wineries to try as well as old favorites to visit again. And, since most Oregon wines are produced at small, family-owned wineries, I think wine tasting trips are best experienced slowly so as to enjoy the scenery, the wine, and the friendly people you meet along the way.
Oregon is a big state, with a diversity of climates, soils, and typographies, so it shouldn’t be a surprise that we have seventeen designated wine growing regions. Each region is suited for specific types of grapes and produces unique wine styles. For wine lovers, this means that getting out and exploring has its definite rewards.
Elkton, Oregon AVA
The newest designated wine region is a mere half hour drive from Cottage Grove – the Elkton Oregon AVA (American Viticultural Area). Elkton has a unique micro-climate. Marine air travels up the Umpqua River, bringing with it fog, moist air, and frequent, late afternoon summer breezes. Instead of growing the hot climate grapes typical of the Umpqua Valley – like Tempranillo and Syrah – Elkton grows Pinot noir and Gewürztraminer. Yet this Pinot noir is different than the wines coming out of the Willamette Valley because the soils and climates are different.
Originally Elkton wines were part of the Umpqua Valley AVA; however, through the work of Michael Landt of River’s Edge Winery as well as other Elkton-area vineyard owners, Elkton Oregon became its own designated region in 2013.
I first met Michael and his wife, Vonnie, during our stops at River’s Edge, which sits along Highway 38 in Elkton. Like all Oregon wine makers that I’ve had the pleasure of talking with, Michael and Vonnie have always greeted our wine tasting parties with warm smiles and a generous spirit. I’ve learned a lot from them over the years and have had the pleasure of seeing their vineyards in person. Michael and Vonnie’s vineyards were planted in 1972, making them some of the oldest in the state. The thick stocks of the grape vines are the biggest I’ve ever seen. In 1996 the Landt’s purchased the vineyard and a couple years later they opened River’s Edge Winery, the first winery in Elkton.
I love taking friends out to Elkton to show off their wines. I appreciate the atmosphere here, which feels much more relaxed than the hustle of some Willamette Valley wineries, especially on the popular wine-tasting weekends of Memorial Day and Thanksgiving. And, if you are in the mood, a stop at one of the many Umpqua Valley wineries nicely showcases how the difference in climate so drastically affects the wine.
1171 Vintage Drive, Elkton
1000 Azalea Drive, Elkton
345 First Street, Elkton
River’s Edge Winery
1395 River Drive, Elkton
[This blog post originally appeared as “Elkton Oregon: Wine Tastes Different Here” in the Oregon Community Connection, August 2014. It has been updated and revised for the blog. © Colette Kimball]