Thursday, February 25, 2010

Jacksonville, Medford, and Grass Pants, part one of three

Tuesday morning looking south down the freeway past Winston, thinking about the wineries I had on my list, I passed a new billboard:"Pyrenees Vineyard and Cellars"  I excitedly took the next exit looking for what I thought would be a small winery. I was wrong. I was greeted by Dick Calafato, partner in the winery with the Apodaca  family. He explained that the forty acres had produced a good crop for '08 and that they would soon be releasing the wines. In the mean time they had acquired the Domaine de la Rasmus label to sell. He donated a bottle of '07 Gewurztraminer ($19) and promised a bottle of the newly released wine when it id released.
The facility has a large barn that they will turn into a performance hall for music, like OMP Chamber Orchestra. The deck, shown here, will be be expanded 50 feet along the river for visitors and for music. Very impressive plans and from what I heard from Dick, the family is determined to create a true destination in the southern Umpqua Valley.
I drove out past the blooming cherry trees and headed south.
I was getting a little hungry and when I saw the "Food" sign at the Glendale exit and decided to take a chance. I saw a small dinner, Luttrell's County Junction. It looked like an old loggers lunch joint so I set my expectations low and opened the door. I ordered a hamburger, milk, and chips. They had been working on getting to go orders and there was a busy buzz in the air. I got my burger: sweet onion, fresh lettuce, big juicy burger on a toasted bun. As I finished up, Darrel ask what I thought. "very good" I said and ask a little bit about the place. Newly bought by Darrel, who was the chef at Applegate  River Lodge but wanted to do something on his own. I recommend a stop for lunch on the way south. You will be pleased!
I drove through Central Point to Jacksonville hoping I could get to a couple of wineries before closing time. Luck was on my side. At 125 South 3rd Street sits and old house that houses South Stage Cellars.

There were a couple of folks tasting when I went in but Larry acknowledged me and when I explained why I was there, he offered a taste of whatever I wanted. More people began to come in and the glasses began to appear, wine began to pour, and smiles began to unveil themselves.
They have 300+ acres in grapes in and around Jacksonville and source to a lot of other wineries. One of the most unique things they do at the tasting room is to pour wines made by other winemakers. I recommend a visit to compare and contrast what two or three people do with the same grape.
We tasted a South Stage Cellars '07 Pinot Gris: Pear and fresh cut apple in the nose, pear and apple on the tongue with a smooth finish.
Spangler '07 Chardonnay: A little barnyard and sweetness on the nose, sweet and acidy on the tongue, nice balance.
South Stage Cellars '07 Chardonnay: Sugar cookie, honey, and ripe pear on the nose, very complex levels of pear, sweet apple, vanilla, and toasted nut. Nice acid and slight sweetness on the sides of the tongue.
Viognier: Nothing fancy, just straight forward melon,  fresh cut pear, and a nice tart finish. Good with shrimp I bet!
This is one of the wines I came back with, the South Stage Cellars '08 Sauvignon Blanc($18): This is a great wine that literately keeps changing with each smell and taste. It was a little too cold when Larry first poured it and he insisted I keep it in the glass and let it open. Wow! At first I could get a little white peach and a soft white grape and pear on the tongue, buy the time it had fully loosened it was flush with floral notes, ripe white fruit, high notes of spice. Really a great wine for summer and at $18 you can not do better.
South Stage Cellars '07 Merlot: smokey, light Bing cherry, nice long finish with sweet notes on the sides of the tongue.
The difference between the two Pinot Noir samples was pretty dramatic.
Dobbes Family Estate  '07 Pinot Noir was soft, very drinkable with cedar tones over earth and dark berry.
South Stage Cellars '07 Pinot Noir($22): Honeysuckle, ripe red cane berry with notes of anise and vanilla, back taste of dried cherry. Long complex finish.
Both wines are made from the same grapes by the same maker, Joe Dobbes.
The South Stage Cellars '07 Syrah( $28): Burnt sugar and anise on the nose with big lush cherry and current taste.
 The last bit of pleasure from this wineries bottles came from  the '07 Alchemy($34) ,their blend of carmenere, cabernet, and tempernio. Sweet musty smell of soft leather and wood with lots of eligant dark fruit, tannins, and complex spices to taste and a long chewy aftertaste. Really impressive.
While I was there Larry introduced me to Cheryl Garcia, a sculpture whose small work enhances the tasting room, and who just received a commission to do some very large works for the vineyard.
Larry Brewster, who was working the tasting room, is also a teacher and does a course in wine appreciation. From the site:Wine enthusiast and South Stage host Larry Brewster learned winemaking and viticulture from his grandfather. Since the 1970s, Larry's been tasting, exploring and lecturing about wine throughout California. Larry will pour a diverse selection of wines as he discusses topics such as the intricacies of tasting, identification of flavor components, and the rich history of various varietals. He gave me a copy of his hand out and I am finding it a great read. I ask him to send me a copy to post on line and will do so soon.
I left there after so many tastes and one real glass of the Alchemy and motored back to the center of Medford for a real treat. I had made arrangements for dinner at my favorite Medford restaurant, 38 Central.This is one of the finest restaurants in Southern Oregon and is worth the drive just to have one of their great meals. David and I are on Facebook so I get clued in on what he is cooking and what wine pairings they have planed, such as the upcoming Sokol Blosser dinner on the 3rd of March.
I checked in to the Red Lion and because it is two blocks away, walked in the light rain to meet David Graham for some great food and wine. I started with a soup based on sweet and sour with fresh cut green bean, carrots, noodles and spices followed by a flat bread crisp with small tomato slices and scampi, then flank steak, potatoes, and cut kale. All this with a Griffin Creek '07 Cab Franc. David comped me a
tiramisu that was as good as any I have ever had. With a big smile and half a bottle of wine, I made my way back to my room and some Olympics on the tube.

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