For nearly 40 years, Dick Troon tried his hand at winemaking. The early years were filled with a whole lot of trial and error, and not every bottle was particularly successful. But his innovation and stubbornness eventually payed off, resulting in immensely robust and successful varietals. It was because if his spirit and undiscouraged sense of optimism that the winemakers at Troon Vineyard have such vast insight into the viticulture of the Southern Oregon land where their grapes grow fat on the vine?and probably one of the reasons they've amassed so many awards and accolades.
In 2003, Troon handed over the the winery to a friend and fishing companion, Larry Martin, who to this day oversees operations and who reinvented the vineyard and tasting rooms that stand today. The wines produced there range from the ripe, clean Zinfandel?crafted from grapes originally planted by Troon back in 1972?to the robust, smoky notes of dark cherry and caramelized oak of the Estate Syrah. These wines can be sampled and purchased at both of the two tasting rooms, where the wine-savvy staff educates visitors on varietals, good pairings, and the best wine to drink before a first date.
The accolades accorded several of LaVelle Vineyards' wines in the pages of Wine Enthusiast magazine serves as evidence of the diligent work of founder Doug LaVelle and his son, Matthew, who tends the vines today. After taking over the winery?then one of the oldest in Southern Willamette Valley?in 1994, Doug took it upon himself to make a number of improvements to its antiquated technology and distribution network. He started the wine club in 1995, and just recently opened a brand new wine bar and tap room off of International Way in Springfield called the LaVelle Tap Room. The tap room serves as an in-town location for wine club members, but also to provide a new wine-bar-meets-tap-room experience with more than 30 wines to choose from and several local beers on tap.
Doug's investments paid off. Today, with Matthew as lead winemaker, the winery ferments grapes both from its original Willamette Valley location and another site in the Columbia Valley in eastern Washington. At the rustic Elmira winery, visitors can recline on the sunny deck, tour the winemaking facilities, or outsmart tipsy minotaurs in the garden's labyrinth.
Founded in 1979, Silvan Ridge Winery began as a vanguard of locally produced Oregon varietals, long before the Beaver State was renowned by aficionados as a source for fine wines. Today, the scenic villa and elegant tasting room hosts parties and samplings of Oregon-made pinot gris, Willamette Valley pinot noir, and micro-produced wines from the Rogue Valley region.
Sweet Cheeks Winery, composed of a 65-acre estate vineyard and 140 acres of sloping hills, churns out pinot noir, pinot gris, chardonnay, and riesling. The Executive Wine Tasting gives guests the chance to fill their face pouches with up to 14 flights of Sweet Cheeks' full lineup, including all exclusive bottles not released to the general public. Like a blazing barrel of apples, the 2009 Reserve Pinot Gris smells of fruit and has a hint of smoke, while the 2009 Vintage Riesling gives off subtle undertones of honeysuckle paired with the sweet flavors of apricot and peach. The 2009 Rosy Cheeks is a cuvee of tempranillo, pinot noir, and pinot gris, all blended and fermented together until they sprout a beautiful bouquet of strawberries and tickle the tongue with flavory tingles. A cheese board of Oregon artisan cheeses, maple-herb roasted nuts, and crackers is provided to complement Sweet Cheeks' wine; guests may also bring their own picnic basket of goodies and iPods to complete the experience. Sample fine wines from the 7,000 sq. ft. patio that overlooks the vineyard and the gentle, sloping hillside leading down into Briggs Hill Valley.
Valley Vintner & Brewer supplies budding and experienced home brewers all the equipment and recipes needed to concoct tasty batches of beer and wine from the comfort of their kitchens. Each home brewery basic starter kit contains fermenting necessities along with The Complete Joy of Home Brewing, an instructional tome chronicling beer’s mighty rise to prominence as America’s go-to shower beverage of choice. Your experienced vintner instructor will guide guests through a three-hour home-brewing class, answering all grain-related queries from, "How are hops grown?" to "Can I still drink my beer if it develops human emotions?" With gear and guidance from Valley Vintner's expert ale aficionados, beginner beverage barons can raise their glass-fulls from bottle-dependent infancy to full-flavored adulthood.
Looking to showcase local wines and bring the community together, the Fern Ridge Chamber of Commerce opened Wineries without Walls, a tasting room and wine shop highlighted in the Oregon Wine Press. Outfitted with a bar made from two wine barrels and a marble slab, the tasting room pours out libations from such wineries as J. Scott Cellars, Stanton Vineyard, and William Rose Wines. To ensure all bottles tasted, sold, or juggled by off-duty circus performers in the shop remain local, Wineries without Walls stipulates that each batch be crafted, the grapes grown, or the winery situated within 30-miles of Veneta.
Though Wineries without Walls offers limited store hours—Fridays and Saturdays from noon to 7 p.m.—customers can still get a bang for their buck as vineyard owners host regular wine tastings there. The boutique shop also packs its shelves with an array of handmade confections, crafts, and wine accessories.