07 September 2018

Rogue Valley Wineries

So, we usually don't go to wineries.  Lots of reasons.  Doug isn't a big wine fan, and I would rather open a bottle at home or with friends when I can kick back and relax. I also hate the tacky commercialism that has taken over most wineries.  But this region felt different.  Oh, and, Groupon had a great deal on the Priority Wine Pass, which essentially gave us free tasting flights at lots of wineries. 

1.  Longsword Vineyard, Jacksonville, OR

We initially came here because they are a part of the Harvest Hosts program, in which vineyards and farms allow RVers to boondock (camp without electric/water/sewer hookups) for free.  We didn't stay there on this trip, but wanted to scope it out for next time.   I enjoyed the red wines and Doug liked the gewurztraminer.  The owner/winemaker sat and talked with us for awhile, and we got some quality time with the two ranch dogs - a cattle dog and a very very fluffy aussie.  We also watched paragliders take off from the mountains, and the owner explained that his ranch was one of their LZs.  I ended up buying a bottle of their Reprise Red Blend - something about fermenting the grapes in the skins of other grapes - whatever, it was really good.

2.  Plaisance Ranch, Williams, OR

My favorite, by far.  First, we were greeted by Weezie, a 7-month old little rat dog before we even got off the motorcycles.  Then, Weezie followed us around and gave us lots of kisses the entire time we were there (except when someone else arrived, then she'd have to go greet them, but she came right back to us).  If you have any interest in french wines, read their story on their website - this place is steeped in history.  The owner gave me a personal tour of the ranch - from where she hand-dips every bottle in wax, to the barrel room, and out to the livestock fields.  I felt like she was a long lost friend - we chatted for a long time while Doug sat in the shade getting Weezie kisses.  The wine was good, but nothing that made me want to buy a bottle. I did buy some of their organic, grass-fed, free range, steak from happy cows for Doug's birthday dinner, though.  I wish I had taken more pictures of the grounds, because they were beautiful in a very natural, working ranch kind of way!

He may not have had the wine, but he got everything he needed from Weezie.

Oh Weezie, you would have fit so well in one of the saddlebags!

3.  Schmidt Family Vineyards, Grants Pass, OR

This was much larger than the other two, and had a little air of commercialism, but it wasn't obnoxious.  The grounds were absolutely beautiful, with walking paths and gardens everywhere, a large pond with a dock, and plenty of Adirondack chairs in which to kick back and relax. The reds were very good - especially the Tempranillo.  They were all above my price-point, though, so I just immersed myself in the tasting flight and enjoyed the scenery.

A very generous 6-pour tasting flight - and FREE with the Priority Wine Pass (thanks, Groupon!)
What I looked like after that generous 6-pour tasting.  Good thing I was just a passenger that day!

Perennial and Rose Gardens

 4.  Troon Vineyard, Grants Pass, OR

This was probably the best wine I had in the region - and maybe ever.  My Priority Pass gave me a free standard tasting, which should have been just 4 pours, but the staff clearly loved their jobs and wanted me to try ALL THE WINES.  Doug was sitting in the garden, and I occasionally brought him something to try (including a sweet white that had been fermented with orange skins, and a red desert wine that was as good as any 20-year port I've had.  There was only one other person in the place, so I learned a lot about the vineyard and winemaking process they use.  They were also having a huge case sale - 75% off the wines they were trying to purge.  And guess what?  The one red that I absolutely loved was included.  Yep, I bought a case (and saved $360!!!) and then had to figure out how to distribute 12 bottles of wine among 2 MC saddlebags.  😏

Still lots of smoke in the air, but those mountains are beautiful!

The gardens out back

Walkway to the tasting room.

5.  Del Rio Vineyards, Gold Hill, OR

This was my least favorite.  I didn't like the wines or the vibe, and it wasn't included in the Priority Pass - a tasting flight was $10.  It was big and commercialized.  But, it was 2 miles from our RV park and it had a nice garden out back.  I wouldn't go back here. 

Garden out back
Gateway to the grapes

Rogue Valley Breweries

1.  Connor Fields Brewing, Grant's Pass, Oregon

This was tough to find because the "tasting room" is actually inside a restaurant called "The Haul" - with no signage for Connor Fields.  We trusted GoogleMaps, though, and went in to be pleasantly surprised by a bunch of taps.  The beer was really good - an IPA for me and a Cream Ale for Doug.  If we were beer snobs, we'd probably note that both beers were served in the entirely wrong kind of glass, but of course, we aren't beer snobs.  We didn't have time to try the food, but the wood-fired pizza looked really good.  

2.  Climate City Brewing, Grants Pass, OR

The patio here was one of my all-time favorites!  Its all in the shade, with a little creek running by, and little white lights overhead.  The beer was good, the service was spectacular.  We went twice - once on the motorcyle just for beer, and the second time for dinner after I went for a massage.  Doug loved his burger; I wasn't a big fan of the Brussels sprouts appetizer (and you know how much I love Brussels sprouts!). 

BTW - we learned here that the official motto of the city of Grants Pass is "It's the Climate", because the Rogue Valley has a Zone 7 climate, which is marked by hot, dry summers and mild winters.

I don't have a picture of this one because my phone had an unfortunate incident with a garden hose prior to backing up all of the pictures on it.  😩   

3.  Vice Brewing, Grants Pass, OR

This was a small little brewery around the corner from Climate City.  The bartender was also the brewer and the owner, and looked young enough to be my grandson.  We were the only ones in the whole place, despite as it being hot as hell outside and air conditioned inside.  The unique thing here was that there was a big leather couch in front of a big screen TV with Nintendo/PlayStation gaming consoles.  I guess that's what this generation wants while they drink beer.  (Wow, I sound like an old lady....)

4.  Wild River Brewing, Medford, OR

Wild River is a local chain - there are 5 of them in the area.  I typically don't expect much from a chain, but this one had great beer and pizza.  We actually went twice (but only because it's really hard to keep track of which ones we've been to!).  I thought their IPA was really good, and Doug was pretty darn excited about the ESB.  The pizza was thin crust, wood fired, and cut in neat little squares, all of which made me happy.

No pictures of beer here (they drowned with my cell phone).  But, Doug took a picture on his phone of the pizza (because - linguisa!). 

5.  Walkabout Brewing, Medford, OR

This is a small little brewery in an industrial area out by the mall.  There was a huge dog-friendly backyard with lots of green grass and lawn chairs (which you could only access by walking the pups through the middle of the bar).  They were setting up for live music while we were there, and by the time we left, it was hoppin.  I met Doug there with the pups after our Harts Trail hike, and we were all very very thirsty, so the beer was especially good.  Favorite thing:  the sign by the dog poo bag dispenser that said "only YOU can prevent poo piles!"  😆

6.  Opposition Brewing Co., Medford, OR

Another tiny brewery in an industrial park.  No patio, but the inside was dog friendly and we got lots of kisses from an adorable goldendoodle (we were on the MC, so no pups of our own).  The beer was good, and all made in-house.  They also had several local wines on tap, which was a nice touch.  There was sort of a military theme (gas masks, a beer named 'blast radius', their motto of 'embrace the chaos'), so I asked the bartender.  Turns out, its not military themed, but apocalypse themed.  They used to be named Apocalypse Brewing, until they were sued by another brewery and had to change their name.  Damn lawyers.

7. Common Block Brewing, Medford, OR

Right in the middle of downtown, in an old car dealership building, this one tries to be upscale, but falls a short.  There was a nice dog-friendly patio with picnic tables.  The first time we went, we were on the motorcycles, so no pups; we went back with the pups for Doug's birthday dinner, during which Finn alternated between being scared to death of the sound of cornhole being played in the parking lot to not being able to control his wiggly-but every time a server walked by. 

Beer was acceptable, but there wasn't much of a variety.  We both had the Pale Ale, which was similar to a Sierra Nevada - kind of down the middle for both of us.  I didn't think much of the food, but Doug enjoyed his burger, and the pups reported that their french fries were good. 

No pictures here either.  Damn phone.

8.   Rogue Creamery, Central Point, OR

OK, its not a brewery, but the only way I'll remember it is if I write about it here.  This was an amazing little cheese shop down the road from the Medford breweries.  The guys working there were actual cheesemongers who could rattle off the flavor profile of every cheese in the cave, and graciously provided samples.  I opted for hunks of smoked gouda,  "earthy blue", and hopped cheddar.  Really really good quality cheese (and a neat sampling experience).

06 September 2018

Oregon, Part II

We are in love with Oregon.  Originally a state that we planned to just pass through en route to somewhere more exciting, we ended up staying in place for much longer than we ever thought we could stay in one place ... and we're still here.

Wouldn't you stay here, too, if you had a choice?

After Canada, we headed back to Klamath Falls for the next installment of The Great American RV Repair Challenge (unfortunately, there's no million-dollar prize at the end, just an RV that works as advertised).  Since we had to drive through Bend to get there, we decided to stay there a few days since we loved it so much the first time. 

It just so happened that we were there during the Bend Brewfest, so of course, we went. 

That right there is a man on a mission!
No crowds, beautiful weather, and beer made us smile!

I was only able to get one small hike in, and it was really more of a recon of the MTB trails in Redmond.  I was hoping to get the MTBs out for our first singletrack of this adventure, but it just wasn't in the cards for me.  After the walk, I ended up in bed for a few days (same old post-chemo ickiness - nothing major), so the MTBs stayed tucked away in the back of the RV.  😭

Sigh ... this would have been such a good MTB trail.

We did manage to go on a short MC ride to a fantastic farmer's market and two new breweries, so all was not lost. 

Garden at Smith Rock Brewing Co.

Once the RV repair shop assured us they had received all the parts they needed to fix our slide, we drove back down to Klamath Falls, rented a house on Airbnb (because when your house-on-wheels is in the shop, you are effectively homeless), and left our homestead in the repair shop's hands.  The good news is that we rented an awesome house, with a dock on the Sprague River and lots of space for the punks to run around. 

Sunrise over the river in a very smoky sky (from several area forest fires).

Mornings were so chilly, Sunday actually welcomed Mookie snuggles!

Four days of belly flops made for a very water logged pup.

Mookie enjoyed her bird's eye view of the birds.
I managed to go for one substantial hike with Sunday in the Sky Lakes Wilderness, which was beautiful, albeit very smoky.  More about that adventure here

Smoky views in the Sky Lakes Wilderness.

The bad news (you knew that was coming, right?):  the RV repair shop actually didn't have all the parts they needed, so the slide is still stuck in.  But, a little glitch like that wasn't going to keep us from adventuring!!  We shook off the bad news, packed up the RV and headed west to Medford, OR (or, as the Boston in me keeps calling it, "Medfed"). 

It took us less than a day to fall in love with this area!  Mountains, trails, tall pine trees, and more blackberries than you could eat in an entire lifetime.  And did I mention it was wine country?  I never thought of Southern Oregon as a wine region (Willamette gets all the attention) but good god, the Applegate Valley is amazing!  Lots of small little vineyards, where the winemaker him/herself sits down and talks you through the tasting; lush perennial gardens to explore; friendly vineyard dogs announcing your arrival, and none of the tacky commercialism that keeps me away from most wineries.  More on the specific vineyards on our brewery reviews page (hey, we're equal opportunity drinkers), but here are a few photos:

Gardens at Schmidt Family Vineyards

Gardens at Troon Vineyard

Doug makes friends with the winery dog at Plaisance Ranch.

I was very relaxed.  😀  

I loved all the farmstands in the area, too.  Most advertised "no sprays" (because obtaining a "USDA Organic" label is just too expensive for little family farms); some were just little tables at the end of people's driveways (reminding me of growing up in the Catskills); and none of them were overpriced like you find at city farmer's markets.  Just good old fashioned vegetables and fruit, grown sustainably, and incredibly delicious.  I think I ate my weight in corn, tomatoes, and blackberries this week!

Blackberries I picked myself from the bushes outside our RV.
Farmstands and vineyards make for a very full motorcycle trunk!

Of course, there were breweries, too.  And a small hike for the pups and me. 

Looking into the Applegate Valley from the Hart Trail.

There's a reason why Oregon is famous for its logging industry!

But the really big news from our Oregon Adventures, Part II is that Doug got himself a new motorcycle!!!  We are fully embracing this "we might be dead tomorrow" thing, and who the heck wants to die with a big clunky GoldWing?  He's been dreaming of a BMW 1200RT since the late 90s, and considering the amount of time we spend riding these days, it seemed like the right time to bite the bullet. 

We upgraded from the GoldWing (a/k/a "The Beast" or "The Cadillac") to.....

.... this sleek machine.

In the first week of ownership, he rode over 800 miles!!! I had to give up my "Princess Seat" (the sofa that doubles as a passenger seat on a GoldWing), but who needs such lavish comfort when you have your own bike?  There is much to be said for German engineering - my first ride as a passenger, I kept asking him why he was only doing 45 m.p.h. in a 60 m.p.h. zone.  He informed me he was doing 65.  The BMW just hugs the corners and shifts like buttah.  Oh, and its about 300 lbs lighter than the GoldWing, which is really good news for our RV.  On another note, if you know anyone looking for a slightly used 2016 GoldWing, ours is for sale at Automania in Grants Pass, Oregon and can be shipped anywhere in the US.

Oh, and I got myself a new haircut.  No more silly Army requirements for my hair to be "conservative" or "age appropriate".  (I did resist the stylist's suggestion that I dye it purple, however ... there are limits to my wild side).

All in all, it was an eventful couple of weeks in Medford.  Tomorrow, we're off to Portland!