Del Rio Vineyards, Oregon:
Every once in a while, a set of samples shows up that pikes my interest. I had been familiar with Del Rio Vineyard’s Syrah production through a local winery here in the East Bay Stage Left Cellars and their “Scenic Route” wine is produced from grapes that are sourced from Del Rio Vineyards. More on Stage Left at a later date, but it was fun to get in touch with the winery growing the grapes for the first time.
Del Rio Vineyards sent 6 bottles of wine for us to try and I came away impressed with a few of the offerings.
Let’s start with some of the basics, Del Rio is one of the larger wineries in Southern Oregon, making about 20,000 cases per year (about a quarter of which is actually exported to Asia). Throw them into the Russian River Valley and that’s pretty average, so it’s not like we’re talking about huge production levels here. What we are talking about is a vineyard which is large enough to plant and grow a wide variety of grapes. That variety has led to an interesting and in my opinion, eclectic assortment of wine available. They have approximately 200,000 vines growing on the property, so there’s space to experiment with growing locations, clones and yes, even grape types.
Del Rio Vineyards is historically significant and not just in terms of the rise of Oregon wine over the past two decades, but with the history of Oregon itself. The winery’s tasting room is situated in the former Rock Point Stage Hotel which dates to 1853. The property itself spent many years as a fruit grove, before current ownership began planting vines after their purchase in the late 1990’s.
Situated in the Rogue Valley, which itself is the furthest southwestern portion of the state and seperated from the Pacific Ocean by the Cascade Mountain range, the Rogue Valley is perhaps the warmest growing region in Oregon. For our purposes, that leads to different wine than you might be accustomed to from the state. These are wines more consistent with international versions rather than the mineral and lighter styled wines which we so often associate with Oregon’s wine industry. That climate has driven some of the choices at Del Rio Vineyards, including their production focus on Syrah and even a Claret.
I found the Syrah to be both interesting as well as intense. It’s a good look into what’s possible in the warmer climates in Oregon. Wine Club members can expect to see something along these lines in the coming months.
The most interesting wine though, was the one I was least looking forward to tasting. I’ll be honest here. My wife and I both love Champagne and other sparkling wines. We both generally dislike Rose. Enter the Rose Jolee, which is a slighly sweet, sparkling Rose that literally bursts with Mango and honey flavors. It’s been called a great summer wine, which seems like an apt description, but beyond that it’s another good example of how the American wine industry continues to benefit from lax regulations in terms of both planting and production. This isn’t a standard wine by any sense of the word, but it’s a memorable one. How sad if anyone would try and precent wineries like Del Rio Vineyards from experimenting with their vines, plantings and winemaking styles.