If you haven’t visited these featured Southern Oregon wineries, autumn is a lovely time to make the trip! Here’s your travel guide, reprinted by permission from Southern Oregon Magazine, Fall 2022. Photos by David Gibb.
BY CHRIS COOK
It was bound to happen. Southern Oregon’s pioneering wineries are passing from their founding fathers and mothers to the next generation. For some wineries—like Weisinger, Valley View and RoxyAnn—the shift happened years ago. For others, it’s happening now. This article looks toward the future with four local wineries in transition. Open your map app, plan your visits and enjoy!
First, we head to Dunbar Farms, a 112-year-old fourth-generation family farm that began as a pear orchard and now produces red wine grapes, organic produce, stone-milled flours, grains and grass hay. In 2018, Ali Mostue and her husband, Nick Stevenson, moved back to Medford to live and work beside Ali’s mom, Emily Mostue. Emily still works this farm that she has tended over the years with her siblings, late father and late husband.
In 2005, Ali’s brother, David, established an organic vegetable garden, designed and built the tasting room/retail space, and stayed to mentor Nick for two years. “This land means everything to Emily and Ali,” Nick explains. “We knew that we needed to create an economically viable revenue stream to be able to preserve this important Century Farm with its open space, wetlands and farm operations. It clearly had to be more than veggies, so we’ve started a tasting room, restaurant and event space, and we sell our wines and other goods directly to the consumers.”
Open Thursday through Sunday, the vaulted wood-beam tasting room is cheerful and sunny and is home to wine, food and local beers on tap. Its spacious covered porch overlooks the performance stage, grassy lawn, veggie garden, pond and pasture—with resident horses and Dutch Belted cows. To complement the assortment of spaces to enjoy, there are also various experiences to choose from.
Nick, who manages the tasting room, explains. “You can have a traditional winery experience—ordering a flight of our award-winning estate wine and a cheese board. Or you could choose to have a locally sourced lunch—a garden-fresh panini made on focaccia from RiseUp! Bakery with a glass of wine, beer, kombucha or sparkling water. Bring your lawn chair or blanket on a Thursday or Friday night and enjoy live music and a fun variety of food by resident Chef Boots. You can choose from wood-fired pizza, salads, soup, wing dings and a special entrée of the week. Make Saturday your date night and savor a bottle of estate wine with your meal.” With a choice Dunbar Farms wines available, you might try the 2007 Claret, which was the March Panel Pick for the Oregon Wine Press’ tasting of Oregon Bordeaux wines.
As if this isn’t enough, you can also pick up some of Dunbar’s organically grown seasonal veggies, herbs, eggs, flowers, RiseUp! bread, dry goods and wine from their “Honor Barn” farmstand, which is open every day, from sun up to 10 pm.
There’s truly something for everyone. Got kids? Bring ‘em on over! Check their calendar for special events on the weekend like “meet the cows.” Dunbar Farms is a fun spot and the perfect place to explore a real farm in the heart of Medford.
Daisy Creek Vineyard
You might begin to second-guess your navigation system as you wind your way through a residential neighborhood in Jacksonville en route to Daisy Creek Vineyard. However, it’s a fitting prelude to the friendly welcome you’ll receive at Daisy Creek. Founded in 1994 by Russ and Margaret Lyon—a retired couple from Klamath Falls—this charming boutique winery was brought to life on a 23-acre hay farm adjacent to Daisy Creek.
Today, daughter Jennifer and her husband, Gary, are taking over most of Daisy Creek’s operations—much to the whole family’s delight. You may be interested to know that son-in-law Gary is a Nevada Athletics Fall-of-Famer and daughter Jenn has spent her career managing catering and convention operations at large resorts, including the Grand Sierra Resort.
Looking back at the beginnings of this vineyard, neighboring winery Valley View Vineyards played an important role. Valley View Vineyards was looking for more fruit, and in the spirit of collaboration, they planted three acres of Merlot on the Lyons’ property—in exchange for the ripe fruit that fall. New to grape farming, the Lyons appreciated the local expertise along with additional advice from the local OSU Extension and numerous growers in the northern California wine country.
That was just the beginning. In addition to growing and selling its fruit, Daisy Creek produced its first vintage in 2001. With 11 productive acres under vine today, their focus is on Rhone varieties due to similarities in latitude and weather with Rhone Valley, France. Syrah and Viognier are their hallmarks, along with Marsanne, Roussanne, Chardonnay, Malbec, Sangiovese, Tempranillo and Petite Verdot. If you’re interested in a great variety of estate-grown wines—decorated with numerous awards—then a visit to Daisy Creek is a must.
Russ and Margaret opened their small, comfortable tasting room in a converted barn that opens to expansive gardens shaded by trees, colorful umbrellas and climbing grapevines. Russ continues to work the vineyards and consult with the winemakers. You’ll often find him in the tasting room enjoying time with his guests and his beloved dog, Kizzie.
In 2020, Margaret passed away after numerous health challenges and this—along with Covid and the decline in the hospitality industry—was the perfect storm to inspire their daughter, Jennifer Powers, to join her father at Daisy Creek. The timing couldn’t be better. This fall, construction will be complete on the 1,150-square-foot expansion of the original tasting room. “This enhances the customer experience and creates a pleasant environment for year-round visits, larger groups, events and even weddings,” Jenn said.
With Gary now managing the tasting room, Jenn is managing events and learning about growing and making wine at Russ’s side. “It’s a big relief to me,” said Russ, who will turn 90 in December. “I didn’t want to sell but I’m ready to step back a bit. I hope Daisy Creek stays in our family for our grandkids and great grandkids.”
Jenn couldn’t be happier. “The opportunity to work with my dad is such a blessing. He is my friend, and we have fun together. Even when he steps back from the day-to-day operations, he will remain an inspiration to all we do here.”
Schmidt Family Vineyards
Three generations make wine together at Schmidt Family Vineyards (SFV) in the Applegate Valley. And more than a responsibility, it seems part of their DNA, with the fourth generation already finding its way in! Voted “Readers’ Choice Best Winery” by Southern Oregon Magazine, Spring 2022, Schmidt offers award-winning wines, a full kitchen featuring wood-fired pizzas, and acres of lush gardens and landscape. It’s a kicked-back place to enjoy Friday night music—and it’s likely that you’ll find founders Cal and Judy Schmidt on the grounds socializing with guests.
Growing up on a wheat farm in Kansas, Cal had a successful career in the aerospace industry. He met Judy in San Diego at a USO dance, and after they married, Cal says “I got restless and wanted to go farm. I’ve got farming in my blood. So, we bought the old Bennett Ranch, with its hay fields and cattle, and I took out the barbed wire and planted grapes!”
Today, the 75-acre property on Kubli Bench has 45 acres under vine, 10 of forest and five that are beautifully landscaped with the craftsman-style tasting facility and winery as the crown jewel. Cal designed the elegant Northwestern-inspired facility that he built with grandson Duncan—out of gorgeous, rough-hewn pine from downed trees on the property. SFV evolved from purchase in 2000 to a family-run winery with daughter Rene and grandson Duncan making wine, Judy designing the landscape and “trying to retire,” grandson Spencer managing the tasting room—food, entertainment, retail—and national sales. “We all seem to have found our spot,” Rene confirms. They agree that Duncan is the nuts-and-bolts—make-it-happen guy, Spencer is the culinary and business expert, and Cal and Rene are the idea people.
The most recent idea was to launch a second label—Wilderness—with a red, white and rosé. These non-vintage, estate wines are a friendly addition to Schmidt’s more than 50 estate varietals and blends from multiple vintages are currently available. And they’re still exploring. Just this spring, they added four more grape varieties to the 14 already planted.
Visitors to the tasting room will want to return since two new wines are released every month! Be sure to check their website for harvest tours, winery visits and other events and music. And bring the kiddos. With seven great-grandchildren often on the property, Judy smiles, they’ll have plenty of company!
If you love a story about someone following their passion and finding success, set your map app north for Abacela! Their quest to be the first in the U.S. to produce world-class Tempranillo has earned Abacela wide recognition, including Wine Enthusiast Magazine’s nomination for American Winery of the Year, Hot Brands in America by Wine Business Monthly, and Oregon Winery of the Year by Wine Press Northwest.
A pioneering winery in the Umpqua Valley, Abacela was founded in 1995 by Earl and Hilda Jones, two medical professionals. Abacela recently transitioned to next-generation leadership by Greg Jones, a world-renown wine climatologist and educator.
“Abacela was born of passion but rooted in science that dictated what varieties to plant where and how to best manage them to produce high-quality wines,” said Greg. “I’m not a farmer or a winemaker but I bring a larger palate to the table and look at things from all sides.”
Earl is quick to point out that even though Greg claims not to be a farmer, he comes from a long line of farmers. Growing up in the Midwest, Earl
Earl recounts the visit that he, his dad and Greg made to the Roseburg property that became Abacela. Riding around on a Gator together, reviewing the property, Earl’s dad said, “Son, you’ve lost your mind. You can’t farm this!”
However, similarities between the climate of the Umpqua and the famous growing regions of Rioja and Ribera del Duero, Spain, are what drew Earl and Hilda to Umpqua Valley. Earl’s research proved correct; fortunately, his father lived to see Abacela’s second vintage of Tempranillo win double gold and first place at the San Francisco Chronicle International against all the Spanish wines!
Abacela’s accolades continue: the 2005 Tempranillo Reserve won America’s 1st Gold Medal in Spain’s 2009 Tempranillo al Mundo Competition! Recently, the 2018 Fiesta Tempranillo garnered a gold medal in the 2021 Millennial Competition, and the 2019 Fiesta Tempranillo received 95 Points and a Double Gold Medal in the 2022 Sunset International Wine Competition.
Co-founder Hilda Jones recalls that making Tempranillo was something she and Earl had wanted to do in their retirement, having left the medical field and moved from Florida. “The worst that could happen was it wouldn’t work,” she smiled. “I figured if that happened, we’d sell and move on. And then it grew and grew!” she exclaimed.
“This transition from us to Greg fulfills a long-term objective of family succession,” Earl explains. “Greg has distinguished himself regionally, nationally, and internationally as a scientist and educator. He is a leader with energy, who understands the local, regional and global wine industries, which makes him uniquely suited to carry on our family business.”
He joins a top-notch team, including winemaker Andrew Wenzl, who has been making Abacela’s wines since 2008. He plans to continue the 20-plus-year internship program where the interns and Abacela team members expand each other’s horizons and knowledge. This year’s interns are from Spain, Portugal, France and Switzerland.
Don’t be surprised if you find Greg, who calls himself the “maintenance guy,” in the tasting room. He’ll be quick to share his favorite new release, tell a memorable story or even talk about why Decanter magazine calls Abacela, “Oregon’s most interesting vineyard property.”
So Many Choices
With close to 200 tasting rooms in Southern Oregon to choose from, there’s something for everyone. The four we highlighted are from all parts of our region and all have their unique personalities. One thing’s for certain though—you’ll receive a family-style welcome at each one—and you can rest assured that the next generation is carrying on tradition while adding their own special touches.