The Wisnovskys expect to be able to hold winemaker's dinners in the library and in the spacious main room
Mail Tribune

RUCH - Wine making was something of a lost art in Jackson County 30 years ago and wine tasting was something Southern Oregonians did in California.

Even after Valley View Winery helped bring back the industry not far from the Applegate River with the Wisnovsky family's first wine in 1976, there wasn't exactly a pent-up demand.

A quarter of a century later, the region's wine-making reputation is emerging nationally and the tasters are rolling both directions on Interstate 5. The vineyard's tasting room no longer meets customer needs.

Now, a 2,400-square-foot tasting pavilion is ready for travelers and tasters. It will debut during the winery's November warehouse sale, featuring all of Valley View's available vintages, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. An official grand opening will follow in December or January.

"This is the final crowning piece of the puzzle," says Mike Wisnovsky, whose father, Frank, began the family business in 1972. "We now have tasting room building matched to the quality of our wine."

After founder Frank Wisnovsky died in a drowning accident at Lost Creek Lake in August 1980, the winery foundered until 1985, when Bob Wisnovsky - the eldest son - returned from Oregon State University and vintner John Guerrero arrived from the University of California at Davis.

"We started transforming the business into what it is today, 15 years ago," says Mike Wisnovsky. "We were taking baby steps, we didn't even have a distributor. Once we were able to get our feet beneath us, we were able to do a series of things that made us what we are."

The projects involved planting new varieties, pulling out those they didn't like and changing the spacing that enhanced grape quality. They overhauled equipment, buying new and higher-quality barrels, a new crusher and stemmer.

"Those are things you don't see from the outside," Wisnovsky says.

The old tasting room was all of 120 square feet.

"On Saturday afternoons during summertime we get 15 to 20 people here and they're out the door," Wisnovsky says. "Now we've graduated up to one of nicest tasting rooms in Oregon and the architecture is beautiful.

"This will be kind of a landmark destination; it opens things up for us to host winemaker dinners."

The pavilion sits on the highest point of the property, near Upper Applegate Road. Beyond the vineyards and winery, one can see the Applegate River as it bends to the west. To the south are the mountains of Northern California.

Medford architect Gene Abel designed the building and Adroit Construction of Ashland did much of the project, including the jade-colored floor work.

Beneath a distinctive cupola, a 22-foot-long circular white oak bar with walnut trim and a copper serving top - crafted by members of the cabinet-making program at the state penitentiary - will be the focal point once it is installed in December.

Private dinners (for up to 14 people) with a guest chef will be staged in the library. Bigger dinners, up to about 50 people, will be in the central area.

Valley View has 26 acres of grapes and produces between 10,000 and 12,000 cases of wine annually. Roughly 40 percent of the company's sales are direct to the public, either at the winery or at its Anna Maria store at 130 W. California St. in Jacksonville.

White wines require aging of a year to a year-and-a-half prior to release. Red wines take two to three years. The 1990 and 1995 vintages are two of Valley View's best, although the newly-released 1999 and yet-to-be-released 2000 wines are expected to be of equal excellence.

The concern has a mailing list of 5,000 with a regular clientele of 200 to 300 that buys three or four times a year. Valley View also is available through retail outlets, the Internet and mail-order.

"Wine shipment on the Internet is not that big of a thing for us," Wisnovsky says. "Most of our customers would rather talk to us."

Reach reporter Greg Stiles at 776-4463 or e-mail