Tasting rooms have come out of cold-weather hibernation and are ready to pour new releases and entertain visitors.
A good way to quickly catch up on what wine producers have been up to — from bottling to booking musical acts and cooking up fun contests — is to jump into a passport or barrel tour such as Applegate Valley Spring Uncorked to be held from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday, May 20, or Roam the Rogue Passport Tour from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, May 26.
Tickets include commemorative wine glasses to sample vintages at each stop. Visitors also can taste specialty dishes created to complement the malbec, sangiovese, syrah, tempranillo, chenin blanc, marsanne-roussanne, riesling, viognier and other grapes grown in Southern Oregon.
A good way to navigate the many tasting rooms spread across the miles is to have a designated driver, pick a few tasting rooms that you want to make sure you see and slowly soak in the wine, food and vineyard views. You can't leisurely make it to more than a handful of tasting rooms in a day, but you can make plans to return.
Check out Southern Oregon Winery Association's website at www.sorwa.org to learn about some of the wine producers in the area (not all are members) and sign up to receive email announcements from the ones that interest you.
This is a good way to discover hard-to-find information, such as Delfino Vineyards in the Umpqua Valley hosts its second annual Irish Fest on Saturday, May 26; South Stage Cellars in Jacksonville hosts the finals in its Rising Stars competition Friday and Saturday, May 25-26; and Devitt Winery in the Applegate Valley debuts its very dry 2008 rose, called The Butler Did It — Again (made with cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc, merlot and zinfandel grapes). Jim Devitt and his crew will serve the rose with brats smothered with onions on bread rolls.
"A rose is right for summer," Devitt says. "It's all about food, picnics, barbecue, grilled salmon or steelhead, warm weather, cool evenings and jovial company."