Stretching out in the vines

It's easy to resent grape growers. Just look out the windows of their homes where picture-perfect vines link together to form enviable landscapes.

If they make wine, they become even more insufferable since their now-famous names are splashed across wine labels. If they have a tasting room, the mirth multiples as fun-seekers drop by to visit.

Sure, these highfalutin farmers will shrug off their glamorous lives and sputter stuff about working in the cold or heat, postponing vacations and surgeries until the last grape is harvested and other blah-blah to make us feel sorry for them.

Well, forget it. They live in paradise, and they know it.

Just to remind these vine dwellers that their life could be worse — a whole lot worse — I decided to drop in on them and check out the cottages they rent out to the hoi polloi. Surprisingly, they pretty much let anyone in the door.

After two hours of driving and eating Cheetos in my car, I arrived at Delfino Vineyards in Roseburg (www.delfinovineyards.com) where Terri and Jim Delfino and a trio of well-behaved dogs greeted me on a manicured grass lawn near a vineyard cottage.

Terri gestured toward 100-year-old oak trees, two Adirondack chairs overlooking a pond with a canoe, calmly swaying in the water, all cradled by the Callahan Ridge mountains.

Flashing through my head was this: I'm never leaving.

The Delfinos moved near the Umpqua River in 2000 and over the years have planted tempranillo cuttings from nearby Abacela vineyards and six other varietals.

These two Del-dreamers really had no business becoming grape growers since Jim's only connection to farming was two generations removed and Terri was a business manager for 80 priests in the San Francisco Bay area. "They called me 'Mother Superior,' " says Terri, a beatific smile on her face.

Anyway, because of their care and their property's advantageous terroir, the vines have prospered, and the wine has racked up awards. Sunset International Wine Competition judges named the 2011 Delfino Vin Gris de Zinfandel ($14) best in class and the 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon ($24) earned a gold.

As I snooped around, I discovered that these former city dwellers have gone completely Oregonian nuts. They grow their own fruits and vegetables, raise chickens and Black Angus cows, and do other back-to-the-land activities that make me feel guilty for polluting my soul.

Adding to the wholesome goodness that's nurtured here along with syrah and malbec grapes are the visitors who roll up to the tasting room on bicycles.

To complete the Norman Rockwell scene, there are Trolley Tours and concerts, not to mention events organized by two dozen Umpqua Valley wineries (www.umpquavalleywineries.org) and the Roseburg Downtown Association. On Thursday, May 9, the Taste of Downtown Winewalk and Art will have restaurant-and-winery pairings and jazz on Jackson Street.

As a guest in the cottage ($210 a night), I can bypass all this respectable riffraff. I can stay inside, slip on a spa robe and spread out across the living room, kitchen or bedroom. I can roll onto the deck and listen to mooing sounds I believe are coming from cows, not wine drinkers. Or I can jump into the hot tub or take seven exhausting swim strokes down the length of the lap pool.

Or I can ring up Terri and ask her to bring over a basket of goodies and a bottle of 2010 Tempranillo ($25), beloved by judges in the International Women's Wine Competition and the Southern Oregon World of Wine Festival.

Instead, Terri hands me a hand-drawn map of her homestead and I take a 1.2-mile loop around the vineyard with its 12,000 plants. I cross a stream, power up a hill, fall into a meadow and get lost in a shady forest.

As I circle back and pass the end posts of vineyard rows, I see wooden signs on which Jim has carved the names of Delfino's wine club members. One of the signs reads, "Mc Fathead."

Yes, these are my people. I'm never leaving.

On a different, perfectly blissfully day, I shook off my slumber by noon and visited Ted and Terri Gerber at Foris Vineyards (www.foriswine.com) in Cave Junction. Here, I imagined how my life could change if I checked into a 1908 two-story ranch house ($175 a night) that sleeps 12 or the secluded, converted weaving studio ($95) that accommodates a cozy couple.

Bordering Valley View Winery's vineyard is the Apothecary Inn (www.apothecaryinn.com), with art- and antiques-filled upstairs suites, each with its own bath ($105 to $125) and a cedar deck for wine sipping. Owners Jillian and Ryan Garrett make breakfast from their heirloom fruits, herbs and vegetables, chicken and duck eggs, and blackberry-basil-cinnamon jam.

Weisinger's of Ashland (www.weisingers.com) rents out a newly remodeled, original farmhouse on the property ($225) overlooking pinot noir vines. It's few miles north of the California border off Interstate 5, but honeymooners, harvest volunteers and travelers find that it's light years away from the hustle and bustle.

And Grizzly Peak Winery (grizzlypeakwinery.com) has a large studio with a deck for $175 a night, which includes a guided vineyard walk, wine tasting for two and discounts on bottles and winery event admission.

Event: Do you feel lucky? The winner of a $10 Rotary Club of Ashland raffle ticket will receive four cases of wine with all bottles valued at more than $50, including a 2002 RoxyAnn Winery Claret from Medford, 2011 Elevens made with Rogue Valley grenache and 2003 Estate Tempranillo from Abacela in Roseburg.

Ticket-holders receive free wine tastings at eight tasting rooms in the Bear Creek and Applegate valleys, as well as a half-price flight with a food purchase at Liquid Assets Wine Bar in Ashland. Tickets are available until the drawing on Thursday, May 16, from Ashland Rotary members or coordinators David Lively and Kerry KenCairn, who can be reached at 541-488-3194 or kerry@kencairnlandscape.com.

Tasted: May is Oregon Wine Month — shouldn't that be year round? — giving us one more good reason to drink local wine.

I pored over Wine Spectator's list of Southern Oregon wines that earn 90 points or higher. Thankfully, there are enough to give me a different daily drinker this week.

I enjoyed 2009 Cowhorn Syrah Reserve ($45), 2010 Del Rio Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon ($28), 2009 Griffin Creek Syrah ($38), 2011 Quady North Pistoleta, a blend of viognier, roussanne and marsanne, ($19), 2009 RoxyAnn Winery's Tempranillo ($26), 2010 Simple Machine Leverage, a blend of viognier, roussanne and marsanne, ($20) and 2010 Upper Five Vineyard Tempranillo ($28).

Reach columnist Janet Eastman at 541-776-4465 or jeastman@mailtribune.com


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