Del Rio drinks up latest recognition

Del Rio Vineyards 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon has earned 90 points from the prestigious Wine Spectator magazine. This is the third consecutive vintage of its cabernet sauvignon to earn 90 points, and this latest accolade coincides with Del Rio's 10th anniversary of producing wine at the estate and under its own label.

Wine Spectator describes the 2011 Del Rio Cabernet Sauvignon as "a vibrant, medium-weight red, with ripe plum and currant fruit, shaded with hints of apricot and spice. This comes together seamlessly on the refined finish. Drink now through 2020."

Del Rio Vineyards grows 12 grape varietals on 205 acres, selling fruit to over 40 wineries around Oregon. Del Rio-label wines have won national awards from the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition and Vineyard & Winery Management magazine's Grand Harvest competition and garnered high scores from such publications as Wine Spectator and Wine Enthusiast. Del Rio wines are marketed in 18 states and have been selected for the national wine clubs of the New York Times, Food and Wine Magazine and Williams-Sonoma.

Winemaker Jean-Michel Jussiaume came to Del Rio in 2008. He grew up in a family of wine producers in France's Loire Valley and went on to make wines in Bordeaux and Australia.

"This recognition from the Wine Spectator affirms my idea that the growing conditions at Del Rio Vineyard are well-suited for the cabernet sauvignon. You know that the variety has found a sense of place, or terroir, when consistency is achieved through several vintages."

Jussiaume says that with his white wines, he likes to feel some acidity on his blends to maintain the wine's freshness, emphasize the fruit and extend the mouth feel. With his reds, he strives for fruity, rounded wines with a deep color and rich tannins. His goal, he says, is to make wines with layers of complexity and aroma.

Wines available in Del Rio's tasting room reflect Jussiaume's philosophy. The 2012 Muscat ($16) — a new release only available at the tasting room and to wine-club members — is a dry, early muscat that features a flowery nose and fruity mouth feel with a hint of acidity. The 2012 Viognier ($20) also has a lovely, fruity nose and a bit of acidity to keep it dry. The 2012 Pinot Gris ($16) has a citrus nose, good acid balance and slightly flinty, crisp finish.

Red wines available along with the 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon include the 2010 Claret ($35), a blend of 50 percent merlot, 30 percent cabernet sauvignon, 10 percent malbec and 5 percent each cabernet franc and petite verdot. This is a wine to buy now and age a bit to allow the tannins to mellow.

The 2011 Syrah ($35), on the other hand, is a wine to drink right now. It's true to the varietal, dry but substantial and has a rich mouth feel and finish.

Del Rio's roots in the Rogue Valley run deep. The tasting-room building started out as the Rock Point Stage Hotel, built by L.J. White in 1864. In 1907, the hotel and surrounding land were sold to the Deuel family of Medford, who created Del Rio Orchards, growing pears, peaches and apples. In 1997, the Deuels sold the property to Northern California farmer and rancher Lee Traynham.

Traynham saw the land's potential for premium wine grapes with its south-facing slopes and 1,000-foot elevation. He planted the first vines in 1998 and 1999. Co-owners Rob and Jolee Wallace joined Traynham in 2000. Rob manages the vineyards, and Jolee runs the tasting room. The old Del Rio Orchards packing house is now the core of the winery with two new barrel and tank rooms added in the past couple of years.

Orchards to vineyards, peaches and pears to grapes, and a whole new way to put Southern Oregon on the map.

Roberta Kent is a freelance writer living in Ashland. Reach her at rbkent@mind.net.


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