You may not have heard of Plaisance Ranch, but it is a winery and vineyard well worth getting to know.
Plaisance Ranch is a small winery in the Williams Valley portion of the Applegate. Its 17 acres of certified-organic and Salmon-Safe vineyards produce a remarkable 19 varieties of red-wine grapes and clones and five varieties of white-wine grapes. Plaisance owner and winemaker Joe Ginet produces 2,000 cases of wine annually — eleven reds, two whites and a rose.
The Williams Valley climate and soil types are very much like France's Rhone Valley. Plaisance Ranch's grapes are grown at an altitude of roughly 2,000 feet in decomposed-granite, alluvial soil. This location creates warm days, cool nights and good drainage.
Ginet grows Burgundy and Rhone varieties like pinot noir, syrah, viognier and roussanne, but he has also planted grapes from Provence (mourvedre), grapes from Spain (tempranillo) and grapes from Bordeaux (cabernet sauvignon and cabernet franc). He even has planted mondeuse, a grape from his family's native Savoie region in southeastern France.
Ginet certainly knows winemaking. Wine Spectator awarded 90 points to his 2010 "Papa Joe's Private Stash" Syrah and 89 points to his 2011 Viognier. His 2011 Tempranillo and 2011 Pinot Noir are value picks from Wine Press magazine, and his 2011 Viognier, 2010 Syrah, 2011 Pinot Noir and 2010 Rouge Prestige blend took silver medals at the 2013 World of Wine competition.
Plaisance Ranch wines — reds are priced at $25, whites at $20 — can be bought at the ranch and on the shelves of The Jacksonville Inn, Harry & David Country Village and Medford's Old 99 Wine Shop, as well as at selected outlets in Grants Pass and Eugene. They can be found on the menus of The Peerless in Ashland, Pomodori in Medford, The Twisted Cork in Grants Pass and Bella Union, Gogi's, C St. Bistro and The Jacksonville Inn in Jacksonville.
Ginet also is in the nursery business, raising and selling six different, disease-resistant grape rootstock varieties, suitable for specific soils and drainage conditions, as well as 18 varieties of certified-organic grafted and own-rooted budwood to other vineyards throughout Oregon.
Plaisance Ranch also is a working cattle ranch, raising grass-fed, U.S. Department of Agriculture certified-organic (no hormones, no antibiotics) beef that Ginet sells at the ranch, at the Ashland, Grants Pass and Williams farmers markets and at Ashland's Shop'n Kart and Medford's Harry & David Country Village.
Ginet is the third generation of his family in the Applegate. His grandfather, also Joseph Ginet, emigrated from Savoie, where the family grew grapes and raised cattle. He settled outside Jacksonville in 1898. Joseph Ginet purchased an orchard on Sterling Creek, named it "Plaisance Orchard" ("plaisance" means "pleasantness" in French) and planted grapes brought from Savoie. He sold fruit and made wine until his death in 1928.
When grandson Joe Ginet graduated from University of California at Davis in 1979 with a degree in animal science and chemistry, he followed the family farming and ranching tradition and bought the Williams acreage. The property had been a cattle ranch since 1858 and Joe, with wife Suzi, began a dairy farm.
In the late 1990s, Joe invited a cousin from Savoie to bring over some of the family vineyard's rootstock and teach him viticulture and winemaking. Soon, Joe purchased additional grape plants from UC Davis and replaced the labor-intensive dairy cattle with beef cattle.
A comfortable tasting room replaced the milking shed. A barrel room replaced the dairy barn. And today's Plaisance Ranch was born.
It is fitting that its first wine, released in 2009, was the 2006 Rouge Prestige — a blend made primarily from family mondeuse grapes brought from Savoie.
Roberta Kent is a freelance writer living in Ashland. Reach her at email@example.com.