The gala "Weisinger Family Winery" release party on July 5-6 will usher in a new era for this venerable winery.

The gala "Weisinger Family Winery" release party on July 5-6 will usher in a new era for this venerable winery.

Eric Weisinger, the second generation of Weisingers, will introduce a new name, a new look and a new philosophy for this local industry pioneer, formerly known as Weisingers of Ashland.

Along with the new name comes a new label design, which features a silhouette of the winery's iconic chalet-style building on a hill, with each varietal or blend identified by a different earth-toned color.

"The old label, with the kestrel, was tied to my father and his Texas roots," says Eric. "The new label represents what I call the four pillars of the 'new' brand — history, family, quality and local sourcing."

The winery's new focus is on varietals such as syrah, tempranillo, cabernet franc, malbec and sauvignon blanc, along with the winery's signature gewürztraminer and propriety Bordeaux blends.

As winemaker, Eric's goal is bringing out the distinctive characteristics of the local terroir — the soil, exposure, slope and drainage conditions of the specific vineyard where the wine grape is grown. All Weisinger wines are made with grapes sourced from within five miles of the winery.

"I believe some of the best fruit in this region comes from around Ashland," says Eric. "Because Ashland is part of 'the Klamath knot,' that unique geological region that contains different soil types — granite, sandstone, clay — within yards of one another, we have a truly unique terroir."

"For example, a syrah grown in the Wagner Creek drainage in Talent will taste different than a syrah grown on the east side of I-5 in Ashland," he adds.

The back label of each wine bottle identifies the local vineyard where the wine was sourced, the date of harvest as well as the brix (sugar level), pH and acid level of the grape at the time of harvest, and the number of cases produced of that wine.

"I won't tell you the flavors in the wine or how it tastes," says Eric. "That's for you to discover."

Eric's father, John Weisinger, planted the first wine grapes in Ashland in 1979, with gewürztraminer cuttings obtained from his friend Frank Wisnovsky of Valley View Winery in Ruch. John Weisinger released his first wine under his label, Weisingers of Ashland, in 1988, the same year he built the winery and tasting room.

"My father's first wine was a dry, Alsatian-style gewürztraminer from his estate grapes. He also produced a wine called Mescolare, a red blend of pinot noir, zinfandel, cabernet sauvignon and nebbiolo and a rosé, made from syrah. The reds were made from grapes sourced from other vineyards," he says.

As a child and a young man, Eric did everything from working in the vineyard to assisting with his father's winemaking, supplementing his hands-on experience with formal courses in wine chemistry at University of California at Davis. Eric became winemaker at Weisingers in 1998, producing an award-winning cabernet sauvignon and other outstanding Bordeaux blends, such as the winery's signature Petite Pompadour.

Eric left the Rogue Valley in 2006 to become a grape-growing and winemaking consultant, working in other areas of Oregon, as well as in Australia, New Zealand and California.

"My style of winemaking changed. It gave me a new perspective on home," says Eric. "I knew the taste of the terroir around Weisingers of Ashland, but I didn't realize how distinct it was until I made wine elsewhere."

"It is my belief that you cannot really get to know a region unless you eat the locally grown food and drink the local wine," says Eric. "If you are in Provence, you would eat food and drink wine from Provence, not from the Rhône or Bordeaux. If you want to really experience Ashland, eat the food grown here and drink the wine produced here."

"I believe that great wines reflect the terroir of their particular region and that all regions are unique," he says. "That is what wine is all about, and that's what we've evolved back to — what wine was originally about."

Eric returned to the Rogue Valley in 2011, originally working with his father, as well as with other local wineries as a consultant. He still works as a consultant, but as John Weisinger gradually retired, Eric took over vineyard management, production and marketing for the family business.

The coming weekend features the release of the 2011 vintage reds, the first vintage made by Eric upon his return to his roots.

The new releases include, a 2011 merlot, a 2011 petite blanc — a blend of 62 percent viognier, 36 percent gewürztraminer and 2 percent pinot gris — the 2011 estate-grown pinot noir, a 2011 syrah, described as a "cool-climate Rhône, like a wine from Gigondas, with elegance and restraint," and a 2013 rosé made from syrah.

Roberta Kent is a freelance writer living in Ashland. Reach her at