Troon Vineyard has been a landmark in the Applegate Valley since the irascible, idiosyncratic and visionary Dick Troon planted his first vines in 1972.

Troon Vineyard has been a landmark in the Applegate Valley since the irascible, idiosyncratic and visionary Dick Troon planted his first vines in 1972.

Troon was convinced that zinfandel could thrive in Southern Oregon, and he not only succeeded with zinfandel, the cabernet sauvignon he planted that first year worked, as well.

Troon soon planted other varietals, especially chardonnay. He sold his grapes to other wineries until 1993, when he produced his first wines under the Troon Vineyard label.

He played with blending, and legend has it that his famous "Druid's Fluid," emerged from a blending mistake. Druid's Fluid became the label's standard-bearer. Troon also produced a very drinkable, low-priced red blend called River Guide Red and its companion, a white blend called River Guide White, named in honor of his days as a river guide on the Rogue River.

Troon's wines — blends and varietals — became an underground classic. If you wanted to buy directly from the winery, you called Dick Troon for an appointment, showed up and were allowed into his garage-winery, where he would — sometimes grudgingly — sell you a couple of cases.

In 2003, Dick Troon sold the vineyard and winery to an old friend, Larry Martin. Martin has roots in Eastern Oregon, but he is a knowledgeable wine connoisseur, with a special affinity for Bordeaux and Tuscany. He expanded the estate to nearly 100 acres and increased the vineyard plantings to 40 acres with 20 varietals, including sauvignon blanc, viognier, marsanne, rousanne, tempranillo, gewurztraminer, sangiovese and cabernet franc. Martin is proud of his pioneering plantings, the Italian white vermentino, which he grafted onto old cabernet sauvignon vines in 2010, and tannat, a red from southwest France, replanted in a former chardonnay vineyard in 2010 and 2011.

The vineyards are now LIVE (Low Input Viticulture and Enology) and Salmon-Safe certified.

Martin built an elaborate and elegant Spanish-style tasting room and a modern winemaking facility in 2005. Troon Vineyard and its wines became a destination winery to match anything in the Napa or Willamette valleys.

The Druid's Fluid white and red blends are still produced and popular, as are the River Guide blends, but Martin continues the Troon tradition of high-quality wines.

"We are known for our signature zinfandels," says Martin. "The oldest vines produce the grapes for our Reserve Zinfandel, which has consistently won awards."

Martin says the winery produces 1,300 to 1,400 cases of zinfandel each year, in three styles: Foundation, Estate and Reserve.

The 2011 Foundation 72 Zinfandel ($18) is an estate-grown blend of 77.3 percent zinfandel, 17.7 percent primitivo (a Croatian-Italian clone of zinfandel) and 5 percent petite sirah. It is described by the winery as a "well structured" wine with notes of red cherry and raspberry and hints of black pepper, allspice and pomegranate. It was named as a "value pick" by the Oregon Wine Press.

Martin is especially pleased with the 2012 Zinfandel Reserve, again produced with old-vine estate fruit.

"It shows voluptuous fruit and spice, with balanced acids, an alcohol level of about 14 percent and enough tannins to age well," says Martin. The 2012 has just been bottled and will be further aged for a year, to be released in 2015.

This year, Martin hired Stephen Hall as winemaker. Hall has a special affinity for zinfandel and most recently worked at noted zinfandel producer Robert Biale Vineyards in Napa. He has also worked at Clos du Val and Stag's Leap.

Martin's winemaker from 2004 to early this year was Herb Quady. Quady left to pursue his own label, Quady North, and to create a custom crush facility. Quady and Hall are working together with the Troon vintages still in progress.

Martin is also proud of the 2011 Syrah ($25).

"The Syrah that year had a small yield but wonderful grapes," says Martin. "It has flavors of dark cherry, herbs and caramelized oak. It's not widely advertised but it has become a cult wine."

Other wines in current release are the 2010 Reserve Syrah ($50), the 2011 Cabernet Franc Reserve ($35) and the 2011 Estate Tannat ($38), as well as the 2011 Old Vine Meritage ($32), a blend of cabernet sauvignon, merlot, cabernet franc and petite verdot. They are all outstanding wines, each with their own specific characteristics, but with a good balance between fruit, tannin and acid.

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