It's really quite an amazing story — the growth of the Southern Oregon wine industry.

It's really quite an amazing story — the growth of the Southern Oregon wine industry.

When I moved to the Rogue Valley in 1961, one winery existed near Roseburg but none here.

Valley View of Ruch, which celebrated its 30th anniversary recently, came along in the 1970s, as did both Foris and Siskiyou Vineyards near Cave Junction. Ashland Vineyards and Weisinger's of Ashland were launched in the mid- to late-1980s, also Bridgeview of Cave Junction.

Today, if you look at the Southern Oregon Winery Association Web site,, you see more than 50 listed. And I can think of several others that aren't on that list. Subtract those in Douglas County, and I come up with a total of 40 in the Jackson-Josephine counties area. Many of those did not exist prior to the year 2000.

I was recently reminded of how much has happened when I put together a talk for an organization to which I belong, the Cascade Colony, Oregon Society of Mayflower Descendants.

Some observations:

Southern Oregon wineries initially made wines like chardonnay, cabernet sauvignon and merlot. Now the hot wines are viognier, syrah, cabernet franc, tempranillo and red and white blends. You also see a lot of pinot gris and some pinot blanc and muscat. While pinot noir is still mainly to be found "up north" where it's cooler, a growing number of southern wineries have found a way to make it here. Some of the locals are full-fledged wineries while others grow the grapes and then arrange for someone else to actually produce the wine. RoxyAnn of Medford, for example, makes six other labels: Velocity, Daisy Creek, Rocky Knoll, Red Lily, Carpenter Hill and Volcano. And the new Pallet Wine Co. in downtown Medford is the Rogue Valley's first exclusively custom-crush winery. Tasting used to be complimentary, but now a majority of Southern Oregon wineries charge a tasting fee when you visit them. I had my doubts about that at first but have come to like the idea. It lets you, the customer, off the hook. If the tasting is free, and you are a decent soul, you're going to be obligated to buy a bottle. And maybe the one wine you really liked is $30 a bottle? Oops. A lot of Southern Oregon wine is expensive: $20 to $30 a bottle or even more. That's to be expected. Most of the region's wineries are modest mom-and-pop operations. They can't afford to go to all the trouble and expense it takes to produce good wine and then sell it for $7.99.

But there are exceptions. Bridgeview of Cave Junction, a larger operation than most, makes quite a few under-$10 wines. Valley View of Ruch recently announced that it would sell some of its labels for $9. Foris of Cave Junction also has some close to that price point.

BRYAN WILSON'S CUCKOO'S Nest label (Cave Junction) has a new white blend out called 2008 Aromatique. It's 52 percent viognier and 48 percent gewürztraminer. The result is a delicious, crisp and refreshing wine for $16.

YOU'RE ENTERTAINING GUESTS from out of state. You want them to be able to sample some good Southern Oregon wines but realize that some in your group may prefer beer or a cocktail. Where to go? I often pick Bella Union in Jacksonville. Every label on its wine list is available by the glass as well as the bottle — giving you flexibility — and there's a full bar and good beer selection.

On a recent visit, our group's choices included Valley View's Anna Maria chardonnay, Slagle Creek merlot and Velocity's Velo red blend.

THEY'RE NOT FROM SOUTHERN Oregon but they are from the Northwest — two very affordable yet tasty chardonnays. The labels are Duck Pond and Hogue. Duck Pond is between Dundee and Newberg, and its 2007 Chardonnay is made with grapes grown in Washington state. Hogue is based in Prosser, Wash. I have taken one or the other when recent occasions called for me to bring a bottle. If you shop around you can find either for just under $7 (certainly under $8). If I had to choose between the two, I'd go with Duck Pond.

Cleve Twitchell is a retired Mail Tribune editor and columnist. E-mail him at