The Applegate Valley has a new winery: Serra Vineyard. Visitors to this year's A Taste of Ashland were among the first to sample its wines. Serra's Liz Wan poured samples of the 2007 Padre Red ($28) and 2007 Syrah ($32).

The Applegate Valley has a new winery: Serra Vineyard. Visitors to this year's A Taste of Ashland were among the first to sample its wines. Serra's Liz Wan poured samples of the 2007 Padre Red ($28) and 2007 Syrah ($32).

The tastings took place at an out-of-the-ordinary location. In most previous years, Taste participants have been in art galleries and shops on the plaza, along Main Street or in the railroad district. This year, Hilltop Gallery joined the tour. It's located inside the Mountain Meadows retirement home, some distance away from the others.

To help folks find it, a shuttle was arranged, picking up patrons in the railroad district.

The side trip was worth it. Both Serra wines are notable. I'd give a slight nod to the Padre Red, a flavorful blend of cabernet franc, cabernet sauvignon and merlot in roughly equal amounts.

Serra acquired the former Applegate Red winery at 222 Missouri Flat Road, not far from Rosella's and Schmidt. It plans to open a tasting room there this summer. The winery also has acquired the former Windridge Vineyard near Cave Junction.

Another new participant at A Taste of Ashland was Plaisance Ranch of Williams, pouring two wines: 2007 Syrah and Merlot, each $25. I especially liked the merlot, one of the best I've tasted recently.

Another first-rate wine was Slagle Creek's 2007 Claret ($18-$20), which won "best of show" at the Newport Seafood and Wine Festival. It's a blend of 45 percent merlot, 30 percent cabernet sauvignon and 25 percent cabernet franc. The price is reasonable for a claret.

Gus Janeway of Velocity of Ashland, noted for red blends, poured a white: Wm. Augustus 2009 ($16). It's 72 percent viognier, the rest marsanne. It has a sweet flavor and velvety texture.

Tour-takers who stopped by the Liquid Assets wine bar discovered a wine called Heydon Road. It's a second label created by HillCrest of Roseburg, the oldest winery in Oregon of the modern era. Tastes were offered of its 2008 Riesling ($15) and 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon ($18), both good, middle-of-the-road wines.

Two other wines I enjoyed that day:

Valley View Anna Maria 2006 Syrah ($22-$24). Another excellent red. Fly High Vineyard 2009 Windsock White Viognier ($19). Fruity and smooth.

A MEMORIAL DAY WEEKEND tradition in the Rogue Valley is the Starthistle Fly-in. Hundreds of paragliders, hang gliders and spectators go to the vicinity of Woodrat Mountain near Ruch. The gliders travel from the top of Woodrat to the valley below.

One place to view the gliders is at Fly High Vineyard/LongSword Vineyard's tasting patio. The patio looks right at the launch site and affords a good view of gliders floating through the sky and landing in an adjacent field. Spectators can watch events from noon to 6 p.m. all three days, and there is no charge to sit there. Food and wine are available for purchase.

MANY SOUTHERN OREGON wineries schedule special events over Memorial Day weekend, among them Saturday's Roam the Rogue. Check the calendars at www.sorwa.org and www.roamtherogue.com for details. More than 160 wineries in the Willamette Valley also plan special events. Check out www.willamettewines.com.

THE TASTE OF HISTORY, the mid-June downtown Medford wine event, regrettably, is not happening this year. Chief organizer Nancy Passey says, "After seven years, and a handful of us making the event happen, we just didn't have the stamina for 2011. It's a huge undertaking to coordinate." They hope to find an organization to take it on next year.

ALSO SAMPLED RECENTLY:

Red, Red Wine, a 2008 table wine from Cliff Creek of Sams Valley. It retails in the $8.50-to-$10 range, a nice value. The wine is tangy and rich, in a league with higher-priced wines. It's 80 percent merlot, the rest syrah. Two new wines from Carmel Road of Soledad, Calif.: 2009 Pinot Noir ($20) and Chardonnay ($18). The pinot is superior, pleasingly full of flavor. The chardonnay is juicy and smooth with just the right amount of oak. Covey Run 2006 Columbia Valley Chardonnay. Food 4 Less recently had this one on sale at $3.99 — quite a buy. It's well worth twice that price.

Cleve Twitchell is a retired Mail Tribune editor and columnist. Email him at clevelinda@msn.com.