Jaxon Vineyards, owned by Jamie and Katherine McCleary, is home to one of the newest tasting venues in the Valley. Situated in the Bear Creek Valley and at some elevation, it provides dramatic western views of Mount Ashland, Wagner Butte and Anderson Butte. The venue is beautifully landscaped, emphatically kid friendly, including a playscape and bocce ball court, and overlooks the vineyard.
At 5 acres, the vineyard was first planted in 2009 with syrah, tempranillo, grenache noir and viognier. An additional 5 acres is being planted with merlot, malbec, and chardonnay. Current production is about 1,200 cases per year. The new plantings will eventually double that production.
Jamie is a Medford native and until recently owned a trucking transport company. He is the farmer in the family. Jamie manages the vineyard, employing organic farming and integrated pest management practices. Jamie believes that a productive, healthy vineyard has to be “in balance” — for example, not all bugs are bad.
Jamie is also beginning to employ some of the tenets of biodynamic farming in the vineyard. Katherine, a California native, had a career as a paralegal in Grants Pass. She also grew up with wine — she noted that her parents were “California hippies” who stomped their own grapes to make homemade wine. Katherine brings food pairing expertise to the party. Rounding out the team is Roxy the Wonder Dog, a Border Jack.
Jamie’s full name is Andrew Jackson McCleary IV (whew!). “Jaxon” is a derivation of his middle name. Each label features a patch of square copper patina, which changes shade, depending on the grape in the bottle.
During a recent visit, I had the opportunity to taste through Jaxon’s wine list. Three were my particular favorites. The 2016 Viognier is a quintessential viognier: It explodes with ripe pear and peach, with a bright acidity and lingering finish. The 2013 Tradición is a 50/50 blend of garnacha (grenache) and tempranillo, with aromas of spice and red raspberries. And finally, the 2013 Forté, which is described as a “pet project” for Jamie. This is a blend of syrah, cabernet franc, malbec and merlot, each grown by a different vineyard manager. Jamie loves blends; they let him, “color with all 64 colors in the crayon box.” In this case, cabernet franc brings leather, the malbec brings dried blueberry, the merlot adds to the mid-palate, and syrah brings the fruit. This is a wine made for steak. Although Jaxon has not made forté in the last few years, Jamie plans to bring it in-house with the new vineyard plantings.
For Jamie and Katherine, Jaxon Vineyards is clearly a labor of love. As Jamie commented wryly, “If this was about dollars and cents, we would have built a car wash.” Fortunately for us, they chose wine and hospitality over clean floor mats and air fresheners.
Jaxon Vineyards is open the first and third weekends of the month from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. from May through September. For more information, go to: info@JaxonVineyards.com.
— Kevin Breck is a Jacksonville freelance writer and winemaker in training. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.