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Wine Cellar owners celebrate fifth anniversary

Ashland Wine Cellar on Saturday celebrates its fifth anniversary under owners Brian and Lisa Dunagan, offering complimentary finger food, wine tasting, live music and door prizes from 2 to 6 p.m.

The Wine Cellar, started by Lorn Razzano in 1980, is considered the oldest wine-only shop in Oregon, owners say. Brian is a civil engineer and Lisa works in development at the Rogue Community College Foundation. Running the shop is manager-buyer Lisa Breitigam, who says, “It’s lots of fun. I’m passionate about wine and love to learn and research new things.”

The shop at 38 Lithia Way has many imported kinds of wine and benefits from the growing number of local wines. Local supermarkets may offer many different sorts of wine, but Brian Dunagan says his bottle shop offers high quality wines and can “help and guide people, especially with big events, dinner parties and weddings while, at markets, it’s a crapshoot.”

Especially big are local grenache and tempranillos, says Breitigam.

“The Southern Oregon wine scene is exploding,” says Lisa Dunagan, “and people are coming to the valley for the wines, as well as Shakespeare. They taste and buy wines in the daytime and take in a play at night.”

While the Willamette Valley is known for its pinot noir, the Rogue Valley is producing more and more of it, says Brian Dunagan, with richer fruit because of the warmth here — and much of it is sent to the Willamette Valley for processing into wine. Demand for local wines is high during warmer months, then consumers shift to champagnes and specialty wines to go with holiday gatherings.

The couple offer wine by the glass, with tables for sitting, but, they emphasize, they are not a bar.

Every Thursday, from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m., the shop offers a complimentary tasting, with noshes and a 10 percent discount on bottles. They have completely remodeled the shop. They also continue the Razzano tradition of selling cigars (no Cubans yet) and a small selection of beers.

Razzano, a former wine columnist with the Daily Tidings, lives in retirement in Ashland, where he has children and grandchildren. As he has done for decades, he teaches wine appreciation at Southern Oregon University.

“He still comes in to buy wine,” says Brian Dunagan.

— John Darling is an Ashland freelance writer. Reach him at jdarling@jeffnet.org.