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New Medford tasting room blends custom-crush wines

Southern Oregon wine-tasting rooms are a far-flung lot, from the Umpqua Valley to the Cascade foothills and up the Applegate and Illinois valleys.

Wineries span the Rogue Valley, including some on the fringes of Medford, but The Urban Cork is carving out a new territory along the downtown railroad tracks.

Grape growers from 15 Southern Oregon, Willamette Valley and Central Oregon vineyards have turned to Pallet Wine Co., for processing and bottling of their products. Now those custom-crush clients' wines will be available in an adjacent tasting room at 330 N. Fir St., owned and operated by Pallet Wine partner Linda Donovan.

"You can go out and tour the region, but so many of the wineries are difficult to access and all spread apart," said Rolar Yondorf, co-owner of nearby Porters Dining at the Depot. "To have a tasting room and be able to experience that kind of variety in one place opens the doors to a whole region. I love what Linda is doing, she's a real pioneer."

The labels whose tasting rooms are in rural locations and those closer to population centers, such as Grizzly Peak Winery, anticipate gaining a wider audience.

"We're closer than the Applegate and closer to I-5 and Shakespeare for a lot of people," Grizzly Peak's Al Silbowitz said. "At the same time, there are many people coming through the region, staying in Medford doing activities not related to Ashland. This is a chance for our wines to be made available to them."

The Urban Cork is the latest phase of the plan envisioned when Donovan turned on the lights at the custom-crush operation in 2009. The tasting room is about 1,200 square feet with room for up to 100 people.

"I wanted to keep an industrial, urban feel down here being across from the pipe yard," Donovan said. "I thought it was important to keep it clean and simple. There is a lot of reclaimed materials, the railing that came from the tanks when we purchased them in 2009."

Donovan plans to rotate 60 wines, and will sell by the glass and bottle. In addition to the wines made by Pallet, Donovan said, there will be a couple of beers and English cider on tap. Pallet produced 543 tons of wine in 2015 and will be closer to 500 tons in 2016.

"We're kind of a big Pallet family here, promoting each other," she said. "I'm putting everybody's logos up, have merchandise promoting everybody's brand."

Food will be provided by Angela and Jorge Padilla, who specialize in Cuban-style organic cuisine designed to pair with the wine poured that day.

Silbowitz is intrigued by the possibility of varietal wines from several labels being poured side by side.

"There may be four or five chardonnay or tempranillo wines by different labels, and that would provide an opportunity to educate people about a particular varietal and enhance their wine appreciation," Silbowitz said.

Donovan plans to open shop sometime next week. Hours will be 1 to 7 p.m. to start.

"I think this will be a positive addition to downtown Medford, encouraging people to walk around," Donovan said. "I would love to see Medford have as vibrant of a downtown as Ashland, where people are out walking around shopping and it's safe."

Reach reporter Greg Stiles at 541-776-4463 or business@mailtribune.com. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/GregMTBusiness, on Facebook at www.facebook.com/greg.stiles.31.

Linda Donovan is set to open The Urban Cork tasting room next to Pallet Wine Company on North Fir Street in Medford. Mail Tribune / Denise Baratta