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Pears contribute to winning fruit wine creations

Oregon is known for its pinot, as in pinot noir, pinot gris and pinot blanc. There's another "p" in the wine picture, one especially appropriate for the Medford area - pears.

Not a lot of wine is made from pears, but you can find it in at least two local outlets: the RoxyAnn Winery tasting room at Hillcrest Orchard and the Southern Oregon Sales Pear Station store.

The wine sold at RoxyAnn bears a Hillcrest Orchard label and sells for $12 per bottle, $6 for a half-bottle.

"It is produced for us by Honeywood Winery in Salem," says Michael Donovan, managing director at RoxyAnn. "Paul Gallick, owner of Honeywood, does a superb job with these fruit wines. Hillcrest Bartlett pears are indeed part of the Rogue Valley blend that makes up the pear concentrate for Paul."

The wine sold at SOS bears a Honeywood label and retails for $8.99 and $4.99, respectively.

I have sampled both wines and found them enjoyable. And they hold up well for a few days after opening.

Honeywood seems a logical choice to produce pear wine. It makes wines from a wide variety of fruits: apricots, blueberries, peaches, strawberries, even pineapple.

"We currently have no plans to begin production of pear wine here in Medford," says Donovan. "However, we are exploring the possibility of a pear sparkling hard cider from Hillcrest Orchard, but that project remains in the feasibility stage. It is my feeling that a quality pear hard cider made entirely from pears, rather than the standard American pear cider based on apples, would meet with great market acceptance."

Besides Honeywood, the Pear Station at SOS stocks a number of local wines - labels like Del Rio, EdenVale, Crater Lake, Troon and Valley View.

THE WINE LIST AT ELEMENTS, the new tapas bar in Medford, is impressive in two respects. All the wines are either from Oregon or Spain, and you can get 2-ounce pours, as well as bottles and 6-ounce glasses.

The list honors Southern Oregon with nearly 20 wines from our region, along with another four or five from farther north in the state. The second half of the list features just over 20 Spanish wines.

The list changes from time to time, but when I visited recently, 13 of the Oregon wines and 15 of the Spanish could be ordered by 2-ounce or 6-ounce pours.

The 2-ounce plan gives you the chance to sample a greater variety of wines - six for the price of two, almost. The price of a glass is a little less than the total of three 2-ounce tastes of the same wine. That's understandable. It costs more to pour and wash six wine glasses. The 2-ounce tastes start at $2, full glasses at $5, bottles at $18.

Another advantage of the 2-ounce system is that you can sample an expensive wine without spending an arm and leg. For example, I tried Condaza de Haza 2003, a wonderful Spanish Tempranillo that costs $41 a bottle. But a taste is only $4. I would rarely pay $41 for a bottle of wine, but I could handle $4. My other two reds were RoxyAnn 2004 Claret from Medford and Petalos 2005 from Spain, both very good.

Earlier in the evening I tried three whites: locals LongSword 2003 Chardonnay and Skipping Stone Pinot Gris (no year listed but probably 2005) and a Spanish wine, Martinsancho 2005, again superior. The Spanish wine is especially good, made with grapes from a vineyard planted in the 17th century.

ROGUE VALLEY SOROPTIMISTS plan a Wine Walk for Women's Health in September. It will be a fund-raiser to help meet the needs of uninsured and underinsured women in the Rogue Valley. Participants will walk between three wineries in the Applegate Valley: Troon, Wooldridge Creek and the Bridgeview tasting room. The date is Saturday, Sept. 29. The Soroptimists, for whom women's health is a key program of service, are looking for sponsors and teams. Call Sue Rasmussen at 779-5525 or e-mail her at sue@jacksontravel.com.

PLATON MANTHEAKIS WILL PRESIDE over the annual Greek Independence Day wine dinner at 6:30 p.m. Saturday, March 24, at the Jacksonville Inn. A five-course dinner of Greek cuisine will be accompanied by wines from that country. Cost is $80. Call 899-1900.

A dinner with wines from Troon of the Applegate Valley follows at 6:30 p.m. Friday, March 30. Same price.

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