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Wine lists should grow with local flavor

There's much talk these days about buying local. Consumers are encouraged to visit local farms and growers markets. Restaurant chefs strive to use fresh, local foods.

Shouldn't the same principle apply to wine?

Rogue Valley restaurant wine lists fall into four groups: 1. They serve only Southern Oregon wines; 2. Offer a significant number of local wines; 3. Pour just one or two locals; 4. Make no mention of Southern Oregon.

We can perhaps excuse the chains whose wine lists may be compiled in distant corporate offices, designed for use at multiple sites in numerous states.

And you would expect French restaurants to serve French wines and Italian restaurants to serve Italian. But adding a local touch also can work. Consider the wine list at Rosario's Italian restaurant in Medford. It's 45 percent Italian and 45 percent Southern Oregon, with the remainder a few other Oregon wines (including a less expensive house wine from the Salem area) and one white zinfandel from California to accommodate those diners who prefer pink.

At dinner houses with huge wine lists, like The Jacksonville Inn, 38 Central and The Winchester Inn, the percentage of locals may be smaller, but you still see a lot of them. Sometimes a specific local winery will be highlighted.

Variety is certainly desirable. This wine column, for example, is devoted primarily to the Southern Oregon wine scene, but I frequently review wines of interest from other regions.

Besides those already mentioned, restaurants/wine bars I've encountered recently that do a notable job featuring the wines of Southern Oregon include Bella Union, Corks, Elements, 4 Daughters Irish Pub, Kaleidoscope Pizza, La Fiesta, McCully House, Pomodori, Porters, Rogue Regency, Roosters, The Wharf and Wild River Brewing Co.

No doubt there are others that belong on this list. Let's hope there will soon be still more.

A RECENT TRADE TASTING by the Southern Oregon Wineries Association featured some Douglas County wineries, as well as those closer to home. And that gave me a chance to sample Misty Oaks Stuckagain Heights Pinot Noir, platinum-award winner at this year's Greatest of the Grape. It is a worthy wine indeed, retailing for $28.

More than 30 wineries took part, each pouring samples of several wines. So, at such an event, one must be selective.

But some of the other wines I especially liked included Crater Lake Cellars (Shady Cove) 2008 Sweet Riesling ($15), Folin Cellars (Gold Hill) 2005 Estate Tempranillo ($30), Girardet (Roseburg) 2007 Baco Noir ($18), HillCrest (Roseburg) 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon ($30), Spangler (Winston) 2006 Cabernet Franc ($22) and Volcano Vineyards (Bend/Medford) 2006 Fortmiller Vineyard Merlot ($24).

Two that I had admired on previous occasions and couldn't resist sampling again were South Stage Cellars (Jacksonville) 2006 Merlot ($22) and Wooldridge Creek (Applegate Valley) After Hour Red blend ($18).

Valley View of Ruch offered some tastes of its 2006 Cabernet Franc, due out shortly. Supplies are limited, so it will sell only at the winery for about $30.

MURPHY-GOODE WINERY of Healdsburg, Calif., produces some distinctive upper-class wines.

Most notable in a group I sampled recently was its 2004 All in Claret ($36), blending cabernet sauvignon, merlot and petit verdot. It was earthy, complex and distinctive from the start, losing just a little after three days.

There were two zinfandels. Each benefited from a lot of breathing. The 2005 Snake Eyes Zinfandel ($35) was noncommittal at the outset but improved daily, reaching true excellence on day four. The 2006 Liar's Dice Zinfandel ($21) tasted heavily of prunes at first but became superior a day later.

The winery's 2005 Terra a Lago Cabernet Sauvignon ($45) was fruitier and lighter than many of its type and a bit overpriced.

The lone white in the group, Murphy-Goode Island Block Estate Chardonnay ($20), also took its time to blossom, reaching its peak of rich mild oak flavor on day five.

ALSO SAMPLED RECENTLY (at a Pacific Wine Club cancer benefit):

  • Weisinger's 2006 Claret ($25), a fine red blend from Ashland.
  • Henry Estate 2006 Pinot Gris ($13), an Umpqua white that's strong on flavor.
  • Monte Oton 2007 Garnacha ($9), a beautiful, inexpensive red from Spain.

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