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Summer brings changes to urban winery

It's a busy summer at RoxyAnn Winery of Medford for two reasons. The winery is adding new equipment and expanding production, and it has become a popular destination thanks to its tasting room, growers market, concert series and other happenings.

"We are expanding our fermentation capacity," reports John Quinones, who took over as winemaker last Jan. 1. The winery is moving its fermentation tanks from outside to indoors and changing the configuration of the tank tops from open to fully enclosed. Better control of temperature and sanitation is the idea behind that.

"You need to be able to control things you can control," says Quinones, whose 1986 University of California at Davis degree was in fermentation science and enology. "That helps you deal with things you can't control."

The winery also has built a new room for storing wine in barrels. It's temperature controlled — cooled in summer, heated in winter, as needed.

Quinones defines his philosophy as: "Get the best fruit possible and make the wine in a manner that preserves and expresses the inherent qualities of the grapes."

RoxyAnn grows its own red-wine grapes, also viognier, altogether about 20 varietals. "Grapes for our pinot gris and viognier come largely from Don and Traute Moore at Quail Run Vineyard and a smaller amount of pinot gris from Kurt and Laura Lotspeich at Pheasant Hill Vineyard, both in Talent," says Michael Donovan, managing director.

The winery currently makes 15,000 to 16,000 cases a year. Donovan envisions growth to 25,000 to 30,000 cases by 2012.

It is adding "significant plantings" of chardonnay and pinot noir. Some root stock is already in the ground. More plantings are scheduled in the spring.

"Some industry people in the area say it's too hot here for those two varietals, but it's quite a bit cooler in Medford than it is in Napa," says Quinones. "I think we can grow very high-quality chardonnay and pinot noir here."

With the downturn in the economy, RoxyAnn has made an effort to become more of a destination, drawing more visitors and locals to the winery. The tasting room, also a mini country store, is open daily and attracts crowds. Visitors may bring a picnic and enjoy the gardens while sitting under an outdoor tent.

A growers market, with up to 28 farmers, crafters and vendors, operates from 2 to 6 p.m. Wednesdays and Fridays. Concerts are held each Friday at 6:30 p.m., with admission $5 for the public, $3 for wine club members.

And a cooking class is offered monthly to wine club members featuring chefs from local restaurants, pairing foods with RoxyAnn wines.

The tasting room, at 3285 Hillcrest Road, operates from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily but stays open until 7 p.m. Wednesdays and 8:30 p.m. Fridays.

RoxyAnn currently has seven of its own wines on the market: claret, pinot gris, viognier, syrah, late-harvest viognier, merlot and Parsons Reserve (a red blend).

Six other labels are produced there under a custom-crush agreement: Velocity, Daisy Creek, Rocky Knoll, Red Lily, Carpenter Hill and Volcano. A number of other Oregon wines that are distributed to wholesale accounts by RoxyAnn also are sold in the tasting room.

The Hillcrest Orchard property consists of 250 acres, with 75 acres planted in grapes and 55 in pears, apples and peaches. The result is an urban winery (inside the Medford city limits) that has quite a rural feel.

SOME WINES ARE DESIGNED to amuse as well as to please. Take the name Marilyn Merlot, for example. It's especially apparent when it comes to zinfandel. This column recently reviewed one called the Seven Deadly Zins. Next up, I came across a bottle of Cardinal Zin. Haven't seen Original Zin, but no doubt there is one.

Cardinal Zin is made by Big House Winery in Soledad, Calif., and is part of Underdog Wine Merchants, described as "a champion of interesting, sometimes misunderstood or under-appreciated wines "¦ "

The 2006 Cardinal Zin comes with a screw cap instead of a cork and sells for about $20. I found it delicious at first, a little less so as time went on.

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