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Zimbabwe roses to Rogue Valley grapes

Brian Jordaan used to grow roses on his father's farm in Zimbabwe. Customers in Europe were demanding, and each rose had to be picture-perfect, he recalls.

Years later, the crop is grapes and the location is the Rogue Valley. Jordaan leased an Ashland vineyard and created the label Eliana. His first wine, a red blend called 2008 Reserve, won a silver medal at this year's World of Wine Festival near Gold Hill.

The wine is 56 percent merlot, 28 percent cabernet franc and 16 percent cabernet sauvignon. Those percentages roughly parallel the varieties of grapes grown at the Bella Vista Vineyard, planted in 1997 by owners Stan Shulster and Katie McElrath.

Jordaan has been tending the just-under-three-acre vineyard since 2008. He delivers his grapes to Eola Hills Wine Cellars near Salem, where winemaker Steve Anderson does the rest.

It's a relatively small operation, just one wine a year, just 400 cases. A 2009 red blend will be out next.

The 2008 release retails for about $30 and is sold at Downtown Market Co. in Medford and Liquid Assets in Ashland. It's also on the wine list at Madrone Kitchen in Shady Cove.

I sipped the wine over a four-day period. It was superior on day one, seemed a bit too fruity on day two, but then regained excellence on days three and four.

Jordaan says he chose the name, pronounced "el-ee-AH-nah," because "it evokes the elegance of the wine and it means 'God has answered' in Hebrew and Romance languages."

"Wine lovers want beauty, complexity, fragrance and body," he adds, "the same desires a man looks for in a woman."

The road from Zimbabwe to Southern Oregon was an eventful one, as Jordaan explains on the website www.elianawines.com.

"Sadly, in 2004, the Jordaans had to flee Zimbabwe, forced off their family farm by the government's controversial land-redistribution policy. Brian and (wife) Carien lost everything but accepted their new challenge: 'If that had not happened,' says Brian, 'we wouldn't be here making wine.' "

The Jordaans and their four children now make their home in Medford.

BOB DENMAN'S SLAGLE CREEK 2008 Chardonnay won "best of show" at the recent Best of the Bioregion Wine Competition. The event at Hanley Farm was put together by Klamath Bird Observatory to honor winemakers who follow ecologically minded farming practices.

Winning silver medals were Trium 2005 Growers' Cuveé and 2009 Viognier, Abacela 2005 Claret, Cowhorn 2007 Syrah, Foris 2008 Chardonnay and EdenVale 2007 Viognier.

THE 30TH ANNUAL JEFFERSON Public Radio Wine Tasting is set for 6 to 9 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 9, at Ashland Springs Hotel, 212 E. Main St., Ashland. At least 30 wineries are expected. Restaurants and caterers will serve hors d'oeuvres and confections. Most of the wineries are located in Oregon or the extreme northern part of California.

Tickets cost $45 for JPR members, $50 for the general public. They can be purchased by phone at 1-877-646-4TIX, online at www.ijpr.org or in person at Adam's Deli & Catering in Medford and Ashland Food Co-op.

MANY OREGON WINERIES are open with special tastings and promotions over Thanksgiving weekend, Friday through Sunday, Nov. 26-28. For Southern Oregon wineries, check www.sorwa.org. For the Willamette Valley, take a look at www.willamettewines.com.

IF YOU BUY A CASE of syrah from Quady North during November, you will help provide vaccines to combat pneumonia in children around the world, especially in underdeveloped nations. The Jacksonville/Applegate winery plans to donate $10 from every case sold to Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization and International Vaccine Access Center.

Quady North also will waive tasting fees for people who bring two nonperishable food items to the tasting room during November. Food will be donated to ACCESS Inc. and the Applegate Food Pantry. The tasting room is at 255 E. California St., Jacksonville


Two good whites from Cupcake Vineyards of Soledad, Calif.: 2009 Chardonnay and 2010 Sauvignon Blanc. I preferred the chardonnay, from California's central coast — fruit-forward, crisp and tangy. But the sauvignon blanc, from New Zealand, was also distinctive with typical flavor of that region. Each retails for about $14.

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