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No fear: Beer can be a good partner

Admittedly, I have a bias against beer. You don't need to know the details, but once in my youth, there was a pitcher of beer in front of me and, soon afterward, a ring on my finger.

Because of that experience, I never gave the bad-boy brew another chance. I vowed that no amount of sweet talk would make me impulsive, bloated and burpy again.

For a few years, I hosted an online competition that pitted the hopped stuff against refined wine. Looking back now, I can see that I was unfair. I only posted images of some sad sack guzzling beer with greasy pizza in a hot tub or hanging out with sweaty teen athletes who were simultaneously chewing, coughing, laughing and sneering.

Truthfully, I was scared of beer. Maybe it was an inflated fear of another sticky relationship. Or a protruding belly. But I flinched every time I heard someone ask, "What's on tap?" — especially when that someone worked in the wine business. Weren't they being a little, well, unfaithful?

In September, I saw RoxyAnn winemaker John Quinones in the Rogue Valley Country Clubhouse. He had just finished a great round of golf that would earn him second place in the Southern Oregon Golf Championships. Did he celebrate with a bottle of his best red? No. Beer and Buffalo wings.

Weeks later, Patrick Flannery and Paula Brown confessed to me that after an exhausting day hand-picking weeds in their Dana Campbell Vineyards, they craved a cold beer more than any wine in the world.

Recently, I was seduced by a winemaker into trying a flirty "clara," Spain's version of lemon beer. In my defense, I was lonely and far away from home. It was a hot day, and there seemed to be much more sweet, lemon-lime soda in the mix than beer. Did this innocent slip count as cheating? If not, why did I feel guilty?

Maybe it's my memory. The beer places I knew were seedy operations. They didn't have a wine selection. If I was lucky, they had a box of wine.

That's changed. Standing Stone Brewing Co. in Ashland and Kaleidoscope Pizzeria and Pub in Medford have been great supporters of local wineries. They were the first to commit when Wooldridge Creek in the Applegate Valley started to put its chardonnay and merlot in wine kegs.

When I began to think it was time for me to set aside my beer inhibitions, I heard about a pub's "pumpkins and pints" party hosted in a cow pasture. Guests also would be surrounded by pecking chickens and electric fences. How inviting is that?

Turns out, Standing Stone has leased 265 acres off Eagle Mill Road from the city of Ashland. Here, the Stone crew is raising beef and chicken to supply their restaurant kitchen.

At the party, there were puppies, horse rides, a guy playing the guitar. Enough wholesomeness to relax my willpower.

I was offered a pint. I put it to my lips. I halted. "Am I that kind of girl?"

Well, let's just say, in the morning, I felt just fine.

TASTED: It's late at night, and like so many people I have stumbled upon love while surfing the Internet. The website copy reads like a romance novel. There are voluptuous characters and a love triangle. Or is this just Herb Quady's clever way to lure me toward his Quady North wines (www.quadynorth.com)?

OK, Herb. You have my attention. And, now, my credit card number.

In their quest to get to the Applegate Valley, wine day-trippers might be tempted to fly right past Quady North's brick tasting room in Jacksonville. My advice: Park and partake of the second-generation winemaker's viognier (starting at $19), syrah (starting at $25) and cabernet franc ($35).

Afterward, continue on to the Applegate Wine Trail.

EVENT: Seventeen Applegate wineries will participate Nov. 20 in the Fall Uncorked Barrel Tour.

Winemakers will offer preview samples from barrels, and tasting-room staffers will pair bottled wines with seasonal bites. A passport ticket is $39 (www.applegatewinetrail.com).

New to the fall tour are Red Lily Vineyards and Serra Vineyards. Fly High & LongSword Vineyards is ready to show off its new crush pad, built on a former airplane runway.

Reach columnist Janet Eastman at 541-776-4465 or email jeastman@mailtribune.com.