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They're bottling gold in the Deer Creek Valley

Deer Creek Vineyards in Selma is definitely off the beaten wine path. At 2680 Deer Creek Road (3 miles east of Highway 199) in Selma, it is farther from Medford than the wineries in the Applegate — although not as far away as the better known Foris or Bridgeview wineries in the hills above Cave Junction. In spite of its distance from the Rogue Valley, this is a small, boutique winery worth visiting.

Deer Creek’s 2014 Pinot Gris ($24) just won a Gold and Best in Class at the Great Northwest Wine Competition, sponsored by Northwest Wine Press magazine in Portland. The 2013 Chardonnay ($24) took a Double Gold in its price category at the 2015 Oregon Wine Awards judged by a panel of Northwest buyers, distributors and sommeliers.

Deer Creek Vineyards dates from 1988. When Katherine and John Bryan bought the 70-acre property in 2010, the 40 acres of vines were in a state of neglect. The overgrown brush was so bad that it wasn’t until the Bryans cleared a thicket of blackberries that they discovered they had a block of merlot among the blocks of pinot noir, chardonnay and pinot gris.

The quality of the restored vines rewarded their efforts. Deer Creek’s 2011 Chardonnay ($20) won a Double Gold — the only Double Gold awarded — at the 2013 Oregon Wine Awards and the 2011 Private Reserve Pinot Noir ($35) won a Gold at the same competition.

Both Bryans, originally from Central Oregon, have agricultural and science backgrounds. They bring a meticulous attention to detail to every aspect of the growing, harvesting and making of Deer Creek wines, from vineyard management to the bottling and marketing.

“We are close enough to the ocean here to have a cooler marine climate, similar to the Russian River Valley in California,” says Katherine Bryan. “It gives us the warm days and cool nights that are perfect for pinot noir, chardonnay and pinot gris. We think that our particular terrain — our terroir — imparts its own flavor to the fruit.”

Deer Creek Vineyards sells approximately 75 percent of its grapes to wineries in the Willamette Valley and produces 2,500 cases of wine under its own label.

The wines are made using the indigenous yeasts found on the fruit, in the vineyard and in the winery and no natural or synthetic additives.

The 2011 Private Reserve Pinot Noir ($35) is lightly oaked. Deer Creek describes it as “an excellent example of an authentic Burgundy style pinot noir.” The 2012 Limited Release Pinot Noir ($40), sold only in the tasting room, is more heavily oaked with more tannins.

The 2013 Pinot Noir ($35) was also more heavily oaked than the 2011 but is more balanced than either the 2011 or the 2012. The wine has a slightly smoky nuance that lends complexity to the fruit.

“That was the summer of the fires in the Illinois Valley,” says Brianna Duden, the tasting room manager. “We didn’t detect much smoke in the skins or in the fruit but it came through from the soil.”

The just-bottled 2014 Chardonnay ($24), 20 percent aged in new oak, is very creamy and smooth.

Deer Creek’s attractive, light-filled tasting room has a spacious lawn that overlooks the vineyards and the Deer Creek Valley to the south. During the summer, it is open 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. seven days a week.

Deer Creek Vineyards features music by well known local groups in the gazebo on the lawn by the tasting room every other Sunday at 2 p.m. from mid-June through mid-September. The cost is $10 per person to pay the band. (Children younger than 10 are admitted free.) Wine can be purchased by the glass ($6) or the bottle, and food is available from a local catering truck.

Deer Creek wines can be purchased locally at Harry & David, the Old 99 Road Wine Shop in Medford, and at Ashland Co-op, but they are primarily sold in the Portland and Seattle areas. They are also available at Market of Choice stores throughout Oregon and at Costco stores in the Portland area and in Washington State.

Roberta Kent is a freelance writer living in Ashland. Reach her at rbkent@mind.net.