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Agate Ridge Vineyard shows its heart for wine

Pulling into the driveway of Agate Ridge Vineyard outside of Eagle Point looks just as if you would imagine a farm would look. The quaint historic house, built by John Young in 1910, rests between views of the Table Rocks, Mount McLoughlin and the vineyards. Inside the home, a warming wood stove with a seasonal decorative mantel puts you in the mood for celebrating the holidays. It is at once welcoming and inviting.

Kim Kinderman, the owner and operator of Agate Ridge Vineyard, credits her father, Don Kinderman, for inspiring her to come to the Rogue Valley and see the potential of 30 acres off of Nick Young Road. At the time, she was living in Alabama. As Kim recounts, she couldn’t move out here fast enough.

“The first year, 20 acres were planted, and we had a terrible deep freeze.” Tells Kim “ We lost half our crop and we had to replant.” The second planting was successful, and in 2001, Agate Ridge was rolling. In 2005, the 5,000-square-foot winery was added with a temperature-controlled barrel room, lab and wine press.

The Agate Ridge winemaker is Lake Tahoe-raised Matt Cates. He came on board in 2013 as the viticulturist and in 2014 took over as full-time winemaker. Meeting Matt was a real treat, for his knowledge and unbridled enthusiasm for the vineyard. His father was a sommelier, and Matt always seemed to find himself at tasting events. In 2011, he began his studies towards a viticulture and enology degree, and in 2012, had the opportunity to intern in Spain and New Zealand. When I met Matt, he had just completed planting 7,000 vines. “We wanted to expand our white portfolio along with some other varietals. We planted chardonnay, malbec and pinot noir. These match our site really well.”

If you come to Agate Ridge for a tasting, chances are that you will meet Ashley Cates in the tasting room. Besides her role as marketing and sales manager, she is Matt’s wife and daughter of Kim. Ashley had the amazing experience of traveling to Spain and New Zealand with Matt. They worked as cellar hands for the Kim Crawford Winery in Marborough, NZ. one of the largest sauvignon blanc producers in the world. And work she did, inspecting 50 tons of fruit per hour for two months.

“It was my objective to bring my travel experience back to Agate Ridge.” Ashley explains. “ New Zealand gave me a full-circle understanding of how the wine was getting to the bottle.” Ashley uses this valuable experience to enhance her marketing and networking skills.

Agate Ridge has a thriving wine club and for the first time has sold futures in its popular primitivo and malbec. It has a summer concert series, bonfires in the fall and hosts an occasional wedding. Their varietals include cabernet sauvignon, syrah, pinot noir, roussanne, sauvignon blanc, semillon, merlot, grenache, viognier and pinot gris.

Both Kim and Ashley will put you at ease in the tasting room, and no question is too silly. Agate Ridge has won numerous medals. Most recently, Oregon Wine Press just named 2010 Rogue Valley Black Sticky a Cellar Select.

As Kim says, “We have a family persistence of farming and an integrity of product. My heart is in this vineyard.”

A good value is the 2011 Ridge Rock Red, a medium-bodied blend that pairs well with your antipasto platter for those holiday parties — $19

Agate Ridge Vineyard is located at 1098 Nick Young Rd, Eagle Point. Call 541-830-3050. Winter hours are noon to 5 p.m. Friday through Sunday; agateridgevineyard.com

Other news: Cowhorn Vineyards Spiral 36 2014, a viognier, roussanne and marsanne blend, was just named White Wine Value of the Year by forbes.com

Lorraine d’Entremont Rawls is a freelance writer and tour guide. Email her at wildprovence@gmail.com