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Cowboy Joe's French winemaking roots

You often hear winemakers figuratively called “cowboys.” For Joe Ginet of Plaisance Ranch, that is quite literally true.

When Joe and Susie Ginet purchased 310 acres in Williams in 1979, the only wineries around were Troon, Valley View and Foris. As a result, local bankers were reluctant to make loans for vineyard operations. If you wanted to milk cows, however, the sky was the limit. The Ginets figured they’d milk cows for 10 years at the most, but life has a way of intervening. More than 25 years later, they milked their last cow in 2004.

During that time, the vineyard and winery business grew slowly, until 1998 when Ginet’s French cousins came to visit. They were looking to invest in a grapevine-grafting business here in the States. They ultimately decided to keep the investment in the family and started the grafting business at Plaisance Ranch. This allowed the Ginets to finally give up the milking business, although the Ginets keep 250 head of beef cattle for their organic beef business.

Joe is the third generation of Joe Ginet’s in the Rogue Valley. In 1898, Joe’s grandfather came to the Rogue Valley from the Savoie region of France and purchased a neglected orchard outside Jacksonville. In 1904, he returned to Savoie, intending to return with his fiancee and grape-vine cuttings. Sadly, the fiancee’s family refused to let her leave France, so Ginet, Sr., returned to America alone with cuttings of mondeuse, a red grape variety grown primarily in Savoie.

One hundred years later, in 1998, Joe, Jr., brought mondeuse “sticks” to Plaisance Ranch. After three years in quarantine, the mondeuse went in the ground. At last year’s Oregon Wine Experience, the 2013 Mondeuse took a gold medal (the 2013 Syrah also took best of show).

Ginet’s winemaking style is simple: “God made grapes to make wine — don’t screw it up.”

As a result, he does not filter or fine his wine. Plaisance Ranch also benefits from location. On average, it is three to four degrees cooler than other vineyards in the area. The cooler climate helps preserve the acidity of the grape, which when carried through to the finished wine makes it much more interesting and food-friendly. This is especially apparent in the 2014 Malbec, which has earthy forest floor, dark chocolate aromas and a bright acidity.

For the last 10 years, the Ginets have partnered with chef James Daw to put on winemaker dinners. My love and I were lucky enough to attend the Valentine’s dinner. The food and wine pairings were exquisite. My favorite was main course: filet mignon, rutabaga mash, roasted carrots, roasted chili butter, Carmenere demi; and the 2014 Carmenere, which had heady aromas of cayenne pepper, balanced tannins and acidity, with a rounded mouthfeel.

During the season (beginning March 24), Plaisance Ranch will host its popular monthly Winedowns, which feature live music and great wine in a lovely setting. Plaisance Ranch is on Water Gap Road in Williams and online at www.plaisanceranch.com.

— Kevin Breck is a Jacksonville freelance writer and winemaker in training. Contact him at rogue.enofiles@gmail.com.