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Wine at the junction of mountain ranges

Turning onto Emigrant Creek Road where it meets Dead Indian Memorial Road, the broad vistas and rolling hillsides contract into something smaller and more intimate.

Flowing roughly north and south, the narrow valley formed by Emigrant Creek represents the demarcation between the Cascade and Siskiyou-Klamath mountain ranges. At 2,100 feet, the Irvine & Roberts Family Vineyards’ soon-to-open new tasting room and winery perches on the western Siskiyou-Klamath side of that divide.

Irvine & Roberts Family Vineyards had its start in 2007, when after trips to France and Italy (and after too much wine) Doug and Dionne Irvine decided to plant their first vines on the 80-acre ranch they called home. The ranch is located on the eastern, Cascades side of the canyon and has nutrient-rich, loamy clay soils. The Irvines eventually discovered that just across the road, the western, older Siskiyou-Klamath side of the canyon had nutrient poor, well-drained volcanic soils, the perfect environment for grapevines.

In 2012, Doug convinced his sister, Kelly Roberts, and her husband, Duane Roberts, to become partners (Doug will modestly tell you that he’s “irresistible.”) The Robertses are the owners of the acclaimed Historic Mission Inn & Spa in Riverside, California. In the same year, the new partners planted 26 acres of pinot noir and chardonnay. An adjoining 26 acres has been recently purchased, and it too will be planted to pinot noir and chardonnay.

If you have the land and the grapes, a tasting room and winery naturally follow. Three years after groundbreaking, the tasting room will open in early June, and the winery is scheduled to be up and running July 15. The tasting room sits at the upper reaches of the vineyard. Large windows and an outdoor patio face east across the valley, providing a perfect vantage to watch the afternoon and evening light play across the opposite valley wall. Dionne described the exterior as being in tune with the surroundings, letting the view be the highlight. Inside, the decor is classic Pacific Northwest, with barn-wood floors and rock fireplace, which Dionne dubbed “Modern Farm Vernacular.”

A majestic counterpoint to the tasting room is a large Ponderosa Pine that was carefully (and expensively) protected during construction. Doug calls it his “$60,000 tree.”

The winery is built into the side of a hill behind and above the tasting room, taking advantage of the natural cooling afforded by the hillside. It features a covered crush pad and will have the capacity to hold 12,000 to 18,000 cases. With the new winery will come a new winemaker. The job posting has garnered worldwide interest.

Because it is a new vineyard, the owners are still experimenting with the best pinot noir and chardonnay clones. They have planted and separately bottled five different pinot noir clones, each of which will express the terroir in different ways. As the vineyard continues to mature, those expressions may change over time. Doug invites us to come and “explore with us this sense of place.”

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