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From rafting to cruising at South Stage Cellars

Traute and Don Moore’s entry into the wine business began 28 years ago with a broken car window.

While on vacation from California, the Moores went rafting on the Klamath River. While they were on the river, thieves smashed their car windows. They could not drive home and had a choice of taking the car to Eureka or Ashland to have the windows repaired. They chose Ashland. While there, the Moores ended up in a real estate office, where the Realtor told them about a 20-acre farm for sale in Talent. The Moores had recently sold their interest in an orange orchard and Traute missed farming. From oranges to grapes: how hard could it be? They named the new vineyard Quail Run Vineyards.

Twenty-eight years later, those first 20-acres have grown to 420 acres spread over 13 distinct vineyards. Initially the Moores sold all their grapes to winemakers, who then won awards for the wines made from those grapes. In 1996, they asked Joe Dobbes, then the winemaker for Willamette Valley Vineyards, to create the Griffin Creek label. The Griffin Creek merlot and pinot noir became award winners. The Moores now grow 28 varieties, which they sell to 40 wineries, including King Estate, Oregon’s largest winery.

The Moores opened South Stage Cellars’ tasting room in Jacksonville in 2008, in one of the oldest buildings in Jackson County. In previous lifetimes, the building was a law office, gold claims office, and hotel of questionable repute. One thing that makes South Stage unique is the number of winemakers who make its wine. South Stage works with a half-dozen local winemakers, including Eric Weisinger and Linda Donovan, to make award-winning wines under the South Stage Cellars label.

With 28 varieties and combinations thereof, South Stage has a “flavor” for everyone. Two of my current favorites are the 2014 Romeo & Juliet and 2012 Grenache. The Romeo & Juliet, made by Herb Quady, is a blend of Marsanne and Rousanne, with bright citrus, and wet river rock aromas. It is well balanced, with bright acidity and round mouthfeel. The Grenache, made by Linda Donovan, is smoky with leather and spices, with a good balance of tannin and acidity.

South Stage Cellars is an inaugural member of the Jacksonville Wineries Association. On May 21, 2017, the Association will hold its third annual Wine Cruise. From noon to 6 p.m., participants can cruise between the five member wineries: Daisy Creek Vineyards, Quady North, Caprice Vineyards, DANCIN Vineyards and South Stage Cellars.

Each location will offer three wines and food pairings. Tickets are $35 and are available online at www.jacksonvillewineries.com. Each ticket assigns participants to a starting vineyard, and buses will shuttle continuously among the venues. Each venue will discount bottles of its wines by 15 percent for Cruise-goers through the end of June. This is a great opportunity to experience what may be Oregon’s smallest unofficial “AVA.”

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