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Rogue Valley vineyards have long history

Early Oregon settlers saw the potential for growing wine grapes in the Rogue Valley. As early as 1866, a Jacksonville newspaper wrote, in the stilted language of the time, “This will be no unimportant branch of agricultural industry in our valley ere long.”

One of the early winemakers, more famous today for his photographs, was Swiss immigrant Peter Britt. By 1858 he was well known for his Valley View Vineyard.

The valley’s vineyards nearly disappeared during the long years of prohibition, which came early to Oregon through a constitutional amendment passed in 1914, nearly five years before national Prohibition. Oregon’s vineyards laid dormant for many years, even after prohibition ended in 1933.

It was not until 1961 that Richard Sommers revived the industry by bottling wine near Roseburg under the Hillcrest label.

In 1972, more than a century after Peter Britt opened the Valley View Vineyard, the Wisnovsky [wiz-NOF-ski] family restored the name for its vineyard and winery in the Applegate Valley. Today, Valley View produces a cabernet sauvignon using a label duplicating one of Britt’s originals. There are now more than two dozen Southern Oregon wineries.

The Jacksonville newspaper prophecy has come true.

Source: “Historic Discovery Drives” Your Guide to Jackson County’s Past.

As It Was is a co-production of Jefferson Public Radio and the Southern Oregon Historical Society. As It Was stories are broadcast weekdays on Jefferson Public Radio and are available online at asitwas.org.

Southern Oregon historical societyFrank Wisnovsky tastes from Valley View Winery wine barrels in 1978.