LongSword as landing zone
LongSword isn’t just a local winery surrounded by scenic vineyards, it’s also an LZ. For those readers who haven’t yet discovered paragliding lingo, that’s short for landing zone. Paragliders are those hardy souls you may have seen harnessed below a thin swatch of canopy soaring like hawks overhead. And the reason LongSword has a role in this sport has to do with its proximity to Woodrat Mountain.
Just a few miles west of Jacksonville on Highway 238, at the gateway to the Applegate Valley, LongSword is 2.7 miles from Woodrat, as the crow flies, and Woodrat, it seems, is known to paragliders worldwide as one of the premier spots in the hemisphere to take off. With launch sites at elevations of 2,750 and 3,780 feet, Woodrat is situated in an area of thermals, updrafts that create lift and give rise, literally, to the paragliding phenomenon.
On a good day, when the thermals build by noon, paragliders may experience what they call a glass-off — a launch so gentle and smooth some consider it the aeronautical equivalent of crème brûlée — and attain heights of 8,000 feet.
Given its prevailing conditions, it’s little wonder that Woodrat has been the scene of international paragliding competition since 2003. Originally known as the Rat Race, the name changed to the Applegate Open in 2018 when LongSword Vineyard officially assumed sponsorship of the seven-day competition.
Kate Vangeloff, who partners with her uncle, winemaker Matt Sorensen, to cover all the bases at LongSword, is the principal organizer of the paragliding competition. She explains, “This is the second year we’re doing the Applegate Open. Last year was wildly successful, which has led to our having 180 pilots flying this year. It’s going to be quite a big endeavor, which is really exciting. The best days for public viewing are going to be Saturday June 15 and Saturday June 22. That’s the practice day before the race starts and the final day of the race. The paragliders will be landing at LongSword those two Saturdays. They start at LongSword every day and then they carpool up to Woodrat Mountain, where they’re given their task — a series of GPS coordinates to hit ending at an LZ. They try to fly the course each day as accurately and as quickly as possible, and they’re awarded points on both of those metrics.”
On both Saturdays the public is invited to view the paragliders in the air and visit with them after they land at LongSword. Food trucks will be on site at the winery from noon to 5 p.m. — All Smoked Out BBQ on June 15 and Wok Star on June 22. The public is also invited to come to the winery for viewing during the week. Vangeloff cautions, “Because this is a sport based on weather, we have no way of guaranteeing when they’re going to land. Also, LongSword might be the LZ during a weekday, but we won’t know that until the day of, so it’s best to check Facebook during the event. I’ll post if we’ll be the landing zone.”
LongSword is a kid-friendly winery with a large field perfect for picnicking, romping and watching the paragliders. For adults, LongSword offers crowd-pleasing wines such as Accolade, a crown-capped sparkling chardonnay; Bravazzo, a full-bodied syrah; and Passado, a fruit-forward merlot.
And as if hosting an international sporting competition weren’t enough, Vangeloff has a brand-new event in mind for this fall.
“In September we’re producing an original adaptation of “Peter Pan.” We’re going to produce it on the vineyard. It will start in the tasting room and then it will travel around the property. It’s going to be really cool.”
Pertaining to my last column, Dan Marca of DANCIN Vineyards writes that he also sources barbera from John Pratt’s Celestina Vineyard in Medford. Thanks for the clarification.
What’s your take? Email MJ Daspit at email@example.com. For more on this topic, check out her Backstory Blog at mjdaspit.com.