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Dunbar Farms is a food and drink oasis that’s simple and delicious

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The chicken pesto panino is one of three hot sandwiches at Dunbar Farms in Medford. Photo by Sarah Lemon
The farmer’s salad at Medford’s Dunbar Farms highlights ocal, in-season produce, including items grown on the property. Photo by Sarah Lemon
The hot Italian panino features four meats at Dunbar Farms in Medford. Photo by Sarah Lemon
Wines are available by the glass, bottle or as a flight of four 1-ounce pours, pictured, at Dunbar Farms in Medford. Photo by Sarah Lemon

The evolution from commercial pear orchard to diversified crops — including grapes — has been slow and deliberate at Medford’s Dunbar Farms.

And the Mostue family’s careful planning at Dunbar is paying off. The latest piece of the 180-acre property’s puzzle is a prepared food program — rolled out over the spring — to heighten interest in Dunbar’s new wine tasting room. While the menu is a short, simple and straightforward lineup of sandwiches and salads, ingredients are unique to Dunbar — bread baked from the farm’s own organic wheat flour and produce from its fields — to complement its wines.

Grains, vegetables and a diversified farming operation came with David Mostue, who took over management about 15 years ago. More innovation followed than Dunbar — founded in 1909 — likely had seen in decades. Mostue has proven just as eager to experiment with draft horse power as with an online farm store. He achieved a new home for Dunbar’s “honor barn” farm stand, along with a tasting room, commercial kitchen and events venue, almost a decade after gaining city approval.

It takes an entire family, of course, to keep an independent farm viable, particularly where food and beverages are part of the equation. Farm co-owner Emily Mostue spearheads the tasting room at 2881 Hillcrest Road with daughter and son-in-law Ali Mostue and Nick Stevenson. Emily Mostue’s two siblings also have a stake in the land, recently annexed into the city limits, paving the way for future housing development.

For the time being, Dunbar offers a rural respite smack dab in the middle of east Medford. Views from its tasting room terrace over its pond, through a woodland and toward the Table Rocks offer almost as much sustenance as dishes prepared in the farm’s kitchen.

I decided to try four of the five wines available in a flight of 1-ounce pours ($9). Single glasses run $7 to $8 while bottles are priced from $24 to $26. Dunbar also serves a rotating beer on tap for $6 per pint to augment cans of Caldera lager, amber and porter at $5 apiece. Caldera root beer and ginger ale ($4 each) also are available, along with kombucha and a couple of types of sparkling water.

In the interest of variety, I requested the two white wines, plus the Rocky Knoll “Dunbar Red” and one of its two “clarets.” The Dunbar 2010 vintage was a double gold winner at The Oregon Wine Competition while the 2008 and 2007 clarets took gold and silver respectively.

Despite those distinctions, the Rocky Knoll label will become Dunbar Farms this year. Sauvignon blanc and chardonnay will be available beginning this week, said Stevenson. Previously, Parkhurst pinot gris and Cuckoo’s Nest “Aromatique” were poured in the Dunbar tasting room.

Cool whites sounded just right on the hot day under the patio’s misters. But I knew the reds would pair well with the hot Italian sandwich ($12), one of my favorite formats as either subs or panini. Dunbar specializes in the latter on Rise Up! bread baked in the Applegate from Dunbar’s own flour. Gluten-free bread can be substituted with any sandwich.

My sister ordered the chicken pesto panino ($11). Both her sandwich and mine featured roasted red peppers — not raw — which contribute significantly to my enjoyment of the cured meats, cheese and tomato.

Because my sandwich also incorporated red wine vinaigrette, I bypassed it on our salad, selecting the balsamic instead. Dunbar’s house salad generously comprises arugula and spinach with locally grown microgreens, topped with avocado, red onion, tomato and more roasted red peppers, plus toasted sunflower seeds for the modest price of $8.

I was more interested, however, in the “farmer’s salad” ($8), a rotating special that highlights the season’s local bounty. It happened to be pickled beets with fromage blanc, tomato and red onion on the day we visited.

Stevenson conscientiously pointed out the salad’s inclusion of onion in contradiction to my request for their omission from my sandwich. I replied that I’d just eat around the salad’s onion, given that I was sharing it with my sister, who appreciates them. When our order arrived, though, I was surprised and pleased to see the kitchen had split our salad onto two plates with onion for her and none for me.

The salad was light and flavorful with all the ingredients in correct proportion. Stevenson apologized that the balsamic dressing was too thick to pour, but my sister and I both liked using it more deliberately as a dip.

The panini were large enough that we could have split one for a lighter meal. I relished the dense, hearty slab of ham, salami, pepperoni and capicola amalgamated with provolone under the panini press.

Although it conveyed a single meat, my sister’s sandwich likewise didn’t skimp on the protein and other fixings, all vibrantly colored and distinctly layered. She contentedly sipped a glass of the Aromatique, a blend of viognier and gewürztraminer while I preferred the fuller bodied Dunbar blend over the claret with my sandwich.

Cold sandwiches — ham and cheese, chicken and avocado and veggie with avocado ($8 apiece) — round out the menu, along with a “chef’s plate” of cheeses, nuts, dried fruits, pickled vegetables, crackers and chocolate ($16), as well as an assortment of charcuterie for $7.

Dunbar’s menu is not available Friday evenings, when food trucks are invited to the farm coinciding with free live music performances. See the calendar of events at dunbarfarms.com/events-calendar

The tasting room is open from 11:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, until 6 p.m. Sunday. Call 541-203-0612.

Tempo Tidbits

Lavender drinks and sweets, food trucks, live music and artisans flavor this weekend’s Southern Oregon Lavender Festival.

The festival kicks off today and runs through Sunday at six local lavender farms, as well as Southern Oregon Research & Extension Center’s lavender garden. Download a brochure for the free, self-guided tour at southernoregonlavendertrail.com

The festival celebrates the region’s peak lavender blooming season with opportunities for picking lavender flowers, distilling essential oils, taking classes and purchasing potted lavender plants, crafts and fine goods. This weekend concludes festivities previously offered the last weekend in June.

Family-operated lavender farms on the Southern Oregon Lavender Trail are: Dos Mariposas Vineyards & Lavender Farm in Medford, English Lavender Farm in the Applegate, Goodwin Creek Gardens in Williams, Lavender Ally in Rogue River, Lavender Fields Forever in Jacksonville and Murphy Creek Lavender in Grants Pass. See the Lavender Trail website for locations, hours and contact information.

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Restaurant meals, food truck fare, wine tasting, craft beverages and gift baskets of artisan goodies are on the virtual auction block to support Rogue Valley Food System Network.

Today is the final day to bid on more than 50 items in the weeklong Rogue Flavor Auction hosted at 32auctions.com/Rogueflavor. Bids range from $25 to $425.

Gift cards pledged toward the fundraiser can be used at Bella Union, Buttercloud Bakery & Cafe, Clyde’s Corner, Gil’s, Luna Cafe & Mercantile, Ruby’s and Truffle Pig Craft Kitchen. The auction also boasts an hourlong personal photo shoot, a local food makeover and getaways at Ashland Hills Hotel & Suites and Ashland Springs Hotel.

Proceeds benefit RVFSN, a nonprofit organization that heads a collaborative community of leadership to develop and advocate for a healthy and sustainable, local food system. See rvfoodsystem.org

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A “French garden party” is planned for Aug. 22 at Ashland’s Lithia Springs Resort.

A flight of French and Oregon rose wines, small bites and the sounds of French jazz musician Delilah Beaucoup headline the event, from 4 to 6 p.m. Admission is $20 per person.

French cheese platters from party co-host The Oregon Cheese Cave will be available for purchase, along with fresh-baked baguette from Philippe the Baker and additional wines from Lithia Springs Wine Garden.

Purchase in advance at lithiaspringsresort.com/garden-party. Owned by Neuman Hotel Group, Lithia Springs Resort is at 2165 W. Jackson Road.

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Have a Tempo tidbit to share? Email news about the local dining, food and beverage scene to: thewholedish@gmail.com

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Sarah Lemon has relished the Rogue Valley’s dining scene for nearly two decades as one of the original contributors to Tempo’s dining column. Her palate has helped to judge some of the region’s culinary competitions and festivals. The former editor of A la Carte, the Mail Tribune’s weekly food section, she writes a biweekly column, The Whole Dish, and blogs and podcasts under the same name. Listen at mailtribune.com/podcasts and read more at mailtribune.com/lifestyle/the-whole-dish. Follow @the.whole. dish on Instagram, @thewholedish on Twitter or see facebook.com/thewholedish.