Why don’t more Rogue Valley restaurants feature local wines? That’s a complaint I used to hear, especially from some local winemakers.
True, quite a few restaurants did fall short when it came to showcasing local wines. But times have changed. Rogue district labels have become much more visible.
One of the more worthy local wine lists can be found at Callahans in the Siskiyous south of Ashland.
I had dinner there recently — my first return visit in two to three years — and was pleased to see many Rogue, Applegate and Illinois Valley wines on the list. The book leads off with a section on Ashland area wines, four from Ashland Vineyards and three from Weisinger’s, all available by the glass as well as the bottle.
I enjoyed a glass of Weisinger’s award-winning Mescolare, an Italian-style red that went well with my veal scaloppine. Cost by the glass was $5.50.
Featuring Ashland wines near the front of the list is an especially good idea for Callahans. This restaurant caters to a lot of tourists and Californians heading north. Most of them probably know about Ashland’s Shakespeare connection, but may not realize the town is home to two wineries.
Other locals represented on the Callahans list include Griffin Creek, Valley View, Bridgeview and Foris. Nearly 30 wines are available by the glass.
Callahans isn’t the only one. I’ve seen good local representation at Bel Di’s, Rosario’s and Porters of late, also during earlier visits to the Bella Union, Jacksonville Inn, McCully House and Applegate River Ranch House. No doubt there are others.
Even modest wine lists can reflect the right idea. While most Mexican restaurants in the Rogue Valley serve little more than inexpensive California house wines like Copperidge or Inglenook, La Fiesta of Jacksonville makes more of an effort. It pours four wines from Valley View, a winery located less than 10 miles from the restaurant.
The trend toward emphasizing local wines comes mainly from locally-owned establishments. Visit Red Lobster or the Olive Garden and you’ll see few, if any, Oregon wines in the book. But then these are chains, and their wine lists are probably compiled in corporate offices not located in the Rogue Valley.
To its credit, the Olive Garden restaurant in Medford offers a good wine selection, with many choices by the glass as well as bottle. Just little or nothing local.
It’s nearly impossible for one person to keep up to date on the wine lists at all major Rogue Valley restaurants. So, if you know of a another establishment that does a good job showcasing Rogue district wines, I’d appreciate hearing about it.
E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org or drop a note to me at the Mail Tribune, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501, and mark it "personal." Although retired, I still have a mailbox there.
THE VALLEY HAS A NEW wine shop, and a new opportunity for tastings on a regular basis. Catherine Moore has added a shop to her restaurant Catarina’s Trattoria, 505 N. Fifth St. in Jacksonville. And she plans tastings every Thursday from 6 to 8 p.m. The first one was set for Oct. 16.
Moore says the focus will be on Italian wines, which are her specialty, although in some cases tasters will get to compare an Italian wine with a similar one from elsewhere. Appetizers will be served. There will be a charge, with the price to vary depending on what’s being poured. It was $10 at the first event. Call the restaurant at 899-6975.
AND MORE TASTINGS:
Paul Murdoch of Gary West Meats in Jacksonville and David Gremmels of the Rogue Creamery in Central Point plan to launch Friday night tastings to fill the void left by the sale of Wolfgang’s.
Tastings would rotate between the two firms, each of which has a wine shop, starting soon.