Roseburg, Oregon

Photo: Abacela Winery & Vineyard
Photo: Abacela Winery & Vineyard

You know where to find an elegant Pinot Noir, a spicy Zinfandel to pair with dinner, or a unoaked Chardonnay for a hot day. From Santa Barbara and Mendocino Counties to the Willamette and Walla Walla Valleys, you’re an expert on the West Coast’s wine regions. But today, you’re looking for a surprise.

The Umpqua Valley, a relatively unknown wine region, is full of surprises. German immigrants were the first to plant vines in Southern Oregon in the 1880s. Prohibition soon ended wine production, though, and the first post-Prohibition estate winery wasn’t establish until the early 1960s. At that winery, HillCrest Vineyards, the first Pinot Noir grapes in the state were planted. More than 40 varietals have been added to the region since then. You’ve come to taste the Albariños, the Grüner Veltliners, and the Tempranillos that are thriving in the area’s cool climate.

Photo: HillCrest Winery and Distillery
Photo: HillCrest Winery and Distillery

Your wine tour starts in Roseburg. The timber capital of the country sits along the South Umpqua River where three mountain ranges—the Klamath Mountains, the Coast Range, and the Cascades—collide. The land is hilly. The soil is heavy with clay. While rows of vines extend as far as the eye can see.

Abacela was the first winery to plant Albariño and Tempranillo grapes in the Pacific Northwest. You arrive to find apple and pear trees, as well as lots of busy honeybees, in addition to the vines. Inside the Vine & Wine Center, learn about the history of the winery and why they planted Old World varietals. See the geothermal heating and cooling system in the crush pad and the barrel cellar. Then taste their award-winning wines, including a floral Albariño, a fruity Grenache Rosé, and a 93-point Malbec Reserve.

Photo: Reustle Prayer Rock Vineyards
Photo: Reustle Prayer Rock Vineyards

HillCrest Vineyard & Distillery is next on your list. The hillside winery has long been known as the birthplace of Oregon Pinot Noir, and it’s now a leader in natural wine techniques. Carved Native American heads line the road leading to the vineyard. A fire pit sits outside the wood-paneled tasting room. Learn about the winery’s natural methods and concrete fermenters as wine bottles are lined up on the counter. Whites include a sparkling Riesling Sekt and a Heinz Schmitt, which is usually found in Germany’s Mosel Valley. Reds feature a Rioja-inspired Tempranillo, a northern Rhône-style Syrah, and a classic Barbera. While the Rose of Burg, a Provence-style rosé, would be the perfect wine to drink by the fire pit.

A gravel road lined with Douglas firs brings you to your final stop: Reustle-Prayer Rock Vineyards. The 200-acre vineyard has steep, south-facing slopes. An actual prayer rock sits atop a hill overlooking the vines. A pond, raised garden beds, and lavender dot the property. Chickens act like they own the place. Plus tastings are held in an underground wine cave. After a brief tour, you’re escorted down a hallway full of oak barrels. The smell of aging wine permeates the air. The tasting begins with a fruity Viognier and appetizers. The winery’s famous Grüner Veltliner follows. Then the reds—a Tempranillo, a Malbec, a Grenache, and even a Pinot Noir—arrive.

You could happily drink wine in this cool cave all night, if it weren’t for the music that starts playing. You go outside to find musicians in an amphitheater with a grass lawn. A great afternoon is turning into an evening full of music, wine, and gorgeous views of the vineyard. The surprises never end in the Umpqua Valley.

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