By Noah Nelson
“Southern Oregon’s The Applegate Valley is the most beautiful wine region in America.”
This statement from the general manager of Troon Vineyard and president of the Applegate Valley Vintners Association, Craig Camp, is echoed across the Northwest from countless wine aficionados. While there is no official competition for the most beautiful wine region, the Applegate Valley would undoubtedly become a frontrunner if such a thing were to ever exist.
The valley is located in Southern Oregon and is part of the greater Rogue Valley American Viticultural Area, or AVA. An AVA is a federally recognized wine grape-growing region. By tracking which regions the grapes are coming from, the entire wine industry is safer and more well regulated, which benefits both the wineries and consumers.
“The wines of the Applegate Valley have not only received praise from the national wine press, but from top publications in England, Sweden and Italy,” Camp said, in regards to the quality of Applegate Valley wine. “Situated between the warmer California vineyards to the south and the cooler vineyards of the Willamette Valley to the north, the Applegate Valley has proved ideal for a wide range of grape varieties. In particular, varieties from southern France, like syrah, grenache, marsanne and viognier have thrived here.”
The Applegate Valley got its start in wine in 1852 when Peter Britt tried to plant wine grapes in the area. In 1873, he opened Oregon’s first official winery, the Valley View Winery. Economic hardships combined with prohibition brought the winery to a close, and it wasn’t until the 1970’s when local wine pioneers discovered how perfect the growing conditions were that the valley came back to life.
Everything about the Applegate Valley makes it a perfect spot for warm-climate varieties of wine. The surrounding Siskiyou Mountains help raise the elevation to ideal levels, the growing seasons see hot and dry days with cool nights, and even the soil is typically granite in origin. Most of the area’s vineyards are planted on stream terraces or alluvial fans, providing deep, well-drained soils that are ideal for high-quality wine grapes.
But like with every industry now, there looms an important question overhead: Can I enjoy the Applegate Valley during COVID-19 and still stay safe?
According to Camp, the answer is yes.
“The wineries of the Applegate Valley have not only embraced the safety recommendations of the CDC, but have found creative ways to implement them,” Camp said. “As most wineries have extensive outdoor seating, it has been easy to create safe tasting environments that honor social distancing. With the spectacular views to be found at wineries in the Applegate Valley, everyone wanted to sit outside anyway!”
Although the Applegate Valley had to cancel one of their annual UnCorked! wine festivals, which happen twice a year, they fully expect that their November festival will go on as planned.
With or without events, there is no question that the Applegate Valley is a premier wine destination, known for its healthy and fresh grapes, as well as a comfortable and relaxing attitude.
“The wine tourists that come to the Applegate Valley come not only for our exceptional wines, but for a more authentic rural experience,” Said Camp. “Our tasting room staff are more friendly and relaxed than many other wine regions. Often, visitors get to meet the owners and winemakers themselves in the warm and casual atmosphere only to be found in the Applegate Valley.”
You can visit their website here for more information.
Photography by CRAIG CAMP