Monday, February 8, 2016

A little bit of Spain taking root in Oregon

Lovers of the Spanish wine varietal called Tempranillo can take heart that this grape is taking root in the soils of Oregon.

In Southern Oregon, there’s a touch of Iberia.

Skeptical? What does Oregon have in common with the Iberian Peninsula (the geographic region of Europe home to Spain and Portugal)?

More than you might think, as I learned a couple of weekends ago at the 2016 Oregon Tempranillo Celebration down in Ashland.

There are about 57 wineries in Oregon now making Tempranillo, and there are about 400 acres of Tempranillo vineyards planted in Oregon, according to Greg Jones, a professor at the Southern Oregon University. Tempranillo is now the eighth largest varietal harvest in Oregon, with 839 tones of fruit harvested in 2014, according to statistics from the Oregon Wine Board.

According to Jones, Tempranillo is grown in about 80 percent of Spain, much of it in the Rioja region in northern Spain but also in the Ribera del Duero, just a little to the south of Rioja.

It turns out that many parts of Oregon have comparable climate during the growing season to regions in Spain, particularly the warmer parts of Oregon, according to Jones.

Jones is a research climatologist at SOU and has traveled extensively in Spain, studying the climate in the wine-growing regions there. He’s also the son of Earl Jones, founder of Abacela Winery, widely considered the best Tempranillo producer in Oregon.
Abacela's Cobblestone Hill Vineyard

“Although Oregon west of the Cascades gets more rain than most of Spain, in the Rogue and Umpqua AVA, rainfall is closer to Spain and Portugal,” Jones said.

“And growing season average temperatures in the Rogue, Umpqua and Applegate valleys are very close to Ribera del Duero in Spain,” he said.

The Columbia AVA on the Oregon side is close to Rioja and Toro in terms of temperature, Walla Walla Valley AVA on the Oregon side is close to Campo de Borja, and Rogue and Applegate are nearly identical to planted areas in Toro region of Spain, Jones said. “Vine growth timing and growth intervals are consistent between Oregon and Ibera,” he said.

What differs between winegrowing areas of Oregon and Spain is geology, according to Scott Burns, a geology professor at Portland State University who  also has done a lot of research on the geology of winegrowing regions of Spain.

In Rioja, the soil is a combination of limestone and siltstone that’s chalky and also has old clay and iron-rich soils, he said.

“These were sedimentary rocks that were created when Iberia crashed into Europe and was lifted up from the ocean floor,” he said.

In Ribera del Duero, the vineyards are on the banks of the Duero river, where the soil is limestone with silt, clay and sand, Burns said.

The best Tempranillos in Spain are made in areas with a combination of limestone, sandstone, soils that are rocky and have a little clay, he said.

Burns said the Umpqua area, with the convergence of the Coast Range, Klamath Mountains and Cascade Range, has both the geology and climate that happens to be perfect for Tempranillo.

Participants at the Oregon Tempranillo Celebration tasted more than 30 Oregon Tempranillos during the event on Jan. 22. Although they were vastly different, depending on barrel treatment and the region that the grapes were grown in, they had the same underlying characteristics of Spanish Tempranillo: dark ruby color, leathery mouthfeel, with varying degrees of spicyness, and flavors of plum or dried strawberries and good acidity. Some were lighter bodied, more fruity or had higher acidity than others.

If you’re interested in trying Oregon Tempranillos, keep an eye out for Tempranillos made from the following wineries: 2Hawk Vineyard and Winery, Abacela Winery, Aguila Vineyard, Belle Fiore Winery, Castillo de Feliciana, Coventina Vineyards, Dana Campbell Vineyard, Delfino Vineyards, EdenVale Winery, Folin Cellars, Girardet Wine Cellars, Holloran Vineyard Wines, Jaxon Vineyards, Kriselle Cellars, Ledger David Cellars, Naked Wines, Paradox Vineyard, Paul O’Brien Winery, Pebblestone Cellars, Plaisance Rance, Platt Anderson Cellars, Purple Cow Vineyards, Quady North, Red Lily Vineyards, Reustle Prayer Rock Vineyards, Schultz Wines, Serra Vineyards, Silvan Ridge, South Stage Cellars, Stone River Vineyards, TeSoAria Vineyard and Winery, Upper Five Vineyard, Valley View Winery, Weisinger Family Winery and Zerba Cellars.

Victor Panichkul is wine, beer and food columnist. Reach him at (503) 399-6704, and on Twitter at Taste of Oregon.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Southern Oregon wines' gaining clout could bring onslaught of tourists

Posted Jan. 31, 2016 at 12:01 AM 
The winsome wines of Southern Oregon are gathering acclaim far beyond the Cascades and Siskiyous.
An industry once summed up by a collection of one-offs in Ashland, Cave Junction, Roseburg and Ruch during the 1970s now boasts 121 wineries and 226 vineyards on 5,886 planted acres in Jackson, Josephine and Douglas counties.
The fruit of the region's vines has drawn accolades from the Atlantic to Pacific, capturing the hearts of wine columnists and judges. Reports in the New York Times, Sunset magazine and Wine Enthusiast, plus an avalanche of medals in this month's San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition, are creating reasonable expectations the coming travel season will attract more and new wine tourists.

"This is really an important moment in our transition from a region that's unexplored and undiscovered to the recognition we've received from the national press, and awards coming in," said Michael Donovan, president of the Southern Oregon Winery Association. "Not to mention the individual wine ratings awards."
Wine Enthusiast named Ashland one of its "10 Best Wine Travel Destinations" for 2016. Sunset magazine's October article touting Southern Oregon's myriad wine offerings, reasonable rates and few crowds came on the heels of a similar article in the New York Times the year before. And the San Francisco Chronicle is featuring the region's wines at its Feb. 13 Grand Tasting at Fort Mason in San Francisco, an event expected to draw thousands.
Foris Vineyards' 2014 Pinot Gris and Pebblestone Cellars' 2014 Ellis Vineyards Viognier earned Best of Show awards as Southern Oregon wineries, including Applegate, Elkton, Rogue Valley and Umpqua Valley locations, reeled in a total of 134 medals in the Chronicle's competition. Another nine entries earned double golds and 15 garnered golds. All those entries will be available at the grand tasting.
"From the wine growers and winemakers, we've really stepped up the game now to the point where we are producing world-class wines," said Pebblestone Cellars owner Dick Ellis. "I think that can be coupled with a message going out telling the world through social media, advertising and different forms of marketing that this is a real destination to come. It's great publicity, very good timing. As we get more and more people coming here as a destination wine area, it will help to get the word out of what kind of wine we're producing here."
Joe Czerwinski, managing editor of Wine Enthusiast Media, said areas profiled previously in the magazine, such as Virginia and the Texas Hill Country, reported tourist upticks after the articles were published.
"I think the response depends on how able and willing each region is when it comes to promoting the award and what the public awareness of the region is to begin with," Czerwinski, who resides in upstate New York, said in an email. "If the recipient does a good job getting out there and marketing it, there can be (especially with domestic destinations) an immediate response."
His long-distance perception of Southern Oregon is of a bucolic region "with the sort of real country vibe that might be missing from some of the world’s more developed wine regions," such as the Napa Valley, while still offering enough in the way of fine dining and accommodations.
With encouraging reviews, affirmative adjudication and international acclaim in hand, the region's vintners and wine marketers seized on a rare opportunity, turning the San Francisco tasting into a launching pad to greater things. The Southern Oregon Winery Association signed on the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Neuman Hotel Group and Travel Medford to promote its cause.
"We're going into spring with a plethora of great coverage," Donovan said. "We're starting to see the momentum build, it's snowballing."
Among the selling points both SOWA and individual wineries can espouse at the Chronicle's grand tasting are the breadth of wines produced in the region because of varying climate and soil factors.
"We grow 75 different grape varieties in the region, so we can literally offer A to Z, everything from Albariño to Zinfandel," said Liz Wan, a wine consultant based in Josephine County. "If they get here and decide they don't love the Albariño, they will find something else to fall in love with."
Wan suggests the greatest obstacle to drawing more tourists has less to do with wine than distance and time.
"We're not marketing a commodity, we're marketing a lifestyle here," Wan said. "We don't have to worry about anything else other than getting them here."
Based on what a group of graduate students from the University of California-Davis Enology and Viticulture Organization found while touring Rogue Valley wineries earlier this month, the lure to Southern Oregon is building.
"I was impressed with the region's ability to make so many different varieties and styles well," said Charlie Henschen, who grew up in Knoxville, Tenn. "There aren't many places where one can make balanced and nuanced wines from viognier, pinot noir and cabernet franc all within a few miles of each other."
Among the sites the UC-Davis students visited was Dancin Vineyards off South Stage Road, where Dan and Cindy Marca have created pinot noir to rival the Willamette Valley.
"I was struck by their attention to detail, as exemplified by their practice of hand-tying each cane to the trellis wires," Henschen said. "Even in an industry with its fair share of meticulous personalities, that stands out. And judging from the wines, their efforts definitely paid off."
The buzz via trade publications, social media and cocktail conversation is obvious, Dan Marca said.
"It's really elevating our region, nationally and internationally. People are discovering us and it's really showing we have a lot to offer here," he said. "All of this exposure nationally and internationally, I believe is going to be incredible."
Tawny Doiron, who works in the Edenvale Winery tasting room on Voorhies Road, sees intriguing parallels to California's Sonoma County, where she grew up.
"I saw the wineries explode there," Doiron said. "In the past 10 or 15 years there have been wineries popping up everywhere. It's one of those areas that is beautiful and desirable to live there because of the wine and climate and this is a very similar area in that regard. There are lot of rolling hills, a lot of beautiful vineyards and views. I see a lot of similar features from those California times when there weren't as many wineries here."
Within the industry there are sweeping movements, collecting adherents as well.
The inaugural Oregon Tempranillo Conference in Ashland earlier this month highlighted the region's unique ability to produce competitive wines from the fastest expanding varietal on the planet, something outside wine experts adamantly approved.
Later this year, Donovan said, a Terroir or Sense of Place conference will focus on soil, topography and climate. The annual Oregon Wine Experience also will expand its competition, inviting entries from northern and eastern Oregon wineries.
Tasting room visits, busy restaurants and filled hotels are underlying aims, but as much as anything the local industry hopes to develop relationships with distributors that will deliver Rogue, Applegate and Umpqua vintages to customers in Florida, New York, Illinois, Texas and California.
"There are thousands throughout the country, from small independents to national players like Southern Wine and Spirts, and Republic," Donovan said. "As we raise the Southern Oregon profile for quality winemaking, we'll raise the interest of more and more distributors who are keeping an eye on the best 'new thing' for their portfolio. I'm hopeful it will be commonplace to see Rogue Valley, Applegate Valley and Umpqua Valley wines in distributor catalogs in the next five years."
A great temptation and possible riptide, Wan said, would be trying to do too much too fast. Front-line personnel in tasting rooms, restaurants, hotels, shops and tourism offices need to be prepared for an unusual onslaught of visitors. And small producers will have to be careful not to ramp up too fast to replenish their inventory, which could lead to loss in quality.
"If they sell out one, they should have another vintage as a backup," Wan said. "Many producers believe in bottle aging for that reason so they always have a couple of vintages in their pocket that they can pull from. We need to be prepared for the onslaught, and yes I believe it's coming."
Reach reporter Greg Stiles at 541-776-4463 or Follow him on Twitter at, on Facebook at

Monday, January 4, 2016

Abacela makes Top 100 Wine of 2015 list!

Our 2012 Fiesta Tempranillo made Great Northwest Wine's "Top 100 Wines" of 2015 list!
Only three wines from the Umpqua Valley made this year's list.

Rating: Outstanding!

"Earl and Hilda Jones, honored earlier this year by the Oregon wine industry for their contributions, are also helping to make Tempranillo more approachable with this new, entry-level tier. This doesn’t offer the barrel aging and refinement of their others, but it’s easy to embrace with its dark black cherry, black licorice and milk chocolate tones. There’s a fair amount of grip to the fine-grained tannins, so crack the cap and serve this on the patio with grilled fare or paired with plate of Manchego cheese and chorizo."

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Abacela picked as a top Oregon wine for Christmas dinner in Statesman Journal

2012 Barrel Select Syrah: An aroma of sweet dried cherries laced with mushrooms and earth give way to deep flavors of raspberries and a hint of freshly ground pepper. Good acidity and silky tannins make this pair well with hearty rich foods like a rich beef stew, roast and even game such as lamb. 

Read full article.

Monday, December 7, 2015

140 year old vines discovered at Abacela!

Abacela discovers 140-year-old Mission grape planting

By Eric Degerman on November 26, 2015

ROSEBURG, Ore. — Earl Jones moved to Southern Oregon from the Gulf Coast to begin planting Tempranillo in 1995, but he didn’t know century-old Listán Prieto grapes — a variety within the Mission family also native to Spain — already were growing at Abacela Ranch.

“We had this idea from when we were planting back 20 years ago that we were planting the first commercial wine grapes — we planted 4 acres in 1995 — and we thought that was probably the first Spanish grapes that had hit the soil,” Jones told Great Northwest Wine.

“Au contraire!” he continued. “Hidden in a blackberry thicket about a half mile from our original planting was a Spanish grape that probably came here in the 1500s — not to Oregon but the Western Hemisphere.”

Ironically, although Tempranillo translates to “the early one” in Spanish as a reference to its ability to ripen before many other grape varieties, it turns out the Cox family had the idea of planting wine grapes near Lookingglass Creek first when it settled in the Umpqua Valley during the 19th century.

The eyes of Jones, 75, sparkle when relating the history of his property — which he purchased in 1992 — and how it relates to this fascinating discovery of Listán Prieto. He named his original planting with Fault Line Vineyards as Cox’s Rock Parcel, a 12-acre tribute to John and Elizabeth Cox, homesteaders who patented their land claim in 1853. Research by Jones has led him to believe James Cox, their son, planted an orchard and small vineyard in 1873. It’s safe to assume the second-generation farmer dabbled in winemaking.

“It’s a gross guess based on deeds and local knowledge,” Jones said.

We recently visited Jones at Abacela, near the wildlife safari in Winston, Ore. Here’s the interview:

Jones, a research dermatologist before becoming enchanted by Tempranillo, and his wife, Hilda, long have been fascinated by the heritage apple and pear trees on their estate, but they only found hints about the treasure chest of historic vines shrouded by brambleberries, occasionally seeing flares of grape leaves reaching for sunlight.

“The blackberry thicket was like a heavy fog, you couldn’t see what you were doing,” Jones said. “A bulldozer would have cleared it out in a morning, but we chose to try to identify what was in there.”

During the years, they busied themselves with developing other portions of their 400-acre estate, which has grown to 76 acres of commercial vineyard. When time permitted, Jones and his vineyard team carefully worked their way through the brier. Some of the trunks had grown to as large as a man’s thigh.

“At one time, there were five grape varieties,” Jones said. “Despite us trying to be careful, we think we’re down to three varieties now.”

Some of the vines in the tiny block produced clusters that took on an appearance different than anything he’d seen before. It prompted him last year to employ the services of the University of California-Davis.

“It was a grape that none of us had any idea what variety it represented,” Jones said. “It has large clusters that ripen rather slowly and turn a pale blue instead of a deep black color. … We realized we didn’t know, so we sent it to UC Davis for their genetic analysis. We didn’t have a suspicion they were a Spanish grape.”

Jones points out the history of Listán Prieto came to the Americas in the 1500s aboard Spanish ships carrying conquistadors and Franciscan and Jesuit missionaries.

“Listán Prieto is also known as Palomino Negra and Listán Negra,” Jones said. “Some of these grapes are collectively called the Criolla grapes or the Mission grapes. They have been used to make interesting wines in South America, in Mexico and in California, so it’s not beyond our trying to do the same thing with this Mission grape.”

Read the full Great Northwest Wine article here.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Abacela fans develop taste for Tannant

Spanish winemaking intern Asier Calvo Arroyo and Earl Jones collaborate on a pan of paella at Abacela. (Photo by Eric Degerman/Great Northwest Wine)

Most of Abacela’s production is focused on grapes native to the Iberian Peninsula, which includes Albariño, Grenache, Malbec and Syrah. Jones and winemaker Andrew Wenzl recently released a couple of barrels of Graciano as well as small lots of Tinta Amarela and Touriga Naçional, but it’s the notoriously tannic Tannat grape that is the latest to really charm his Llaneros wine club.

“We’re going to try to expand production of some very popular items that we don’t have enough acreage planted, and one of those is Tannat,” Jones said. “The response has been overwhelming. We release it and it’s sold out just immediately. We try to squirrel a few cases back for the library as we do with everything here at Abacela because we want to see how they age in the bottle.”

The first commercial vintage of Tannat is 2008, and production stood at 68 cases from the 2012 crush. The grape’s burly character drove the development of micro-oxygenation, an expensive mechanized winemaking process that injects tiny amounts of oxygen during fermentation that leads to softening of the tannin structure in red wine.

“One thing we are pleased with is that ours does not seem to need the micro-ox program,” Jones said. “It does well in the barrel. After 18 to 20 months in barrel, that wine has really softened up a lot.”

Abacela’s initial plantings of the Basque variety date to 2004. The harvest date for that 2012 release was Oct. 11.

“Tannat really performs well here,” Jones said. “We have multiple terroirs because of the topography and the multiple soil types because of the fault line that passes through our property.

“The Tannat is planted in three different terroirs, and each produces a very nice wine,” Jones added. “We want to try to dissect out what terroir is best for Tannat. I love that kind of project.”

Friday, November 27, 2015

Abacela embraces #UmpquaStrong effort

No one in the Umpqua Valley community will forget Oct. 1, when an Umpqua Community College student murdered his instructor and eight classmates and wounded nine others.

“Our community will show signs of the impact of what happened on Oct. 1 for a long time,” Jones said after a long pause. “It’s just a tragedy that something like that should happen anywhere, but in a peaceful rural farming community and timber community like Roseburg? Our official population is listed around 22,000, but there are probably 50,000 living in the area around, and we are all impacted. It’s a painful wound.”

The Joneses and their winemaking intern from Spain, Asier Calvo Arroyo, were on the UCC campus that morning.

“We left about 30 minutes before the shooting began,” Jones said. “We found out about it within just a few minutes, and we were getting phone calls within a few minutes of that from reporters in New York wanting to know what I thought about it. Within 24 hours, Asier, whose home is nine hours east (ahead) of here, was getting phone calls from Spanish national television and newspapers at 3 in the morning here wanting to know what he knew and if he was OK.”

To help with the recovery effort, the Joneses created a special bottling of red table wine from the 2013 vintage labeled #UmpquaStrong. Two barrels’ worth of wine — 56 cases — were released Nov. 21. They priced it at $25 per bottle, and 100 percent of the proceeds will go to the UCC Relief Fund.

It sold out in 30 hours.

By  on November 26, 2015

Read full article on Great Northwest Wine.