The small family winery is alive and well in the fairytale Umpqua Valley. Often overlooked with the mad rush to the Willamette Valley just one hour north, or the warmer Rogue and Applegate Valleys of Southern Oregon, the Umpqua wine region is located in the center of Oregon where two rivers converge into one of the most picturesque mountain valleys in the West. The word “Umpqua” is based on the Native Americans who lived in the area, and is thought to mean “thundering waters.”
The main town is Roseburg, with a population of 22,000, and is a great place to stay for a few nights while checking out the local wineries. Roseburg has a charming old downtown district complete with hometown shops and restaurants. Two of the great restaurants we visited were True Kitchen where some of the food is served in a skillet, including one of the best ice cream desserts I ever had, as well as Parrot House, located on the outskirts of Roseburg in a beautiful old Victorian House.
About Umpqua Valley Wine Region
With a winegrowing history from the 1880’s when Germans first brought vines to the region, today there are over 30 wineries and 1500 acres of vineyards in the Umpqua Valley. Most of the wineries are small friendly family-run wineries focusing on Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Tempranillo and Riesling, but also experimenting with many other grape varietals. I had a chance to visit for three days during the Greatest of the Grape Celebration, and was pleased to stop by and taste at the following seven wineries — all located within a short 20 to 30 minute drive of Roseburg. A map of the wine trails can be found HERE.
Seven Umpqua Valley Wineries to Visit (Listed in Alphabetical Order)
Abacela – probably one of the largest and most famous wineries of the Umpqua Valley, Abacela produces around 10,000 cases and owns 77 acres of vines with 17 varieties planted. Owners Earl and Hilda Jones, great fans of Rioja, had a vision to establish a winery that could produce world-class tempranillo, along with other Spanish varieties such as Albarino. They found the perfect location a few miles outside the town of Roseburg. Today their tasting room is large and filled with wine lovers who are attracted to their many award winning wines. This was my second visit to Abacela, and once again I was impressed by the wines, as well as the beautiful vineyard and picnic grounds just outside the door. Two of my favorites this time were the 2018 Albarino with refreshing lemon-lime notes, minerality and crisp acidity, as well as the 2008 Ten-Year Colheita Port made from the five classic port grapes in a tawny style with caramel, fig and a faint touch of cherries – truly mesmerizing and delicious.
Bradley Vineyards – with vineyards first planted in 1983, the Bradley family were one of the first to plant grape vines in this upper region of the Umpqua Valley, and still sell grapes to many of the local wineries. Located in Elkton, their small winery is north of the central town of Roseburg. Producing only 1000 cases, the young winemaker, Tyler Bradley, enjoys experimenting with natural winemaking. From this he crafts a delicious 2018 Pet Nat Riesling, with a fresh floral nose, juicy white peach, nectarine, lemon and tiny bubbles. Another great wine was his 2017 Aligote with a bone dry palate of lemon, mineral and juicy acidity on a long and complex finish.
Brandborg Vineyards – one of the larger and more well-known wineries of the Umpqua, Brandborg was established by the very friendly and fun husband/wife team of Terry and Sue Brandborg. They specialize in award-winning single vineyard Pinot Noir, producing around 8500 cases annually, of which they sell 30% direct to consumer in their charming tasting room located in the little town of Elkton. A great place to stop by and taste wine, and then have lunch across the street at Tomaselli’s. Two of my favorites here were the 2014 Pinot Noir Ferris Wheel Estate with a seductive floral nose with a core of sweet raspberry, cola and earth on the palate. The 2015 Riesling was also extremely delicious with classic diesel, juicy peach, star fruit, and refreshing acidity. Yum!
Cooper’s Ridge – Nestled in a beautiful valley with a great deck overlooking a magnificent view, Cooper’s Ridge is just a short drive out of Roseburg. Owned by Robin and Lesa Ray, the winery is named after their son, Cooper. They produce 2500 cases from 12 acres of vineyards, with seven different varietals. What makes this winery unique is the fact that they have become a community center for people to gather after work, have a glass of wine and appetizer, and enjoy the lovely view on the deck. This is because they stay open until 7pm. Two of my favorites here were the 2016 Gruner Vetliner with ripe pear, clover and a hint of marmalade on the semi-sweet finish, as well as the 2015 Reserve Merlot with classic cassis, fruitcake, spicy oak and good concentration.
Delfino Vineyards – with a last name that means “dolphin,” Terri and Jim Delfino adopted this symbol as the logo for their darling winery situated a few miles outside the town of Roseberg. Also sporting small guest cottages and a beautiful pond near the vineyards, this small winery is a relaxing place to visit and enjoy a glass of wine on the lawn. With 18 acres of vines, the Delfinos sell some of their grapes, but maintain enough to produce 1000 cases. My favorites here were the 2016 Tempranillo with a floral nose, notes of black cherry and tea followed by velvety tannins with very long finish; and the 2015 Forza – a dessert wine similar to a port made from Tempranillo with dark fruit, black chocolate and a rich long satisfying finish.
Marsh Anne Landing – “Grenache sings here,” states Greg Cramer the owner of Marsh Anne Winery. Named by combining his middle name of “Marsh” and his wife’s middle name of “Anne,” this charming little family winery employs a “Space and Martian” theme, using images from the Hubble telescope on many of their labels. “The photos are actually in the public domain,” explains Greg. Producing only 700 cases per year, they sell all of their wine direct to consumers from the winery. With 17 acres of vineyards in back of the winery, it is a relaxing place to stop to taste wine or attend their summer jazz wine concerts and view their art collection. Two of my favorites here were the 2015 GSM with 70% bright and cheerful red Grenache bursting with cherries and berries, as well as an elegant 2015 Cabernet Franc with a perfumed violet nose and earthy black fruit.
Melrose Vineyards – this winery was managed by some of the friendliest people I’ve met in a long time. Situated in an old barn overlooking the vineyards, owner Wayne Parker rode up on his tractor to greet us. With over 200 acres of vineyards, Wayne primarily sells most of his crop to other wineries, but keeps enough back to produce 5000 cases per year. Two of my favorite wines here were the 2012 Parker’s Pinot Noir which was a big bold pinot brimming with red cherry, root beer, and cinnamon, and the 2015 Baco Noir with ripe jammy marion-berry, juicy acidity, and a long delicious finish.