5 Questions With Del Rio Vineyards

Del Rio Vineyards is the Rogue Valley’s largest producer representing three labels, 13 grape varieties and two vineyard sites totaling more than 400 acres. In 24 years, owners Jolee and Rob Wallace have turned a former pear orchard in Gold Hill into a multifaceted tasting-room destination. Winemaker Jean-Michel Jussiaume oversees production of the winery’s Del Rio, Rockpoint and Jolee labels. Del Rio’s south-facing slopes represent the largest single vineyard in Southern Oregon. 

Named a “Best Winery 2021” by Southern Oregon Magazine readers and one of Wine & Spirits magazines 2021 Value Brands of the Year, the winery is poised for a post-COVID comeback. We caught up with Jolee Wallace to learn about her namesake label and about how the pandemic has changed the way they do business. 

1.Will you explain the differentiation among the labels Del Rio produces?

Del Rio is our flagship, the wine that we started with, our premium label. These are the majority of the wines we pour in the tasting room, and they tend to all be barrel-aged, single varietals. Then we started making the Rockpoint — that’s the name of the settlement where our tasting room is located. These wines are kind of fun, whimsical and easygoing. We made it screw-cap, so it’s perfect for people who are fishing or hiking or doing anything outdoors. These we sell primarily through distributors across the United States at a lower price point. Our Jolee label came about because we had one wine called Jolee, a semi-sparkling early Muscat Rosé. It became our largest label, so we decided to pull it out of our Del Rio lineup and add a Jolee Rouge [a blend of Merlot, Cabernet and Syrah] and a Jolee Blanc, a semi-sparkling Pinot Gris that’s more dry.

2. How have you shared the success of your agricultural site with other winemakers over the years?

We used to sell grapes to over 35 different wineries in the state. That’s kind of how we started out. And there was definitely something about the terroir of the soil here at our estate that a lot of other winemakers were extremely pleased with.

3. Is there one particular grape that you feel defines you?

A couple of years ago people would say, “Oh, I know Del Rio because of the Claret,” because there are only a few wineries in the state that still have that. Now I think it’s the variety. We have Pinot Noir, but we can also ripen bigger varieties; Cabernet, Malbec, Merlot. We grow all of those here. No matter what your taste is, we have something that you will like. 

4. To reflect on last year, what pandemic-related changes do you plan to keep going forward?

We never 100% closed our doors. Our goal was to make sure that anybody that wanted to work could, and as a team, we’d figure out how to go forward. We’ve changed how we do our flights. We’ll still offer curbside service. Some of those things we’re never going to change back. And actually, people have liked that — to be able to pull up or to take their flights outside, which we didn’t offer beforehand. We used to have larger concerts on Friday nights before COVID, but now it’s smaller. We’re doing them every Sunday, with different music every week. 

5. What’s something people might not know about Del Rio?

In front of our vineyard, we plant a whole bunch of zinnias, and they’re free for people to pick. The only thing we ask is that you pick at least one other bouquet and give it to a neighbor or take it to an elder-care facility or somebody in the hospital or somebody in need. We’ll get calls in January — “Are your flowers ready?” — and we’re like, “We haven’t even planted them yet!” [Insider tip: Zinnias are in season all summer and well into fall.

– Emily Teel