Tourists flock to Ashland in summer for the world-renowned Oregon Shakespeare Festival. But as locals know, Ashland is also a hub for both winter recreation and wine production. This year, thanks to some much-needed snow, you can enjoy both.
If you crave powder, head up to Mt. Ashland for snowboarding and downhill skiing. (Check their website for hours of operation as times may vary.) The mountain is notoriously steep but there’s still something for everyone, and even newbies can enjoy the killer views of Mt. Shasta and the cozy lodge. The resort features 23 downhill runs: The long, sweeping “blue” runs are ideal for intermediate skiers, while the steep chutes in “the Bowl” will satisfy even hardcore adrenaline junkies.
If cross-country skiing or snowshoeing are more your speed, you can also access several Nordic trails on Mt. Ashland. Swoosh your way to the Grouse Gap shelter along Road 20 — a rewarding 4-mile out-and-back route with expansive views of snowy meadows and mountain ridges — or thread through the alpine forest along the Bull Gap Nordic Trail, which also offers views of Mt. McLoughlin as you make your way up to the lodge.
Closer to town, Ashland boasts an extensive network of hiking trails, many named after characters from Alice in Wonderland. Most trails weave through forest: oak, manzanita and madrone lower down; mixed conifers higher in the watershed. Highlights include the lovely creekside trails in Oredson-Todd Woods and the White Rabbit Trail, where peekaboo views of Grizzly Peak make the climb worthwhile.
Of course, you can always stay closer to your hotel and stroll through 100-acre Lithia Park, off the Plaza in the heart of town. It’s beautiful in every season, but especially magical when the trees along Ashland Creek are rimmed with frost.
After invigorating play time in the cold, what’s better than relaxing with friends and sharing some distinctive local wines? We turned to Drew Gibbs, owner and sommelier at Alchemy Restaurant and Bar and owner at Chateaubriand 36 in Ashland, who shared his recommendations for three bold Rogue Valley reds that are sure to warm the insides after your outdoor adventures. Purchase these wines directly from the wineries (be sure to call ahead to make sure they’re open) or enjoy them at Gibbs’ restaurants and others.
Quady North 2018 4-2,A Syrah
Pronounced “fortooay,” the 4-2,A from Quady North is a Syrah blended of grapes from five vineyards. It opens with exuberant notes of black cherry, mission fig and blackberry; behind the fruit, you’ll find a slightly peppery nose backed with roasted meats. The wine is wonderfully balanced on the palate, the unfined and unfiltered bottling leaving you with a rich texture and firm backbone.
Weisinger Family Winery 2018 Estate Tempranillo
The year 2018 was a warm one, and Weisinger’s high-elevation site at the southern end of the Rogue Valley allows for a bold and balanced Tempranillo in the style of Spain’s Ribera del Duero wines. Its ripe nose jumps out with black plum, dark berries, and hints of clove and cinnamon. The palate reveals its supple nature, with hearty tannins and a long, powerful finish.
Irvine & Roberts Vineyards 2017 Estate Pinot Noir
While it’s hard to call anything a cold vintage nowadays, the 2017 vintage was a markedly cooler one, says Gibbs. Consequently, this Pinot Noir from Irvine & Roberts is delicate and lively, bolstered by the higher elevation and east-facing vineyards on the estate. You’ll first enjoy a nose of fresh cranberries, dusty spices like cocoa and nutmeg, and damp forest floor. Raspberry and tart cherries on the palate expand to a bright finish.
By Juliet Grable