Unusual Rogue Valley Wine Blends

Winemakers artfully experiment to create unique and memorable wines.

Supported by a long, warm growing season and diverse elevations and microclimates, Rogue Valley winegrowers cultivate more than 70 different varieties, ranging from cool-climate Chardonnay to heat-loving grapes like Tempranillo and Syrah. With this expansive selection and a creative group of winemakers, it’s no surprise that many Rogue Valley vintners are producing distinctive blends that pair two or more varieties in an unexpected, and ever-so-delicious way. Here are some of the many eclectic blends to discover in Southern Oregon’s Rogue Valley Wine Country.

Plaisance Ranch

Plaisance Ranch Pairs Tempranillo Blends With Beef

Life gives you few opportunities to enjoy a steak and a glass of wine that came from exactly the same place. Plaisance Ranch in Williams is one of them. This vineyard, wine-grape nursery, winery and working ranch raises beef cattle alongside 18 different varieties of grapes, including six different clones of Tempranillo.

The winery currently offers four different red blends featuring Tempranillo, including the 2018 Tempranillo, which actually contains about 8% Merlot. Joe Ginet, owner and winemaker at Plaisance Ranch, says he developed the blend after experimenting with different methods to create the rich, full mid-palate of Gran Reserva Rioja wines — which must be aged at least five years before release — without waiting half a decade to share them with his guests.

Rather than mixing Tempranillo and Merlot wines together, he uses a coferment process that introduces whole Merlot clusters to the wine in the middle of its fermentation. “The Merlot adds some bright acidity to the Tempranillo, and some choppy tannins that fill the mid-palate,” Ginet explains. Fittingly, the result pairs beautifully with Plaisance Ranch’s USDA-certified organic, 100% grass-fed and finished beef, which is also available for purchase.

Red Lily Vineyards

A Creative Take on Spanish Tradition at Red Lily Vineyards

Rachael Martin, co-owner and winemaker at Red Lily Vineyards in Jacksonville, loves big, bold wines. So when she learned that the property where she planned to plant a vineyard would be ideal for Tempranillo, she was overjoyed. Today Red Lily Vineyards’ 18 acres are home to several Spanish varieties, including Graciano, Grenache, Verdejo and several clones of Tempranillo.

Tempranillo, Grenache and Graciano are often blended in Spain to make red wines. But Martin decided to take a different approach to that classic blend and transform it into a lighter style with her 2020 Lilygirl Rosé. She says the combination works perfectly for a Rosé: Grenache contributes aromatics, Graciano brings keen acidity, and Tempranillo adds depth to an otherwise bright, refreshing wine. 

In addition to using her estate fruit, Martin also buys fruit from other growers in the Rogue Valley. “Part of what’s so amazing about being a winemaker in Southern Oregon is that there is so much high-quality fruit being farmed,” says Martin. “It’s like being in the candy jar of grapes, so to speak.” Her 2015 Red Blanket Tempranillo pairs Tempranillo with Cabernet Sauvignon, an unusual combination that produces an approachable wine that’s equally enjoyable with or without food. “It’s strange to think of Cabernet in this way, but it does a great job of rounding out the palate and making that blend more fruit-forward,” explains Martin.

Troon Vineyard

Amber Waves of Wine at Troon Vineyard

Troon Vineyard’s Kubli Bench series of wines are all blends that incorporate early-, mid- and late-ripening varieties from their biodynamically grown estate. Winemaker Nate Wall says that approach is designed to make wines that truly represent both the site and the vintage. The collection currently includes a Kubli Bench Rosé and a Kubli Bench Amber, and red and white blends are on the way. 

The 2019 Kubli Bench Amber is a blend of Riesling, Vermentino and Viognier that Wall describes as “absolutely greater than the sum of its parts.” The “amber” refers to extended skin contact during the winemaking process, which gives this wine a bit more color and body than a traditional white.

Wall says he and his team had experimented with skin-contact Riesling and Vermentino in the past, and were inspired to try combining them for a new wine. Then he looked to the northern Rhône, where small amounts of Viognier are often co-fermented with Syrah to bring floral aromatics, spice and tannin to the finished wine.

This unique blend may be just the beginning. Wall says that future vintages of the Kubli Bench Amber might feature other distinctive white grapes recently planted at Troon, including Grenache Gris, Grenache Blanc, Roussanne, Bourboulenc and Clairette Blanche. The sky’s the limit with so many varieties to choose from in the Rogue Valley.

By Margarett Waterbury