Furry and feathered, they groom the vineyards and entertain guests.
Many Southern Oregon vineyards aren’t just home to vines and the people who tend them; they’re also a place that animals of all varieties call home, from furry alpacas to feathered waterfowl. Getting to know these charismatic creatures, working and otherwise, is one of the great pleasures of visiting wineries in the Rogue Valley.
Goats Clear Invasive Plants at Schultz Wines
At Schultz Wines in the Applegate Valley near Grants Pass, husband-and-wife team Greg and Debbie Schultz are helped by a most unusual vineyard crew: six South African Boer goats, eight babydoll Southdown sheep and 18 chickens. Each one plays a different role in operations. During the dormant season, the chickens and sheep live in the vineyard itself. The birds eat bugs and aerate the soil — plus they feed the human residents with delicious eggs — while the sheep act as “our mowing and fertilizing crew,” says Greg.
The goats, however, aren’t allowed in the vineyard at any time of year. “They will eat everything, including the vines,” says Greg. The Schultzes have turned that insatiable appetite to their advantage. Debbie says the herd has done a bang-up job removing almost 1,000 feet of invasive Himalayan blackberry vines that had taken over the vineyard’s riparian areas and created a kind of dam that kept cold air from moving off the vineyard. With the blackberries kept down, air can move more freely, and potentially damaging spring and fall frosts are less likely.
Like all work crews, the team benefits from a good supervisor: In this case, it’s Mick, an Australian shepherd, who makes sure everyone gets back to their shelters by nightfall. He also gently guides visitors to the tasting room when they arrive, assuming he’s on the clock. If you visit during the spring, you might even catch a glimpse of some brand-new baby lambs as you sip a glass of Schultz’s newly released 2018 Malbec.
What’s Nearby: Visit Red Lily Vineyards for excellent Spanish varietals reminiscent of Ribera Del Duero and check out their new Red Lily Enchanted Forest (coming soon @redlilyvineyards) where you can enjoy the privacy and a shade of an open-air cabana; or grab a picnic table on the beach to enjoy your favorite Red Lily wines on the banks of the Applegate River.
If outdoor adventure is more your speed, visit Applegate Lake for hiking, biking and equestrian trails as well as fishing, boating, kayaking and paragliding. Several picnic and day-use areas, swimming beaches and campgrounds surround the lake.
An Avian Love Story at Paschal
When Aga Paschal, owner at Paschal Vineyard & Winery in Talent, found a nest of swan eggs at the winery pond, she was flabbergasted. Previously, they’d thought the two resident swans were both male.
As hatching time approached, winery staff and guests alike waited with bated breath. When the first baby emerged, it was yellow. But every successive egg produced a whitish-gray chick. “Turns out the first egg was a baby Canada goose,” says Paschal. “It was like the ugly duckling in reverse.”
Undeterred, the team named the baby goose Kevin. The swans, Sebastian and Alexandra, turned out to be able parents who raised him as their own. The team at Paschal anticipated that Kevin would eventually grow up, join a flock of geese and migrate. Instead, he made himself comfortable. “He’s been with us for three years now,” laughs Paschal. “He’s even got a lady friend.”
The swans and Kevin don’t work on the vineyard in a traditional sense, but they do provide inspiration for the winery’s releases (and a beautiful backdrop for enjoying a glass of Paschal’s 2019 Aga’s Rosé while enjoying a nibble of baked brie or smoked-salmon dip). In late spring of 2022, Paschal Vineyards is planning their first release of Kevin’s Cuvée, a Bordeaux-inspired red blend, and they’re working on a special future release named after Sebastian and Alexandra.
What’s Nearby: While you’re in Talent don’t miss StoneRiver Vineyards and Naumes Suncrest Winery. Then, head into Ashland for lunch and shopping and stay the night at Lithia Springs Resort. Book a spa treatment and relax afterward with a glass of Rogue Valley wine in the Wine Garden, or buy a bottle and head back to your room where you can indulge in your very own luxurious hot springs bath.
Enjoy Estate Cabernet Alongside Alpacas at Rellik Winery
Delando and Zoey Pegan didn’t intend to become alpaca people. But when they were purchasing Rellik Winery in Central Point, the two fell in love with the onsite herd. Although the animals weren’t originally included in the sale, the Pegans renegotiated so they could keep the fluffy critters around.
Alpacas were originally bred for their remarkably plush coat, which makes luxuriously soft fiber. Their expressive faces and unique personalities make their charisma almost equally valuable. Delando Pegan, Rellik Winery’s Managing Member, says some of the 13 alpacas are friendly and affectionate, while others are a little more skittish. One very large male will even offer the occasional smooch to human beings — but he’s known to give “a nibble, too,” laughs Delando. They’re guarded by two mini-donkeys, adopted to protect the alpacas from predators while simultaneously boosting the adorable factor. “They’re just really cute and everybody loves them,” says Delando.
The alpacas don’t work at the winery, at least in the traditional sense. But they’re so popular that they almost act as a PR team. Kids love watching them graze through the orchard as their parents sip a glass of Rellik Winery’s estate Cabernet Sauvignon — poured, naturally, from a bottle topped with an alpaca-shaped wine pourer.
What’s Nearby: Follow-up your visit with a stop to Beekman Native Plant Arboretum or try one of the many hikes in nearby Jacksonville. Then, head to Medford for dinner at Bambu, Porters, Rosario’s Italian Restaurant or Tap & Vine at 559 — all offering a selection of local wines. Book a stay at historic Lady Geneva Bed & Breakfast, which is walking distance from downtown.
By Margarett Waterbury