On day two, we decided that we were going to see the Oregon Caves National Monument. We had seen signs for it on the way down, but neither of us had heard of it before. We got on the road with the GPS and headed out. We drove through the lovely Applegate Valley, enjoying the country roads and the scenery. But we didn’t see any signs directing us to the Oregon Caves. When we were led up the Forest Service Road, we knew the GPS had it wrong. If you are ever trying to find Oregon Caves National Monument, don’t trust the GPS! So, we decided to give up the quest and go wine tasting. We had passed through the lovely historic town of Jacksonville, OR, and decided we would head back there at some point during the day.
So we changed the plan and headed out to Troon Vineyards. Troon is a fairly large winery with some of the oldest plantings in the state, dating back to the 1970s. You drive past vines on the way in the door, and I thought the building looked like some of the places we saw in the Napa and Sonoma Valleys. When we got inside we were served by a younger guy named Jimmy – it was quite refreshing in that he actually told us his name and introduced himself with a handshake. He led us through a tasting which included their Dry Riesling and the Druid’s Fluid white, which is a blend of Riesling, Moscato (that gives it more sweetness) and something else that I can’t remember. After sampling the whites, we tried the reds, including their bestseller, the Druid’s Fluid Red, a Cabernet Sauvignon, and a Zinfandel. The story behind the Druid’s Fluid red is that it started out as a mistake. After growing and blending the grapes one year, the owner and winemaker Dick Troon, was not happy with the way the wine turned out. He bottled it and gave it away to friends and family, who proceeded to tell him that they enjoyed the wine – it was a bit sweeter than other reds. He took their advice and began to produce this wine on purpose – it is now their top seller. As for Jon and me, we liked it but didn’t love it. Jon really enjoyed their Cabernet and bought a couple of bottles to bring home. We asked Jimmy for his recommendations for wineries in the area and ended up going down the road a little way to Schmidt Family Vineyard.
Let me just say that Schmidt Family Vineyards is an amazing setup. The winery and tasting room is huge, built to look like a Mountain Lodge, with exposed wood beams and a huge wall of glass in the front. The landscaping is phenomenal, and there is a beautiful stone patio with tables to enjoy wine and appetizers. Or you can head across the lawn to sit in one of the Adirondack chairs and gaze at the pond, stocked with fish! I had been excited to go there because I had read in the wine guidebook, that they produce an Albariño, which is a relatively rare wine in these parts. But unfortunately the wine was so-so, and the Albariño was nowhere to be found. Our server was efficient and polite, but wasn’t very talkative and didn’t explain the wine at all – it felt rather impersonal. After our tasting, there was nothing that I was even tempted to buy. Jon enjoyed the Soulea, which was a fairly syrupy Syrah blend, but at $34 a bottle, it certainly wasn’t worth the price. After our tasting, we picked the best ones (I went with the Sauvignon Blanc and Jon chose the Soulea) and purchased a glass of each to sit out in the chairs. It was a great mid-afternoon break on a lovely sunny day with a nice breeze to counter the heat.
After leaving Schmidt Family Vineyards, we headed back into Jacksonville to hang out. Jacksonville, Oregon is a historical town outside of Medford. Gold was found there in 1851 and 1852, establishing Jacksonville as the principal financial center for Southern Oregon at the time. It was the county seat until 1927. Once the gold dried up, the town did too, and as a result, progress bypassed Jacksonville and a large number of the commercial and residential buildings were left intact. Lucky for us, because the result is a pleasant trip into yesterday, of a nature that is rarely available on the West Coast. We wandered around and did a little shopping – we got some wine from a wine shop who had a large selection of Washington wines, and I got a cute pair of Ocean Jasper earrings! We visited a tasting room that was completely empty – we looked around for an employee and waited for a few minutes, but saw no one. We did try one more time when we came back to the car and she was there the second time. We did a tasting of River’s Edge and Bradley wineries, comparing and contrasting their Pinot Noir from two different vintages. Oddly, we asked for a tasting of the entire lineup, but she skipped two of the three white wines. But perhaps that is a blessing in disguise, as the first white we tried was awful! The Pinots fortunately, were very good, and very reasonably priced. We purchased a bottle of the Bradley 2008 Pinot Noir. Actually, thinking back, I believe that those were the only Pinots that we were served in a tasting room the whole weekend. Our goal of sampling Pinots and comparing the Southern Oregon wines to the Pinots from the Willamette Valley came up short. But Jacksonville over-delivered, with both Jon and I talking about staying for a night or two next time we are in the area.
After visiting Jacksonville, we headed back to the hotel, had a nice quiet dinner and had swim in the pool. It topped off another fantastic day!