Oregon’s Umpqua Valley Wine Region-Part Two

In part one of my Umpqua Valley Wine series, Oregon’s Umpqua Valley Wine Region, I wrote about the history of the Umpqua Valley Wine Region, the Umpqua Valley AVA, the Elkton AVA and a few of the wineries found within the Elkton AVA. In this article I will be highlighting a few more wineries found in the Valley that offer a variety of wine tasting experiences.

The Umpqua Valley in Southern Oregon is a hidden gem for wine lovers, offering a diverse range of wineries that cater to all tastes and preferences. From small, intimate boutique wineries to larger establishments that offer a myriad of tasting experiences, activities, and events, the Umpqua Valley has something to delight every wine enthusiast.

One of the remarkable aspects of the Umpqua Valley winery scene is the abundance of small, family-owned boutique wineries. These hidden treasures are often nestled amidst rolling hills and scenic landscapes, providing an intimate and personalized experience for visitors.

At these boutique wineries, wine lovers can interact directly with the winemakers and owners, gaining insights into their craft and passion. Tastings are often conducted in cozy tasting rooms or even in the vineyards themselves, allowing guests to immerse themselves in the beauty of the surroundings while savoring the exquisite wines.

For those seeking a more expansive and immersive wine experience, the Umpqua Valley also boasts several larger wineries that offer a wide range of amenities. These wineries often have spacious tasting rooms, outdoor patios, and picnic areas, providing ample opportunities to relax and enjoy the wines at a leisurely pace. In addition to tastings, many of these wineries offer vineyard tours, allowing visitors to explore the vineyards, learn about the grape-growing process, and gain a deeper understanding of the winemaking journey from grape to glass.

Visiting an array of wineries in the Umpqua Valley is a fantastic way to gain a greater appreciation for the region’s unique terroir and unique wine offerings. Each winery showcases its own distinct style, reflecting the passion and creativity of the winemakers.

From crisp and aromatic white wines to bold and complex reds, the Umpqua Valley’s wineries produce a wide spectrum of varietals that highlight the region’s versatility and potential. While driving through this breathtaking region, you will find yourself immersed in the beauty of the vineyards, surrounded by the essence of the Umpqua Valley’s winemaking heritage.

HillCrest Vineyard

With a legacy dating back to 1963, HillCrest Vineyard, owned by Dyson and Susan Demara, holds a special place in Oregon’s wine history as the oldest estate winery in the state and the birthplace of Oregon Pinot Noir. Founded by Richard Sommer, often regarded as the “Father of Oregon Wine,” HillCrest Vineyard has played a significant role in shaping the region’s winemaking landscape. Under the Demara’s leadership, the winery continues to innovate and pave the way for the next generation of winemakers.

The Demara family’s dedication to excellence and innovation has garnered international recognition. In 2014, HillCrest Vineyard was honored as one of the global innovators at the 900-year celebration of the world’s oldest winery, Stift Klosterneuberg in Vienna, Austria. This prestigious recognition placed HillCrest Vineyard in the company of esteemed wineries like Baron Ricasoli of Tuscany and Schloss Johannisberg, the birthplace of German Riesling. It is a testament to the winery’s commitment to pushing boundaries and producing exceptional wines.

Dyson Demara’s passion for winemaking spans over 35 years, beginning with his early career at Pine Ridge Winery in the Stags Leap AVA of Napa Valley and later at the renowned Robert Mondavi Winery. Throughout his extensive career, Dyson has owned vineyards and wineries in Napa Valley and Oregon, crafting old-world styled wines that capture the essence of their unique vineyard sites. He also travels to various wine regions around the world, including the Mosel Valley of Germany, Priorato in Spain, Roussillon in France, Sicily in Italy, and Burgenland in Austria, to make wines that showcase the diversity and terroir of each region.

HillCrest Vineyard takes a traditional approach to winemaking, combining techniques learned from working on three continents. They focus on capturing the natural expression of their vineyard sites through dry-farmed, old vine, hillside vineyards. Inside the winery, they employ patented fermenters and extended skin contact for red wines, resulting in wines of exceptional perfume and texture. The dedication to traditional winemaking methods reflects their commitment to crafting wines that honor the traditions of the old world.

Susan Demara, a vital part of the HillCrest Vineyard team, is involved in all aspects of the winery, from vineyard management to winemaking and welcoming guests. With a passion for food and wine, she enjoys exploring the world of flavors and regularly travels to expand her knowledge. Dyson and Susan, together with their three children, Hanna, Parker, and Tucker, call the Umpqua Valley home, where they live and breathe the winemaking lifestyle.

In addition to their Oregon wines, HillCrest Vineyard also produces wines from various renowned old-world wine regions. Through longstanding relationships developed over the last three decades, they collaborate with friends in Priorat, Spain, Maury, France, the Mosel Valley of Germany, and Caltagirone, Italy. These wines showcase the grape varieties that have helped establish the reputation of these world-class wine regions, including Carignan, Grenache, Syrah, Lladoner Pelut, Frappato, Nero D’Avola, and Riesling.

When visiting the captivating Hillcrest estate, you are welcomed not just by the magnificent vineyards and awe-inspiring landscape but also by a tangible atmosphere steeped in antiquity and customs. Each sip of Hillcrest wine carries the legacy of the pioneering spirit that has shaped Oregon’s wine industry. It is a testament to the unwavering dedication of those who came before and a reflection of the Umpqua Valley’s unique terroir.

The winery’s exclusive wines are not sold in stores, making each visit a unique opportunity to discover and savor their limited-production offerings. Visit HillCrest Vineyard’s Website to learn more.

Abacela Vineyards and Winery

Nestled in the charming town of Roseburg, Abacela Vineyards and Winery is a family-owned and operated establishment that has become an icon of innovation in Oregon’s Umpqua Valley. Since its founding in 1995 by Earl and Hilda Jones, Abacela has embarked on a remarkable journey, specializing in Spanish varietals like Tempranillo and Albariño, and garnering numerous prestigious awards along the way.

Earl and Hilda, both scientists with no prior winemaking experience, took a leap of faith, leaving their secure careers and relocating their family over 2,700 miles to the Umpqua Valley. Their ambitious goal was to determine if the region’s unique climate and soils could produce exceptional Tempranillo wine. Today, Abacela stands as a testament to their dedication and the success of their pioneering spirit.

Situated on the 120-mile long “Thrust Fault,” which connects northern and southern Oregon, Abacela benefits from a diverse range of soil types. Earl, always the scientist, considers their property a “vineyard laboratory,” where he has meticulously matched specific grape varieties to ideal soils and climate conditions.

Earl and Hilda’s quest to uncover the absence of Spain’s renowned Rioja wines in the American fine wine scene was marked by scientific rigor and unwavering determination. Their curiosity and perseverance transformed their lives, established one of Oregon’s beloved wineries, and left an indelible mark on the winegrowing industry across America.

Currently, Abacela cultivates a variety of grapes, including Albariño, Tempranillo, Syrah, Grenache, Tannat, Malbec, and five native Portuguese varieties.

The name “Abacela” holds a special significance for the Jones family. While researching in a reference library in Bilbao, Spain, Earl stumbled upon the word “Abacelar,” an old verb meaning “to plant a grape vine.” Captivated by its elegance, he preserved the definition on an index card. Years later, as their vineyard dream materialized, they embraced this word and trademarked Abacela, registering it as their business name.

In 2020, Abacela celebrated its 25th anniversary, marking a significant milestone in their journey. Over the years, Abacela has witnessed remarkable growth, mirroring the evolution of the Oregon wine industry, particularly in Southern Oregon. When the Joneses planted their first vines in 1995, there were only 13 wineries in the region. However, according to the 2018 Oregon vineyard and winery census, Southern Oregon now boasts 135 wineries, a ten-fold increase in just 23 years. Abacela stands as the seventh oldest winery in the area, highlighting the region’s rapid expansion.

The census also revealed a shift in the grape varieties grown in Southern Oregon. In 1995, the focus primarily revolved around five international varieties: Pinot Noir, Riesling, Chardonnay, Merlot, and Cabernet. These accounted for the majority of the grape harvest in Oregon at the time. However, Abacela’s mission of risk-taking and innovation extends beyond accolades. Earl and Hilda’s bold moves and their commitment to producing an American varietal Tempranillo epitomize the spirit of Abacela.

Abacela Vineyards and Winery continues to exemplify a spirit of adventurousness and entrepreneurialism. Their unwavering dedication to research, hard work, and a touch of luck has propelled them to the forefront of the Oregon wine scene. Their story serves as an inspiration not only to winemakers in Oregon and the Pacific Northwest but also to the entire American wine industry.

As you step onto the picturesque grounds of Abacela, you are greeted by breathtaking vineyards and a warm, welcoming atmosphere. The winery offers a range of wine tasting experiences, allowing guests to savor the rich flavors and distinctive character of their Spanish varietals.

With each sip, you can appreciate the journey that began with Earl and Hilda’s scientific curiosity and now flourishes into a world-class winery.

You can learn more about Abacela Winery and Vineyards on their Website.

Reustle-Prayer Rock Vineyards 

Located in Roseburg, Oregon, Reustle Prayer Rock Vineyards has a fascinating history that began when Stephen and Gloria, former owners of a marketing company, purchased the property in 2001 with the dream of establishing their own winery. Stephen’s passion for Pinot Noir led him to carefully analyze the land, matching specific grape varieties to the soil types on the property. The result is a meticulously planned vineyard spread across 40 acres within the expansive 200-acre estate.

The winery’s unique name, Prayer Rock Vineyards, has an endearing origin. During the early days of planting the vineyards, Stephen would bring his four-year-old son to the property.

Each morning, they would climb to the top of the hill and sit on a rock in the vineyard to say their daily prayer. On one occasion when Stephen forgot to stop at the rock, his son reminded him, exclaiming, “Daddy, we didn’t pray at the rock!” This incident inspired the name for the vineyard, symbolizing the family’s spiritual connection to the land.

While some wineries in Southern Oregon face challenges with extreme heat conditions, Reustle Prayer Rock Vineyards has successfully navigated these conditions. The vineyard, established in 2002, is home to a diverse range of grape varieties, including Pinot Noir, Tempranillo, Syrah, Merlot, Grenache, Malbec, Chardonnay, Viognier, Roussane, Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, Pinot Gris, Grüner Veltliner, and Muscat. Notably, Tempranillo, Pinot Noir, Syrah, and Grüner Veltliner are the largest plantings within the vineyard.

Reustle Prayer Rock Vineyards has gained recognition as one of the top producers in Southern Oregon, particularly known for their exceptional Syrah and Tempranillo bottlings. The wines crafted by Steve Reustle exhibit a perfect balance of freshness, finesse, and intense flavor. Steve’s meticulous attention to detail in winemaking shines through in each bottle, reflecting his dedication to quality.

Visitors to Reustle Prayer Rock Vineyards are treated to an exquisite tasting experience. The winery offers tastings in their enchanting “wine cave” and catacomb tasting rooms. The knowledgeable staff takes pride in guiding guests through the nuances of each wine, often pairing them with carefully selected food to enhance the tasting experience. The atmosphere is refined, yet friendly and relaxed, inviting visitors to savor the wines in a serene setting.

The winery’s grounds are equally captivating, reflecting the same attention to detail found in their wines. The overall experience at Reustle Prayer Rock Vineyards is a harmonious blend of elegance, beauty, and thoughtful planning. It serves as a foundation for a remarkable wine trip in the Umpqua Valley region.

Reustle Prayer Rock Vineyards stands as a testament to the dedication and passion of its owners, Steve and Gloria Reustle. With their expertise in marketing and meticulous vineyard planning, they have created a winery that produces exceptional estate-grown wines. The combination of stunning surroundings, refined tasting experiences, and an unwavering commitment to quality makes a visit to Reustle Prayer Rock Vineyards an unforgettable journey into the world of Oregon wine.

For more information about Reustle — Prayer Rock Vineyard Winery, please see their Website.

A Couple More Wineries to Explore in the Umpqua Valley

For those looking for a more rustic and laid-back experience, the Umpqua Valley is home to several small, boutique wineries that are located in some of the most remote and scenic areas of the region as well as in the downtown area of Roseburg.

To really get the full experience of Umpqua Valley Wine Region, I suggest that you consider adding the following wineries into you itinerary.

Paul O’Brien Winery

Paul O’Brien Winery in the Umpqua Valley is a unique and remarkable establishment that owes its name to the close friendship and partnership between two talented winemakers: Dyson Paul DeMara and Scott O’Brien Kelley. Their bond was formed during their time at the prestigious Robert Mondavi Winery in Napa Valley, where they honed their winemaking skills and shared a passion for both traditional winemaking practices and innovative techniques. Drawing on their combined experience and knowledge gained from exploring wine regions around the world, they joined forces in 2013 to create Paul O’Brien Winery.

Located in the heart of downtown Roseburg, Oregon, within the historic Hansen Chevrolet building, Paul O’Brien Winery has become a fixture in the Umpqua Valley. This urban winery embraces the spirit of the region while adding its own touch of contemporary flair. Since its inception, the winery has seen significant growth and evolution, continuously pushing the boundaries of winemaking in the Umpqua Valley. Through their meticulous craftsmanship and dedication to quality, Dyson and Scott have crafted a portfolio of wines that showcase the unique terroir of the region, as well as their innovative winemaking techniques.

The tasting room, provides an inviting and relaxed atmosphere for guests to savor the diverse range of varietals produced by the winery. From rich and velvety reds to crisp and refreshing whites, every wine in their portfolio reflects the passion, skill, and creativity of the winemakers.

Melrose Vineyards

Perched on the bench of the South Umpqua River, where an early French settlement once stood, Melrose Vineyards holds a rich history that dates back to the mid-1800s. The Archembeau family, pioneers of the settlement, became the proud owners of this land through a land grant. Over the years, the site has seen the cultivation of various agricultural crops, each leaving its mark on the fertile soil.

In 1996, Wayne Parker, accompanied by the late Deedy Parker, ventured to Melrose Vineyards with a vision of planting a substantial vineyard. Wayne, with a successful background in growing grapes for raisins in California’s San Joaquin Valley, foresaw the potential of Southern Oregon as a remarkable viticulture region. His prediction proved true, as the region’s unique climate and soil composition contributed to the flourishing growth of grapevines.

The initial vineyard spanned 82 acres and was planted that same year. However, nature had its plans, and a devastating flood occurred during the first winter, washing away five acres of the fertile land. This event revealed the vulnerability of the property to flood damage and prompted the development of preventive measures to protect against future disasters. Undeterred by this setback, the Parkers persevered, and the vineyard began to yield its first harvest a few years later. The grapes garnered high praise from esteemed wineries purchasing the fruit, solidifying the worthiness of the investment in this unique river bottom site.

With their grape production flourishing, the Parkers embarked on their next endeavor: the creation of Melrose Vineyards wines. They aspired to establish a small, boutique winery.

In 2000, the first wines found their home in the barrels, and the picturesque 100-year-old barn on the property, boasting stunning views, was chosen as the ideal location for the Melrose tasting room.

Stepping into the barn tasting room, visitors are transported back in time while relishing the authentic atmosphere and savoring the delectable Melrose wines. Offering a range of twelve estate varietals, including Baco Noir, Malbec, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris, Pinotage, and more, Melrose Vineyards proudly produces premium wines entirely crafted from their family-owned vineyard. The commitment to growing exceptional grapes is at the core of their winemaking philosophy, as they believe that remarkable wines can only be achieved with the finest fruit.

Meandering through the Umpqua Valley

To explore the Umpqua Valley’s natural beauty, there are several hiking trails that offer breathtaking views of the region’s rugged terrain. One of the best hikes in the area is the Umpqua River Trail, which winds its way through dense forests and along the banks of the Umpqua River. The trail offers stunning views of the river and the surrounding hills, and is a great way to explore the area’s natural beauty.

The Umpqua Valley is also home to a collection of enchanting old wooden bridges that add a touch of nostalgia and charm to the landscape. These historic bridges, some dating back over a century, stand as enduring testaments to the region’s rich heritage and craftsmanship. With their weathered timbers and intricate designs, these bridges serve as captivating relics of a bygone era. As you traverse these picturesque structures, you can’t help but imagine the countless stories and footsteps that have graced their planks throughout the years.

These old wooden bridges not only connect communities but also bridge the gap between the past and the present, offering visitors a glimpse into the timeless beauty and rustic allure of the Umpqua Valley.

A journey through the wineries of the Umpqua Valley in Southern Oregon promises an unforgettable experience for wine enthusiasts. The diversity of wineries, ranging from small, intimate boutiques to larger establishments, ensures there is something to suit every taste and preference. By exploring a variety of wineries, visitors can discover the unique characteristics of the Umpqua Valley’s wines, deepen their understanding of the winemaking process, and create lasting memories of this remarkable wine region.

More to Come…

I hope you have thoroughly enjoyed immersing yourself in this two part exploration of the captivating Umpqua Valley Wine Region. The Umpqua Valley has so much to offer wine enthusiasts and nature lovers alike, and I’ve only scratched the surface of its wonders. In the next article, get ready to embark on an easy day trips to the awe-inspiring excursion to Crater Lake National Park, where the deep azure waters of the caldera and the majestic surrounding landscapes will leave you spellbound.

Until Next Time, Cheers Everyone and Thanks for Reading!

All images and content © copyrighted by Drink In Nature Photography and Drink In Life Blog.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: