Oregon Is Latest Destination to See Its Vineyards as Tourist Draw

By March 17, 2016OWE News

Written by Greg Stiles, Associated Press – Feb 07, 2016 4:00 pm
Jamie Lusch / The Medford Mail Tribune via APA Rogue Valley sunset casts warm light on a vineyard in Medford, Ore. Jamie Lusch / The Medford Mail Tribune via AP

The winsome wines of southern Oregon are gathering acclaim far beyond the Cascades and Siskiyous.

An industry once summed up by a collection of one-offs in Ashland, Cave Junction, Roseburg and Ruch during the 1970s now boasts 121 wineries and 226 vineyards on 5,886 planted acres in Jackson, Josephine and Douglas counties.

The fruit of the region’s vines has drawn accolades from the Atlantic to Pacific, capturing the hearts of wine columnists and judges. Reports in the New York Times, Sunset magazine and Wine Enthusiast, plus an avalanche of medals in January’s San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition, are creating reasonable expectations the coming travel season will attract more and new wine tourists.

“This is really an important moment in our transition from a region that’s unexplored and undiscovered to the recognition we’ve received from the national press, and awards coming in,” said Michael Donovan, president of the Southern Oregon Winery Association. “Not to mention the individual wine ratings awards.”

Wine Enthusiast named Ashland one of its “10 Best Wine Travel Destinations” for 2016. Sunset magazine’s October article touting southern Oregon’s myriad wine offerings, reasonable rates and few crowds came on the heels of a similar article in the New York Times the year before. And the San Francisco Chronicle is featuring the region’s wines at its Feb. 13 Grand Tasting at Fort Mason in San Francisco, an event expected to draw thousands.

Foris Vineyards’ 2014 Pinot Gris and Pebblestone Cellars’ 2014 Ellis Vineyards Viognier earned Best of Show awards as southern Oregon wineries, including Applegate, Elkton, Rogue Valley and Umpqua Valley locations, reeled in a total of 134 medals in the Chronicle’s competition. Another nine entries earned double golds and 15 garnered golds. All those entries will be available at the grand tasting.

“From the wine growers and winemakers, we’ve really stepped up the game now to the point where we are producing world-class wines,” said Pebblestone Cellars owner Dick Ellis. “I think that can be coupled with a message going out telling the world through social media, advertising and different forms of marketing that this is a real destination to come. It’s great publicity, very good timing. As we get more and more people coming here as a destination wine area, it will help to get the word out of what kind of wine we’re producing here.”

Joe Czerwinski, managing editor of Wine Enthusiast Media, said areas profiled previously in the magazine, such as Virginia and the Texas Hill Country, reported tourist upticks after the articles were published.

“I think the response depends on how able and willing each region is when it comes to promoting the award and what the public awareness of the region is to begin with,” Czerwinski, who resides in upstate New York, said in an email. “If the recipient does a good job getting out there and marketing it, there can be (especially with domestic destinations) an immediate response.”

His long-distance perception of southern Oregon is of a bucolic region “with the sort of real country vibe that might be missing from some of the world’s more developed wine regions,” such as the Napa Valley, while still offering enough in the way of fine dining and accommodations.

With encouraging reviews, affirmative adjudication and international acclaim in hand, the region’s vintners and wine marketers seized on a rare opportunity, turning the San Francisco tasting into a launching pad to greater things. The Southern Oregon Winery Association signed on the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Neuman Hotel Group and Travel Medford to promote its cause.

For the full article, visit https://skift.com/2016/02/07/oregon-is-latest-destination-to-see-its-vineyards-as-tourist-draw/