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From vine to glass

A look at two of the 17 wineries on the Applegate Wine Trail

View of Wooldridge Creek Vineyards from the tasting room patio. Everything shown on the cheese and charcuterie platter was made on the estate. Photo credit: Marguerite Cleveland

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The Applegate Valley in southern Oregon is a special place. Highway 238 is a scenic two-lane country road that follows the curves of the Applegate River. It winds up and down forested hillsides and past rows of trellised grape vines. Small family farms with fields of fresh produce and herds of cattle dot the rural landscape. Intimate tasting rooms offer an experience you won't find at the large, full-production wineries of the Napa Valley.  Often when wine tasting on the trail, you will have the opportunity to meet the owners or wine makers working in the tasting room. It is an exclusive experience you won't find in larger areas.

When you cross the crystal-clear Applegate River onto the Red Lily Vineyards property, you enter into another world. A lush green lawn leads from the tasting room to the river where chairs and tables are invitingly spread along the banks.  Trees provide welcome shade, making a perfect venue to taste wine. It is a bit of a hike from the river banks to the tasting room, so Red Lily has come up with a unique way to serve its tastings: A flight is served in test tubes, which are then placed in a wooden rack that is easy to carry. There's also a card with tasting notes tucked in, so you know what you're tasting. The tasting room has a nice menu of simple, fresh food options that pair nicely with the wines offered.

Red Lily Vineyards, daily, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., 11777 Hwy. 238, Jacksonville, Oregon, 541.846.6800,

To get to Wooldridge Creek Vineyard, exit off Hwy. 238 and take a couple of isolated roads to work your way back up into hills lined with row after row of grapevines. Wooldridge is a working family farm with a menagerie of rescue animals. The winery and tasting room just beckon to be explored. A well-landscaped patio overlooking the vineyards is a pleasant place to sip a glass of wine and enjoy a cheese and charcuterie plate -- and everything is made and produced at Wooldridge. In addition to being a vineyard and winery, Wooldridge is also a creamery and charcuterie. If you are lucky, you may run into Ted and Mary Warrick, the elder statesmen of the business, and let them regale you with tales of the early days. Mary's description of Ted's first and last attempt at making wine is hysterical. Kara Olmo is the mastermind behind the cheese, and it is really good. Greg Paneitz makes the wine and has a very interesting method of keeping the bears out of the vineyard. No fence has been able to stop them, but Greg discovered a method of blaring talk radio to scare the bears. Rush Limbaugh is particularly frightening.

Wooldridge Creek Vineyard, daily, 11a.m. to 5 p.m., 818 Slagle Creek Rd., Grants Pass, Oregon, 541.846.6364,

These are just two of the 17 wineries on the Applegate Wine Trail. All have their own unique stories and great wines to share with you.

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