Summer vacations may be over, but not the desire to explore, learn and taste regionally specific food and wine.
Bear Creek Boutique Wineries (bearcreekwineries.com) are making it easy for wine appreciators to visit eight different tasting rooms, all within a few minutes of the next one down the way.
Adding to the ease is the second annual Wine & Vine Adventure from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 15 and 16. A $20 to $25 pass grants you tasting privileges both days at all wineries. Appetizers made from locally produced ingredients and chosen to individually complement Rhone and Bordeaux wines are included, and standard $5 tasting fees at each place are waived.
"The timing of the event is nice this year because the harvest is coming but not quite yet," says Laura Lotspeich of Talent, who grows merlot, cabernet franc and other grapes at her Pheasant Hill Vineyard and sells wine under her Trium label.
Visitors to these family-owned operations not only can look at the picturesque vineyards in Ashland, Talent and Medford, but taste the ripening grapes.
"Comparing the fruit to the wine is always fun for folks," says Lotspeich, who will be pouring Trium 2007 Growers Cuvee ($26), a Bordeaux-style blend, as well as 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon ($38) and 2011 Viognier ($20).
Ledger David Cellars wines are poured year-round at a temporary tasting room next to Rogue Creamery in Central Point while a permanent tasting room is constructed adjacent to the vineyards in Talent. For this event, owner Lena Varner and her crew will be at the vineyard pouring first releases: 2010 Sauvignon Blanc, 2010 Cabernet Franc and 2010 Orion's Nebula, a cabernet franc, malbec, petit verdot and syrah blend that was a double-gold winner at the 2012 Southern Oregon World of Wine Festival. Jeff Kloetzel will perform from 2 to 4 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 16. Varner says these vineyard events allow her wine-club members and others to peek at the tasting room's building progress.
Some of the tasting rooms also will be selling Sip Local T-shirts during the Eat Local Challenge, Sept. 7-16, to promote the idea of supporting regionally grown, raised and made foods and wines.
The winery group's new slogan is "discover the roots of our fine wines," and it reminds visitors that, most of the time, the person behind the tasting bar of these small-scale wine businesses is the owner who lives on the property, makes the decisions of which grapes to plant, when to harvest, what wine should be blended, how long it should be stored in oak or stainless steel, and when it's ready to be released.
It's almost impossible to stump them on a question.
Tickets are limited to 160 and can be purchased the day of the event for $25 or in advance for $20 at any of the Bear Creek Boutique Wineries: