Syrah grapes from Valley View Orchard in Ashland will be part of the new Harry & David Vineyards wine label that the gourmet-foods company plans to introduce this weekend in its stores, next year in its catalogs.
The Medford-based company, which has been selling gift baskets filled with locally produced fruits and snacks since 1934, has purchased grapes grown in Southern Oregon, mostly the Rogue Valley. The winemaker is Linda Donovan of Pallet Wine Co. in Medford, who has made nine different wines, including chardonnay, merlot and pinot noir, priced from $15 to $35 a bottle.
The wines will be available to taste and buy starting Saturday, Oct. 27, at Harry & David Country Village, 1314 Center Drive, Medford, says Mary Shanahan, the company's senior director of brand marketing. Next year, the wines will be sold at www.harryanddavid.com.
The company long has sold Oregon, California and imported wines in its stores, and it ships wines through www.wine.com.
"It made sense for us to sell our own label," says spokeswoman Rhonda Klug. "We are not competing with local wineries. We want to promote the industry and Rogue Valley as a whole."
Harry & David's Vineyards label will have the name of the grape-growing region printed across the top, a promotional idea championed by local producers including Chris Martin, president of the Southern Oregon Winery Association and owner of Troon Vineyard in Grants Pass.
Grapes for Harry & David Vineyards 2009 Tempranillo ($35) were harvested from Steelhead Run Vineyard in the Applegate. Grapes for the 2010 Syrah ($35) came from Valley View Orchard in Ashland.
Other varietals are sauvignon blanc ($15), viognier ($20) and gewürztraminer ($15).
Some Umpqua Valley grapes were purchased to create the 2009 Merlot ($20) and 2010 Royal Crest Red ($20), a blend of 60 percent merlot, 30 percent cabernet sauvignon and 10 percent carmenere.
"This is exciting," says Michael Donovan, chairman of the Oregon Wine Board and Oregon Winegrowers Association. "Harry & David has the power to get the word out that Southern Oregon produces premium wine. And who knows the potential for more vineyard development?"
Donovan spoke last week before boarding a plane on a 10-day trade mission to China and Japan to promote Oregon products, including wine.
Donovan, who is not related to winemaker Linda Donovan, says that because there is a limit to the number of cases of wine that can be sold and consumed locally, wineries need to expand beyond the region "because that's where the growth is."
He and others invested in the local wine industry also have been hoping that a significant, outside wine producer or retailer would buy a stake in Southern Oregon and give it instant acclaim, as respected French wine company Maison Joseph Drouhin did when it opened Domaine Drouhin in the Willamette Valley in the 1980s.
"It's a compelling development," says Donovan, also director of national sales for RoxyAnn Winery in Medford.
Troon owner Martin appreciates Harry & David's "marketing machine" and that it has "been a great rep for Southern Oregon."
He says he also would like to see local, artisan, family producers become part of the new venture.
"But any chance we have to get the wines of Southern Oregon, as long as they are good, to people across the country," he says, "furthers the Southern Oregon cause."