A local wine label debuted last winter, but few people saw it. That's because Mother Nature stepped in with sunshine and melted enough snow on Mount Ashland to temporarily close down the ski resort in January and keep crowds away most of the other months.
This year, there's enough snow to pack the resort's ski and snowboard runs, terrain parks and the four-level lodge.
Visitors to the adults-only T-Bar Lounge are noticing a new label.
They have long had a choice of regional, craft beers, cocktails and other beverages. In the past, Valley View Winery in Jacksonville sold bottles of its red and white wines.
Now, wine appreciators can order a $4 glass or a $15 bottle of Mt. Ashland Merlot or Mt. Ashland Caliban Chardonnay made by Valley View Winery.
Adults 21 and older also may bring alcoholic beverages purchased in the lounge to tables on the second floor where minors and brown-bag lunches are allowed.
The T-Bar Lounge is open from 10:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. weekends and holidays and from 10:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Mondays. The ski area is closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Call 541-482-2897 or see www.mtashland.com for more information.
Proceeds from wine sales will go into a fund that the nonprofit ski resort could use to add 90 parking spaces, widen runs within the existing ski area and re-contour the Sonnet beginner hill.
Valley View Winery owner Mike Wisnovsky serves on the board of the ski resort and traded cases of wine for ski passes. Eventually, the board hopes to sell the wine in stores to increase revenues. But for now, it's only available at the mountain.
The resort's development director, Rick Saul, designed the wine labels with a snow-capped mountain set against an orange sky and fronted by conifer trees.
Saul and the board liked Wisnovsky's suggestion to sell Mt. Ashland wine because it's made locally, could raise much-needed cash and perhaps become a take-home keepsake for visitors.
On a recent Saturday, Maria Raskin of Jacksonville was in the T-Bar Lounge sipping a glass of Mt. Ashland Merlot while she waited for her son to return from the slopes.
It was her first time tasting the Mt. Ashland label, but not her first time tasting Valley View Winery merlot.
"Really? This is made by Valley View?" she asked in her Brazilian accent. "I didn't know. I used to drink a lot of wine from there. It's my favorite."
Since her friend canceled at the last minute to join her for a day at the ski area, Raskin ordered only a glass of the wine. Otherwise, she says, she would have bought a bottle and been happier with a larger pour.
"The glasses are pretty small," she said, smiling. But then she shrugged and pointed to a notebook sitting at the table in front of her.
"It's actually fine," she said. "Since I'm working on my nursing-school homework as a I wait."