Wines & Vines Home
Welcome Guest

Southern Oregon Wineries Look Ahead

Conference addresses how to build an identity separate from Willamette Valley

by Peter Mitham
Troon Vineyards' owner Chris Martin, president of the Southern Oregon Winery Association, believes the region now stands at a crossroads in its development as a destination.
Grants Pass, Ore.—There’s more to Oregon wine than Pinot Noir. A conference yesterday in Grants Pass gave winemakers in southern Oregon a chance to exchange ideas about how to get that message out.

“The southern part of the state has, for a long time, lived a little bit in the shadow of the northern part of the state, where they’ve made an excellent reputation for growing Pinot Noir in the Willamette,” said Chris Lake, director of the Southern Oregon Wine Institute at Umpqua Community College. “We’ve got that capability down here, but then a few more capabilities growing other grapes, defining this as a little bit different from what’s going on up north.”

Defining the difference, and the opportunities it creates, was a key theme at the institute’s second Wine Cluster Conference yesterday. Key speakers during the morning lectures included Nick Frey, president of the Sonoma County Wine Grape Commission, and Elizabeth Martin-Calder, former executive director of the Walla Walla Valley Wine Alliance, who highlighted how their own regions had established identities for themselves in the shadow of better-known neighbors.

“We think that a story like that resonates with folks down here,” Lake told Wines & Vines.

The message is especially critical following two decades of restructuring in the forest industry, which began with a fight to protect the northern spotted owl. Conserving the species trumped the economic value of timber, triggering an economic shift that increased unemployment and led locals to seek alternative business opportunities.

Winemaking is one of the options being pursued: 88 wineries now are active in Southern Oregon. “Not that this wine industry will replace (the forest industry), but it will probably be a component of what Oregon and Southern Oregon can grow into,” Lake said.

Growth prospects for the local industry have spurred an outpouring of financial support for the Southern Oregon Wine Institute. This past spring, Sutherlin, Ore., attorney Danny Lang made an $800,000 gift to the institute that is funding development of the Danny Lang Teaching, Learning and Event Center, set to open in September 2011 (see “Wine Programs on a Budget”).

“Lang saw this as an opportunity to advance the mission of the college and provide stimulus for the economic development in the community. When he gives like that, it inspires other people in the community to think, ‘This is beyond just a wine program, this is an economic issue,’” Lake said at the time.

James and Jane Ratzlaff have recently followed Lang’s example, donating $100,000 to the institute via the Crane Creek Foundation of Roseburg, Ore. The donation was inspired in part by the couple’s recognition of the benefits delivered by a wine cluster to Walla Walla, Wash. Tourist-oriented operations such as restaurants and hotels have been among the beneficiaries, for example, as explained in “Wine Ratings Spur Northwest Tourism.”

Region at the crossroads
The parallels with Walla Walla are apt, according to Chris Martin, president of the Southern Oregon Winery Association and owner of 7,000-case Troon Vineyard in Grants Pass. “We are a region that is right at the crossroads I think Walla Walla was at four years ago,” he said. “I think we as a region can take away a lot of the lessons they’ve learned, and hopefully shorten the learning curve for ourselves and move us forward.”

Speaking shortly after the conference ended, Martin said Southern Oregon—like the rest of the state—has to do a better job at establishing an identity for itself that would attract people keen to discover what the region has to offer.

“What is our brand identity; how do we take ourselves forward; how do we get people to come out and see what’s special about Oregon and advance the message?” he asked. “Beyond any varietal, what you’re branding is quality and name recognition.”

Martin is particularly keen to see a couple of wineries grow large enough to represent the region beyond state lines. It’s something most wineries are too small to do by themselves right now, meaning the region remains fragmented as a category.
Herb Quady
Troon winemaker Herb Quady
Troon winemaker Herb Quady, who also has his own winery, Quady North, is more optimistic. He feels the climate of southern Oregon allows vineyards to produce the kind of Pinot Noir people are happy to associate with Oregon, at prices consumers can afford. This is a strength that can be used to draw buyers in to discover what else the Applegate, Rogue and Umpqua valleys can produce. Abacela (1 0,000 cases) may be carrying the region’s flag right now, but Quady noted that the region’s Syrahs consistently score 90-plus points; its Viogniers are also highly ranked.

Quady said that to be successful, the drive to establish an identity for the region that will extend beyond state lines will require collaboration. The conference, he said, was helpful in keeping people on track. “The conference was yet another big step towards that goal, and it did build upon the first conference, which was a good sign,” he said.

The original Wine Cluster conference in December 2008 attracted 85 people; its proceedings were summarized in a report. Yesterday’s conference attracted more than 130 participants.

Currently no comments posted for this article.

Wines & Vines Home
866.453.9701 | 415.453.9700 | Fax: 415.453.2517
65 Mitchell Blvd., Ste. A San Rafael, CA 94903
Wine Industry Metrics
Off-Premise Sales » Month   12 Months  
August 2015 $608 million
$8,178 million
August 2014 $568 million $7,729 million
Direct-to-Consumer Shipments » Month   12 Months  
August 2015 $80 million
$1,908 million
August 2014 $78 million $1,686 million
Winery Job Index » Month   12 Months  
August 2015 261
August 2014 218 224
MORE » Released on 09.15.2015
Direct To Consumer
Wine Shipping Report
Download full report »


Practical Winery & Vineyard Library
Search the PWV archive »

  • October 3-11
    Lake Chelan Crush Festival
  • October 9-12
    Santa Barbara Celebration of Harvest
  • October 13-16
  • November 3-6
  • MORE »

Article: Crowd Funds 10,000 Cultivars »
Thanks for interviewing the academic breeders. They would love to be able to raise $167K...
Reader: New York Viticulture
Article: Nielsen Unpacks Package Design »
Okay, I'll state the obvious (to anyone with CPG experience) - the Wine Biz is...
Reader: Joel Miller
Article: Nielsen Unpacks Package Design »
Very interesting reading. Certainly agree with the more indirect approach of evaluating the extent to...
Reader: Roger Brooks
Article: Experimental Solution to Pierce's Disease »
Congratulations to the team! It is amazing what can be done with biological controls. Keep...
Reader: Bruce Coulthard
Article: The Spiciest Wines You Have Ever Tasted »
There are some wines from New Mexico are infused with pepper flavors. Also, The Wine...
Reader: Guest

2015 Directory/Buyer's Guide
The Wines & Vines Directory and Buyer's Guide
Wines & Vines Magazine
Digital Edition Now Available!
Wines & Vines Digital Edition Now Available
The Wines & Vines Online Marketing System
The Industry Standard winery marketing application
Latest Job Listings
 Administrative Assista...
 San Francisco, CA
General Administration and
 Monterey/Santa Cruz Sa...
 Monterey/Santa Cruz, CA
Sales and Marketing
 San Diego Sales Manage...
 San Diego, CA
Sales and Marketing
 Office And Warehouse M...
 San Francisco, CA
General Administration and
 Hospitality Specialist...
 Napa, CA
DTC, Tasting Room and Retai
 Marketing Associate
 Napa, CA
Sales and Marketing
 Winery Lab Tech
 Sebastopol, CA
Cellar, Lab and Production
 Division Manager - Sou...
 Major Metro Area Of Florida, FL
Sales and Marketing
 Tasting Room Sales Ass...
 Healdsburg, CA
Sales and Marketing
 Materials Planner
 Napa, CA
General Administration and
More Job Listings >>
Follow Us On:

Home  |  About Us  |  Editors  |  Subscribe  |  Print Edition  |  Digital Edition

Advertise  |  Site Map  |  Contact Us  |  Privacy Policy
Copyright © 2001-2015 by Wine Communications Group, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
No material may be reproduced without written permission of the Publisher.
Wines&Vines does not assume any responsibility for any unsolicited manuscripts or materials.