'Taste of History' samples the best
Downtown Medford has changed — for the better.
That was the reaction of many who recently roamed the route of the second annual The Taste of History event. Some of the area's best local wines and foods were showcased in interesting settings — historic buildings as well as newer stores and suites.
For wine fanciers, it was a day of some familiar favorites, a few new releases and an unusual newcomer. EdenVale of Medford was there with its new 2002 Claret, and I also enjoyed Devitt's 2004 Shiraz from the Applegate Valley. Wines in the familiar favorite category included RoxyAnn 2005 Pinot Gris, Cliff Creek 2003 Syrah, Devitt 2004 Chardonnay, Jacksonville Vineyards (Fiasco Winery) 2003 Claret and Academy 2002 Chardonnay.
Trium poured its 2005 Pinot Gris, now almost sold out. A Viognier and Cabernet Sauvignon are coming in the fall.
The newcomer? Cricket Hill Vineyard & Winery of the Applegate Valley with its first release, a 2002 Merlot, also containing a bit of Cabernet Franc. Proprietor Duane Bowman said it was made in a technique intended to give it the flavor of a red that had been aged for 25 years. I suppose you could call that a tie-in with history. Unusual indeed. The first sip offered a hint of prunes; it also had a long finish.
Cricket Hill greeted visitors inside the enormous Trinity Carpet store, a remodeled space that formerly housed several stores and a café. The other 16 stops on the tour covered quite a range — the new Acme Suites, home furnishings and decorating stores such as Terra Firma and Veranda, jewelers such as the remodeled Lawrence's, restaurants such as Porters, crafts shops such as Hot Pots, the Rogue Gallery and Medford Central Fire Hall. The ticket price the first two years has been $20, a bargain compared to other events of this nature.
ONE OF THE BETTER inexpensive Oregon chardonnays on the market is from Duck Pond of Dundee. Well, it's made in Oregon, but the grapes actually come from the Columbia Valley of Washington state. The two of us recently enjoyed a bottle of it at the Arbor House in Talent for $16 — an attractive price considering that a growing number of local restaurants offer nothing under $20.
Duck Pond Chardonnay normally retails in stores for $8-$10, so the Arbor House markup is moderate.
The wine accompanied a meal of cream of vegetable soup, salad with homemade dressings, two bread courses, halibut and beef stroganoff. The Arbor House and Bel Di's are two locals that still offer three-course dinners for a set price.
The Arbor House wine list varies from time to time, but has a good cross section from around the West and the world. Local labels usually include Paschal, Weisinger's, EdenVale and RoxyAnn.
RED ROBIN OF MEDFORD is a popular spot with families, because it's kid-friendly but serves adult beverages. I suspect the place makes most of its money on the bar. Wine prices are not even listed on the menu. I ordered Woodbridge (low-end Mondavi) — a glass of chardonnay followed by merlot. Cost was $4.75 a glass. The merlot was pretty good, the chardonnay forgettable. The red wine enhanced an entree of spicy chicken breasts with salad and salsa that cost $10.99.
WATTLE CREEK IS ONE of the newer, lesser known wineries in California's Alexander Valley. Established in 1994, it's based in Cloverdale. Its latest wines include two whites, 2004 Mendocino County Sauvignon Blanc and 2004 Mendocino County Chardonnay. And then there are two recently released reds, 2001 Alexander Valley Shiraz and 2002 Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon.
In a recent tasting I preferred the whites, especially the Sauvignon Blanc. It's a delicious wine with a hint of sweetness and none of that grassy flavor you sometimes get with this varietal. The Chardonnay reminds me of Slagle Creek's latest — a nice strong oaky flavor but not overdone. The Sauvignon Blanc is worth its suggested retail of $17, but you might think twice about shelling out $26 for the Chardonnay. There are so many good ones out there for half that price.
The Shiraz, which sells for $28, is earthy and distinctive and gets better after being open for a day or two. The Cabernet Sauvignon starts off as a pretty good middle-of-the-road red, then blossoms into something more complex and special, but its suggested retail of $50 may make you think twice.
IN CONTRAST TO THE $50 cab from Wattle Creek, the Atlas Peak 2003 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon does seem worthy of its price of $41.99. It's about as close to perfect as you can get — rich, complex and easy on the palate.
Cleve Twitchell is a retired Mail Tribune editor and columnist. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org