On Wine and Food Matching:

There are no rules! Try everything and see what you like. Forget the old "red with meat, white with fish"-it's completely irrelevant. Instead, if you live in a climate like the Northeast, you might make a seasonal choice: red in winter, white in summer. But a good wine will carry any dish.


Wine can come from colder climes


Suppose you live in Bend, want to create your own wines but realize the Central Oregon climate isn't the greatest for growing grapes.

You could buy the grapes from a warmer part of the state, arrange to make wines at an existing winery and then pour them at your tasting room in Bend.

That's what Scott and Liz Ratcliff have done. Calling themselves Volcano Vineyards, they buy grapes from the Ashland-Talent area, have the wines made at RoxyAnn Winery in Medford, then transport the bottles to their tasting room at 930 N.W. Brooks St. Promenade in Bend. Gus Janeway of RoxyAnn is their consulting winemaker.

I caught up with Scott Ratcliff at the recent Pacific Wine Club Holiday Extravaganza in Medford. He was pouring samples of his 2004 Merlot and 2004 Syrah. They retail for about $24 and $26, respectively. I especially liked the merlot, which won a bronze medal at this year's World of Wine Festival in Gold Hill. The Ratcliffs came out with their first wines a year earlier. The 2003 Merlot and Syrah each won a couple of medals in competitions.

Wines of 2005 and 2006 vintage are on their way, made with grapes from such local vineyards as Aguila, Quail Run, Gold, Lakeside, Fortmiller and others. These red wines are aged for two years before release. A viognier also is planned.

Volcano may eventually create its own winery in Bend, the Ratcliffs say, and take advantage of quality grapes from other districts like the Willamette Valley, Walla Walla and Columbia Valley. Bend is in the middle of a volcanic area, hence the name.

Some other highlights of the Holiday Extravaganza at Pacific Wine:

* Nelms Road 2004 Merlot from Washington. Nelms is Woodward Canyon's second, lower-priced label. At $19, the merlot is about half the price of a Woodward Canyon wine but still outstanding.
* Avila 2003 Merlot from Santa Barbara County, Calif. An earthy, interesting wine for a modest price, $8.
* Santa Rita 2005 Chardonnay from Chile. A fruity, lighter-style chardonnay ($10.50).
* Argyle 2001 sparkling wine from Dundee. An excellent champagne-style wine for $25.
* R Classic Vintner's Chardonnay. A very good local chardonnay (Eden Valley Orchards) for a great price, $7.
* David Hill Farmhouse Red from Forest Grove. A good $10 red blend with a lingering aftertaste.

SATURDAY, MARCH 17, will be the date of the 2007 Greatest of the Grape wine and food event. It's staged by the Umpqua Valley Winegrowers but held at Seven Feathers Hotel and Casino Resort in Canyonville, so many Rogue Valley folks attend. This will be its 37th year.

Wines from 28 Oregon wineries will be paired with foods from 14 regional restaurants. Tickets have already gone on sale. They cost $75, available by calling 541-679-6642 or online at www.umpquavalleywineries.org.

MORE SPANISH WINES are finding their way into the Rogue Valley. Two I sampled recently are Castillo de Monseran 2004 and 2005 Grenache. As sometimes happens, the less expensive one seemed superior. At the tasting I really liked the 2005 release, which sells for $6-$7. It was smooth and delicious. The 2004 wine, at $12, was enjoyable but not in the same league.

AND MORE FRENCH wines, as well. A recent tasting showcased four wines from Domaine Ligneres of France, all 2002 vintage. My favorite was the Aric red ($20), a smooth and delicious blend of carignan, mourvedre and syrah. Piece de Roche red ($30), 100-percent carignan, was distinctive and rich. Notre Dame ($30), another red, 100-percent syrah, was nice at first but did not hold up well after opening. The lone white of the group, Las Vals ($20), a mix of roussanne and grenache gris, was a disappointment — odd flavor.

"SALES OF RIESLING, THE fourth-largest white wine sold in the AC Nielsen-tracked marketplace, are booming," reported the Wine Business Insider online publication. "Between November 2003 and August 2006, sales of the varietal grew by 72 percent."

Sales of riesling are reportedly so strong that some believe the varietal may eventually surpass sauvignon blanc in popularity. "While sauvignon blanc sales are currently double that of riesling, its growth rate is only about two-thirds that of riesling," the article reported.

The above item was brought to my attention by the folks at Bridgeview Vineyards in Cave Junction. They make riesling — the one in the blue bottle. Few others around here do.

Cleve Twitchell is a retired Mail Tribune editor and columnist. E-mail him at clevelinda@msn.com.

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