On Buying Wine:

The key is to find a wine shop where you feel comfortable-both physically and in being able to communicate with the owner or salesperson there. Tell him or her, "I don't care about wines with big names; I'm interested in smaller producers." Buy an assorted case (to get the normal 10-15% case discount), and make notes when you try each wine-day, food, impression, whether you liked or didn't like it. Then go back to the same store and the same salesperson, and tell her what you liked and didn't like. This gives her a better idea of your palate, and should yield better recommendations.

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Rocky Knoll joins list of regional labels

Dunbar and Jane Carpenter and their children — Karen Allan, Dunbar Scott Carpenter and Emily Mostue — hosted the wine release party. Emily and her late husband Brian became particularly involved in expanding the vineyard and creating the label.

The wine, made by RoxyAnn's winemaker Gus Janeway, is a blend of 56 percent cabernet sauvignon, 38 percent merlot and 6 percent cabernet franc. I had an opportunity to sample some and found it especially smooth and polished. Michael Donovan, RoxyAnn's managing director, mentions that the grapes for this wine were picked by Carpenter-Allan-Mostue family and friends. He believes that the age of some vines — dating back to the 1970s — enhances the wine's quality.

Besides Janeway and Donovan, the Rocky Knoll Web site also acknowledges the help of Randy Gold, vineyard consultant.

The claret sells for $29 and is available from RoxyAnn or Rocky Knoll. Those interested can sample it at RoxyAnn's tasting room, 3285 Hillcrest Road, Medford. Hours are 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily.

Like many others, Rocky Knoll has a wine club. Details are on the Web site.

TROON ALSO TOOK PART in the first "Bite of the Rogue," held in conjunction with the Jackson County Harvest Fair at the county fairgrounds in late September. It was one of five wineries pouring samples. Gold River and Pacific Wine Club also had wines available for tasting. Patrons paid $4 for a glass and then nominal fees per taste, generally $1.

Rainy weather hurt the opening Friday night session, but it was sunny and warmer on Saturday.

"The fusion of music, wine, beer and food at 'Bite of the Rogue' formed a diverse and well-balanced event," says Corey McTaggart of Troon. "Troon Vineyard welcomed the opportunity to introduce many to a first taste of our local favorite, Druid's Fluid."

Druid's Fluid is one of the more widely available Troon wines. It's a pleasant blend of syrah, zinfandel and cabernet sauvignon.

THE WINE LIST AT 38 on Central, the downtown Medford wine bar and restaurant, has grown into a book. Wines number in the hundreds, and they come from all over the world. You find a dozen or more Southern Oregon labels, along with others from the Pacific Northwest, California, France, Spain, Italy, South America and Australia.

The emphasis is on upscale wines, and they're priced accordingly — starting at around $7 a glass and $19 per bottle (and many quite a bit higher).

I had a glass of house "38 on Central" white blend from the Applegate Valley ($7) with a wonton appetizer and salad. No Southern Oregon reds were offered by the glass, so I settled on the next best thing, a Willamette Valley pinot, to go with my salmon entrée. The choice was La Velle 2005 Pinot Noir ($8.50).

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



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