DRINK LOCAL: De Vino Veritas: Agate Ridge Winery
(Editor’s Note: Drink Local makes anonymous visits to randomly chosen vineyards and wineries to discover the truth about wine—de vino veritas—in Southern Oregon.)
You have to get up early to join the grape harvest at Agate Ridge Vineyard in Eagle Point. Like all of Southern Oregon’s vineyards, the precarious series of harvest decisions fully involve Agate Ridge now, too. Volunteer and paid hands will assist winemaker and vineyard manager Matthew Cates in gathering Agate’s 14 varieties, from sauvignon blanc (pictured) to pinot noir, as nimbly as possible.
Unable to make the 6 a.m. Harvest Hour, the Drink Local Research Department sought Happy Hour refuge from the Chetco Bar fire bouquet at Agate Ridge’s historic farmhouse tasting room. The farmhouse testifies to the Rogue Valley’s pastoral past and seems more appropriate than other area tasting rooms’ faux Tuscan villas. That the vineyard and historic building have survived the dispiriting sprawl along the Crater Lake Highway is a slight miracle.
Such contrasts typify Agate Ridge. The winery sharply distinguishes itself by growing its own grapes and making all of its own wine with them. The vines are in sight of the winery, the winery adjacent to the tasting room. However, the wines themselves vary from nothing special (the 2012 Aléash or 2012 Semillon Sauvignon Blanc) to superb (2012 Viogner and 2013 Primitivo). Though the farmhouse pleases, the de rigueur wine merchandise clutter and randomly stacked open case boxes sabotage the Shaker simplicity.
Agate Ridge seems poised, perhaps, at an overall precarious moment. To the southeast is national caliber ugly development—big box after fast food after chain—insults to the valley’s beauty and a terrible introduction to a world-renowned natural wonder. Will Agate Ridge go full wine-country experience, hawking its wine via concerts and events, merch and food? To the west, the clear Rogue winds below the Table Rocks; inspiring Mt. McLoughlin rises to the east, visible from the vineyard (fire season notwithstanding). Will Agate Ridge focus on growing the grapes befitting its ancient soils and making the wines that suit them? Agate is a stone of harmony. Will Agate Ridge heed its namesake gem?