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DRINK LOCAL: Winter Wine Tasting AT Cliff Creek Cellars/Sam’s Hill Vineyard

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cliffcreek1We usually take the longer, scenic route on our quarterly wine club pickup/party days, following the namesake Rogue, from Gold Hill through Sam’s Valley, beneath the iconic Table Rocks, to Cliff Creek Cellars and Sam’s Valley Vineyard.  We enter through a seasonally shifting array of farm and fermenting equipment, outbuildings and row upon row of vines tapering to the vanishing point beneath rising highlands in all directions—a working farm.

We are persistently drawn back—not just by the noble varietals and idyllic setting, or the exceptionally generous membership benefits (always free tastings including up to four guests, steeply discounted prices, seasonal specials and events, bonus bottles for birthdays and bringing in new members). The warmth and charm of the energetic Garvin family and staff roll out a welcome, ambiance, joie de vivre—not always found among the comparatively stuffy facades of other area venues, however great their wines.

Ah, and the wines! Southern and westerly exposures favor heat-loving Syrahs, Cabernets both Sauvignon and Franc, Merlot and Sangiovese. These hefty reds are typically aged up to two years in French oak and released only when time has mellowed influences of sun and volcanic ash soils, to bring about complexity and structure worthy of the Rogues’ finest.

Our most recent visit offered a fine buffet of paired appetizers accompanying the pours:  MRV—Marsonne, Roussanne, Viognier white blend, a dry yet fruity and refreshing lead-off; Red-Red—young, lively Nouveau-style red blend, different every year; Merlot 2011—mellow and smooth, dark berries, midsummer herbs, and great promise; Super Tuscan 2011—Sangiovese Blend, hearty, rich and dense; Claret 2011—a mini-vertical flight: complex, earthy fruit and tannin; Claret 2009—aging to reveal softening, balance, structure; Claret 2005—mature hints of leather, smoke, divine sophistication; LA International “Best of Class” Gold Medal Syrah 2008—dried fruit and spice, tannins mellow with age to form a lasting, silky finish.


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