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Griffin Creek Merlot-Syrah 1998
As the the largest region in the greater Southern Oregon AVA, bordering California, the Rogue Valley AVA grows the most diverse array of grape varieties compared to any other Oregon appellation.
The Rogue Valley AVA is actually made up of three adjacent river valleys—not just one as its name suggests—Bear Creek, Applegate and Illinois. These valleys extend from the foothills of the Siskiyou Mountains, a coastal sub range of the Klamath Mountains. Most Rogue Valley vineyards are planted on hillsides at elevations of 1,200 to 2,000 feet where soils are metamorphic, sedimentary and volcanic.
On one end Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, Tempranillo, Syrah and Sauvignon Blanc benefit from a warm and dry climate. To the west end of the Rogue Valley, cool-climate grapes like Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Riesling, Muscat and Gewürztraminer do best. Dolcetto, Grenache and Zinfandel also grow in the Rogue Valley AVA.
Early European settlers first started growing grapes here in the 1840s, the most famous of whom was a pioneer named, Peter Britt. He also opened Oregon’s first official winery (which later closed in 1907). Today, besides its great wines, the region is known for the Britt Music & Arts festival, which inhabits Peter Britt’s former hillside estate, and the Ashland, Oregon Shakespeare Festival.
With hundreds of red grape varieties to choose from, winemakers have the freedom to create a virtually endless assortment of blended wines. In many European regions, strict laws are in place determining the set of varieties that may be used, but in the New World, experimentation is permitted and encouraged. Blending can be utilized to enhance balance or create complexity, lending different layers of flavors and aromas. For example, a variety that creates a fruity and full-bodied wine would do well combined with one that is naturally high in acidity and tannins. Sometimes small amounts of a particular variety are added to boost color or aromatics. Blending can take place before or after fermentation, with the latter, more popular option giving more control to the winemaker over the final qualities of the wine.