This stop on our adventure was partly an interim breather — between Crater Lake and the Oregon Coast, along the often spectacular Rogue-Umpqua Scenic Byway — but also a chance to explore the amazingly beautiful Rogue River Valley, as well as a relatively unknown (to us at least) wine region. Our home base was a very nice RV park in Sunny Valley, just north of Grants Pass.
We spent the first afternoon biking down and around Sunny Valley, taking in the historic Grave Creek Covered Bridge, one of the few remaining covered bridges in Southern Oregon. The area is part of the first emigrant wagon trail traveling to the Willamette Valley — known as the Applegate Trail (a wilderness route in the mid-1800s through Idaho, Nevada, California, and Oregon) — and the creek is named because a 16-year-old died from Typhoid Fever and was buried nearby. (The Applegate Trail Interpretive Center is also located here, but has very limited hours.)
We spent the next day driving through the countryside and enjoying visits to three wonderful wineries (with great staffs and delightful tasting rooms) along the Applegate Wine Trail. Heck, skip Napa and Sonoma and all their pretentiousness (especially Napa), and fly into the Rogue Valley International-Medford Airport and enjoy a weekend (or week) of inexpensive tastings… perhaps adding the Willamette Valley (where we will be in a few stops) to complete a wonderful wine journey.
Our first stop was at Valley View Winery, located on Upper Applegate Road. We left with a bottle of Rogue Red (blend) and 2013 Apple Maria Applegate Valley Zinfandel — and they even threw in an empty case box, knowing that we would be visiting additional wineries!
We then visited LongSword Vineyard, right along OR-238. This winery produces small batch, but lovingly produced wines with some lesser known grapes, including a Chardonnay that was one of the best we have tasted (though not quite enough for us to purchase since we are not big white wine drinkers). We even got to spend some quality time with Matt, the winemaker (vintner), who told us how he came to making wines in the Applegate Valley. We left with a 2016 La Finta Dolcetto and a 2016 La Espada Tempranillo.
Our final visit was at Troon Vineyard, way up Kubli Road, but well worth the drive. We had a great tasting experience at this sustainable (and moving toward organic and biodynamic) winery, leaving with six bottles, including four of their 2015 Malbec and two of their 2015 Black Label M*T.
As we were heading home (well, actually to CostCo first, then back to the travel trailer), we had the highlight of our day — week — by stopping for a visit with four burros living on a ranch just down the road from Troon. What an unexpected delight — and if you have been following us, you know we fell deeply in love with these animals weeks ago. (We hope to adopt a few once we end this trip and find our new home.)
We spent our final day catching up on school and work, but did take time to explore a few towns just north of Sunny Valley. We hiked around the eerily deserted Wolf Creek Park, which offered views of the creek and a nearby railroad… but with rundown facilities and a kind of creepy feeling, we were happy to get back in the truck and head up to Glendale, in the next county.
We sat mesmerized near the Swanson Group Sawmill, watching heavy machinery load logs into the mill. We enjoyed this small little town, with its “supercenter” grocery, but most appreciated the very welcoming staff at Morningstar Coffeehouse, where we bought a no-sugar caramel, cinnamon, latte with coconut milk. Why? Their sign caught our eye!
Next up… the Oregon Coast and more coastal redwoods!