At the Wine Media Conference, my pre-conference group was hosted at Melrose Vineyards for a luncheon and tasting, and I enjoyed everything about this winery. Melrose Vineyards is located near the South Umpqua River in the Central Umpqua Valley and the owner (and all-around down-to-Earth farmer) Wayne Parker is a real gem. He planted the original vineyard here in 1996 and in a few years, began selling his fruit to other wineries. Soon, Wayne decided to start his own boutique winery. Today, that tasting room sits in a photogenic barn that’s a century old.
The tasting room is part wine sampling station, part gift shop. If you’re looking for wine-themed chotchkes or a souvenir to carry back home, this is your place. From necklaces to magnets to gourmet food items to t-shirts, the boutique at Melrose has what you’re looking for. I had a ton of fun browsing the various knick-knacks for sale. There’s a large tasting bar and a small outdoor balcony with a couple of tables and stunning views of the landscape. I would recommend trying to snag one of the outdoor tables if you’re here for a tasting but if they are full, at least step outside to snap a few photos.
My group was served a light and bright lunch from the winery’s chef, who also helps cater group events. We were served a portion of vegetable lasagna with a small salad and garlic bread. The food was all vegan (even made with fake “cashew cheese”) and while I was skeptical, it did taste good and was made with farm-fresh ingredients.
Due to Wayne’s outrageous hospitality, he literally poured anything any of us wanted. Yes, anything. I finally stopped at a dozen wines, although I wanted to try it all. I kept asking Wayne what I should try next, and he didn’t steer me wrong. Out of the wines I tried, there were a couple that I found to meet or exceed my expectations.
The first was the Parker’s Pinot Noir (priced at $45, this was the most expensive wine for sale). This wine had a long finish and slightly harsh tannins that probably need a few more months to a year to calm down. But the structure and flavor of this wine was very good.
On the opposite spectrum, the $18 Two Dog Red was a fantastic poolside sipper. This blush wine is bright pink with an adorable, eye-catching label that was created by an artist from Hawaii. You may be drawn in by the gimmicky name and cartoon label, but this is a crowd-pleasing wine with crisp, slightly sweet pineapple and cherry fruit notes. This is a wine that even your friend who swears she “doesn’t like wine” will not only be able to drink, but will likely love.
For those seeking a white that’s a little bit different, try the Pinot Gris ($20). With its pale straw color and melon-heavy nose, this wine is also interesting enough to recommend.
It’s worth mentioning that there’s something wine-wise here that will fit into almost everyone’s budget. The wines are very fairly priced, with the most expensive bottle topping out just below $50.
To me, Melrose offers a real Oregon experience. From the extensive porfolio of myriad varietals to the renovated old barn, it doesn’t get much better. And if you get the chance to chat with Wayne, take it.