2 Hawk Vineyard and Winery is named for the two hawks that frequently fly over the area. The beautiful tasting room that houses the winery is located at the site of an original farmhouse. It was designed to reflect the past by incorporating more modern, environmentally friendly elements from reclaimed lumber sourced from locations across the country. It is cozy, rustic, and a great place to sample some beautiful wines.
What better place to start than with the 2017 Darow Series Viognier. All of the estate-grown wines bear the name of Darow Series as a salute to the Darow soil structure in their vineyards. The Viognier is fermented with the vineyard’s indigenous yeasts in French oak and then aged for 12 months. It has a well-layered perfume of blossoms, honey, and vanilla. The taste is very fruit-forward, with just the right amount of crispness.
Our next wine was the 2016 Darow Series Malbec, the first estate grown vintage of Malbec. It has a beautiful deep red – almost purple - hue with the aroma of red berries and perfume. The flavor is well balanced with fruit and tannin and has a long, smooth finish.
Also in the Darow Series, the 2016 Tempranillo is sourced from the estates oldest vineyard block. It is full-bodied and exudes flavors of black pepper, dark fruit, and baking spices. It would go great with some pizza or lasagna.
This hard work was making us hungry! So we headed over to Larks Kitchen & Cocktails, located in the Inn of the Commons, downtown Medford for an extraordinary five-course, wine-paired dinner.
Executive Chef Billy Buscher has won many awards, which really shows up in his food. He started his journey through the kitchens of southern Oregon at the age of 15 as a dishwasher. He realized his fascination with the preparation of food and quickly moved up the ranks. He has worked in restaurants around southern Oregon, including Alchemy Restaurant in Ashland. As Executive Chef, he led Alchemy to the honor of being named one of the Top 100 Restaurants in Oregon for Foodies, by Opentable. He also won the title of Top Chef at the Ashland Culinary Festival. To broaden his experience, he worked in New Zealand for a while. All of that expertise shows up in the innovation and dedication he serves to the guests at Larks.
We started with the Victory Gardens Straw Smoked Carrots, which was exceptional. The carrots are prepared through a unique process of being repeatedly smoked on a flaming bed of straw. The carrots were served with a black cardamom-apple glaze and garnished with raw goat cheese and candied hazelnuts. This was served with the 2017 Quady North Pistoleta. The crisp melon notes of the wine paired wonderfully with the smokiness of the carrots.
The courses continued:
• Uproot Farm Chicken & Mushrooms All Year Ballotine, served with the 2017 Dancin Vineyards Mélange Chardonnay, then an unoaked and very smooth chardonnay. Billy mentioned that the Ballotine is one of the more technical things he offers. The chicken is chopped, mixed with eggs and cream, then forced back into the skin and rolled around a stuffing of mushrooms, then grilled. It was definitely worth all of that effort. Delicious!
• White Oak Ranch Smoked Pork Belly, served with Victory Gardens black radishes, fermented garlic, ceniza cheese, and pickled cherries. This delightful mix of flavors went well with the 2015 Naumes Family Vineyard Pinot Noir.
• Rogue Creamery Oregon Blue Cheese with house crackers, onion jam, plum, and black nigella seeds. This came with a 2016 Peter William Vineyard Lot D Tempranillo. The peppery notes of the Tempranillo really set off the tanginess of the cheese.
• Olive Oil Cake, with Kao’s Strawberry Farm Strawberries, Lemon Balm Ice Cream garnished with honeycomb dust. The aroma of fresh strawberries was a harbinger of the fantastic taste to come. The dessert was paired beautifully with a 2016 L. Donovan Viognier Dessert Wine, light and refreshing with the perfect level of sweetness.
The wonderful thing about a multi-course wine-paired dining experience is that each course is served as a small plate, so you can sample many delicious foods without ending up feeling overly stuffed. Still, we were ready to call it a day!
Fortunately, we didn’t have far to get to our room. The Inn at the Commons was originally a 1960s motor inn. It still retains that nostalgic vibe but has been updated for comfort and style. We were more than happy to enter our spacious room with its private balcony and (most compelling) king-size bed.
After a great night’s sleep, Tuesday morning dawned bright and early. It was another sunny, warm, blue-sky day! We headed out to Ashland but had one more stop along the way.
Troon Vineyard is located on the Kubli Bench in the Applegate Valley. Just 57 miles from the ocean, the vineyard benefits from the warm summer days and cool evenings. The diurnal temperature swings can go from 105 degrees (F) during the day to 60 degrees (F) at night. The grapes really love that!
“The entire goal of a grape is to get really sweet so a bird will eat it.” This sentence by Craig Camp, general manager, epitomizes the theory of Troon. They are dedicated to the interplay between what nature gives us and how we honor that. Troon is steadfast to the goal of putting more back than they take from the plants and the soil. They have both a Biodynamic and Organic certifications.
Biodynamic viticulture is a complex process that embraces the idea of the vineyard as a complete, holistic living system that strives to keep all things in balance. So while other farmers might curse that bird for eating their grapes, a biodynamic farmer celebrates the example of the relationship between farmer and all of nature.
Out of the wines that we tasted, a favorite was the Cuvee Rolle, Estate Vermentino, which is a white blend of 90 % Vermentino and 10% Marsanne, inspired by similar wines produced in Languedoc, France. This light-bodied wine has notes of green apple and almond and a lovely grapefruit finish. Its complex structure would go great with more sumptuous foods, such as tomato-based sauces or fried calamari.
Have you ever heard of Orange Wine? It was certainly new to me! It’s actually an ancient fermentation process that is seeing a resurgence, mostly in Europe, and slowly making its way across the pond. The name comes from the color of the wine – which can range between a light orange tint to bright traffic cone orange. It is also called (and more appropriately) “skin-contact white wine.” White wine is made with grapes that are immediately pressed, with just the juice going through the fermentation process. Orange wine is fermented with the skins and seeds, and any white wine grape can be used to create it. We tried Troon’s Vermentino Whole Grape Ferment. It was a beautiful light orange tint and had a lemony nose, with a bold but flexible taste. You could easily pair this with just about any food!
Troon is owned by Denise and Bryan White, who live in Texas but commute to the vineyard often. Meanwhile General Manager Craig Camp brings his vast skills as a veteran wine professional to the vineyard. He is passionate about both biodynamic winemaking and the Oregon wine industry.