September News Briefs

Linda Donovan inside her new tasting room at Valley View Orchard.

No-Frills Focus 

Rogue Valley winemaker Linda Donovan now operates Ashland’s coziest tasting room. The shiny, new metal roll-up door to the building, set in the heart of a 50-acre orchard and vineyard, opened with a bang in late July.  

Donovan completely renovated a 700-square-foot farm structure originally used for cider pressing and storage at Valley View Orchard, owned by Donovan’s sister, Kathy O’Leary, and her husband, Tim. First established in 1919, the property produces certified organic pears, apples, peaches, cherries, apricots and nectarines, in addition to being planted to 12 acres of winegrape vines, which Donovan and O’Leary started planting more than a decade ago. 

The tasting room sells five different labels: the flagship L. Donovan brand, plus four other wines made under Donovan’s license: Long Walk, Le Jeune Chien, Pick Me and Late Bloomer. Bottle prices range from $8 to $35, and most of the wines were made from grapes grown at the orchard. 

“Like in Napa and Sonoma,” Donovan said, “I think people will want to enjoy a spectacular setting, taste through a variety of wines and purchase them, then continue on to other nearby tasting rooms.” 

Grapes grown on the property are, in descending order of acreage: Syrah, Grenache, Mourvèdre, Cinsault, Carignane and Zinfandel. Donovan and the O’Learys were the first to plant Mourvèdre, Cinsault and Carignane in Oregon; Donovan has been making small lots of wine from those grapes since 2008.

The tasting room, only five miles from downtown Ashland, is located at 1800 N. Valley View Rd., and is open Thurs.–Sun., 1 to 6 p.m. 

For more details, visit or call 541-621-1589. 

Falling for Alaska Airlines

Autumn is a great season to visit Oregon’s wine country. Visitors can expect to witness harvest and/or crush during some of the most ideal weather of the year. 

This fall will be even more enticing for wine country-bound travelers, thanks to a partnership with Alaska Airlines, Oregon Wine Board (OWB) and Travel Oregon. 

Starting Sept. 10, the Oregon Wines Fly Free program offers domestic Alaska Airlines passengers the ability to check one case of wine at no charge on their return flight from four Oregon airports: Portland, Eugene, Medford and Redmond, as well as Walla Walla, Wash. 

In addition, passengers showing their Alaska Airlines boarding passes within a week of their arrival in Oregon will receive complimentary tastings at any of the 180-plus participating Oregon wineries. 

“Partnering with Alaska Airlines and Travel Oregon to help visitors experience the beauty and bounty of our amazing wine country is a no brainer,” said Tom Danowski, OWB executive director. “Increasingly, the customers of Oregon wine are the same customers being courted by Alaska Airlines and Travel Oregon.” 

While Alaska Airlines has similar Wines Fly Free programs in other wine regions, Oregon is the first to implement the promotion for the entire state. Alaska Airlines is also a sponsor of Feast Portland, a world-class food and drink festival set for Sept. 19–21. 

“Alaska Airlines is dedicated to the growth and development of our markets, so this program is a natural for us,” said Clint Ostler, manager of media and market strategy for Alaska Air Group. “We’re pleased to support Oregon wineries while giving our customers one more reason to visit the state’s incredible wine regions.” 

“We know that Oregon’s scenic beauty not only affects the sense of place in every taste of Oregon wine, but it also inspires visitors to purchase Oregon’s artisan products,” said Todd Davidson, Travel Oregon CEO. “In fact, we know from a recent study that at least 43 percent of Oregon visitors said they are more likely to purchase Oregon products than before their trip. Now they can bring home not only memories, but Oregon’s award-winning wines, as well. ”

Oregon Wines Fly Free ends Nov. 20. For more information about the promotion, please visit

Friendliest Wine 

Oregon received the No. 1 ranking in the nation for its friendliness to wine consumers, according to a report released Aug. 7 by the American Wine Consumer Coalition. Oregon was one of only six states whose regulatory environment received an A+ rating in AWCC’s annual state-by-state report card. 

The report used a number of criteria, giving each a grade from A to F. Among the criteria considered in the evaluation were access to products, government control, blue laws, winery-to-consumer shipping, retail-to-consumer shipping, government control of wine sales, Sunday sales of wine, BYO/corkage in restaurants and wine sold in grocery stores. 

According to the report, “Oregon possesses the most consumer-friendly wine laws in the nation.” Other states receiving an A+ grade were California, Missouri, Nebraska, New Hampshire and Virginia. The District of Columbia also received an A+ grade. 

“Oregon’s wine producers have worked hard in cooperation with the governor and the state legislature to ensure that Oregon’s regulation of wine in the state is both responsible and supports our thriving wine industry,” said Leigh Bartholomew, chairwoman of the Oregon Wine Board (OWB). 

Bartholomew added, “The legislative efforts of the Oregon Winegrowers Association (OWA), in particular working with licensed distributors and retailers, has helped create a positive environment for one of Oregon’s most promising industries.” 

The state’s wine industry contributed more than $2.7 billion to the Oregon economy in 2010. In 2011, wine sales passed the 2 million case mark for the first time. The industry employs more than 13,500 people and is comprised of 463 wineries and 849 vineyards. 

The American Wine Consumer Coalition (AWCC) is the only national advocacy group working to advance the interests of America’s wine consumers. Member funded, the AWCC provides a voice for wine consumers, representing them in front of lawmakers, media and trade. 

The report noted, “Eighty years after passage of the 21st Amendment, many of the alcohol and wine-related laws put in place in the 1930s are still in place in most states, despite a cultural, economic and commercial reality that is starkly different from the 1930s. In some cases, however, laws concerning how consumers may access wine products and use wine have been updated to match the economic changes that have occurred, to accommodate legal rulings that showed many of the earlier laws to be unconstitutional and to meet the demands of an American consumer base that has become fervently interested in the wines produced now in every state in the country.”

Oregon’s wine community has continued its push in the area of consumer-friendly laws by leading the passage of the Oregon Wine Growler bill by the 2013 state legislature. The recently enacted law allows Oregon wine shops, grocery stores, wine bars and restaurants to offer wine on tap and sell bulk wine to go, in the same way beer has been sold by the growler at brewpubs and taverns. 

Just Charge It

While enjoying your multi-course, mushroom-inspired meal at the Joel Palmer House in Dayton, you can also charge your electric vehicle in the restaurant’s parking lot.

The historic, family-owned restaurant has recently added two new Electric Vehicle (EV) charging stations, helping to ease ‘range anxiety’ for EV drivers visiting Oregon’s Willamette Valley wine country. 

The technology by SemaConnect, Inc. uses the standard J1772 EV Connector and can also recharge Teslas.

“As an EV enthusiast, I realized that EV drivers from Portland and Seattle wanted to be able to visit Oregon wine country but were apprehensive about the ability to recharge their vehicles while out in the valley,” says Chef/Owner Christopher Czarnecki.

Using the charging stations is free for dinner guests between the hours of 4 p.m. and midnight, Tuesday–Saturday. Non-guests can charge for $1 per hour at all other times; the stations are open to the public.

Nearby wineries and businesses also offering EV stations include: Stoller (Dayton), Winderlea (Dundee), Laurel Ridge (Carlton), Belle Pente (Carlton), Carlton City Hall and others.

Look for more stations across the state as programs like the West Coast Electric Highway and The EV Project by ECOtality gain additional traction.

Sparkling New Owners  

Eric and Lorrie Normann recently purchased ownership shares of sparkling producer Domaine Meriwether Winery from Ed “Buzz” Kawders. 

“Buzz has decided to retire due to health reasons,” said Lorrie, former GM and shareholder of nearby Sweet Cheeks Winery. “Our long-term friendship and mutual respect has made the decision [to purchase] an easy one for us.” 

Started by Dr. Jack Bagdade with winemaker Jean-Louis Denois, Domaine Meriwether has been producing méthode Champenoise sparkling since 1998. After Bagdade returned to his medical career in 2005, Kawders, Meriwether’s then-sales and marketing manager, took over as owner with business partner Ed Kittrell — he currently retains his balance of ownership. Together, they hired winemaker Ray Walsh of Capitello Wines — he will continue at Domaine Meriwether as consulting winemaker. 

While plans to build a new tasting room are on hiatus, the Normanns are making an immediate mark with their “new vision” for the winery, beginning with the guest experience; this includes wine education, specifically, hosting sommelier study courses at the winery. 

Bringing her wine journey full circle, Lorrie says she already knows the sparkling process intimately from her first wine industry job in 1999 at LaVelle Vineyards, where, at the time, Jack Bagdade was making Domaine Meriwether. 

The Normanns are certainly no strangers to grapegrowing. In 1997, they purchased a commercial vineyard from King Estate, only two and a half miles from their new venture. 

“My dog and I now walk to work,” Lorrie said.

Domaine Meriwether, 88324 Vineyard Lane, Veneta, will continue its current hours of operation: 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., daily, as well as every Friday, 6 to 9 p.m., for Sparkling Nights.

Wizer’s Closes

Jim Wizer first opened the storied grocery store on Black Tuesday, Oct. 29, 1929 — although the beginning of the Great Depression, the family store maintained during the historic economic crisis. 

In 1948, Wizer moved the store from Southeast Portland to Lake Oswego; and in 1960, he moved the market to a larger property on First Street and A Avenue. After Jim Wizer died a year later, his son, Gene Wizer, took the helm. 

Now 75, Gene’s closing the store where he worked since he was a small boy and re-envisioning the family property into a development of more than 200 apartments and condos above retail stores and parking. One of those shops will house a scaled-down version of Wizer’s, featuring its highly regarded wine program, as well as craft beer. 

In a letter to customers, Gene Wizer wrote, “It has been my pleasure to be involved in numerous aspects of community service. Along with my Dad, our philosophy has always been to support the community at large.

“To our loyal customers, we thank you for your support over these past 83 years of business.”

In August, Wizer’s began liquidation of its inventory. Visit for more information, including the latest on Wizer’s development.



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