Put a Pebble in Your “Do”
Pebblestone Cellars a must-visit in Southern Oregon
At first glance, Pebblestone Cellars doesn’t look like a winery, but first impressions can be deceiving.
The tasting room, in a charming 1906 hand-poured concrete cottage, is located at 1642 Camp Baker Road, a leafy suburban street off Culver Road in Phoenix. Only a small portion of the winery’s 26-acre site is visible from the winery parking lot.
Most of the vineyard, however, lies behind the tasting room, between Camp Baker Road and Pioneer Road to the south. The climate conditions and soil are similar to France’s southern Rhône, some areas of Bordeaux and Spain’s Rioja winegrowing regions.
When owners Dick and Pat Ellis bought the property in 2003, it already had 13½ acres of Tempranillo, Merlot, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Pinot Gris planted at a 1,650 feet elevation on sandy, gravelly and well-drained soil from an ancient riverbed.
Dick Ellis is no stranger to vines; in fact, he has 30 years of experience in grapegrowing and winemaking. He had been looking for vineyard property in northern California for some time, and he knew he had found what he was seeking in this particular property. Together, he and his wife devoted themselves to improving the quality of the existing vines and planted an additional two acres of Viognier.
At first, he sold their grapes from Ellis Vineyards to other local wineries; next, he started producing wines as Pebblestone Cellars in 2006. He manages the vineyards with Randy Gold of Pacific Crest Vineyard Services and works with Bryan Wilson at Foris Vineyards Winery to craft the wines.
Pebblestone CellarsAddress: 1642 Camp Baker Road, Medford
Hours: Fri–Sun., noon–5 p.m. (winter hours)
“Pebblestone Cellars strives to produce high quality wines that sell for a reasonable price,” says Ellis. “My goal is wines that are balanced as to fruit, alcohol, acidity and, with the reds, tannins. I make wines to complement food, not overpower it.”
The 2013 Pinot Gris ($16), bottled in February 2014 and released in April, features tropical notes with flavors of pear and citrus and a hint of minerality and enough acid for a rich mouthfeel and clean finish. It was fermented in stainless steel tanks. “The stainless steel allows the wine to show off its delicate flavor,” says Ellis. “Oak would overpower it.”
The 2013 Viognier ($19) has a floral aroma and tastes of apricots, apple, pear and melon with a creamy mouthfeel with enough acid for a clean finish. Ellis says it was started with a whole-cluster pressing followed by a long, cool fermentation in stainless steel.
Note: Pebblestone’s 2012 Viognier — now sold out — won “Best of Show” for white wines at the 2013 World of Wine competition and was awarded a double-gold at the 2014 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition.
Ellis says that Pebblestone ages all their reds for 18 to 20 months in French oak — 25 percent in new oak — and then ages them for an additional two to two-and-a-half years in the bottle.
Pebblestone’s signature red wine is a Bordeaux-style blend called “Mélange.” The 2009 offering, which won a silver medal at the 2013 San Francisco Chronicle Competition, is a blend of 48 percent Cabernet Sauvignon, 17 Cabernet Franc, 30 Merlot and 5 Petite Verdot.
Ellis ages each varietal for the Melange separately in oak for a year before blending the wine for further barrel aging. He describes his blending formula: Cabernet Sauvignon to give structure; Merlot to provide a fruity softness; Cabernet Franc to add some spiciness; and Petite Verdot to naturally accentuate the acidity and fruit expression.
Pebblestone’s 2009 Syrah ($24) is made in the northern Rhône style according to Ellis. “This is not a wine with big fruit and high alcohol in the California style,” says Ellis. “It is mellow, with a soft mouthfeel and a nice crisp finish.”
The 2009 Cabernet Franc ($24) took silver medals at the 2013 World of Wine, the 2013 Great Northwest Wine Competition and the 2014 San Francisco Chronicle Competition.
The tasting room also features a 2012 Rosé of Syrah ($16), a 2009 Merlot ($21) and a 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon ($24), which also won silver at the 2014 San Francisco Chronicle Competition.
Pebblestone wines are available retail at Market of Choice and Ashland Wine Cellar in Ashland, Harry & David in Medford and the Old 99 Road Wine Shop in Medford and Gary West Meats and the Jacksonville Inn in Jacksonville.
Roberta Kent is a freelance writer living in Ashland. Reach her at email@example.com.
Address: 1642 Camp Baker Road, Medford
Hours: Fri–Sun., noon–5 p.m. (winter hours)
Ellis Vineyards is located in the Rogue Valley and is planted at 1,650 feet elevation. Photo provided.
Owners Dick and Pat Ellis and their son, Teddy, stand in front Pebblestone Cellar’s tasting room, a charming 1906 hand-poured concrete cottage. Photo provided.
Pebblestone’s Mélange is a Bordeaux-style blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petite Verdot. Artwork provided.