Taking Center Stage
By John Darling
A car break-in 20 years ago turned out to be a huge stroke of luck for Don and Traute Moore. Stuck in Ashland for a day fixing the window, they decided to look at agricultural land (for oranges) and fell in love with a small vineyard on Griffin Creek, 10 minutes from Ashland.
They knew little about growing grapes but, with the help of fellow growers and experts from the Napa-Sonoma region, they found out fast, creating Quail Run Vineyards, winning “Best Red in Oregon” for their Merlot from the Wine Spectator in 1996—and, today, growing grapes on 11 local vineyards with 300 acres.
“Don’s good at growing things,” said Traute Moore, a retired artist, physical therapist and environmental educator. “There weren’t many growers here then, maybe 15. We learned a lot of tricks from everyone and got experts to come in and teach us how to do it, like the importance of growing grapes without water in the early part of the season.”
Their son, Michael Moore, recently joined the operation but is no stranger to his parents’ endeavor and success.
“Dad was like a doctor, very methodical. He brought loads of new varietals to the state.
They nailed down everything: what would grow best where, in what temperature ranges and elevations. They matched all the grapes to the best locations. They were the first to grow Viognier (in Oregon).”
The many locales have enabled the Moores, through much experimentation, to take advantage of many microclimates, growing 22 varietals, including Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, Cabernet, Cabernet Franc, Syrah, Malbec, Grenache, Marsanne-Rousanne, Viognier and Rhone white.
The family uses certified clones from all over the world—France, Italy, Spain, Austria, Germany and Chile.
Recently, the 2008 Early Muscat won the Gold Medal and Best of Show at Southern Oregon’s big annual event in August, the World of Wine Festival at Del Rio Vineyards in Gold Hill.
Quail Run sells grapes to some 20 Oregon wineries, mostly in the Willamette Valley—and a fourth of the medal-winning wines at World of Wine were from their vineyards; among them: the 2008 Daisy Creek Sangiovese Rosé, 2007 Domaine Paradox Pinot Noir, 2006 Griffin Creek Syrah, 2006 Paschal Civita di Bagnoregio, 2005 Spangler Syrah, 2007 Spangler Petit Syrah, 2005 Volcano Vineyard Bordeaux blend.
The quality of grapes, said vineyard manager and partner Chris Hubert, comes from the fact that “we give meticulous attention to growing premium grapes, which are the best. Some varieties, we give as much attention to as if they were $50-a-bottle grapes. The crew does good work and takes a lot of pride in it. We farm vine to vine. If there’s a small, stressed vine, we put less fruit on it.”
Last year, the Moores took the unusual step of opening a tasting room, making their own wines and selling all wines, from over 20 wineries, including their own, called South Stage Cellars. The tasting room (named after the pre-railroad stage road from California) and rear gardens patio are nestled in a Civil War-era stone building in historic Jacksonville. They regularly feature exciting events, such as Salsa Night or Hawaii Night and a Local’s Night every Friday.
The Moores believe in a team effort that includes fine foods of the region—catered by the nearby historic McCully House and Jacksonville Inn.
“As farmers, we’ve had the great privilege of working with many of the state’s finest winemakers,” Traute Moore said. “So, we decided to gather them all together under one roof.”
“Most tasting rooms are attached to a winery,” Michael Moore said. “I’ve never seen this model anywhere of having it all from our own grapes.”
Their wine club features South Stage Cellars wines and many others with their grapes, including Dobbes Family Estate, Spangler, Griffin Creek, Chateau Lorane, Belle Vallée, Volcano, Flying Dutchman and Francis Tannahill.
Run by a charming lady known as Spirit, the tasting room is assured of offering quality vintages, regardless of the winery (and they’re all from Oregon). The prize-winning Early Muscat has become a fast favorite and, despite the varietal’s rep as a dessert wine, is being happily sipped by the glass.
“It’s crisp, sweet, cold and goes well with spicy Thai shrimp,” Spirit said.
Hubert added, “It’s seductive. It grows on you. It’s one of those wines that tastes like it smells, an easy drinking wine.”
“It’s like tropical fruit, maybe passion fruit-guava,” Mike Moore commented. “Most wines have a different nose than taste. Wineries tend to blend for the nose; not this one.”
South Stage tries to be environmentally sustainable in all its practices and has a commitment to making value wines, which means “an excellent wine for a reasonable price,” Traute Moore said.
As for Quail Run’s Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris fruit, Michael Moore said, “They (wineries in the Willamette Valley) love what we’re doing. It’s warmer here, so grapes ripen earlier and they can have increased capacity and crush without buying additional equipment. We have warm and cool growing areas (cooler for Pinot Noir) and there’s a huge difference between them, like night and day.
“If our fruit isn’t great, we graft it over. The Petit Syrah and Cab Franc are unbelievable; and the Grenache and Viognier are knockouts, sensational.”
Hubert noted the “incredible” Malbec this season and adds, “Our Cab and Cab Franc are all going to be exceptional this year because we’ve had a nice, long, warm summer, with cool evenings and warm days. It’s also because we have so many different locations and we work hard to select the right location for each varietal. It’s a continuing education each year.”
Just finishing up an employee lunch celebration in the patio behind South Stage Cellars, Hubert noted the wine business is a good life for everyone at all tasks and levels.
Quoting wine mogul Robert Mondavi, Hubert said wine can be just a beverage, food can be just nutrition and family can be just conversation, but “when you put them all together, that’s what memories are made of.”
John Darling is an Ashland writer.
South Stage Cellars
Address: 125 S. 3rd St., Jacksonville
Hours: Wed.–Sun., noon–6 p.m.; Fri., noon–9 p.m.
Information: 541-899-9120; www.southstagecellars.com