Dames of the Rogue

Meet the women influencing Southern Oregon wine

##Photo by Molly Bermea
Ashley Bradfield, operations manager for WiW and aspiring winemaker, among many other roles. ##Photo by Molly Bermea
Red Lily Vineyards’ founder, owner and winemaker Rachael Martin. ##Photo by Molly Bermea
Pavo Real Vineyard owner and viticulturist Virginia Oaxaca (left) with fellow viticulturist and niece Elisa Anthony. ##Photo by Molly Bermea
Schmidt Family Vineyards’ winemaker René Brons.##Photo by Molly Bermea
Amy Jay, vineyard manager, regenerative farmer/consultant and aspiring winemaker with baby Avery.##Photo by Molly Bermea
Sara Garr, cellar master at Quady North and owner, winemaker at Circadian Cellars.##Photo by Molly Bermea
Belmont Vineyards’ owner and viticulturist Debbie Luethy.##Photo by Molly Bermea
Traute Moore, founder, owner and viticulturist at Quail Run Vineyards and South Stage Cellars. ##Photo by Molly Bermea
Linda Donovan, founder, owner and winemaker of Pallet Wine Co. and City Center Wine District.##Photo by Molly Bermea

By Paula Bandy

In 2019, the nonprofit, Women in Wine: Fermenting Change, was founded. This organization is dedicated to advancing women in the Oregon wine industry. Even with two years of virtual-only content and conferences, the membership and mentorship program have both grown steadily. Learn more at:

The Rogue Valley has its own Women in Wine, or WiW, group, which hosts quarterly events and happy hours at various wine venues. Between social events, members demonstrate leadership as role models, along with increasing the visibility of Southern Oregon through women winemakers. Each also excels at working closely with others in the vineyards, wineries and over bottles of finely crafted wine. There is a strong bond among these vintners. All mentioned their concern for one another, sustainability in agricultural practices, collaboration, care for respectful treatment of farm/vineyard workers, and commitment to working toward the greater good.

Oregon remains notable for its pioneering lifestyle. Some are groundbreakers in Southern Oregon’s wine country, others newer to the area, including several from California. They are: advancing new and innovative varietals; farming methods; lower water use; climatic shifts; wildfire protection; along with inclusivity and diversity practices novel to the previously standardized and male-dominated industry. Today, many vineyards are old enough to employ second, third, and even fourth-generations of women.

It’s time we celebrate the highlights of ten amazing characters complete with dirt under their unpainted fingernails, Southern Oregon women of wine.

Ashley Bradfield
Owner, vigneron, operations manager for WiW, aspiring winemaker

“Let the vines speak for themselves, telling their story…”

No doubt this story might not have been written without Ashley Bradfield. Her enthusiasm miraculously gathered everyone together– during harvest– for a photo shoot. She has served on the board for Women in Wine, co-chairs the community engagement committee and acts as a volunteer advocate. “Allowing her to have a strong voice for Southern Oregon, one that joined and continues to strengthen a community.” She celebrates her second anniversary in January.

Bradfield grew up in Washington, D.C. and Alexandria, Virginia. Her first job in a winery was, “Where people made their own wine. It was in a box and we labeled it.” She received her degree in Arts in Education for Healing and Social Change in New York City and worked at tough Rikers Island, one of the world’s largest correctional and mental institutions, teaching arts and education to the incarcerated. Eventually, Bradfield began her journey to the Applegate Valley through 49 states, and today lives in the woods, drives a tractor and remarks, “I am now a far cry from a city girl.” She’s currently in the middle of her fourth harvest.

Bradfield manages Red Lily Vineyards’ original Tempranillo plantings, where she works alongside Amy Jay and J.C. Regh. Still a couple of years from their first wine release, Bradfield shares, “You show up each day, not just for yourself, but for all the women doing this. Collectively, we are lifting each other’s voices because it’s such a beautiful story and, to me is the future of this industry.”

Rachael Martin
Founder, owner, winemaker
Red Lily Vineyards

“Southern Oregon is the candy store of grape varietals.”

Rachael Martin planted her first vineyard in 2001, and made wine with the fruit in 2003. “Not many people grew Tempranillo,” she says, “it was a bit of a niche. I was really in love with big Spanish wines.” Not surprisingly, Martin still is. Red Lily has established a reputation on Spanish varietals.

Raised in the Rogue Valley, she left home, studying and working in criminal law for several years. She still “feels like the hometown girl.” In 2002, Martin had the opportunity to apprentice under the late Sarah Powell, a legendary winemaker in Southern Oregon, and “it all just fit,” she says.

Red Lily’s current property and vineyards, with the Applegate River meandering through it, were planted in 2006. “When I first started, it was sort of a boys club. I didn’t grow up putting things together or with a family agriculture background. I’ve learned everything with boots on the ground.” For the record, her high rubber boots are a lovely shade of red.

Along with several clones of Tempranillo, Martin grows Verdejo, Grenache, Graciano, Tinta Cão, and buys Touriga Nacional grapes “down the road” at Pavo Real Vineyards. Martin says she, “loves seeing young people come in with a fresh perspective. There’s a real vibrancy in the next generation, and our area is on the verge of being well-recognized as a destination wine region. I think the future is so bright here!”

Virginia Oaxaca
Owner, viticulturist

Elisa Anthony
Pavo Real Vineyard

“Love meeting all the wonderful people.”

Virginia Oaxaca was retired, spending her days strolling Hermosa Beach. Her nephew, a wine grower in Montana, observed she was bored and “just wasting away.” Oaxaca agreed and said, “Find something for me, but it’s got to be easy.” A month later, they met in Jacksonville in search of vineyard property. She bought a plot in late 2012, moving from California in early 2013.

She renamed her vineyard Pavo Real (Royal Turkey in Spanish) for its frequent fowl visitors and has five acres of Riesling and Touriga Nacional. Oaxaca confesses it wasn’t easy. “No,” she says shaking her head, “it was hell-breaking, walking up and down those rows.” She attended classes at U.C. Davis and sold locally to Valley View Winery and Schmidt Family Vineyards. Eventually, she shared some Touriga Nacional vines with Schmidt so they could grow their own. She now sells all her fruit to Martin at Red Lily.

At 81 years old, Oaxaca will transfer her Hispanic, woman-owned vineyard to niece, Elisa Anthony. Anthony comes from a publishing and digital marketing background in Southern California. When she learned her aunt was considering selling, she persuaded her husband, 91-year old father and aunt’s brother to move north. “I love it,” she says, “Our Riesling even draws Instagram interest from growers of the variety in Germany. We’ve never turned back.”

René Brons
Winemaker, sommelier
Schmidt Family Vineyards

“I’ve painted all my life and find the creativity of winemaking very satisfying.”

René Brons is the daughter of Judy and Cal Schmidt, the vineyard’s founders. In 2007, when Brons and her family followed them to the Applegate Valley, she didn’t even drink wine. With a background in healthcare, Brons began searching for work in a blood lab. Her father had recently built a new lab and said, “I have a lab, and while it’s not blood, it is red.” After a two-week trial, she became a convert.

Previously a painting teacher, Brons transitioned to the student when she and her eldest son together attended Southern Oregon Wine Institute. In 2018, after 14 years managing the tasting room, she became a full-time winemaker. Brons continues to do all lab work as well as paint. The winery, now in its third generation, promising a “brush-to-bottle lifestyle.”

The previous ranch property, purchased in 2000, is 80 acres, with 50 planted to 18 multifarious varietals, including Grüner Veltliner, Albariño, Sauvignon Blanc, Teroldego, Touriga National (from Pavo Real), Barbera, Carménère and Cabernet Sauvignon. It is truly a testimony to the exceptional microclimates throughout the Rogue Valley.

Amy Jay
Vineyard manager, regenerative farmer/consultant, aspiring winemaker

“We are for sure growing grapes in a sweet, sweet spot to be growing grapes.”

“It’s been quite the adventure,” declares Amy Jay. Her decade of experience working in various agriculture systems, including flower, farm, dairy and livestock, led to co-managing with Ashley Bradfield eight grape varietals, focusing on Tempranillo and Bordeaux varietals, planted on five acres. Together, they look forward to their third harvest and releasing their first wine in 2023.

Another Oregon transplant from California by way of Montana, Jay worked at LongSword Vineyard, with the opportunity to learn all aspects of the business, from the tasting room, to field and winery. She says this was, “great because often they’re quite segregated but, in fact, are very symbiotic and dependent on each other.”

As a new mother to 8-month-old Avery, she observed during the magazine photo shoot, “One of the really cool things about this group is that we have such great representation generationally of what’s happening here in the Rogue Valley.” Indeed, we had pretty much every generation represented from 8 months to 89 years!

Sara Garr
Cellar master at Quady North
Owner, winemaker at Circadian Cellars

“I never want to box myself in.”

In 2015, Sara Garr began as a production intern for harvest at Quady North. She smiles, remembering “I started washing buckets and they decided to keep me on after harvest.” This allowed her to learn more aspects of winemaking and business practices. Garr adds, “We work with a plethora of different varieties through the custom crush, and that’s what really got me hooked– the variety.”

Born in California but raised in Southern Oregon, Garr prefers to keep her possibilities open. She made her first wines for Quady in 2016 and started her own brand, Circadian Cellars, the same year. What’s behind the name? “I wanted to give a nod to how circular things can be,” Garr explains. “Tune into the rhythms of nature and how much winemaking reflects that as well. Dynamic. Disruptive.” Not specializing in a particular wine or style “gives me creative license to experiment with different varieties and styles, like Malvasia Bianca or Pét-nat, for example. I want Circadian to be a really fun, constantly revolving, artistically driven, disruptive brand that grows.” When you taste her wines, I think you’ll find she’s headed for success.

Traute Moore
Founder, owner, viticulturist
Quail Run Vineyards and South Stage Cellars

“I fell in love with the view. That’s how we got into grapes – by accident, not by design.”

Born in Vienna, Austria, Traute Moore also arrived in Oregon via Southern California. In 1989, the first grapevines were planted at Quail Run Vineyards. Today, the 15-acre vineyard Quail Run has 13 distinct vineyard blocks and grows over 30 grape varietals. Honored in 2010, Traute and her late husband, Don, received the Founder’s Award from the Oregon Winegrowers Association for their pioneering work in establishing Southern Oregon’s wine industry.

During those early years, they invited many wine specialists to help them and the burgeoning wine community learn how to cultivate wines. Moore was always directly involved in the vineyards. “I was out pruning and working with crews, teaching people how to train plants, learning to trellis along with most of the sales. We did a lot of experimentation and initiated quite a lot of new things.”

At the time, people assumed few grapes would grow well here. During the winter, the Moores would travel to Chile, Argentina and other wine regions, discovering new grape varietals to try. They were the first to grow Carménère and Pinotage. She was also pivotal in starting the Jacksonville Wine Association and bus tour.

These days, at 89 years old, Moore is still involved in the business, more often in the tasting room. “With all the varietals we grow, you can discover something new all the time. We offer something different in a place that is very welcoming.”

Debbie Luethy
Owner, viticulturist
Belmont Vineyards

“I’m in a place I like to be.”

“Around 2006, after first moving here,” recalls Debbie Luethy, “we spoke with Traute and Don Moore. From them, we got an understanding of the local wine industry.” Belmont Vineyards grapes are now sold to local wineries.

Having come from the Southern California trucking business, Luethy says they were “refugees searching for a career change.” Looking at property in the Bear Creek Valley, she says, “I figured I love wine, and a vineyard just stands there and it either grows, or it doesn’t. But it’s a nice quiet place, peaceful, so we bought the vineyard property first and added our first planting in 2007.”

She currently has 12 acres planted with five grape varietals: Malbec and Tempranillo, then Syrah and Petite Syrah in 2008, and recently, some Pinot Noir. Unfortunately, Luethy lost about 90 percent of her fruit this year during the freak hailstorm in July. “Now we’re learning new pruning techniques for healing the damaged vines and looking forward to next year.”

Linda Donovan
Founder, owner, winemaker
Pallet Wine Co. and City Center Wine District

“I love helping people with their winemaking goals– that’s why I started my business.”

When Linda Donovan opened the Rogue Valley’s first custom crush facility Pallet Wine Company in 2009, she says, “The timing was right, our wine industry was growing and I wanted to offer smaller growers a place to call home. It has been a lot of work– but my team and I love the challenges.”

Then, when her business grew rapidly, she bought the adjacent building. It offered the necessary additional storage and winemaking space, along with room for Medford’s first downtown wine bar, The Urban Cork. Eventually, Donovan purchased the empty land comprising the remainder of the city block. With it, she has even more storage and another, soon-to-be-opened high-end wine bar in her “City Center Wine District.”

Donovan operates custom crush facility Pallet Wine Co., producing wine for a number of local wineries, along with some in Texas, Florida, New York and Virginia. She says her private label program is “helping customers all over the country put their label on wines that we have available. We even have an in-house designer, a label printer and a bottling line which allows us to bottle small lots.”

The Urban Cork pours wines made solely by Pallet Wine Co.– over 150 wines, all created for her custom crush clients and her own label (L. Donovan Wines). I’ll let you in on a secret… a couple of those wines are made using grapes from Debbie Luethy’s Belmont Vineyards.

Women in Wine builds the foundation for today’s winemakers and future generations of female winemakers and wine business owners. These pioneering women have challenged tradition and stand tall against patriarchal industry odds, advancing the wine industry. Thank you to each and every one of you for making Rogue Valley, and the wines, a better place.

Cheers to the entwined wines!

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