Vineyards of the Rogue Valley
History Timeline for Wine in the Rogue Valley AVA Oregon
Compiled By Dr. Willard Brown – August 2009
1850s. Photographer Peter Britt arrived in the Rogue Valley in 1852 and within a few years planted the first vineyard in the valley with Mission grapes from California. He planted the grapes at his home, now the site of the Britt music venues in Jacksonville.
1859. John Beeson of Talent entered his “California grape” in the first Jackson County Fair and was awarded a blue ribbon. The grape was probably a Mission sourced from Peter Britt who supplied cuttings for many valley grape growers.
1873. The Internal Revenue (Service) informed Britt of a liability to pay taxes on wine that he had sold. Although he claimed to be making wine for himself, he was selling to neighbors. Afterward, he named his enterprise the Valley View Winery, and purchased vineyard property at a site northeast of Jacksonville. The winery, in his basement, was the first to be established in Oregon.
1876. Alfred H. Carson purchased a ranch known as Redland in the Applegate Valley, established a nursery, planted orchards and a vineyard of Flame Tokay and other table grapes, which were sold in the Portland market. His vineyard reached thirty acres in size, the largest in the region.
1880s. Peter Britt planted many varieties of Vitis vinifera on his new site, including Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel, Riesling, Malbec, Petite Sirah, Semillon, Sauvignon Blanc, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Traminer and Franc Pinot. The Franc Pinot is now called Pinot Noir, and this may have been the first planting of the grape in Oregon.
1890. The Southern Oregon State Board of Agriculture reporting on grape culture in the counties of Southern Oregon noted over forty acres planted in vineyards northeast of Jacksonville on properties owned by J.N.T. Miller, Raphael Morat, Amile Barbe and Peter Britt. Miller and Barbe made some wine and Morat distilled brandy. In addition there were numerous small family vineyards planted near Jacksonville, Phoenix and Ashland.
1905. With the death of Peter Britt, the Valley View Winery ceased production but continued to sell inventory until 1907.
1911 – 1935. More than forty acres of vineyards planted to the Flame Tokay table grape thrived in the Jones Creek area east of Grants Pass. California Tokays, high shipping costs and phylloxera eventually led to the demise of the industry there.
1916. Oregon prohibition, enacted in 1914, took effect, shutting down the Oregon wine industry, such as it was.
1920. The 18th amendment to the U.S. Constitution established national prohibition, extending it to the entire US. An exception to the Volstead Act for the benefit of farmers, allowed the production of up to 200 gallons of non-alcoholic wine or cider, to be made at home. The Act did not define non-intoxicating. This exception allowed the owners of vineyards to sell grapes or juice to home wine makers and became a flaw fatal to the 18th Amendment.
1924. August Petard, owner of a vineyard above Rich Gulch in Jacksonville had been selling table grapes and making wine for personal use but his premises were raided by the Sheriff on charges that he was selling wine to bootleggers. Petard pleaded guilty, was fined, and the wine destroyed.
1933. Ratification of the 21st amendment to the Constitution repealed the 18th Amendment and ended national prohibition. It would be fifty-five years before a winery operating in the Rogue Valley would be bonded.
1963. Dr Porter Lombard became the superintendent and horticultural researcher at the Oregon State University Experiment Station on Hanley Road near Jacksonville. He began research on overhead sprinklers for frost protection of pear bloom and this information has been used in frost protection of grapes.
1967. After visiting wine grape researchers in Washington State and California, Lombard planted an experimental vineyard at the Hanley Road site. The initial varieties planted included Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Grenache, Zinfandel and Muscat Blanc .The vineyard was eventually expanded to include twenty varieties. Varieties found to perform well included, Chenin Blanc, Gewurtztraminer, Muscat Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Pinot Noir. Lombard’s contributions proved to be seminal in the development of the new industry as he was a source of grape cuttings as well as sage advice. A local horticulturist extension agent after he saw the research vineyard had stated that: "I grew up in Napa Valley and this is no Napa Valley."
1970s. Vineyards began to be planted by a number of individuals. Dick Troon, Roger and Barrie Layne, and Frank Wisnovsky in the Applegate Valley, John Ousterhout, and Dunbar Carpenter in the main Rogue Valley, and Ted Gerber and Suzi and Chuck David in the Illinois Valley were in the first wave.
1972. Rogue Community College at Grants Pass offered a course in Viticulture conceived by Dick Troon and taught by Charles Coury of the Coury Winery in Forest Grove. Most of the students in the class established vineyards and /or wineries in the region.
1978. Valley View Winery in the Applegate and Siskiyou Winery in the Illinois were bonded, the first wineries in the Rogue Valley in the modern era.
1982. Growers and vintners established The Rogue Chapter of the Oregon Winegrowers Association (OWA).
1985. The Rogue Chapter OWA began discussing petition to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (BATF) seeking approval for the Rogue Valley as an American Viticultural Area (AVA).
1986. Bridgeview and Foris wineries began production in the Illinois Valley and Bridgeview eventually became one of Oregon’s largest producers.
1988. Ashland Vineyards and Weisinger’s Winery opened in Ashland.
1989. A new experimental vineyard planted at the OSU Experiment Station at Hanley Road emphasized varieties from warmer regions such as Tempranillo, Viognier, Syrah, Nebbiolo, Cabernet Franc, and Merlot, which had not previously been tested in the Rogue Valley.
1990. A few winery owners began to meet informally to discuss marketing issues. Within a few years the group organized as the Southern Oregon Winery Association and by 2009 claimed forty- seven members in the Southern Oregon AVA.
1990. State Land Use Laws were changed to allow wineries on farmland (EFU zones) with a minimum requirement of 15 vineyard acres.
1991. The Rogue Valley American Viticultural Area received approval by the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms (BATF) upon a petition by David Beaudry.
1990s – 2000s. The wine industry experienced steady growth. See table 1.
1997. California investors purchased historic Del Rio Orchard of Gold Hill and re-planted nearly two hundred acres to grapes, the largest vineyard in the valley.
1999. Oregon Legislation (HB 3429) passed to allow multiple wine licensees on a single premise, abetting the growth of the number of wineries in Oregon.
1999-2003. Dr Greg Jones, Professor of Geography at Southern Oregon University, began research to document the regions potential. This involved a GIS-GP mapping of all vineyards in the Rogue Valley AVA, and the establishment of reference vineyards. The study was designed to gather data on climate, grape phenology and composition on key varietals and is on-going.
2000. The Applegate Valley American Viticultural Area was approved by BATF upon a petition by Barnard Smith.
2003. The Rogue Chapter OWA established The World of Wine (WOW) as an annual public wine and food event featuring wines of Southern Oregon complemented by foods from regional restaurants and caterers.
2004. The Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) approved The Southern Oregon American Viticultural Area encompassing the Rogue Valley, Applegate Valley, and the Umpqua Valley AVAs upon a petition by Drs. Gregory Jones and Earl Jones.
The Rogue Valley Winegrowers Association became the new name for the local organization of growers and vintners.
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