Unlocking Ashland Oregon’s Wine Magic: Expert Tips to Exploring Rogue Valley’s Enchanting Vineyards

by | May 17, 2024 | Rogue Valley, Winery Hopping

Discover the Best Wineries, Signature Wines, and Must-Try Experiences in Ashland, Oregon’s Vibrant Wine Scene

As you embark on your wine tasting adventure in Ashland, Oregon, it’s vital to understand the rich tapestry of history and passion that fuels this vibrant wine region. We had the pleasure of speaking with Ashley Cates, a local wine expert whose journey through the wine industry is as captivating as the wines themselves.

Check out our Ashland 3 hour Winery Itinerary HERE

Meet the Expert.

Can you tell us about your background in the wine industry?

Ashley: Of course! I was born in Sonoma and raised in Germany, where wine was always part of our meals and culture. When we moved back to the states in my early double digits, my grandfather found a piece of land in southern Oregon he thought would be perfect to invest his steel company money into that would be the start of a generational vineyard. He called my Mom and said, “ Hey, wanna start a vineyard with me?” We quite literally packed up and moved out west to Oregon. I helped my mom and grandfather plant the vines that first year in 2001 of what would be a 20 year run of a 30 acre vineyard and estate winery, Agate Ridge Vineyard. I was 13. 

Throughout high school my Mom would make me harvest every year which I hated at the time. Waking up at 4:30am to start picking by 5am, riding side saddle on a tractor with her and then being checked into school late on those days. I couldn’t believe she made me do that. Now, they are some of my most treasured memories and where my work ethic was established. 

After highschool I went to University of Oregon where I met my husband who was getting a degree in viticulture and Enology at Southern Oregon Wine Institute. After college, he got an opportunity to work in Spain and then, we were both contracted to work for Kim Crawford winery in the south island of New Zealand. 

In 2013, my Mom called because my grandfather got sick and she needed help with the vineyard. So, we came home to southern Oregon.  Eventually I was pinned with the Guild of Sommeliers in 2016 and received a Certificate of Commission as an Oregon Tourism Professional from the American Hotel & Lodging Association in 2018.  During this time, my grandfather passed away and when that happened, devastatingly the vineyard was taken away from us by family members not vested in my grandfather’s originally dream, a generational vineyard. This is a common story of family farms, unfortunately.  

So in 2018, my husband and I embarked on a new venture called Anchor Valley Wine, launching the brand with multiple double gold medals from my husband’s winemaking and opened a tasting room is Historic Jacksonville. We sold our ownership in 2022 and as I write this we, we have just closed on a vineyard ranch in the Upper Rogue Valley, a stones throw from where Agate Ridge was. Everything does seem to come full circle in its right time. 

All About Ashland Wine 

How would you describe the wine scene in Ashland, Oregon?

Ashley: Ashland’s wine scene spans from amazing little bottle shops and sips to expansive tasting room experiences in the hills of Ashland with views of the Cascades you want to drink in all day. As all of Rogue Valley Wine Country is, the Ashland wine scene is open armed, passionate of what their producing and equally as vested in it’s local farm collaboration as it is in its own vineyards. 

What makes Ashland’s wineries unique compared to other wine regions?

Ashley: The Rogue Valley, where Ashland is located, stands out for its versatility in grape varietals. With almost 70 varieties grown here, it offers a diverse range of wines that cater to every taste. Additionally, the collaborative spirit among local farmers and winemakers creates a welcoming and authentic atmosphere for wine enthusiasts. Plus, this valley does not just have the wine, it has all the outdoor adventure you could want to pair with it! World-class theatre, the worlds’ best cheese, the nation’s deepest lake and so on. 

What are the best wineries in Ashland?

Ashley: For sure, Irvine and Roberts and Weisingers are musts! 

Are there restaurants in Ashland known for their wine selections or for pairing local wines with their dishes? 

Ashley: Yes, definitely. Alchemy is one of my favorites, their list is extensive, and their menu is thoughtful. Pie & Vine is a more casual experience but still top quality wine list and food menu. 

Do any wineries offer unique tasting experiences, such as vineyard tours or food pairings? 

Ashley: The food pairing experience at Irvine and Roberts is not only super enjoyable but aesthetically magazine worthy. 

Are there any upcoming wine-related events or festivals in Ashland?

Ashley: Ashland is known for tons of awesome festivities like the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Oregon Chocolate Festival and The Jefferson Public Radio Wine Tasting Event. Travel Ashland is a great resource to find local festivals. 

Newcomers Welcome

How would you advise newcomers to enhance their wine tasting experience?

Ashley: The best wine is the one you enjoy the most, so let your palate guide you and embrace the learning experience. Don’t be afraid to ask questions or pronounce something wrong. The Wineries in the Rogue Valley WANT to share their passion and answer your questions. We all start somewhere. 

More to Explore

Are there any recommended wine trails or routes that visitors can follow to explore multiple wineries in a day?

Ashley: Yes, Upper Rogue Wine Trail, Bear Creek Wine Trail, Jacksonville Wine Trail and Applegate Wine Trail

Lastly, are there any common etiquette tips or local customs visitors should be aware of when visiting wineries in Ashland?

Ashley: People are friendly here, don’t be alarmed. It’s normal.

Stay Classy with Swank House 

As you embark on your wine-tasting journey through the enchanting vineyards of Ashland, Oregon, we invite you to elevate your experience with a stay at Swank House. Our luxurious houses and suites offer the perfect blend of comfort and sophistication, providing a relaxing retreat after a day of exploring Rogue Valley’s finest wineries. Book your stay with us today and indulge in the ultimate wine getaway, where every sip and every moment is savored in style. Cheers to unforgettable memories and exquisite wines in Ashland!

Irvine and Roberts Vineyard Ashland, OR
wine tasting Ashland Oregon

Ashland Wine Tasting Quick Tips

1. Plan Your Route: Ashland boasts a variety of wineries, each with its unique charm. Plan your visits to ensure you experience a mix of well-known and boutique vineyards. Check Travel Ashland – your local resource for all Ashland wineries or read our Ashland 3 hour Winery Itinerary

2.Enjoy Evening Events: Make the most of Ashland’s vibrant evening scene. Many wineries host events like outdoor movies at Grizzly Peak Winery, afternoon trivia at Dana Campbell Vineyards, and plenty of live music. Check the wineries’ websites for schedules, and consider timing your visit to coincide with one of these enjoyable events for a truly memorable experience.

3. Expert Top Tip: The best wine is the one you enjoy the most, so let your palate guide you and embrace the learning experience. Don’t be afraid to ask questions or pronounce something wrong. The Wineries in the Rogue Valley WANT to share their passion and answer your questions. We all start somewhere. 


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