Jacksonville and the Applegate River Valley

Wine grapes, hemp and apples grow side by side in this fertile valley.
Wine grapes, hemp and apples grow side by side in this fertile valley. Photo by Travel Southern Oregon

Oregon’s southern wine region tucked into the Siskiyou Range

written by James Sinks

Wagons were still rattling west across the Oregon Trail when, in the 1850s, a Swiss immigrant named Peter Britt planted the grapes for what would become the Pacific Northwest’s first winery, in southwest Oregon’s Applegate River Valley.

Lured to the region by a gold rush, Britt—better known now for taking early photographs and for the music festival staged annually on his former property—found enough of the precious stuffto buy swaths of acreage, where he planted fruit tree orchards and grapevines. Valley View Winery outlived its pioneering founder, who died in 1905, yet didn’t make it through Prohibition. But the seeds were planted for a modern-day wine destination that’s on the upswing.

For many visitors, a trek to Southern Oregon means following the beaten path to gasp at the azure water at Crater Lake, to spin in jet-boats on the Rogue River in Grants Pass, and to attend world-class theatrical productions at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland. All of those are really good ideas.

Yet only a few miles away, you can follow in the steps of Peter Britt and ditch the crowds in the bucolic Applegate, where clusters of family-owned wineries dot the landscape, agriculture remains king, and—if you like long odds and cold hands—you can still pan for gold on the river near Tunnel Ridge. (You can also hike into the tunnel, which was dug to carry water for mining operations.)

The curving valley is flanked by the rugged Siskiyou Mountains, where Sasquatch sightings were once so commonplace the world’s only Bigfoot Trap was built in 1974 near Applegate Lake. The wooden hut with a metal gate caught bears, but no Bigfeet, and is now managed as a trail-accessed tourist novelty by the U.S. Forest Service.

The river makes its way north and west from the California border for roughly 50 miles, past organic farms, lavender and hemp fields, and mining-damaged terrain to where it empties into the Rogue near Grants Pass. The meandering waterway is named for one of the brothers who scouted the Applegate Trail through Southern Oregon in the 1850s, as a detour to the treacherous final stages of the Oregon Trail.

From the east, the gateway to the Applegate River Valley is the former mining town of Jacksonville, where the historic main drag looks like it was plucked out of a spaghetti Western. Not surprisingly, it has served as a backdrop for several films, and you also can find spaghetti among the local dining options.

The entire downtown of Jacksonville is on the National Register of Historic Places.
The entire downtown of Jacksonville is on the National Register of Historic Places.
Photo by Travel Southern Oregon

Jacksonville is both a perfect jumping-off point and relaxing-in spot, with boutique hotels, day spas, a retail bonanza on California Avenue, the award-winning Dancin Vineyards and several tasting rooms, and the Good Bean Coffee Co., where baristas fill your mug in a circa-1852 pool hall and saloon. On the outskirts of town, a bouquet of giant metal orange poppies—sculptured by local artist Cheryl D. Garcia—poke from a neighboring vineyard.

Dancin Vineyards is a lovely respite with a Tuscan flare and oven-fired pizza.
Dancin Vineyards is a lovely respite with a Tuscan flare and oven-fired pizza.
Photo by Dancin Vineyards

The only required reading for your adventure is the map of the Applegate River Valley Wine Trail, which includes eighteen flavorful options in its own designated American Viticulture Area, along quiet country roads and tucked between farm stands like the Instagram-ready Pennington Farms. Enjoy bubbly? Try John Michael Champagne Cellars. Spanish varietals? Red Lily Vineyards will tempt your tasters with Tempranillo. Want to watch paragliders while you drink? They touch down at Long Sword Winery.

When you’re ready for some starch and flavor, don’t miss Provolt Country Store and Deli, in a building that dates to the 1800s, where they serve up breakfast sandwiches, paninis on sourdough focaccia and rich carrot cake.

Good Bean Coffee Co. is a top caffeine destination in the valley.
Good Bean Coffee Co. is a top caffeine destination in the valley.
Photo by Travel Southern Oregon

The valley is home to the state’s first combination wine and cheese-making operation, Wooldridge Creek Winery & Creamery, where tastings include both. And the best-known winery in the region is Troon Vineyard, which launched the contemporary era of Applegate wineries when it opened in 1972. Under new owners, the business is undergoing a transformation into an organic biodynamic and regenerative farming operation. The wines continue to win rave reviews.

Soaking up the view of the Siskiyou Mountains, a glass of Troon vermentino offers a perfect opportunity to toast the vision of pioneering Peter Britt—he crushed it, you could say—and also your welcome respite from the beaten path.



Applegate River Restaurant



Good Bean Coffee Co.

Provolt Country Store
www.provoltcountrystore anddeli.weebly.com

Umi’s Sushi
(541) 702-2258


Applegate River Lodge

Jacksonville Inn

McCully House Inn


Applegate Valley Wine Trail

Bigfoot trap

Dancin Vineyards

Downtown Jacksonville

Pennington Farms

Troon Vineyard

Wooldridge Creek Winery & Creamery

Red Lily Vineyards in Jacksonville has a charming tasting room for sipping its wine varietals.
photo by Red Lily Vineyards

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