Author Robert Lewis Stevenson compared the quest to develop a winegrowing region to prospecting—first you try one varietal in certain soil, then another, and another, until you hit “pay dirt.”
Prospecting is an apt metaphor for this Gold Rush country. In fact, the region’s first vintner, Peter Britt, arrived in the region seeking gold in 1852. That didn’t last long. A Renaissance man at heart, Britt had a passion for painting, photography and plants. He started experimenting with winegrapes just to the east of the Applegate and, in 1873, opened the first commercial winery in the Oregon: “Valley View Vineyard.” Around the same time A.H. Carson planted the first vineyard in the Applegate and sold table grapes.
That early era of Applegate Wine Country went bust with the passing of Britt, followed by Prohibition. A caveat: a local winegrower, Joseph Ginet, is said to have quietly made wine for personal use from cuttings he imported from his village in Savoie (a practice continued today by his great-grandson at Plaisance Ranch). His vineyard was near present-day Sterling Creek Road.
After Prohibition, wineglasses didn’t start clinking again until a wave of modern winegrowing “prospectors” arrived and began planting vineyards again. Frank Wisnovsky was the first. In 1972, he opened a winery and gave it a Britt-inspired name: Valley View Winery. Today it is managed by his sons, Mike and Mark.
The same year Valley View opened, Dick Troon planted Zinfandel and Cabernet Sauvignon. Troon Winery still thrives today and is modeling the future with regenerative farming techniques that are piquing interest around the world.
These days, not only have our 19 wineries hit pay dirt, but the Applegate has come into its own as a designated American Viticultural Area (AVA). The convivial wine scene has enhanced the whole culture of the Valley, inspiring the local art, music and culinary scenes as well. It’s official: The Applegate Valley is wine country—at its finest!