With each passing vintage, the wines of family-owned Cliff Creek Cellars attract national accolades that further confirm Vern Garvin’s excellent decision to build one more business at the age of 70.
In the early 1990s, Vern took ownership of a 100-year-old Rogue Valley farm dedicated to growing grasses and grazing cattle. He selected 15 acres for his first grapevine planting and broke ground in 1999, founding Sam’s Valley Vineyard, nestled in the foothills of the region’s majestic Table Rocks.
Today, the second and third generations of Garvin family members have 70 acres planted to Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Syrah, and Sangiovese. They recognize the uniqueness of the vineyard’s terroir, featuring southwesterly exposure, 1,400-foot elevation, and soil composition of Medford loam and Crater Lake volcanic ash, and strive to nearly stress the vines to maximize the grape’s complexity.
Winemaker Joe Dobbes, Jr., has been the family’s winemaker since the first vintage in 2003. An Oregon native, Joe studied the art and science of winemaking with renowned wine masters in Germany and France before returning to his home state’s intriguing soils. "My job is to bring forth the flavors, the textures, the colors, and aromas that the fruit is eager to share with us," Joe says. With his mastery, the family’s Bordeaux and Rhône wines are aged in predominately French oak for 19 to 24 months and then released to high acclaim.
Besides its award-winning flagship wines, Claret and Syrah, Cliff Creek Cellars produces Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Merlot in small lots. Visitors to the Rogue Valley tasting room are captivated by the stunning scenery as they taste through the portfolio of wines. Many guests bring along a picnic lunch so they can spend time relaxing and fully appreciate the wines’ structure and compatibility with food. Cliff Creek Cellars also has a tasting room in Newberg to give wine lovers in the Willamette Valley an appreciation for Southern Oregon wines.
“My job is to bring forth the flavors, the textures, the colors, and aromas that the fruit is eager to share with us.”
AN INTERVIEW WITH CLIFF CREEK CELLARS' RUTH GARVIN
T&T: Sam’s Valley Vineyard yields an impressive variety of winegrapes. What prompted your father, Vern Garvin, to plant a vineyard at the age of 70?
RG: My father was a true entrepreneur. This was the third family business that was built with the leadership of himself and my mom. He grew up on a dairy farm, and farming is the roots of the Garvin family from our Irish heritage. He loved the entire process of laying out the vineyard plan and making it happen. And, I think he wanted to leave a legacy for generations to come.
T&T: Can you tell us about your family’s winemaking philosophy?
RG: We’re so grateful to our winemaker, Joe Dobbes, for guiding us from the start. My family’s goal has been to not release wines until they actually have time to integrate flavors. We continue to do this, especially with our flagships, Claret and Syrah. When released, our wines show great structure and balance, qualities that make them age beautifully. This is our ultimate goal: to have age-worthy wines that stand up to the test of time.
T&T: What kind of advice can you give our readers planning to tour the Rogue Valley?
RG: Give yourself enough time to enjoy all the things the Rogue Valley has to offer, and it has something for everyone. The explosion of vineyards and wineries has created a three- to four-day wine experience alone. There’s also the internationally acclaimed Oregon Shakespearean Festival, the Britt Festival, Crater Lake National Park, and our beautiful historical towns of Jacksonville and Ashland for shopping and culinary experiences. The wild and scenic Rogue River is a fisherman’s dream during salmon runs, and there are opportunities for jet boat rides and rafting. In late August, the Oregon Wine Experience is a week of wine centrist events and classes culminating in a Grand Tasting. And there’s so much more!
What to Buy
'09 Claret - $25
Summer berries, clove, cedar
'09 Syrah - $25
Black plum, figs, black and white pepper
'11 Cabernet Sauvignon - $25
Cherry, graphite, licorice, red currant
'14 White White Wine - $15
Gala apple, apricot, lemon meringue
Private tastings and tours by appt, scenic view, sustainable farming.
1015 McDonough Rd.
Gold Hill, OR 97525
Touring & Tasting is a media company that produces a wine and travel magazine and is also partner in the Hitched Wine Club.