First Vintages at Irvine Vineyards

Irvine Vineyards of Ashland has just one vintage to its credit, but already Irvine wine is featured at Amuse, Larks and Chateaulin restaurants.

Owners Doug and Dionne Irvine submitted their 2009 pinot noir for judging in this year's World of Wine Festival and won a silver medal for the gritty, earthy pinot made by Linda Donovan. Now, the Irvines have plans to expand the acreage of pinot noir on their property, in addition to building a boutique hotel in downtown Ashland with a wine bar/tasting room for their wines.

The Irvines began planting the vineyard on their luxurious, 80-acre estate off Emigrant Creek Road in 2005. They let the vines mature for three years before harvesting the viognier and pinot noir grapes.

Southern Oregon is known for producing award-winning viognier and tempranillo, but according to the Irvines, one dirty, little secret of the wine world is that many Willamette Valley wineries source their pinot noir from the Umpqua, Applegate and Rogue valleys.

After winning the World of Wine award and getting a lot of positive feedback on their wines locally, the Irvines are now more sure than ever that they are onto something big.

With a real estate-development and investment background, the Irvines have spared no expense on the development of their wines. Hiring Donovan as their winemaker, they are extremely pleased with the result Donovan was able to produce from their grapes.

"She's just got that good, old-fashioned method of letting the grapes do their thing," says Doug. "I think in Oregon, our pinot just has a little bit more going on; there's layers to it."

The Irvines are working on making their wines available at Market of Choice and Liquid Assets Wine Bar in Ashland, but they have ambitions for a wine-tasting room downtown with construction to begin in 2012. Plans call for a 12-unit, three-story boutique hotel with a tasting room on a lot the Irvines own next to Yogurt Hut.

Irvine Vineyards 2009 Pinot Noir retails for $45 a bottle, and the 2009 Viognier is priced at $29 a bottle. "Southern Oregon was laughed at 15 to 20 years ago," says Doug. "The bar is getting raised — it's not so much the garage winery anymore — it's the for-real deal going on now."

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