Precious Nectar

Southern Oregonians and wine enthusiasts already may know viticulture has 150-year-old roots in the Rogue Valley.

But many may not realize all of the region's vineyards were replanted after they were torn out during Prohibition in the 1930s.

The history of the Rogue Valley's wine industry is the topic of two presentations by author MJ Daspit. Her "Images of America: Rogue Valley Wine," co-written with Eric Weisinger, examines the area's wine industry from its beginnings with pioneer Peter Britt in the 1850s in the Jacksonville area, its decline during Prohibition and its resurgence in the early 1970s.

Daspit's lecture is part of Jackson County Library Services' "Windows in Time" history series in partnership with the Southern Oregon Historical Society. The presentation will be at noon Wednesday, Jan. 4, at the Medford library, 205 S. Central Ave., and Wednesday, Jan. 11, at the Ashland library, 410 Siskiyou Blvd.

"Images of America: Rogue Valley Wine" was released in March 2011. Daspit and Weisinger spent most of 2010 researching and writing the 127-page book with photos from the Southern Oregon Historical Society and many local wineries.

Daspit's lecture will touch on the research she completed while working on the book, the book itself and information about American viticultural areas, as well as Prohibition. Daspit says her presentation won't include too many technical terms, so anyone interested in local history, agriculture, winemaking or touring wineries will find it engaging.

"It's an interesting thing because there is Southern Oregon, which is an AVA (American viticultural area), and then there's the Rogue Valley AVA and the Applegate AVA, which is contained in the Rogue Valley AVA," Daspit says. "It's kind of like those Russian dolls — it makes it all clear if you have a picture."

AVAs are wine-growing regions based on geography, climate and soil. One only has to petition the federal government, Daspit says, to have an AVA recognized. The Rogue Valley became an AVA in 1991 when David Baudry filled out the petition, and the Applegate was made an AVA in 2000.

Another historically significant, alcohol-related event Daspit plans to discuss is the demise of an Ashland police officer killed in the line of duty in 1931.

"There (have) only been two Ashland police officers killed in the line of duty. One of them was killed chasing what he thought was as rumrunner," Daspit says. "It's a Prohibition story, so I'll be talking about that as a sideline."

Daspit says she is contemplating updating her newly released book.

"We've had quite a few changes in the wine industry and several new vineyards and new wineries established."

The "Windows in Time" lecture series will continue, addressing a variety of local historical topics, from noon to 1 p.m. the first and second Wednesdays of the month throughout the year.

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