12500 Lookingglass Road
Roseburg, OR 97471
- Abacela - which is an archaic Spanish word meaning “to plant a grapevine” - is open daily for tasting. Hours are 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. June through October, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. November through May. The Vine & Wine Center is closed New year’s Day, Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day.
- Large groups are encouraged to call ahead.
- The Abacela wine club includes approximately 1,000 members.
- The winery is located near the Wildlife Safari animal preserve and has become a popular post-safari spot. Children are welcome.
- Abacela wines can be found in retail locations and restaurants in Oregon and 15 other states.
By Dan Shryock
There’s something about visiting a winery. You’re there on a mission of discovery.
A trip to Abacela winery southwest of Roseburg is something more. It’s an entertaining lesson in Southern Oregon geology, in climatology. It’s your chance to understand how soil, weather and a passion for making great wines can become the perfect troika.
When Hilda and Earl Jones abandoned their medical careers in Florida and moved to Southern Oregon 20 years ago, they set out to find the perfect place to grow grapes and make wine. They found it in 77 acres of land northwest of Winston, a small town near Roseburg. There they found a geologic fault line that pushed and pulled different soils over millions of years and delivered the perfect combination of earth to meet their vineyard needs.
Add in a uniquely suited microclimate and you have the ideal location for Tempranillo grapes, the fruit at the center of Abacela’s success.
Success? Yes! Wine Press Northwest magazine recently named Abacela the 2013 Oregon Winery of the Year. That’s a coup for a Southern Oregon winery in a Pinot Noir-centric state.
“We were very pleased,” Hilda Jones says of the award. “They’ve been following us for years. They said they liked the consistency and the quality of our wines. It’s a validation of what we’ve been doing.”
Hilda and Earl have been leading the charge to produce Tempranillo grapes and wine, which they consider “the great red wine grape of Spain.”
“We were the first to plant Tempranillo here,” Hilda says. “We pioneered it for the Pacific Northwest.”
“And we were the first American Tempranillo to compete favorably in international competitions,” Earl adds. “Our vision for growing Tempranillo and other alternative varieties has changed the way the whole state of Oregon views wine. We’ve been able to grow things that were not grown here before and we’ve been able to sell them all over the country because they have quality.”
The Tempranilo is a medium to full-bodied wine whose grapes would not grow well in the cooler northern Oregon vineyards. But in Southern Oregon and this unique location, Tempranillo thrives.
“We planted them and three years later made the wine,” Earl recalls. “That speaks volumes about the climate.”
Hilda and Earl enjoy talking about the land and the weather as they walk among four outdoor kiosks that explain the Abacela story. Visitors are encouraged to get a glass of wine and take the same short walk.
“We are special in that this is a very unusual location in terms of climate,” Earl says. He points to nearby palm and orange trees to help make his point. In typical Oregon conditions, these trees could not survive, but they do well at Abacela.
“An orange tree we planted 10 years ago now bears a month and a half of oranges for us,” he says. “That’s a statement about the climate. This doesn’t look like Douglas fir country. It doesn’t look like Oregon. It looks like Sonoma (California). And that’s why we’re in this location. We think the climate is paramount to making good wine from the right grape.”
The other key factor is the soils.
The Umpqua Valley AVA (American Viticultural Area) is located where three distinct mountain ranges meet. The Klamath, Cascades and the Coastal Range mountains come together here to create an unusual confluence of soils created over hundreds of millions of years. That allows Abacela to grow a mix of varietals, including Tempranillo, Syrah, Malbec, Merlot, Grenache, Albariño and Viognier.
The end result of the Jones’s efforts is 10,000 cases of enjoyable wine each year.
“We have a little bit of room for growth,” Earl says, noting that the final eight acres of vines were recently planted. “When that comes online we’ll have another 1,000, maybe 1,500 cases.”
Dan Shryock is an Oregon-based journalist and travel writer. When he's not visiting Southern Oregon or sampling local wines, he can be found cycling throughout the state.