Exploring Southern Oregon: Long Walk Vineyard

Grenache vines at Long Walk Vineyards, which bucks the trend for Pinot Noir in Oregon and specializes in Rhone varietals instead.
Grenache vines at Long Walk Vineyards, which bucks the trend for Pinot Noir in Oregon and specializes in Rhone varietals instead.

Ashland, OR. — Stanford grads Kathy and Tim O’Leary were looking for a second home that would allow them to take a break from their hectic lives in Palo Alto where she was an engineer and he was an attorney.

They started scouting around in a circumference of a 2-hour’s drive away in California before ultimately settling on a spot nearly 8 hours away in Oregon.

That’s why their Ashland winery was dubbed Long Walk Vineyard. Or so the story goes. You can understand why they extended their search so far north, though, once you gaze upon this this 50-acre historic orchard on a hill that they purchased in 2000.

The 2021 Carignane with charcuterie board that includes the winery's own honey.
The 2021 Carignane with charcuterie board that includes the winery’s own honey.

That’s what I found when I visited the beautiful property a couple weeks ago, where unlike most wineries in this region, Pinot Noir is not king, but Rhone varietals are.

Neither Kathy or Tim come from a farming background. But that didn’t stop them from diving in and getting the 100-year-old property certified organic.

Thirty acres are planted with cherries, peaches, apricots, apples, and pears. Long Walk even makes and sells its own preserves from its organic fruit. Before the pandemic, it also operated a summer u-pick and farm store that’s now more of a CSA. But look for a limited u-pick schedule to start up again this year.

The winery sits atop a hill.
The winery sits atop a hill.
Inside the airy tasting room.
Inside the airy tasting room.

Eleven acres are devoted to grapes that include Mourvedre, Syrah, Grenache, Cinsault, and Carignane — favorites that the couple fell in love with while honeymooning in the South of France.

Fewer than 1,000 cases are produced, with most of it sold exclusively at the winery.

A display of wines and gourmet preserves.
A display of wines and estate gourmet preserves.

Book an appointment online and come for a tasting on the deck or inside the tasting room that was built with repurposed 100-year-old barn wood from the property. Garage-style doors lift up to bring the outdoors in, along with the lovely breezes at this higher elevation.

The 2022 Rose made with Cinsault is just what you want on a warm summer day — crisp, with plenty of minerality, and loads of still tangy strawberries on the palate to keep it all lively tasting.

Long Walk's current rose release.
Long Walk’s current rose release.

The 2021 Carignane is fragrant with violets and tastes of deep, dark plum and blueberries. The 2021 Zinfandel has been called an homage to old-style Napa Zin for its emphasis on earthiness over big jammy fruitiness. The O’Learys are big fans of Healdsburg’s A.Rafanelli Winery, and planted the same vines. The result is a wine with 14.9 percent ABV that has presence but isn’t overbearingly boozy like some Zins can be. It boasts notes of blackberry and plum, but also plenty of minerality and a touch of vanilla.

It all makes you glad that the O’Learys ended up taking a much longer trek than they ever intended.

More: Exploring Southern Oregon: Fine-Dining at Mas

And: Exploring Southern Oregon: Alchemy Restaurant and the Winchester Inn

And: Abbey Road Farm

And: Exploring Southern Oregon: The Steamboat Inn

And: Exploring Southern Oregon: Umpqua Valley Wineries

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