To Transport: a system or means of conveying people or goods from place to place by vehicle, aircraft, or ship; to overwhelm with a strong emotion, especially joy. The experience of sensory immersion at Belle Fiore Winery Estate and Vineyard is by design. Visitors should plan to be transported to Europe, not by boat, but by the divine trinity of wine, food and art., with a local twist.
Owners Ed and Karen Kerwin relocated to Oregon in 1993 with dreams of opening a winery that would provide visitors with a cultural experience reminiscent of European art, architecture and wines. The Kerwins purchased the ideal 55-acre property a short drive from downtown Ashland, and planted in 2007.
“You could make some of the best wines in the world from the vines that are grown here,” says Heather Nenow, winemaker at Belle Fiore Winery since July 2016. In fact, one of their wines, Caprettone, turned out to be a welcome Mediterranean surprise.
Ten years ago Nenow was impressed with the region’s diverse soils and influences from the surrounding rivers and valleys. “You’ve got all these variables that pretty much mean you can grow just about anything given the right setting,” says Nenow. Her focus is on matching the most ideal grapes to each microclimate to produce remarkable “local” wines that truly express the land.
That diverse terroir allows the winery to cultivate 16 micro-blocks of estate grown grapes of French, Italian and Spanish heritage. The boutique vineyards yield grape varietals resulting in wines unique to Southern Oregon, such as their Belle Arte label Teroldigo, Terramisso, and Montepulciano, and the lush Belle Esprit Barbera (Italy’s 3rd most planted grape, by the way).
The Burgundian, Bordeaux, and Rhone regions of France are strongly represented in the winery’s cellar from Pinot Noir and Chardonnay to Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Verdot, among several others.
Because of its ideal grape growing environment, Southern Oregon puts Belle Fiore and other wineries on par with destinations such as Napa. “I think we could have the prestige, the same reputation around the world that Napa does, in 20 or 30 years”, says Nenow.
The growing interest in wine as an experience attracts food and wine lovers from around the world to Southern Oregon, as well as visitors from neighboring California. “I think they’re probably saturated with California wines, so it’s nice for them to come up and find things that are a little different and have a different story to them,” Nenow says.
The special event and “wine and food pairing” winemaker dinners at Belle Fiore Winery are decidedly local. Unique seasonal ingredients, sourced from regional farmers whenever possible, make their way onto the creative menus. For instance, heirloom-variety carrots were recently featured at a winter-winemaker dinner second course of Moroccan Carrot, Candied Pine Nuts, Blood Orange, and Ricotta Salata. Also showcased were Wild Alaskan Scallops paired with the 2014 Belle Fiore Pinot Noir, and a Carlton Farms Filet of Beef matched with the winery’s signature 2013 Belle Arte Terramisso.
The special event menus are planned and expertly crafted as collaboration between winery owner Ed Kerwin, resident chef Brandon Ruyle, and Alexandra Delaris Hannah, Director of Hospitality. Returning patrons have a unique experience that lends a taste of local-grown flavors.
The Art and The Architecture.
Picture it. After a business meeting, you’re relaxing with wine glass in hand in the sun-soaked Italian inspired pavilion surrounded by vineyards and flower gardens. Vaulted ceilings and large windows create an airy space with expansive mountain views. Luxurious leather chairs, deep wood grain tables and local art works aren’t what one imagines in an event venue.
The winery gives special attention to local art with monthly featured artists and an annual wine label competition. Whether for after-work relaxation, business meeting or wedding event, the European tastes, textures and views at Belle Fiore Winery, Estate and Vineyard transport visitors in sophisticated and approachable style. Joy, guaranteed.
This post sponsored by Belle Fiore Winery. As always, all opinions are those of The Local Dish and its authors.
Follow them on Facebook and Instagram @bellefiorewinery.