In Southern Oregon it seems new wineries are springing up left and right, especially in 2017 when 44 new wineries alone opened in the region. Whether you’re a local or a tourist, tasting Southern Oregon wines in the area isn’t as daunting as it may be. Meet Natasha Hopkins, Southern Oregon’s newest tour de force on the booming wine and hospitality scene, and owner of The Rogue Grape, Medford’s only downtown wine bar.
Hopkins spent nearly two decades as a Bay Area loan processor. On weekends she and her husband played live music at a local wine bar in California for free wine. Those evenings of live music and wine discovery fostered Hopkins’s interest and dream of opening a wine bar. Her dream firmly took hold in 2010 when they visited Southern Oregon for the first time. It wasn’t until 2011 that they took the leap and relocated to Medford. “In 2017 we began the planning for The Rogue Grape with the intention of investing in our community and showcasing what we believe is the pride of our region: wine,” she says. In 2018, two more stars were born. After months of building renovation, The Rogue Grape opened just as she and her husband, Sean Hopkins (owner and winemaker at Awen Winecraft), welcomed their baby daughter to the family.
As Downtown Medford’s only wine bar, The Rogue Grape serves a long, rotating list of Southern Oregon wines in a cozy setting. Between private parties and public events held in a space marked by original brick walls, only the best of the Rogue Valley’s wines are served at The Rogue Grape. “We wanted to create a fun and hip place to enjoy wines of our region without the stuffiness or pretentiousness that can sometimes intimidate people who enjoy wine,” says owner of the Rogue Grape Natasha Hopkins, “After all, it’s just a beverage!”
While wine usually gets its own section of the menu in most restaurants and bars, there are few establishments in Southern Oregon that exclusively serve wine. Hopkins is intentional in what she serves. By creating the only wine bar serving wine sourced only from southern Oregon she has sown the seeds for one of Medford’s go-to food and wine destinations. “Each wine is different and there are so many varietals to get to know that if you make wine tasting a hobby you will never get bored,” she says. “I love to explore single varietals and taste how each winemaker’s style is reflected in their wines using the same grape. I love to hear what other people think about the wine and how it looks, smells, tastes and feels. It is such a personal experience.”
Along with serving local wine, the wine bar’s food menu was carefully designed to complement whichever type of wine the guest chooses. Chef Justin Wolf, Hopkins, and manager Morgan Davis (an aspiring sommelier) collaborated on a menu that honored the best in food and wine pairing from personal experience. “We are fortunate to have a Level One Sommelier, Audrey Smith, who helps with food pairings, tasting notes, and helps to direct our wine menu,” she adds. “What we did know is that we wanted to continue our intention of showcasing local ingredients and to be as seasonal as possible.”
Currently the wine bar serves a Sunday brunch from 10 am to 3 pm. Other food options are tapas-style items, such as the nightly charcuterie board and a Mediterranean plate. The food menu rotates based on seasonally-featured wines and ingredients available from local farms.
Guests will find a stylish interior with ample “comfort” seating at high top tables, couches, and the five-seat bar. “I love hearing that people love our space so much that they want to come back with their friends. I also love hearing people echo my thoughts that Medford needed a place like my little wine bar.”
Hopkins hopes each customer discovers a new favorite wine when they visit The Rogue Grape. “So many people say this but I think a good wine is a wine that you like,” she says. “It’s really that simple.” She doesn’t expect anyone to have a vast knowledge of wine.
What she does expect is guests will find a relaxing experience fueled by delicious local wines and a friendly staff ready to educate anyone interested in learning more about one of Southern Oregon’s favorite libations: wine.