Al Silbowitz sits back on a black leather couch in his tasting room at Grizzly Peak Winery. Surrounding him are boxes of wine that seem like every variety.
The Early Days
“I would not say we were passionately interested in wine as opposed to something else. We got up here and our interest was directed that way,” he says. Silbowitz and his wife Virginia moved to Ashland in 1998, seeking a more open and safe environment for their daughters. Opening a winery wasn’t originally part of the plan for them, but their fascination with the craft quickly grew into something they wanted to share with the public.
Realizing in 2011 that constructing a new winery and making wine would prove too challenging, they moved production to Pallet Wine Company in Medford, which was handled by Linda Donovan. “She’s been making our wonderful wines now for six years plus,” says Silbowitz. “We do our vineyard cultivation and then bring our grapes over and get them processed there. One of our daughters, Sarah, has been working with Linda now for about six years.”
Their location in Ashland where they grow their grapes has become a classic spot for concerts on warm summer nights, a wedding venue, fundraising events, and wine tasting. A large concrete padded room with tables, chairs, and a modest-sized stage has hosted select events since the winery’s beginning. Tall glass sliding doors open to the deck outside, allowing a smooth transition from inside to outside during warmer days.
When the Silbowitzes moved to Oregon, he says, “There were perhaps half a dozen winery operations here that I would think of as commercial and professional. Ridgeview, Foris, Valley View, Weisingers. For the most part, what we see now didn’t exist here.” Today, well over 100 wineries operate within Southern Oregon.
Learning the Lessons
Silbowitz said his knowledge of the craft was rooted mostly in Napa Valley before he started making his own wine. He describes the southern region as most people’s ideal location for wine, but he’s discovered the most ideal region is in Southern Oregon. “You don’t exactly want ideal growing conditions for things,” he says. “You want them to work, you want them to get a balance and so on. We’re in Goldilock country here.”
He is currently growing 11 different varietals, including a White Tempranillo, which is something he’s never seen anyone else achieve in this hemisphere. “If a particular varietal has strong character, then you’re making a white wine but it has some of the characteristics of the red wine.” The wine subtly embodies the warmth and full-bodied characteristics of the traditional red.
He explains how the latitudes in the Rogue Valley are similar to ideal wine growing locations in Europe.“One of the secrets we’ve been trying to promote is that the Rogue Valley…[is] producing over 70 different wine varietals commercially. So, the wine selection is huge.”
Awards Roll In for Grizzly Peak
From a beginning that saw vine-killing winters and a dry well, Grizzly Peak Winery has risen to award winning status in the rolling hills of Ashland.
- SF Chronicle Wine Awards: Double Gold, Gold, Silver
- Oregon Wine Awards: Double Gold, Gold
- Oregon Wine Experience: Gold, Silver
- Women’s International: Double Gold, Best of Class
- Best of the Northwest: Champion, 1st place
- Cascadia Wine Competition: Double Gold
Grizzly Peak’s finely crafted wine selection shows an ever deepening appreciation for the region. One visit will reveal how the Silbowitzes’ warm hospitality is the perfect location to share a winning bottle of wine around a table with friends.
Top featured image: Steven Addington Photography.