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Belle Fiore Estate & Winery – Belle Grandissimo!

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Belle Fiore Estate & Winery – Belle Grandissimo!

Will the Rogue Valley’s Newest Winery Change Everything?

by Tuula Rebhahn

I rarely say no to a good glass of red and my partner Hannah is wine-obsessed, so last week we grabbed our friend Silvia and took a drive up Dead Indian Memorial Road (which leads neither to deceased natives nor memorials). Our destination? The Rogue Valley’s newest and most opulent winery, Belle Fiore.

As we wound our way up the long driveway, Hannah and I we wished we’d taken the bikes. It was a beautiful day and the vineyard’s tasting room is located a mere five miles from downtown Ashland (just don’t rely on Google to point you there accurately).

Stepping out of the car, however, I realized that to arrive at this elegant location sweating and red-faced from an uphill pedal would require a bit of bravado. A castle-like structure straight out of Italy towered before us, topping the hill like an ornate cork. We hurried toward the huge swinging glass doors to discover what wonders lay beyond.

At the tasting room’s marble-topped bar, the pricing reflected Belle Fiore’s opinion of itself – a cut above the rest of Southern Oregon’s wineries. Not that $7 for a generous flight of reds, whites, or both is unreasonable. The flavors that flowed from the glass to my taste buds were definitely worth an hour’s worth of minimum-wage labor after taxes.

Belle Fiore Estate & Winery

View of the Tasting Room at Belle Fiore

As we tasted, we wandered the cavernous structure, admiring the original works of art, the lavish views of the valley from the upstairs balcony, and features such as a cobblestoned wall in the banquet room. There, I ran into Timothy Vevoda, Belle Fiore’s Director of Operations, who happened to be using the expansive table as a desk.

As he straightened up his papers, Timothy explained that the building just opened on September 14th, and it’s still a work in progress. Construction workers brush shoulders with curious locals on the grand staircase, and the waitstaff is still in training. Timothy had set up shop here weeks ago and was having a hard time moving out. With an office like this, who wouldn’t?

The conversation wandered to Belle Fiore’s aspirations to raise the bar for the wine-making industry in Southern Oregon. The castle – which houses the tasting room and the region’s largest ballroom as well as the actual wine-making facilities – uses geothermal heating and LED lighting throughout. But that’s just the beginning. Timothy outlined plans to create a Belle Fiore wine institute, turning the Rogue Valley into a place where serious oenologists (those who study winemaking) come to gather.

Belle Fiore Estate & Winery

The View from Belle Fiore Estate & Winery

We finished our flights and wandered back out to the parking lot to bask in the late summer sunshine. It gave the hills a golden glow and illuminated the cattle corral standing incongruously on the lot next door to the Belle Fiore castle.

With microclimates perfectly suited to many varieties of grapes, this part of Oregon really could become the next Napa Valley. Only it won’t – Ashland will always be Ashland, and the Rogue Valley will always hang on to its rural roots. Someone will always be showing up at these elegant locales in spandex, or in motorcycle gear, or a Shakespearian costume. That’s what we love about it this place – great wine is just the cherry on top.

Tuula is an Ashland-based freelance writer, farmer, and cook. She can be found at www.blossomblogs.com.