When Jesse and Lindsay Applegate departed Idaho in 1843 to forge a southern route to the Oregon Territory, they surely had no idea they’d one day have a namesake trail, valley, and river, much less have the Applegate name attached to one of the most exciting wine regions in the west.
It was barely a decade later that Peter Britt, a celebrated photographer and inventive horticulturalist, first planted wine grapes on his property in Jacksonville. By 1873 he had opened Valley View Winery on a site located northeast of town; this is widely held to be the first winery established in Oregon. He grew a number of varietals, including Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel, Sauvignon Blanc, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc, as well as Franc Pinot – which we now call Pinot Noir – in what may have been the first planting of this grape in the state.
Valley View Winery closed a few years after Britt’s death in 1905. Around the same time, Joseph Ginet, an immigrant from a small village in the French Alps, returned to Oregon with some grape cuttings after a visit to his homeland. He would go on to make wine and sell grape plants, and the wine industry in Oregon limped along until prohibition, though the story has it that Mr. Ginet, a normally law-abiding citizen, felt that the ban on alcohol was unjust and chose to disregard it.
After the repeal of prohibition, there was a bit of wine being made in the region, but much of it was made from fruit other than Vitas Vinifera: it was a time of blackberry wine.
It wasn’t until the early 1970s that several modern pioneers chose the Applegate Valley to plant wine grapes; among them Dick Troon and Frank Wisnovsky. While Troon would sell his fruit to other producers for many years before creating his own label, Wisnovsky launched the “new” Valley View Winery, becoming the first bonded winery in the Applegate Valley in 1978.
What followed is a history still in the making. The eighteen members of the Applegate Valley Wine Trail each have a pioneering story of their own; a tale of how they ended up in this special place. Whether working family land handed down for multiple generations or passionately tending to a specifically selected site, all will tell you that they are here for the climate, the soil, and the uniquely perfect wine-grape growing attributes that Mr. Britt first recognized more than 150 years ago.