Eating in the vineyards – Medford News, weather, sports, breaking news

More wineries offer restaurant-style meals

DANCIN Vineyards near Jacksonville serves stuffed mushrooms, pizza, salad and other restaurant-style foods to pair with wine. [Photo courtesy of DANCIN Vineyards]

More and more Rogue Valley wineries and vineyards are serving restaurant-style meals with wine.

Dan and Cindy Marca, owners of DANCIN Vineyards, became famous for this trend early on, serving up the food when they opened their tasting room in 2012 outside of Jacksonville.

“When we started, only a few places did that, and they had a very limited selection of food, mostly on the weekends,” Dan Marca said. “Sindy and I wanted to do something different.”

“The food was going to be an integral part of the DANCIN experience. We wanted the food to complement the wine and for people to stay a bit and enjoy the experience.”

DANCIN’s menu includes wood-fired pizza, macaroni and cheese, Caesar salad, and cranberry, almond and mushroom salad stuffed with spicy Italian sausage with a creamy Chardonnay sauce, Parmesan cheese and balsamic syrup. Visitors can enjoy delicious desserts such as Signature Semi Freddo – homemade vanilla ice cream with espresso, fresh whipped cream and chopped chocolate.

Each item on the menu comes with a suggested wine pairing. DANCIN recommends having a Pinot Noir with stuffed mushrooms, for example, or a Chardonnay with a Caesar salad.

People who want to snack with their wine can order a handmade baguette or breadboard, local cheeses, candied nuts, fig jam, and more. An artisan bakery in Applegate Valley to Taylor Sausage in Cave Junction.

“We are fortunate to be in Rogue Valley where there is such an amazing diversity of resources related to locally grown food. We are so grateful to be able to partner with the artisans who are here,” said Dan Marca.

Dunbar Farms in Medford began serving restaurant-style dining last year with the launch of its tasting room. The farm grows and sells a variety of food items, including vegetables, flour, and pancake mix.

“It was an experience. It was an evolution,” said Nick Stephenson, director of marketing and business development at Dunbar Farms. “A lot of wineries are a little nervous about catering because we already do so much. Restaurants can be complicated.”

He noted that restaurants often operate with meager profit margins. Some wineries do not have the expertise to make and serve food, so they may need to bring in additional staff. To meet the challenge, Dunbar Farms hired a professional chef.

“We’ve learned across the industry that people really like to eat with wine and other drinks,” Stephenson said. “We, like many wineries, are set up to be a destination.”

“Our customers love coming here because they can spend their afternoons tasting wine, eating locally sourced meals, listening to music and hanging out with the farm animals,” he added.

As people spend more time in wineries and vineyards, many visitors want more food than a traditional cheese board, he said.

“If you’re out for two hours, you’re probably going to get hungry,” Stephenson said.

Dunbar Farms’ menu includes wood-fired pizzas, paninis, weekly salads, soups and entrees that change based on the season. Stevenson said the chef often likes to plan meals around ingredients he finds at local farmers markets. Pizza dough is made with organic flour grown and milled on the farm.

Stephenson said Dunbar Farms has list prices that make visiting the farm affordable.

“We want to make food that is good value and accessible to a wide audience. They get quality, but it’s not expensive,” he said.

The Cowhorn Vineyard & Winery in Applegate Valley has eased the takeaway trend with wine with a pairing menu that combines wine tasting with food.

Like many wineries, Cowhorn serves wood-fired pizza.

“We wanted to involve our garden. Pizza is a natural evolution for us. We can change the toppings seasonally,” said Mini Byers, owner and general manager.

I’ve found that customers prefer the pairs menu rather than sampling the wine alone.

“It appeals to palates and they become more educational. Once we introduced it, it was in great demand. I think that’s great. Part of the wine and the wine experience is this component of the pairing. It’s amazing that other wineries do that too,” Byers said. Great stuff for accessibility to wine.” She said she goes back to the long tradition of enjoying wine with food.

“One of the main components of enjoying wine is hospitality and bringing people together around the table,” Byers said. “Food and wine always go hand in hand.”

Click here to read the 2022 edition of Our Valley.

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