Get Wilde about wine at Grants Pass favorite winery
By Mitch Wilde
What happens when you combine a NASA engineer, an optometrist, dozens of acres of the Applegate Valley, thousands of grapevines, and a ton of TLC? Well, if you guessed Walport Family Cellars, in the heart of the Applegate Valley, you know your Southern Oregon Wine Trail. I had a chance to visit the endearing Walport Family Cellars (WFC) and was able to spend time with both Amy and Eric Walport, the owners and vintners of WFC.
When I recently asked Amy and Eric what they want people to remember about WFC, neitherhesitated with their response. Amy said, “We want to keep our vineyard experience personal,” and Eric shook his head and reiterated, “Exactly, we hope to make a personal connection with everyone who visits Walport Family Cellars.”
As you guide your vehicle off Slagle Creek Road in the heart of the Applegate Valley, you will be drawn to the vineyard’s entrance by the site of a purpose-built wine-barrel sign. The effective themed simplicity of the sign provides your first glance at the more personal experience you will enjoy while tasting at WFC. Parking is spacious, and you’ll have a shortwalk to the cozy tasting room and outdoor seating area. You might see a chicken, guinea, or lamb if lucky and you’ll certainly be able to enjoy the variety of trees and fresh air with the ample outdoor seating. Amy and Eric continue to tweak and update the outdoor space, sincethey first opened in July 2018, by adding gazebos along with a plethora of tables and chairs. A recent addition to the main outdoor area is a hand-built bartop that spans the length of two gazebo posts. The impressive piece of wood was milled from a large blue pine that died from a beetle kill. Eric felled the tree on the property several years ago and milled the slab of wood on the property letting it cure before finally installing it this May. Several types of seating, both covered and uncovered, scatter across the outdoor area nestled amongst plentiful tree varieties.
WFC is open for tasting Friday through Sunday from 12 pm to 6 pm each day. There is a better-than-average chance one of the two owners will serve you if you visit on the weekend. As Amy and Eric focus on perfecting their wines, the venue and the experience, they have made a deliberate choice to keep their workforce small to limit overhead and keep the operation lean while they grow. What this means for you … you’ll get a more personalized experience and have a better opportunity to enjoy your day.
It is fun to watch changes that take place at the vineyard month after month as they put theirefforts and profits into the vineyard and facility in a continued effort to make the Walport experience better. Nestled in the Applegate Woods, about a mile from the Enchanted Forest Trail system, you’ll be surrounded by a beautiful and serene environment. I recommend a 60- to 90-minute hike at the Enchanted Forest Trail before returning to WFC for your vineyard experience. This will allow you to taste wine and eat charcuterie guilt free with all the calories you just burned on your hike. Not to mention if you stay to the right on the Enchanted Forest trail and take the Felton Memorial Trail portion, your reward is a spectacular view, looking westward, of the Applegate Valley. Word of awareness: staying to the left on the Enchanted Forest is a climb. The last half mile is steep. It’s a great workout just don’t be surprised at how steep it gets.
While visiting WFC, whether you’re first greeted inside or outside, you’ll immediately understand the importance of their core business values: welcoming, approachable, loving, passionate, observant, relational, and thankful when someone welcomes you (WALPORT).
An excellent selection of wine is ripe for your drinking pleasure, along with a wonderful selection of charcuterie board options. Don’t like wine at all, or just not in the mood but want an adult beverage? They have a limited selection of beer as well. And if you’re the designated driver, there is also a limited choice of nonalcoholic options. The WFC wines are excellent with several medal winners available for tasting or to purchase by the glass or bottle. The wines have depth, are easy to enjoy with wonderful combinations of acidity, tannin, alcohol and sweetness. Most everyone’s palate will be sated with at least one of their options.
I asked the Walports about their wines, curious as to their take on a favorite and what they’re trying to focus their vintner efforts on. Eric’s response was quick, honest and refreshing. “Wines are naturally subjective, but for me, it’s the blends. Lots of people enjoy blends, but selfishly, it allows us an opportunity to take all the wines we have made in the vintage and create something better than the sum of all its parts … more creativity and a little more personal.”
Both Amy and Eric noted that when they were first making grape selections to grow, theyquestioned countless other Applegate vineyards, and all had a different response as to which grapes to select. It wasn’t until one vintner told them; “They should pick grapes that allow them to create wines they like to drink.” Hearing this they knew they had their answer.
They could go on and on about Applegate Valley soils, and the characteristics of the grapes, what fits best with the climate, etc. Their desire to keep the experience more accessible to novice wine drinkers (this author is one of them) makes themunique in an industry that at times appears overcrowded with snobbery. So, their entire lineup of wines comes from a desire to grow and bottle wines that they themselves like to drink. Their passion to create what they enjoy helps them stay grounded and hopefully keep the wine experience, for guests, enjoyable and personal.
They’ll most assuredly have something in the tasting room that you and your entourage willenjoy. Whether it is a syrah, pinot noir, rose, sauvignon blanc or one of their blends (Twisted Vine or Lost Woods). My favorite is their Lost Woods blend, and no it isn’t because of the label but I acknowledge I am immediately drawn to Sasquatch. Is that wrong as a wine drinker? You will enjoy their wines and perhaps more importantly, the personal experience you get when visiting Walport Family Cellars.
I had the fortune of talking with a visitor of WFC, Sue W. and she shared with me what she likes about WFC is “The wine of course, but also the enthusiasm of Amy and Eric and theirwillingness to share their future vision and dreams of the vineyard. We always see changes and improvements every time we come out here and they are so delightfully personal.”
Friday afternoons are a fantastic time to visit if you want more privacy and perhaps a little extra attention as they aren’t as crowded. I also recommend following WFC on Instagram or Facebook for special opportunities and events. They have an informative website where you can learn more about the vineyard, buy some wine, or book a couple of nights at their brand-new and delightful cabin. Yes, they have a cabin available to rent, two-night minimum stay, which gives you an opportunity to visit the half dozen other vineyards within walking distance.
My visit left me understanding more of what Walport Family Cellars is and wants to continue to be. A creative endeavor with the goal of allowing others to join them and take part in a personal experience and enjoy what Amy and Eric Walport have created with their grapes.
Whether you are dressed to the nines, or just finished hiking on the Enchanted Forest Trail, if you want to enjoy the outdoors by taking part in an environment where everyone can relax, enjoy wine, food, and the view with family, friends and strangers alike … Walport Family Cellars is your place.
470 Slagle Creek Rd, Grants Pass