ASHLAND, Ore. – Linda Donovan, the winemaking talent behind many brands made in Southern Oregon, now is getting her name on the front of bottles.
This week, she launched Linda Donovan Wines at her quaint tasting room framed by a bucolic setting in Ashland, Ore. The small lots she offers will not be offered through Pallet Wine Co., the bustling custom-crush facility the Oregon winemaker owns and operates in Medford.
“Linda Donovan Wines have been in the works since 2005,” Donovan told Great Northwest Wine. “The opening of my tasting room does not alter the scope of my work at Pallet Wine Co. I will continue to run the business and direct the winemaking. I have an amazing team at Pallet – they and my clients are very supportive of this venture of mine.”
Linda Donovan Wines a family affair
The Rogue Valley producer also has some key support from family. Her 700-square-foot tasting room is within Valley View Orchard, owned by Kathy and Tim O’Leary – her sister and brother-in-law from Palo Alto, Calif. And the L. Donovan wines come primarily from 12 acres of grapes planted by the family not long after Donovan arrived in Oregon in 2000.
Syrah is the most widely planted variety at Valley View, followed by Grenache, Mourvèdre, Cinsault, Carignane and Zinfandel. Donovan said the Carignane, Cinsault and Mourvèdre vines were the first in the Rogue Valley, and she began making wines from Valley View in 2008.
One of the features of the remodeled farm building, which housed a cider press, is a roll-up metal door that allows Donovan to give her customers a view of the vines, the surrounding valley and Mount Ashland.
Her work at Pallet made the Linda Donovan Wines project possible. Her list of custom-crush clients at Pallet runs close to 40, and she ranked 10th in the state in terms of production for 2011.
“Case production of Pallet in 2012 was 22,000, and I expect about 28,000 in 2013,” Donovan said. “In 2011, we made more wine, but 40 percent of the wine was for the bulk market. In 2012 and 2013, all of the grapes that come through our doors will be bottled.”
And she said there’s no drive for Pallet to move up the state rankings in terms of production or pass the other large Southern Oregon producers, Bridgeview, Foris and Del Rio.
“The No. 1 and 2 producers in Southern Oregon are more than three times our size – and No. 3 is more than twice,” Donovan said. “I don’t think – or want – to be that big of a custom crush facility.”
Résumé includes Beaulieu, Mondavi, Schramsberg
Donovan grew up in Saratoga, Calif., and graduated from University of California-Davis in 1993. Her résumé includes positions at renowned California producers such as Beaulieu, Flowers, Schramsberg and Robert Mondavi, before she moved to Southern Oregon and worked for Agate Ridge and Cowhorn.
In 2009, Pallet emerged from a plan created by Donovan and managing partner Dan Sullivan. They turned the Cooley-Neff Warehouse – now on the National Historic Register – into a winemaking facility they’ve made available to other winemakers.
There’s also history at the O’Learys’ Valley View Orchard. It was established in 1919 and produces Oregon Tilth-certified organic tree fruit.
Tasting room hours will be 1-6 p.m. Thursday-Sunday year-round, and the wines available all will be under Donovan’s license – Late Bloomer, Le Jeune Chien, Long Walk, Pick Me and L. Donovan. And in 2014, Donovan plans to offer wines in refillable growlers.