ashland.news
May 26, 2024

Ashland winery serves up lots more variety than just varietals

Members of a wedding party enjoy dining on the lawn at Grizzly Peak Winery.
May 22, 2023

Grizzly Peak Winery adds music, theater, food to its attractions

By Julia Sommer for Ashland.news

Long a local favorite for wine-tasting and outdoor events, Ashland’s Grizzly Peak Winery has also become a premier arts venue, hosting Rogue Theater Company, Siskiyou Music Project jazz concerts, and a host of other musical performances.

Virginia and Al Silbowitz. David Gibb photo

Food trucks are often on hand for outdoor concerts, while the spacious barrel room, constructed in 2016, has been outfitted for indoor events, including theater lighting. A steady string of special events recently included a sold-out evening of Greek music and food, just another draw attracting visitors down bucolic East Nevada Street to the 40-acre venue, which includes 15 acres of wine grapes.

Winery owners Al and Virginia Silbowitz moved to Ashland from Berkeley in 1998 because it was a great place to raise a family. Al had managed KPFA, the famed Bay Area public radio station, and Virginia had taught English as a second language (ESL) at Marina Middle School in San Francisco for 28 years.

They also fell in love with winemaking and opened Grizzly Peak Winery in 2006. In 2011, production of about 2,500 cases/year was moved to Pallet Wine Company in Medford, managed by winemaker Linda Donovan.

Al and Virginia’s daughter Sarah joined Donovan’s crew 11 years ago; she has advanced from “cellar rat” to assistant winemaker.

Celebrating Al Silbowitz’s recent 82nd birthday party, from left: son-in-law Matt, daughter Deborah, grandson Marlon, granddaughter Tora Mae, Al, Virginia, daughters Sarah and Naomi.

The Silbowitz’s other daughter, Deborah, and her husband, Matt, farm 15 acres next to the winery. Curious cattle from their Dexter herd, attracted by the outdoor music, sometimes line the fence separating the two properties. They came running to a recent cello-marimba combo.

Ed Dunsavage on guitar, Theresa McCoy on percussion and Dmitri Matheny on flugelhorn perform in Grizzly Peak Winery’s barrel room as part of the Siskiyou Music Project’s jazz series.

Besides concerts and plays, Grizzly Peak Winery is a favorite venue for weddings, parties, and fundraising events by such nonprofit organizations as La Clinica, Ashland Community Health Foundation, Ashland Schools Foundation, Rogue Valley Youth Symphony, Siskiyou Violins, and the Amigo (sister city) Club.

“We’re committed to supporting the community,” says Virginia.

Jessica Sage, artistic director of Rogue Theater Company (RTC), notes that “Virginia and Al are staunch supporters of the arts. They have generously made space available for our last three seasons, and we are grateful to perform in such an exquisite building.” (The next RTC production is “Heisenberg” July 13-30, starring Anthony Heald and Amy Lizardo.)

“We had the great fortune to stay open during COVID by using the winery’s outdoor oak grove as our stage,” says Sage. “With the audience 12 feet away from the actors, masked, and 6 feet away from each other, we presented plays when most theaters in the country were shuttered. There was a lot of jumping through hoops, but it was worth it.”

Grizzly Peak Winery
1600 E. Nevada St.
Ashland, OR 97520
grizzlypeakwinery.com
541-482-5700
grizzlypeakwines@gmail.com
 
Hours:
May to October: Thursday through Sunday, Noon to 4 p.m.
November-December and February-April (closed in January): Saturday and Sunday, Noon to 4 p.m.

Virginia, the daughter of Chinese immigrants, grew up in Berkeley, California. Al, the son of Eastern European immigrants, grew up in New York City.

Virginia left the fold to attend Oregon State University, graduating in ’69, while Al went to Columbia and then UC Berkeley for graduate studies in English. After moving to Ashland, Virginia taught ESL at Hedrick Middle School in Medford for 18 years.

Virginia wrangles most of the winery events, along with her eldest daughter and tasting room manager, Naomi Fuerte. Macario Ramirez has managed the vineyard and grounds for the past 18 years.

There is, of course, a wine club. Each club release offers a different combination of red and/or white wines in February, June and November, ranging from $18-$40. Members receive priority invitations to special events, free wine-tasting for themselves and two guests throughout the year, and a complimentary glass of wine on their birthdays.

Grizzly Peak Winery awards in ’22 include a Toast of the Coast Double Gold for its 2017 Meritage and an Oregon Wine Awards Double Gold for the 2017 Syrah. Awards so far this year include a San Francisco Chronicle Gold Medal for Grizzly’s 2017 Syrah and a Savor Northwest Gold Medal for the 2016 Tempranillo. 

Grizzly Peak Winery is best known for its award-winning syrah and malbec wines, says Virginia. It was one of the first wineries to experiment producing white wines from red wine grapes, offering a unique white tempranillo and white cabernet franc.

Rick Robinson, managing director of Oregon Cabaret Theatre, says: “We’ve had a strong partnership with Grizzly Peak going on seven years now. Their wines are popular with our pre-show diners, and Virginia and Al have often let us use their beautiful space at the vineyard for our rehearsals.”

Email freelance writer Julia Sommer of Ashland at juliamsommer@gmail.com.

May 22 update: Corrected spelling of Rogue Theater Company.

Picture of Bert Etling

Bert Etling

Bert Etling is the executive editor of Ashland.news. Email him at betling@ashland.news.

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