Farm to Table to Trail: Wineries Go Beyond the Grapes
To Doug Maragas, pairing his locally produced wines with locally grown foods isn’t just about having something nice to drink with a hearty dinner.
“When they go well together, they both taste so much better,” Maragas said. “It’s an experience. When you combine them, it becomes something special.”
That experience was on full display in May as Maragas Winery teamed up with Chef Bette Fraser for a Spring Farm to Table Wine Dinner. The four course meal featured local greens, vegetables, lamb, breads and, of course, wine produced right outside the tasting room door.
The event kicked off the busy season for Maragas as the tasting room north of Redmond just off Highway 97 becomes increasingly crowded with wine-loving tourists passing by or making a special trip. Maragas is the only winery that completes the entire process – growing and fermenting grapes, barrel aging, blending and bottling – in Central Oregon.
And this year could be even busier thanks to the creation of the Central Oregon Wine Trail. Similar to the hugely popular Bend Ale Trail, the wine trail encourages folks to visit some of the region’s wineries, vineyards and tasting rooms including Faith Hope and Charity Vineyards, Naked Winery and Volcano Vineyards.
Maragas, who was the first local winery when he opened up shop in 1999, says he believes the industry is just getting started in Central Oregon.
“Over the next five years,” he said, “you will see incredible growth in people interested in starting vineyards here.”
And he believes for the industry to truly thrive, it needs to explode like the Central Oregon craft beer scene. The reason the area can sustain so many breweries (more than 20 and counting) is that they’re all producing really great beers.
“We need a dozen wineries in this area. We need more than one winery making wines with local grapes,” he said. “Recognition expands with a wealth of great wineries here.
“Having other wineries join us to make this a grape growing and winemaking destination is a very welcome event,” Maragas said. “Having the Wine Trail to help Central Oregonians and travelers alike find us and enjoy our unique and award-winning wines….is just the ticket to get the movement going.”
Immediate validation of the wine trail’s success will be seen through increased traffic at the winery, more bottle sales at the tasting room and more outside interest in Central Oregon’s grape growing challenges.
But Maragas knows how the business works. He grew up with it. His parents grew up with it. So he realizes how much Mother Nature calls the shots. (Record cold last winter destroyed much of his vines.) And he realizes he might not be around to see his vineyards and his winery reach their full potential.
“It’s a second generation business,” he said, sounding hopeful his 8-year-old daughter Samantha will one day want to continue the family business. “This is a project you may not see completed in your lifetime – to get it established well into the safety zone, the comfort zone. To see it grow, not just hope that it survives.”
For more information on Maragas Winery and the events they have planned this year, visit the Maragas Winery Website.