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‘Artisan corridor’ adds wine bar

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The “mighty meat” pizza, foreground, from food truck Pizza Mia incorporated pepperoni, sausage and linguica. [Sarah Lemon/Mail Tribune]
The “mighty meat” pizza, foreground, from food truck Pizza Mia incorporated pepperoni, sausage and linguica. [Sarah Lemon/Mail Tribune]
Veggie pizza from food truck pizza Mia included fresh basil, tomatoes and peppers. [Sarah Lemon/Mail Tribune]
Peter William rose from Medford is among the local wines poured at The Rogue Grape wine bar and bottle shop in Central Point. [Sarah Lemon/Mail Tribune]
Seating at The Rogue Grape is available on a patio, covered with shade awnings, soon to be augmented with a weather-proof cover, fire-pit tables and heating towers. [Sarah Lemon/Mail Tribune]

There’s a new “rogue” in Central Point’s “artisan corridor.”

Rogue Creamery has welcomed The Rogue Grape wine bar and bottle shop — between Lillie Belle Farms and Coquette Bakery — to the strip of Front Street shops that arguably represents the region’s most distinguished specialty foods producers.

Splitting with Coquette the building that formerly housed Ledger David Cellars, The Rogue Grape relocated from Jacksonville’s Bigham Knoll, where it sought refuge in early 2021 from the pandemic’s rigors on downtown Medford. Originally opening The Rogue Grape about five years ago, owner Natasha Hopkins is married to Sean Hopkins, co-producer with Tom Homewood of Awen Winecraft wines.

Although The Rogue Grape benefited from a site with more outdoor seating, Bigham Knoll ultimately wasn’t visible enough to either locals or tourists, said Hopkins. Close proximity to a world champion cheese naturally widens her sphere for showcasing the region’s wines.

And there’s strong indication wine aficionados making Pacific Northwest pilgrimages will seek out The Rogue Grape. The Rogue Valley recently was nominated as Wine Region of the Year among Wine Enthusiast Magazine’s 2022 Wine Star Awards. Local residents also are paying attention to The Rogue Grape’s live music schedule and food truck partnerships.

Visiting Hopkins’ Bigham Knoll location over the summer, I was charmed not only by the setting but an utterly delicious glass of Troon 2021 Piquette! My sister requested a glass of Sound & Vision sparkling zinfandel to accompany a conscientiously assembled cheese platter with generous portions of warm baguette and fresh fruit alongside sharp cheddar, chèvre, Gouda and Gorgonzola.

Cheese and snack platters at The Rogue Grape’s new — much smaller location — will be build-your-own affairs from the in-house inventory of cured meats, olives, hummus, crackers, cookies and condiments, said Hopkins. Customers choose their goodies, and she provides the cheeseboards and utensils.

The Rogue Grape also invites guests to bring purchases from its artisan neighbors — or restaurant takeout — to enjoy on site with a glass or bottle of wine. Hopkins adds more wine-pairing opportunities with a weekly lineup of local food trucks, from Truffle Pig Craft Kitchen’s farm-to-table cuisine to Pizza Mia’s wood-fired pies.

The former chef-owned truck I’ve enjoyed on several occasions and reviewed in this column. The latter had remained elusive, largely sticking to Sundays at Daisy Creek Vineyard in Jacksonville.

When Pizza Mia’s presence at The Rogue Grape corresponded with a Thursday evening free from kids’ sports practices, I asked a co-worker if she wanted to kick off the weekend early. Local musical artist Gary Margason was on hand to serenade customers with “nostalgic covers and tasteful originals.”

Hopkins’ taste in wine invariably goes beyond the labels and varietals most represented in the Rogue Valley. Up-and-comer Peter William Vineyard of Medford headlined The Rogue Grape’s wine flight and by-the-glass list the evening I visited. Planted by two local physicians on the hillside below their residence, Peter William took home double gold for its 2018 Syrah at this year’s Oregon Wine Experience.

Peter William’s rose was priced enticingly at a mere $8 per glass. But I also wanted to try Cliff Creek Cellars syrah, which concluded the flight. In between were tastes of Kriselle Cellars albarino and Irvine & Roberts pinot noir. The flight’s price of $10 sounded just right to both me and my co-worker, Julia.

I wagered the first two wines would make light, refreshing sippers while we waited for pizzas to bake. The reds I planned to savor with Pizza Mia’s “mighty meat,” boasting linguica, sausage and pepperoni in addition to olives and artichoke hearts.

Julia duplicated the artichoke hearts on Pizza Mia’s veggie pie with pesto, tomato, mushrooms and sweet peppers. Other toppings were Margherita; natural pepperoni; Canadian bacon, pineapple and jalapeno; and Italian sausage, bell pepper, onion and olives.

Whole pizzas were priced at $14 apiece. A half could be had for $7. Dough made fresh daily can go gluten-free for an additional dollar (whole pizzas only).

The Rogue Grape staffer pouring wines that evening primed our palates at the bar inside before encouraging us to take the first couple of ounces — rose and white — outside. Offering a few tables and chairs in front of its shop on the warm evening, The Rogue Grape sports on its south side a surprisingly spacious patio, covered with shade awnings for summer, soon to be augmented with a weather-proof cover, fire-pit tables and heating towers, Hopkins said. A few cozy blankets can be borrowed, as well.

We’d hardly drained the first two glasses when our third and fourth arrived, right before the food truck’s buzzers announced our pizzas’ readiness. Nicely charred crust cradled just the right quantities of cheese and toppings.

Fresh basil shreds punched up raw tomato slices and diced pepper on Julia’s veggie pizza. The artichoke hearts — more like individual leaves — could have been in stronger evidence on both pies. Next time, I’d try the Canadian bacon with jalapeno with a full glass of rose and keep an eye on The Rogue Grape’s Instagram for the latest food truck schedule, also posted on its website, theroguegrape.com/Events

Located at 245 N. Front St., The Rogue Grape is open from 11 a.m to 6 p.m. Sunday through Tuesday, until 8 p.m. Thursday through Saturday. Purchase wines at theroguegrape.com or call 541-324-1447.

Reach features editor Sarah Lemon at 541-776-4494 or slemon@rosebudmedia.com