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Upper Five Vineyard
Kathy Sullivan

Upper Five VineyardSummary: Upper Five Vineyard, in Southern Oregon, is a small organic vineyard with the owners also using biodynamic techniques. Appointments are necessary for visits and includes views of the vineyard and tastings of the all-estate wines.

The Upper Five Vineyard in Oregon’s Rogue Valley consists of four acres on a sloping hillside which is home to Sauvignon Blanc, Tempranillo, Syrah and Grenache. The entire vineyard is cared for by Terry Sullivan, who is intensely interested in maintaining the vineyards with his own hands. The tag line for Upper Five is “Wine that tells the story of a place and time.” Terry believes that wine is made in the vineyard and that he is the caretaker of the vineyards. He commented, “We believe in vintage.”

The Upper Five property was purchased by Terry Sullivan and Molly Morison in 1999. The first vineyards on the property were planted in 2003. The vineyards obtained organic certification in 2005, the first year for the harvest. Terry noted that the Upper Five vineyard was the first certified organic vineyard in Southern Oregon. The Upper Five vineyard is also farmed using biodynamic principles.

The vineyard, at 2000 feet elevation, has a short continental season with 100 days. The area receives 20 inches of rain annually. Fortunately, the vineyard has a low rate of disease. Early bud break is in April. According to Terry, spring frosts can pose problems for the vines. The typical diurnal temperature difference is 20 to 30 degrees.

Terry’s Wine Journey

Upper Five VineyardWe enjoyed meeting Terry Sullivan (in the photo, right) owner of Upper Five Vineyard and learning his story. While there is no relation to Terry Sullivan of Wine Trail Traveler, we decided a photo of the two Terry Sullivans was a special opportunity.

Terry earned degrees in engineering and consults in the oceanography field. After graduate school in 1982, Terry drove across the country to take a job in California. As he drove through Napa Valley and saw the vineyards, Terry said, “I want to do this one day.” Eventually Terry moved to Oregon and discovered Oregon Pinot Noir.

After 10 years in Portland, Terry moved to Southern Oregon where there is less rain. The location of the Upper Five vineyard has irrigation rights, so Terry was able to plant a vineyard. Terry commented that during the year he touches each plant ten to fifteen times and that if you walk the vineyard “you will pick up knowledge.” During our visit we saw an old adage that is apropos for Terry at Upper Five, “The best fertilizer is a farmer’s footsteps.”

The vineyard was named Upper Five because the vineyard is located on a knoll of what was once known as the Bagley pear orchard. This plot of land was known as the Upper Five of the Bagley orchard.

Upper Five Wines

Upper Five VineyardBetween 2005 and 2009, grapes from Upper Five were sold to John Grochau who is the winemaker at Grochau Cellars. Now, the grapes from the Upper Five vineyard produce 650 to 750 cases of estate-only wine. Terry sells his wines to restaurants and stores primarily in Southern Oregon. He also has a distributor that places his wines in stores and restaurants in the rest of Oregon.

Wine tastings can be scheduled by appointment. The site of the wine tasting is on a patio overlooking the vineyard, valley and mountains.

Sauvignon Blanc 2015 Rogue Valley was a light yellow color accompanied with notes of lemon and melon. The finish was crisp. This wine was produced in all stainless steel with native yeast.

Upper Five VineyardThe 2014 Tempranillo Rogue Valley was an opaque dark ruby color. The aroma was of black fruits. The taste had notes of black cherries and blackberries. The wine was full-bodied with bold tannins. The finish was fruity and spicy. This Tempranillo wine was produced with three clones of Tempranillo.

Syrah 2014 Rogue Valley was a translucent ruby color with a sienna hue. The aroma was of dark fruits and spice. The taste offered notes of blackberries, blueberries, white pepper and baking spices. The wine had bold tannins and was full-bodied. The finish was crisp and fruity with fruit yielding to spice. While discussing the wine, we learned that Syrah does well here because of the windy afternoons.

Oso Grande (Big Bear) 2014 Rogue Valley was a blend of Grenache, Syrah and Tempranillo. The wine was translucent with a sienna hue. The wine had an aroma of black fruits. The taste offered notes of black cherries, blackberries and blueberries. The wine was full-bodied with bold tannins. The finish was fruity with spicy tones.

The Upper Five red wines are very food friendly.

The Upper Five Vineyard is in a peaceful spot. Make an appointment to taste the well-crafted wines and taste the place.

Upper Five Vineyard
1125 Morey Road
Talent, OR 97540

GPS: N42º 13.220’ W122º 48.094’



Article written November 2016

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