Jacksonville Oregon is a cute mining town located 5 miles west of Medford Oregon. Lined with tourist shops, restaurants and inns, it glistened in the fall splendor of yellow or oranges. Even the street signs boast corn stalks and fall flowers. DANCIN Vineyards is located just outside of the town.
With a shared passion for dance and wine, Dan and Cindy Marca, owners and proprietors of DANCIN Vineyards migrated from Sacramento California to southern Oregon. Their vision was to create a new life for their family. “If a vineyard happened to find us, so be it,” Dan said. “We had both taken classes at UC Davis on enology and I was keen to grow Italian varietals in honor of my Italian heritage.” He believed that Pinot Noir and the Rogue Valley were not a good match. “It was just too hot. I consulted with viticulturist, Glen McCourty, from Mendocino County, who convinced me that we could grow Pinot here. He told me to plant Pinot Noir and call it Pinot Nero,” he laughed.
Slowly they built a winery, a tasting room that mirrored a bar in Sicily that Dan visited some 30 years ago, a patio for dancing. “We started with two acres and five grape clones. Now we have 27 acres and 7 clones of Pinot Noir and 4 clones of Chardonnay,” Dan said.
Their labels reflect their love of wine and dance. Each name of the wine is a ballet term. For example, their wine named Adagio, in ballet is the first movement that segues to other things. This is a nod to Peter Britt, the father of wine grapes in Southern Oregon, who settled in Jacksonville in the mid-1800s and planted the first vineyards and orchards in 1852. His original planting was Franc Pinot, which later had its name changed to Pinot Noir. The clone of Pinot he planted was Wadenswil clone, which originated a half hour away from where he was born. One thing segues to another and another and another. From orchard to vineyard to wine country.
My group of wine writers was hosted for a lovely luncheon on the patio in mid-October, highlighting the culinary skills of their CIA of Napa trained chef.
We started with cauliflower soup with toasted cashews, cracked pepper and shaved Grana Padano (Italy’s most popular cheese) it paired with a 2017 En Avant Chardonnay.
The salad course was an Arugula Salad with Glazed Walnuts and Pinot Noir Tarragon Vinaigrette, Paired with 2017 Septette Pinot Noir
The delightful main course was Duck breast on wild rice pancakes paired with two wines, a 2016 Septette Pinot Noir and a 2017 Ècarté Pinot Noir.
Dessert was Cranberry Hazelnut Spice Cake with House made Vanilla Bean Ice Cream paired with a 2014 Finale Port Style wine.
“We’re so blessed. We did a little bit at a time. We had the piazza, the Italian word for the place to gather. It’s been here since day 1 and that’s completely populated with picnic tables and chickens. We have an earth oven and do salmon bakes. We’re the first winery in the valley to do food. Food is served throughout the entire day except for the last 30 minutes. We focus on local meats and cheeses, stuffed mushrooms, salads and pizzas. We do a Soffocato, which in Italian means choked or drowned. It’s homemade ice cream topped with espresso. We also do a semi freddo (half cold) homemade ice cream, homemade whipped cream, homemade chocolate shavings, double shot of Noble espresso or Finale port style wine.
Dan and Cindy love the camaraderie and the socialness of people. They love to dance and have dancers dance at their winery. “Wine is literally ‘time and place’,” he said.
Sitting on their patio, overlooking the valley with a fire in front of you and a glass of delicious wine supplies both.