Like many budding winemakers, it starts in the garage, and suddenly their hobby outgrows their abode and overwhelms their lives until they take the big dip to start a winery. This predicament rang true for Scott Steingraber, owner, and winemaker of Kriselle Cellars, Rogue Valley winery located very close to Medford.
As a Civil Engineer, Scott’s work took him to the San Francisco Bay area, where he discovered his love of wine by wandering over to Napa and Sonoma. He started his garage winemaking after moving to Utah. During this time, he took classes at UC Davis. Scott’s work took him to Washington state, where he tested his winemaking prose with Washington Grapes. Scott gravitated to the Willamette Valley and Pinot Noir, but that soon changed when he tasted fruit from the Rogue Valley. He was hooked and switched to utilizing grapes from the Rogue Valley. Scott and his wife Krisell could not stop there. It seemed time for a lifestyle and career change. Thus Kriselle Cellars came to fruition in 2003.
Coming from a background of engineering, where things were data-driven, Scott looks at the process of winemaking scientifically. The artistry comes later as if he is adding something additional to the mix. His goal once combining these two factors; wine with unique character and quality. This process comes through in his wines. I found each wine I sampled delivered an unusual bent making the wine exceptionally outstanding.
Today Scott describes his life as a winemaker at his Rogue Valley winery, “We have a passion for what we do, but it does not feel like we are going to work.”
Rogue Valley Winery and Ranch
The Steingraber’s own a 200-acre property with 25 acres planted in vines including the following varieties: Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Tempranillo, Malbec, and Sangiovese in the reds. The white varieties consist of Sauvignon Blanc and Viognier.
The rest of the property is a working cattle ranch.
The vineyard’s location lies along the Rogue River between the Cascades, Coastal Mountain, and the Siskiyous. It seems like the vineyard is boxed amongst these mountains allowing for cool mornings and nights. The warm days are also cooled by the breezes coming up from the river at night. The vineyard is planted on the southern facing slope.
The soils consist of round river rock and alluvial silt. The river rock causes the vine roots to struggle, leading to grapes that produce wine that shows depth, concentration, and character.
The winery is architecturally appealing and offers beautiful views of the valley below.
Kriselle Cellars Wine
Approximately 75% of the grapes are estate grown. Scott sources the other 25% of the grapes. Kriselle Cellars produces four red blend wines and five red varietals. Kriselle also creates three white wines and a Rosé. Like the right bank of Bordeaux, his blend is the right bank of the Rogue River.
With his red blends, Scott ferments and ages the wine separately. For his Rosé, he keeps the free run, fresh juice separately. The Rosé is created from Grenache that is picked specifically for Rosé,
Each label is represented by a different color that reflects something about the wine. As I describe each wine below, I will refer to the color and its meaning with the wine when I detail each wine I sampled.
Kriselle Cellars Sauvignon Blanc 2019
The Sauvignon Blanc is adorned in a blue label that signifies water. The wine delivers more structure than usually seen with Sauvignon Blanc. One finds a bridge of international styles for this varietal in one wine. It is reminiscent of a Sancerre. The grapes come from three separate vineyards that are picked at different times. One earlier, and the third when the grapes are riper. They ferment separately, each with a different yeast.
I found a bright, lively yet creamy wine with flavors of stone fruit and citrus. This Sauvignon Blanc is one of my all-time favorites because its creaminess adds complexity. This wine does not display your typical grassy and grapefruit qualities so typical of Sauvignon Blanc.
Kriselle Cellars Viognier 2018
For Kriselle, this wine has received the highest accolades. The green label to signify the Viognier bright, refreshing flavors. A portion of the grapes come from a grower in Phoenix, Oregon. The rest are estate grown. The wine combines Viognier with a small bit of Marsanne. Due to the grapes coming from two different locations, the wine delivers a luscious richness. On the nose, I found tropical aromas and on the palate, tropical flavors of pineapple honey and a bit of oak.
Kriselle Cellars Di’tani 2015
The ocher color of the label implies the earthy flavors your find as you drink a glass of this wine. The wine blends Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Tempranillo, and Merlot. The wine represents Scott’s interpretation of a Bordeaux bland only with a twist, the Tempranillo. The name Di’tani speaks to the native people of the area who came before us and the upper table rocks of Southern Oregon. These volcanic plateaus play a role in the geology of the area and give the wine a sense of place. The wine ages 23 months in a combination of French, Hungarian, and American oak.
I found a balanced wine with depth and layers and earthy tones. Flavors of cherry dominate the wine. One senses the Tempranillo on the mid-palate because it gives the wine a lift. Accents of white pepper give way to a long finish.
Kriselle Cellars Tempranillo 2015
The Tempranillo displays an orange label symbolizing the vibrancy of life in this wine. The Tempranillo ripens early southern Oregon. The wine ages 22 months in Pennsylvanian, Virginian, and Hungarian oak. The wine exhibits bright natural acidity and a lively demeanor. I found a wonderful expression of the variety with its red fruit, herbal qualities, and hints of pepper on the finish and undoubtedly very representative of the quality of Tempranillo in this region.
Rogue Valley Winery
This article is the fourth in a series on a Rogue Valley winery and includes the following:
Dancin Vineyards: The Delights of the Rogue Valley
Awen Winecraft: A Boutique Winery Highlighting The Rogue Valley
Anchor Valley: Rocking To A New Beat
Irvine & Roberts: Expressing The Splendor Of This Ashland Winery
Note: Common to the wine industry, this writer received a hosted wine samples. While it has not influenced this review, the writer believes in full disclosure.
All winery photos are courtesy of Kriselle Cellars.