Medford, Oregon, near the California border on the I-5 corridor, is known for the famous Harry & David’s gourmet gifts but on a getaway to southern Oregon I happened upon a little bit of undiscovered artisan food heaven in the Central Point area just off I-5. They even have a name for it—the Southern Oregon Artisan Corridor.
It’s a stop that will leave you wanting to linger more in the area but if you only have an hour or two, you can benefit from the co-location of three highly regarded purveyors of gourmet delights—Rogue Creamery, Lillie Belle’s Chocolates, and Ledger David Cellars wines. Actually located in Central Point, part of the Medford metropolitan area, the three businesses share an unlikely location—next to the railroad tracks. But don’t let that deter you. The Artisan Corridor has award-winning treats in store.
Oregon’s Rogue Creamery is known for prize-winning blue cheeses and sustainable farming methods. Rogue Creamery began making cheddar cheese, butter, and cottage cheese in 1933 during the Great Depression and Word War II. Oregon Blue Vein cheese was first created in 1954. The cheeses are handmade using organic, grass-based milk. Their operation has been growing in size and reputation ever since. They now ship internationally, but you’d never realize it as you wander their original buildings and have your photo taken in front of the classic blue truck.
Stop in to sample cheeses at their shop and stay for a grilled cheese sandwich lunch. For those who have never tasted their blue cheese and house cheddar sandwich, you’re in for a real treat. Pair the lunch with a selection from their Rogue ales and root beer or local wines. Rogue Creamery believes that regional pairings are often the most successful—“if it grows together, it goes together.”
You’ll have the opportunity to see their cheddar cheese-making process and equipment, taste a wide variety of blue cheese (some very sharp and others smooth and mild), shop for their cheeses and a variety of international imports and hear about how their farm in Grants Pass is now certified organic and, believe it or not, how the cows wander into the barn when they feel like getting milked and are automatically hooked up to the milking machines.
Ledger David Cellars
Steps away from the creamery, you can taste award-winning wine at the Ledger David Cellars‘ Le Petit Tasting Room. Enjoy their signature Chenin Blanc and other estate wines including Chardonnay, Sangiovese, Cabernet Franc, Tempranillo, and delightful red blends.
The day we visited we were treated to an outdoor tasting experience with cheese pairings from, of course, Rogue Creamery. While next to the railroad tracks, Ledger David has the creative ability to create an elegant atmosphere in both their indoor and outdoor seating areas. As we were walked through the tasting, enjoying the cheese, bread and wine, we relaxed and enjoyed the outdoor setting with crisp, white tablecloths and fresh flower arrangements.
We learned that the grapes were grown in Talent, Oregon on property that was originally a pear orchard, and that the winery was named after the first son of owners David Traul and Lena Varner. Primoris is their signature white and is the only Chenin Blanc grown and produced in the Rogue Valley.
Lillie Belle Farms Chocolates
After cheese tasting, lunch, and wine tasting, it was time to top of our Artisan Corridor experience with chocolate. We stepped into chocolate heaven at Lillie Belle Farms, another few steps away and were amazed at the variety of chocolates being offered.
As we watched the chocolates being made through the window using time-honored European techniques, we learned that Lillie Belle's award-winning artisan chocolates are completely hand-made.
They helped me figure out my dark chocolate preference. It turns out I’m a 75-percent type. They have dark chocolate bars from 65 to 75 percent. As we looked at the cases and packaging, some reminiscent of the 60s psychedelic era, we happened upon such creations as “Smokey Blue Cheese Truffle Spread” and “Ramblin Rose Toasted Pecan Caramel Brownies.” Of course, there are luscious ganaches, bon-bons, truffles, and caramels but it’s the creativity and knowing new types of confections are added each year, that amazed me.
When You Go to the Southern Oregon Artisan Corridor
The area is touted as a rest stop for gourmands, but once you get there, you’ll want to taste and explore the offerings and that takes time. I’d recommend a lunch stop. This amazing center of artisan delights is just 1 mile west of Interstate-5 (Exit 33) on Hwy 99 North.
In addition to the Southern Oregon Artisan Corridor, Medford and Southern Oregon offer farm to table dining, more excellent wineries, and exciting outdoor recreation. For more ideas on traveling in Oregon see these articles by Wander writers.
Note: As is common in the travel industry, the writer was provided with a complimentary meal, tastings and tour for the purpose of review. While it has not influenced this review, the writer believes in full disclosure of all potential conflicts of interest.