By Ellen Babin
Pilot staff writer
After hard, back-breaking labor, a vineyard owned by a local family is reaping awards.
Starting from scratch on 70 acres of 330, the Garvin family has grown grapes that yield prize winning wines.
Grapes produced by Sam's Valley Vineyard are made into wine and sold by the Garvins under the name Cliff Creek Winery.
The winery has been honored with more than a dozen awards. Among those are two gold medals, one at the 2007 Northwest Wine Summit and another at the 2007 Newport Food and Wine Festival.
Owned by the Garvin Family LLC, the business includes Lee Garvin and his wife Cristi, and Vern and Dorothy Garvin, all of Brookings; Roy Garvin of Medford and Ruth Garvin of Portland.,
"It looked like a good place, so we said we'll try it," Lee Garvin said of the family's property on the edge of the Rogue Valley, a short distance from Gold Hill.
Digging test holes, sending soil samples to Oregon State University in Corvallis and conferring with experts at the University of California at Davis, were the first steps toward beginning a vineyard.
After many other consultations, the Garvins decided to grow the type of grapes that thrive in the French vineyards of Bordeux; the conditions there are similar to that of the Garvin property.
The first fields of grapes were planted in 2000.
In 2001, when the first grapes were ready to be picked, Lee called friends and families to help harvest.
The first yield was not abundant; the pickers completed the job of gathering 70 acres of grapes in half a day. There was not enough to make wine.
Sam's Valley Vineyard produced it's first commercial crop in 2002. Being a vineyard at the time, not a winery, all the grapes were sold to a number of different wineries.With more fruit than buyers in 2003, Cliff Creek Winery was started. That meant the Garvins could buy their own grapes to be made into wine and sold under their own label.
That year Cliff Creek produced 1,200 cases of claret, and 300 cases of Syrah.
In 2005, production increased again with Cliff Creek producing 1,400 cases of claret and 800 of Syrah.
In the fall of 2006, the vineyard produced 150 tons of grapes. Some of the grapes were sold; Sam's Valley Vineyard provided grapes for 2,500 cases of a variety of wines for Cliff Creek.
Sam's Valley Vineyards is a success because, in part, "it's close to organic as can be; there are no pesticides or herbicides; sulfur is used to help with fungicides; weeding is done by hand, according to Lee Garvin.
The family helps all they can at harvest, which usually lasts from late September to the end of October.
Among Lee Garvin's co-workers during harvest are Christi, managing partner; along with their children Kelly, Teri and Cory. From 30 to 40 workers also help.
Lee describes harvest as a lot of fun and a tremendous amount of work.
Cliff Creek wines are scheduled to be tasted or served at festivals and events every Saturday until the end of 2008.
Wines from Cliff Creek have been featured twice at Flora Pacifica nursery's birthday party in Harbor.
The wines are available in some retail stores in Medford and at restaurants in Portland, Eugene and Ashland.
Though the winery is not yet open to the public, appointments to taste may be made. Phone (541) 855-9819 for information. Or visit the Web site, http://www.cliffcreek.com.