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Monday, March 31, 2014

A Little Taste of Europe

A Little Taste of Europe

Belle Fiore Winery

Story by Lynn Leissler

If a European vacation didn’t make your to-do list this year, then a trip to the Belle Fiore Winery just outside Ashland may offer some compensation. When you observe the winery and the chateau farther up the hill, you might believe you made the trip after all. Elegant structures with panoramic views of the vineyards and surrounding hills further support the illusion. An atmosphere of peace and elegance suffuse, both inside and out. A musical interlude indoors or perhaps under the pergola serves to enhance the mood.

The name itself suggests Old World elegance. Belle, French for beautiful, is embodied in the Chateau and its French architecture. Fiore (Italian for flower) finds expression in the winery’s Italianate architecture. The wines also reflect the blend of the two cultures. Belle Fiore sits on land homesteaded in the early 1880s. Today, vineyards, flowers, plants, shrubs and trees fill the landscape, instead of hay.

When owner Dr. Edward Kerwin was quite young, his parents moved their family into a mansion-style home, birthing a love of beauty in a little boy’s heart. Since his mid-twenties, Kerwin desired a “beautiful place for people to enjoy.” Kerwin, an allergist and immunologist in Ashland, and his wife, Karen, have seen that dream come true. Prior to his medical career, he worked for NASA as a solar energy physicist. Drawing on his scientific knowledge, he utilizes a geothermal heating system that results in an 80 percent reduction of energy use and cost.

The winery boasts elegant interiors, an upper deck and a tasting bar. Depending on the occasion, the wine pavilion can accommodate 150 to 300 guests, indoors or outdoors, and various groups enjoy its use. Many choose the winery for a wedding, but families have also chosen the site for memorials services. A spellbound audience enjoyed a ballet performance on Valentine’s Day. The Estate Club, Belle Fiore’s wine club, meets for events such as the year’s vintage release.

When Director of Operations Timothy Vevoda gives a tour he speaks of Belle Fiore as proudly as a father whose child graduated from college with honors. Interestingly, the Kerwins’ relationship with the Vevoda family goes back far beyond their current association to when Karen’s father played stickball with Tim’s father in San Francisco in the 1930s.

The staff at Belle Fiore is committed to art, science and education, and pleased when people ask questions, watch wine production at various stages or step into the vineyards for a closer look. The winery participates as a gallery for the monthly First Friday Art Walk. One wall of the Great Hall features exhibiting artists, while windows opposite overlook wine production from grapes hand picked and sorted. The Kerwins utilized local talent in creating the setting, including architects from Bend, a Central Point ironwork artisan and the skill of a local tile maker.

Each year the winery sponsors an art competition to create an original label for the current year’s BelleArte Limited Edition Artist Series. Selecting a winner isn’t easy for the judges, says Vevoda.

After recently completing the wine pavilion, Belle Fiore’s future expansion lies in wine production, not facilities. With 45,000 square feet between the two structures, with grand halls and multiple gathering spaces, there is little need. Wine production, as with any agricultural undertaking, however, lends itself to change. The Kerwins planted the first vines in 2006 and started bottling in 2009. Currently, wine is bottled from grapes (15 varietals on 35 acres) grown and pressed onsite. Soon, however, they will also buy grapes to create new blends. Belle Fiore offers three labels—BelleFiore, BelleEsprit and BelleArte.

Belle Fiore offers a perfect outing guaranteed to please the eye with atmosphere, the ear with music, and the palate with a grilled menu. 

Belle Fiore Winery

955 Dead Indian Memorial Rd., Ashland

541-552-4900

www.bellefiorewine.com

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