The Rogue Valley AVA is an American Viticultural Area located in southern Oregon. The federal government approved this appellation in 1991. It is entirely contained within the larger Southern Oregon AVA and includes the drainage basin of the Rogue River and several tributaries, including the Illinois River, the Applegate River, and Bear Creek. Most wineries in the region are found in the valleys formed by one of these three tributaries, rather than along the Rogue River itself. The region is 70 miles (113 km) wide by 60 miles (97 km) long (most of the land within the AVA capable of producing high quality wine is not currently used for grape cultivation); there are fewer than 20 wineries with only 1,100 acres (450 ha) planted. Each river valley has a unique terroir, and grows different varieties of grapes. Overall, however, this region is the warmest and driest of Oregon's wine-growing regions.
The Applegate Valley AVA, established in 2000, is the only sub-AVA in the Rogue Valley AVA. The Applegate River flows through the town of Applegate and near the city of Jacksonville, which was the location of Oregon's first winery (the winery has been restored and re-opened as Valley View Winery). This region contains vineyards at altitudes ranging from 1,000 feet (300 m) to 1,500 feet (500 m) above sea level, and is warmer and drier than the Illinois Valley to the west, but less so than the Bear Creek Valley to the east. Grapes that thrive here include Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Chardonnay and Zinfandel, with Cabernet and Merlot being the dominant varietals.
Bear Creek is the most populated of the Rogue River tributaries, as it flows through the cities of Medford and Ashland. Here, the valley floor is 2,000 feet (610 m) above sea level, and the climate is warm and dry. The climate of the Bear Creek Valley is similar to that of Bordeaux, and it is well suited for cultivating varietals such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Chardonnay, Cabernet Franc, Pinot gris, Sauvignon blanc, Malbec and Syrah.
The westernmost tributary of the Rogue River is the Illinois River, which rises in southern Josephine County, in the Red Buttes Wilderness. The river flows generally northwest along the west side of the Klamath Mountains, past Cave Junction, Kerby and through the Siskiyou National Forest. It joins the Rogue River from the south on the Curry-Josephine county line, approximately 15 miles (24 km) from the Pacific Ocean. The region is marked by high elevation, and is significantly influenced by marine climates. The region is well-suited for growing Burgundy varietals, similar to those grown in the Willamette Valley AVA.