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Reveling in southern Oregon’s ‘Trifecta of Yummy’
By Tom Adkinson

oregon trifecta of yummy
Rogue Creamery’s Tom VanVoorhees shows off a variety of artisan cheeses, including one made with hops; image by Tom Adkinson.

CENTRAL POINT, Oregon – You feel like a winner whenever you have a memorable food experience while traveling, but this little city can make you a triple winner – and you don’t even have to move your car to visit three regional food treasures. Consider them the Trifecta of Yummy.

Rogue Creamery, the Ledger David Cellars Tasting Room and Lillie Belle Farms belie their modest buildings along Highway 99, not far off I-5 and just down the street from a Walgreens and a carwash. It would be understandable if you didn’t even notice them as you zipped by – understandable, but a lost opportunity for the delights of artisan cheese, wine and chocolate.

The three businesses are quintessentially Oregon. They are pure and natural, they are rooted in family founders and they have fun doing what they love.

mckayla hamlin
McKayla Hamlin, a ninth generation Oregonian, helped plant the vineyard that led to this wine; image by Tom Adkinson.
jeff shepherd
Self-taught chocolatier Jeff Shepherd pulls a tray of apple ginger treats from a display case; image by Tom Adkinson.

Start at Rogue Creamery, named for the Rogue River Valley, which dates to the 1930s. It fared well in the Depression and went into overdrive during World War II, producing more than a million pounds of cheddar cheese for four consecutive years to feed troops overseas.

After the war, founder Tom Vella dreamed of making blue cheese, so he went straight to the blue cheese masters in Roquefort, France, to learn. Today, Rogue Creamery makes several varieties of blue cheese that are sold across the U.S. and internationally. One variety, Rogue River Blue, comes out every September and has fans in Sydney, London and Paris.

Despite that international flair, the retail store in Central Point is decidedly unpretentious. It is far from flashy. Explore a variety of tastes such as Oregonzola (which uses a blue mold from Italy), Hopyard Cheddar (proving hops have a use other than beer) and La Di Da Lavender Cheddar (made with local lavender).

rogue farms grilled cheese sandwich
The Rogue Farms Classic grilled cheese always is on the menu in the Central Point shop; image by Tom Adkinson.

It is difficult to leave without a grilled cheese sandwich for the road. The Rogue Creamery Classic (blue cheese, cheddar cheese and honey) always is available, while a second selection varies. On my recent visit, the second choice featured cheddar flavored with chocolate stout ale.

Of course, wine and cheese go together, which is proven next door at the Ledger David Cellars Tasting Room, the showcase facility for estate wines from a 16-acre vineyard just 20 minutes away.

Ledger David’s signature wine is a Chenin Blanc, and other popular choices include Sangiovese, Tempranillo and several red blends. Ledger David offers cheese trays from – you guessed it – Rogue Creamery, and it’s perfectly OK if you bring in a Rogue Creamery grilled cheese sandwich to accompany your wine tasting experience.

“We’re a very relaxed place,” said McKayla Hamlin, a niece of the owners and a ninth-generation Oregonian. Hamlin said she was 10 years old when the vineyard was planted in 2007 and that she got pulled into the project.

“I hated, hated, hated it,” she recalled with a laugh, “but I’m very proud I was involved. Visitors learn our history and get to know us. It’s very personal.”

Ledger David’s production is modest, about 3,200 cases a year, and it is on the wine lists of about a dozen restaurants in southern Oregon. The best experience, however, is the personal touch at the tasting room.

  lillie belle farms candy
Lavender sea salt caramels are the crowd favorite at Lillie Belle Farms; image by Lillie Belle Farms.

Lillie Belle Farms, heaven for lovers of fancy chocolates, completes the Trifecta of Yummy. Owner Jeff Shepherd, who started the business in 2002, is a self-taught chocolatier who says he never has stopped experimenting. Just seven years into his profession, Shepherd was named one of the top 10 chocolatiers in the U.S. by Dessert Professional Magazine.

Peering into the display cases of truffles, ganaches, bon-bons, caramels and other temptations can cause great indecision about what to buy. Shepherd’s biggest seller is his lavender sea salt caramels, and another big favorite is the Smokey Blue Truffle, made with Rogue Creamery blue cheese, of course.

Even chocolate bars come with a flair here. Consider the Oregon Flying Pig (caramelized bacon, maple syrup, milk chocolate and a dash of smoked salt), Whiskey in the Bar (organic dark chocolate aged in charred oak whiskey barrels) and the spicy and slightly scary Do Not Eat This Chocolate Bar (milk and dark chocolates, ghost chilies, Aji Amarillo chilies and a splash of Chili Arbol).

The Trifecta of Yummy is not quite 300 miles south of Portland and not quite 20 miles north of Ashland, home of the famous Oregon Shakespeare Festival.

Trip-planning resources:,,, and

(Travel writer Tom Adkinson’s new book, 100 Things To Do in Nashville Before You Die, is available at

Published July 5, 2019

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