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Slagle Creek has a Claret with a Kick

Date: Sat, Mar 20, 2010 Wine Tasting Wine Business

Bob Denman is a true representative of wine, thinking of it at every turn. He purchased his land in the Applegate Valley in 1980 and immediately thought of a vineyard. So much so
that he planted his vineyard before he built his house.

"I knew it was something I wanted to do and if I didn't do it right away it would slip away. I couldn't let it fall to the wayside."

His 5 acres are nestled in the heart of the Applegate Valley. His first vintage in 2001 produced just 200 cases of Merlot. Since then his production has grown to ten times that! The wines produced are predominately of the Bordeaux variety, but also a Chardonnay and a lil ol' Syrah that I can't wait to get my hands on. His wines can be found typically at Ray's Food Place, Market of Choice, Fred Meyer and the Ashland Food Co-op. Bob was gracious enough to share his 2006 Claret with us, which happened to win a bronze medal at the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition this year.

The Slagle Creek 2006 Claret is a force of nature. When that cork is released it rushes out of the bottle gasping for air like a 10 year-old in a public pool. The wine opens up nicely once the alcohol odor blows off to produce a wonderfully complex nose. Between Christine and I, we detected deep cocoa, bold coffee and caramel, slight cinnamon, faint anise, a slight draw of baked cherries, and some polished leather aromas. The wine has great texture and mouthfeel as it glides smoothly across the palate with very little astringency which is surprising considering the grapes involved: 45% Merlot, 35% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 20% Cabernet Franc. The only drawback was the high alcohol content. There was a slight burn on the way down, which may not sit well with some, as it makes it a harder wine to just have a glass of. I however, appreciate a heavy duty wine with a slight kick to it.

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Beyond the Kitchen with Chef Heubel of The Jacksonville Inn Dinner House

Date: Thu, Mar 18, 2010 Wine Tasting Wine Business

The Jacksonville Inn Dinner House lives by the motto, “Old Friends and New Friends.” It’s a place where you can come and feel welcome. While they strive to provide an unpretentious dining experience, they also created the standard for Southern Oregon fine dining. Here, you can come in for that 50-year wedding anniversary dinner and be sure that no small detail of your experience is over looked, or come in wearing your kick back blue jeans and say howdy to some of the same faces you have seen working here for decades.

The Jacksonville Inn Dinner House has two separate menus. The Dining Room menu is geared towards more of a white tablecloth experience, while the Bistro menu is more of a casual dining experience. Both menus and dining areas exude the Jacksonville Inn charm and tradition, and both offer great value for the dining experience. While you can find traditional menu items that have been offered here for decades, with recipes that are over a half century old such as our Jacksonville Inn Prime Rib or Veal Scaloppini, you can also find more innovative items such as the 36 hour braised beef short ribs cooked sous vide, or bacon wrapped pork tenderloin with maple roasted butternut squash puree and pine nut green beans in an apple cider reduction. These last items are on the newly created “Chef’s Specialty Selections” portion of the menu that is highly seasonal and focused on locally produced items and change frequently with seasonal availability. It’s a great way to stay connected with the farmers, foragers and ranchers in the area.

Bill Heubel is essential in creating the description above as the Executive Chef of The Jacksonville Inn Dinner House. When asked what inspired him to become a chef Bill explains, “For as long as I can remember, I have always been interested in food and cooking. I lived next door to my elementary school so, as young as 10-11 years old, I would start a basic dough before school and leave it out to proof, and at lunch time, I would walk home and make hot dog pizzas with the dough. I cooked the family Easter dinner almost exclusively by myself when I was 13. From there, all career paths pointed to chef.”

Heubel came to work at the Jacksonville Inn almost one year ago after working in North Carolina at the Old Edwards Inn and Spa. He was looking to return back to his native West Coast and decided to apply for The Jacksonville Inn position. He rose to the top of the list beating out 300 other applicants.

Since moving to Southern Oregon Heubel has discovered how great Southern Oregon is from a culinary standpoint. “There are more specialty agriculture products here in Oregon then I had previously imagined. I love to be close to areas that produce great products. We have a fantastic emerging wine industry, great artisan cheese makers, on the cusp of a budding olive oil industry, pears, wild mushrooms, hazelnuts, local grain mills, small, family farms and ranches, truffles, crab, bay shrimp, razor clams and other seafood specialties, gosh, I could go on…”

Chef Heubel plans to dedicate more time to checking out Southern Oregon wines in the following months. The inn boasts a 2,000-label wine cellar selected by the owner, Jerry. Heubel cannot even fathom how he handles the feat. Currently, Heubel is very impressed with Valley View’s Anna Maria Tempranillo from the Applegate Valley.

The Jacksonville Inn Dinner House is host to many fabulous winemakers dinners throughout the year, like the sold out one taking place tomorrow evening to kickoff The Oregon Cheese Festival. Heubel receives wine samples and creates food to compliment the wine. Heubel adds, “Wine dinners, for me, are all about the wine. My food will take a back seat and be used simply as a vehicle to elevate the wine to it’s full potential.”

Heubel concludes, “As I approach my one year anniversary here in Oregon, I am only now realizing all this area has to offer and I feel that great things are happening.”

Stay up-to-date with Heubel's creations through his blog Beyond the Kitchenand Twitter. And be sure as peak tourism season is approaching to book your reservations at The Jacksonville Inn Dinner House.

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We Will Start a Winery. We Will Be Quite Rich.

Date: Thu, Mar 18, 2010 Wine Tasting Wine Business

While reading my regular wine blogs this morning, I found this one posted by Jim Gullo on b/t/w. Watch what happens when one hipster New York City sommelier decides to sell everything, start a winery, and be rich.

"We will make lots of money making wine that tastes like dirt."

"I want to give up my skin tight 7 jeans for the freedom and movement of Carharts."

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Lets do an experiment! "The Hand" vs. "The Land"

Date: Tue, Mar 16, 2010 Wine Tasting Wine Business

I am proposing a Southern Oregon wine experiment! Who is with me??

Here is how it will work: Five top-notch winemakers will share their grapes and create an incredible experiment. Each of the winemakers will send a barrel's worth of single-vineyard fruit to the others and each will make wines with the vineyard names. I am electing for Syrah to be the varietal chosen.

The result will be a collection of 25 wines, sourced from the same five vineyards, that demonstrate what each winemaker brings individually to the expression of the wines made from that fruit. "The Hand" vs. "The Land," so to speak. A portion of the proceeds from the sell of the collection will go towards charity.

It would be a great addition to any cellar (especially my growing one)!

Five winemakers from the Willamette Valley (Laurent Montalieu, Lynn Penner-Ash, Ken Wright, Ted & Terry Casteel, and Steve Doerner) did the first Oregoncellar crawlwith Pinot Noir that was released last July at the annual International Pinot Noir Celebration (IPNC).

Who do you think the five Southern Oregon winemakers should be? What varietal would you chose? I will gladly compile the recommendations and propose it to the Southern Oregon Wine Association.

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The Book of my Dreams?

Date: Thu, Mar 11, 2010 Wine Tasting Wine Business

Possibly. But, I'll have to read it first!

I have been in agony lately trying to find a book on the topic of wine that captures my attention. There are just so many dull ones on the shelf. But, I have the inclination that Michale Gelb's new book, Wine Drinking for Inspired Thinking: Unocrk Your Creative Juices will not be the case.It sounds like the perfect read for a book club (or should I say wine club)? If anyone is interested in reading the book along with me,email me.

I am so anxious to get this book in the mail that I am regretting choosing Amazon's standard 3-5 day shipping! Look for my review of the book in the coming month(s).

What writers of influence are saying:

There are more books on wine available now than ever before, but this one is special. In Wine Drinking for Inspired Thinking: Uncork Your Creative Juices, Michael Gelb has taken a totally differenct approach to understanding and having fun with wine by combining poetry, philosophy, art, music, and science. This is a not a book just about wine but the many people who have enjoyed the pleasures of wine throughout history. It is also filled with valuable information on buying, storing, and serving wine, along with his ultimate wine and food combinations. In the process, Gelb inspires us to enjoy a more creative approach to the art of living and drinking.
- Kevin Zraly, author of The Complete Windows on the World Wine Course

Wine Drinking for Inspired Thinking: Uncork Your Creative Juicesis an essential addition to your wine library. Michael Gelb's unique "right brain" approach makes wine appreciation easy and fun. This book offers exceptional insights into the creative process and a truly delightful way to bring people together. It will bring thunder to your world!
- Gary Vaynerchuk, host of Wine Library TV and author of Crush It!

Few things in life are as invigorating as great wine and bold ideas. And only Michael Gelb could combine the two into a single masterful book. Wine Drinking for Inspired Thinking: Uncork Your Creative Juicesis an engaging and inspiring guide for everyone who wants to drink well and thing big.
- Daniel Pink, author of A Whole New Mind

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Oregon Cheese Festival Dishes up a Delicious Event!

Date: Thu, Mar 11, 2010 Wine Tasting Wine Business

At the 6th Annual Oregon Cheese Festival on March 20th, thousands of visitors will sample cow, sheep and goat cheese from Oregon and North California creameries. Held at Rogue Creamery in Central Point from 10 a.m.- 5 p.m., the event will allow guests to mingle with cheesemakers in a farmer's market format. Among the creameries participating areFraga Farm,Juniper Grove Farm,Pholia Farm,Tumalo Farms,Silver Falls Creamery,Siskiyou Crest Dairy,Tillamook County Creamery,Willamette Valley Cheese Company,Fern's Edge Dairy,Rivers Edge Chevre,Ancient Heritage Dairy,Cypress Grove,Vella Cheese andRogue Creamery.

Other culinary artisans expected to participate are Lillie Belle Farms, Dagoba Organic Chocolate, Gary West Meats, Rising Sun Farms, Applegate Valley Artisan Breads, Butte Creek Mill and Pennington Farms, Wandering Aengus Ciderworks, Deux Chats Bakery, Dry Soda, Cascade Peak Spirits and Rogue Ales. Wineries pouring include Slagle Creek Vineyards, Paschal Winery, Madrone Mountain Vineyard, EdenVale Winery, Valley View Winery, Agate Ridge Vineyard, and Daisy Creek Vineyard.

To commence the festival, a Meet the Winemakers and Cheesemaker Dinner will be held at the Jacksonville Inn on Friday, March 19th at 6:15 p.m. Each course will showcase a cheese made by one of the festival's vendors and be paired with local wine. The dinner is $75 per seat and proceeds will benefit the non-profit Oregon Cheesemaker Guild.

Admission to the festival is $10 and for an additional $5 guests can taste wine and will received a logoed wine glass. For more information contact Rogue Creamery at 1.866.396.4704 or www.roguecreamery.com.

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Welcome Back Farmers' Markets!

Date: Wed, Mar 10, 2010 Wine Tasting Wine Business

After months of being forced to shop at the grocery store, the Southern Oregon growers' markets are returning to bring back pleasure in shopping and planning for weekly meals!

There are always a great selection of local fruits, vegetables, cheeses and baked goods to pair with your favorite Southern Oregon wines. I am hoping the garlic guru will be back at the Grants Pass Saturday Farmers' Market this year. He had over 15 varieties of garlic!

Artisans and musicians are abundant as well. Last year at the same market I bought a t-shirtfrom Elemental Designs and got a free CD. Its folky tunes have become my summer soundtrack (The Sleeping Owl by Itchy Itchy Ickabod).

Of course Chris likes to go so he has an excuse to eat pulled pork sandwiches at 9:00 a.m. :)

Southern Oregon boasts eight weekly markets:

Ashland Tuesday Market- Opens March 16th
Ashland Armory
8:30 a.m.- 1:30 p.m.

Ashland Saturday Market, Opens May 1st
Lithia Way & First Street
9:00 a.m.- 1:00 p.m.

Grants Pass Saturday Farmers' Market, Opened March 6th
4th & F Street
9:00 a.m.- 1:00 p.m.

Grants Pass Wednesday Farmers' Market, Opens June 6th
Riverside Park
9:00 a.m.- 1:00 p.m.

Jacksonville Saturday Market- Opens May 1st
C Street
9:00 a.m.- 3:00 p.m.

Klamath Falls Saturday Farmers' Market, Opens June 6th
9th Street
10:00 a.m.- 1:00 p.m.

Medford Thursday Market- Opens March 18th
Medford Armory
8:30 a.m.- 1:30 p.m.

Roseburg Saturday Farmers' Market, Opens April 3rd
Roseburg Valley Mall
9:00 a.m.- 1:00 p.m.

Shop Local.

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All the Ingredients for a Great Night

Date: Wed, Mar 10, 2010 Wine Tasting Wine Business

Although not strictly related to Southern Oregon wine, Chris and I attended a book reading of The Grailat Lange Estate Winery in the Dundee Hills last Saturday. I originally read Brian Doyle's book last winter and it was one of my inspirations to dive into the Oregon wine industry so intently. Brian spent about two years chronicling the people, vines, and activities of Lange- mainly Jesse Lange, a second generation winegrower. Brian read the honest and quirky accounts of hanging with Jesse or being told to sit alone and to not disturb anyone/anything during Harvest. Jesse piped in at times and before you know it an hour and a half had passed and what could have been a live reinactment. During the reading we sipped on the deliciously toasty 2007 Lange Estate Winery Pinot Noir and giggled with Rob and Carey of my favorite blog,Corks and Caftans(He loves wine; She loves fashion).

Afterwards, we tagged along with Rob and Carey to Farm to Fork for food, wine and conversation.We started off with the impressive 2006 Genius Loci Pinot Noir, a bottle Rob picked up at Genius Loci earlier that day. Next up, afterstarring at the abundant wine list Farm to Fork offers for what seemed like ten minutes, I spotted the 2006 Abacela Estate Tempranillo and knew it was the perfect bottle to cap off a perfect evening. The tempranillo was deep red with bold flavors of black fruits, spice and a hint of smoke. No surprise this 91 point wine by Wine Enthusiastwas loved by all.

All my favorite things were summed into last Saturday evening- great people, an interesting book, fabulous wine, food, and memorable conversation- to easily make one of my favorite nights of the year! It was so great to meet such an amazing couple who share so many of our interests. Chris and I can't wait until we get to explore wine country again with Rob and Carey (please, please, please come back soon, in fact, just move here already!). Until then, we will resume our hunting of great Oregon wines (easy task) to recommend for them to review and post on their blog. If you haven't checked out Corks and Caftans then you MUST. No one can capture a bottle of wine with words and photos like Rob and Carey. Quote me on that.

- Christine

* Photos snatched from @CorksandCaftans via Twitter

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Southern Oregon Wine Institute Hires Leading Winemaker as Instructor

Date: Sat, Mar 6, 2010 Wine Tasting Wine Business

As reported by Douglas County The News-Review, Umpqua Community College has named a new interium enology instructor who will join two others hired to fill in for the former head of its wine program.

Linda Donovan of Pallet Wine Company and L. Donovan Wines will teach the Science of Winemaking III course in the Spring term, which begins March 29th. Donovan is not new to working with UCC, as she partnered with the school last year to produce a premium Merlot that was sold through the UCC foundation.

Chris Lake, Director of UCC's Southern Oregon Wine Institute, says, "We are delighted to have an enologist of Linda Donovan's caliber on our faculty. She has made some of the finest wines produced in this region and has a solid track record of teaching at Oregon State University Extension as well."

Donovan is the third adjunct instructor hired this year after the young wine program lost its Assistant Director, Rebecca Ford-Kapoor, when she moved back to her homeland New Zealand to attend to family matters. UCC is still searching for a permanent hire to fill the vacancy for next year.

Donovan is a founding partner of Medford's Pallet Wine Company, a custom crush facility created to serve Southern Oregon's rapid growing wine industry in 2009. Last year, the facility reportedly processed more than 180 tons of wine grapes, far exceeding their expectations.

Donovan earned her enology degree from the University of California at Davis. She has worked at leading wineries including Robert Mondavi, Beaulieu Vineyard and Flowers Vineyard and Winery. In 2000, Donovan came to Southern Oregon and established a 10-acre vineyard and launch a consulting company, L. Donovan Wines.

About the Umpqua Community College Southern Oregon Wine Institute:
Prompted by demand from winemakers and vineyard managers, Umpqua Community College's Southern Oregon Wine Institute is "preparing a new generation for thousands of jobs expected over the next decade," according to Dana Tims of The Oregonian. Southern Oregon is projected to add nearly 5,000 jobs directly or indirectly related to the wine industry in the coming decade. That translates to $115 million in added annual labor income.

The institute, spanning a 7-county area, contains a 5-acre teaching vineyard in Roseburg with plans to build a $7 million educational winery once the appropriate money has been fundraised. The Southern Oregon Institute focuses on its native warm-climate varietals, which differs from the cool-climate focused Northwest Viticulture Center in the Willamette Valley.The program offers a one-year certification program in Viticulture and Enology, Wine Marketing Assistant Pathway Certificate, and two-year Viticulture and Enology Associates Degree.

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7 Southern Oregon Wineries Win Terroir-Based Awards!

Date: Fri, Mar 5, 2010 Wine Tasting Wine Business

What sets the Grand Harvest Awards apart from the rest? Terroir! Established in 1990, the Grand Harvest Awards is the only wine-judging event in North America based on terroir- "a group of vineyards (or even vines) from the same region, belonging to a specific appellation, and sharing the same type of soil, weather conditions, grapes and winemaking style, which contribute to give its specific personality to the wine." Judges tasted wines with other wines of the same appellation, and judged them based on the context of their viticultural region, thus removing cross-region competition. Twenty-three judges evaluated over 1,500 entries.

Applegate Valley AVA

Silver Medal
Schmidt Family Vineyards, 2007 Soulea ($34)
Schmidt Family Vineyards, 2007 Syrah ($34)
Schmidt Family Vineyards, 2008 Viognier
Schmidt Family Vineyards, 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon ($36)

Bronze Medal
Schmidt Family Vineyards, 2007 Merlot ($30)
Schmidt Family Vineyards, 2008 Chardonnay

Rogue Valley AVA

Gold Medal
Del Rio Vineyards, 2007 Claret ($35)

Silver Medal
Del Rio Vineyards, 2008 Pinot Noir ($28)
Del Rio Vineyards, 2007 Syrah ($35)
Del Rio Vineyards, 2008 Chardonnay ($20)

Bronze Medal
Del Rio Vineyards, 2007 Merlot ($28)
Del Rio Vineyards, 2008 Pinot Gris ($16)

Southern Oregon AVA

Silver Medal
Spangler Vineyards, 2008 Malbec ($28)

Bronze Medal
Spangler Vineyards, 2008 Sauvignon Blac ($17)
Spangler Vineyards, 2007 Sage's Hill Estate Syrah ($35)

Umpqua Valley AVA

Gold Medal
Melrose Vineyards, 2008 Viognier ($18)

Silver Medal
Melrose Vineyards, 2008 Pinot Gris ($16)
Reustle-Prayer Rock Vineyards, 2008 Timnah Bloc Tempranillo ($26)
Reustle-Prayer Rock Vineyards, 2008 Reserve Tempranillo ($38)
Reustle-Prayer Rock Vineyards, 2008 Masada Bloc Syrah ($32)
Reustle-Prayer Rock Vineyards, 2008 Reserve Syrah ($38)

Bronze Medal
Delfino Vineyards, 2007 Vin Gris de Zinfandel ($16)
Delfino Vineyards, 2007 Syrah ($26)
Delfino Vineyards, 2007 Zinfandel ($23)
Girardet Wine Cellars, 2008 Chardonnay ($16)
Reustle-Prayer Rock Vineyards, 2008 Pishon Bloc Pinot Noir ($31)
Reustle-Prayer Rock Vineyards, 2008 Reserve Pinot Noir ($38)

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Tonight is an Albariño night!

Date: Thu, Mar 4, 2010 Wine Tasting Wine Business

In honor of Abacela's facebook post:

The 2009 white and rosé wines are in the bottle... next up is the 2008 Dolcetto and Garnacha!

Here is a video with the Tasting Room Manager, Linda, talking about Abacela's signature white wine, Albariño. Abacela is the only winery in Oregon growing this white Spanish varietal. Wines made from Albariño are very aromatic, often having scents of almonds, apples, peaches, citrus, grass or minerality. It is a great pairing for seafood according to Jancis Robinson because of its "razor-sharp acidity." Albariño should be enjoyed in its youth due to tartness that does not age well. The 2008 Abacela Albariño ($20), although sold out in the Tasting Room, can still be found in bottle shops to hold us over until the 2009 is released. We found three bottles at the Press Wine Bar in Dundee, Oregon. Looks like tonight will be an Albariño night!

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New Oregon Winery Legislation- Land Use and Nonwine Sales

Date: Tue, Mar 2, 2010 Wine Tasting Wine Business

A popular topic in Oregon wine news for the past few months has been Senate Bill 1055. The Oregon Legislature passed the bill last week allowing them to decide what private events will be allowed at Oregon vineyards and how much nonwine sales are permitted (25 percent). State senators adopted the House amendment that would sunset the bill in 2012, what's left unexplained is who will be responsible for making sure wineries abide by the new rules.

Yesterdays Medford Mail Tribune article titled,"Winery legislation levels the playing field,"states that Southern Oregon winery owners are in support of the new bill. Chris Martin of Troon Vineyard and president of the Southern Oregon Winery Association said, "It provides clarification, regardless of where you stand on the issue." He continues with "It levels the playing field and we can all move forward."

In drafting the bill, wine growers said they wanted to preserve the nature of rural vineyards and wineries and prevent them from becoming event centers, yet also provide opportunities for creating a sustainable bottom line. Some counties felt weddings didn't have much to do with the wine. I can see their point as wineries usually mandate a dollar or case amount of wine to be purchased for the wedding and the party often buys the cheapest of the winery's wine to serve their guests, leaving poor representation of the winery. However, wineries are beautiful settings for events such as weddings and reunions and it enhances the romantic feel around wineries, which does connect customers with the winery's brand and products.

The bill compromises the two sides by allowing the nonwine events sales to 25 percent, which is a safeguard to keep the majority of the wineries business activities focused on wine production and sales. Even if the bill went in the opposite direction allowing all wineries wide open use, I doubt many wineries would shift their focus away from the wine for events. Having equal permissions between counties and state is necessary. But, one thing to be determined is who will enforce the bill? The bill should have little effect on Southern Oregon wineries as winery owners state that their nonwine sales do not even come close to the new cap.

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'Tis the Season for Wine Festivals- Next up- SIP

Date: Mon, Mar 1, 2010 Wine Tasting Wine Business

With the Portland Seafood & Wine Festival, Newport Seafood & Wine Festival and now SIP- the 17th annual McMinnville Wine & Food Classic- every weekend has become a wine weekend! SIP will be held at the Evergreen Space Museum in the heart of the Willamette Valley's wine country March 12-14th. It will feature superb cuisine, local artisans, chef demonstrations, live music, wine education seminars, and wine tasting from some of the best wineries and vineyards in Oregon (forget Newport, this is my kind of wine festival!). General admission is $15 and does not include wine tasting fees, which vary by vendor. Festival hours areFriday: 3-9:30 p.m.,Saturday 12-9:30 p.m., andSunday 11 a.m.- 5p.m.

Many Southern Oregon wineries including Abacela, Cliff Creek, Crater Lake Cellars, Edenvale, Girardet, Henry Estate, Hillcrest, Marshanne Landing, Melrose, Palotai, Spangler and Troon will be pouring. This will be a great opportunity to showcase premium Southern Oregon wines up north.

In fact, Southern Oregon already earned 10 medals in the festival's wine competition.

Gold Medal
EdenVale Winery, Rogue Valley, 2003 Pear House Reserve Cabernet Franc
Spangler Vineyards, Umpqua Valley, 2008 Malbec
Spangler Vineyards, Umpqua Valley, 2007 The Terraces Petite Syrah

Silver Medal
EdenVale Winery, Rogue Valley, 2005 Pinot Noir
Girardet Wine Cellars, Umpqua Valley, 2007 Frostbite Gewurztraminer
Melrose Vineyards, Umpqua Valley, 2008 Viognier

Bronze Medal
Cliff Creek Cellars, Rogue Valley, 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon
Cliff Creek Cellars, Rogue Valley, 2006 Merlot
Girardet Wine Cellars, Umpqua Valley, 2008 Baco Noir
Melrose Vineyards, Umpqua Valley, 2008 Pinot Gris
Patotai Winery, Umpqua Valley, 2006 Arany Szarvas

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The Grape WILD West

Date: Sun, Feb 28, 2010 Wine Tasting Wine Business

As the Newport Seafood & Wine Festival wraps up today I thought I would share my experience in attending this event for the first time. I had heard many crazy stories about Newport Seafood & Wine, mainly from working in restaurants and having employees call me the morning after looking for someone to cover their work shift. I have also heard them from the winery's perspective. I was given advice to attend the festival on Friday or Sunday for quieter crowds, but with work and school Saturday was my only option.

As a college student myself, the Newport Seafood & Wine Festival felt like Halloween night at Oregon State University. It reminded me of an over-crowded fraternity house oooozing with funky odor, hot and humid body heat, and where the only thing on people's minds were whether their cups where full (with no idea as to what concoction was in the cup).Cheering took place about every 5 minutes when someone would drop and break their glass.The attendees were young, making my 23 years of age, around the low average (reiterating the Millennial Generation as a growing wine consumption segment or typical alcohol chasing young people). People flocked from all over the state, but the consensus I heard was mainly from Portland, Salem, Corvallis and Eugene. Fortunately, a majority had hotel reservations in Newport. The "cool kid" spot seemed to be outside by the port-a-potties where people socialized only going back inside for refills- again, much like college parties.

The wineries ranged from quality producers (14 Southern Oregon wineries) to value producers like Barefoot Winery, Chateau Ste. Michelle Winery, Hogue Winery and Sutter Home Wines. When I first got there it seemed surprising to have Washington and California wine producers present, but then I realized that 17,000 people would attract these often entry-wine and mass-produced brands (just think, Barefoot often sells for $5 a bottle- charging 50 cents per taste and $3 for a glass- not bad return on investment). Wine tastings seem to dwindle to buying wine by the glass as the day progressed. Pourers seemed stunned when asking about their wines, because they were probably only asked a handful of times throughout the day. In most cases the line to get wines from a specific producer was too long to even get a question out before feeling the pressure of the people in line behind you.

Most off-site events do not bring in a lot of money, if at all, to wineries. The purpose is to get the brand name out there to support future sales in retail and restaurant. However, it was the opposite at this wine event, in most cases, the wineries I talked with were making money on tastes and glass sales (due to crowd size and drinking preferences), but weren't counting on attendees remembering what wines they liked. This could detract quality wineries from pouring at the Newport Seafood & Wine Festival in the future and bring in more Barefoots of the world whose target market is beginning wine drinkers.

Then there was the seafood. Food vendors were spread out sporadically through the two tents, but mainly in Tent 1. Mo's was the only restaurant I recall serving at the event and the people I was with really enjoyed their chowder. The other vendors seemed more county fair-like, lacking quality seafood. Was it weird, I never saw a whole crab throughout the day besides the mascot? It might have been odd trying to crack a crab if there was one, because I never saw seating available.

Overall, it was good for me to experience the Newport Seafood & Wine Festival. I know now to avoid pouring at such events in the future. The wine and seafood got lost in the drunken crowd.

Newport Seafood & Wine Festival is in much need for a revamp. I could see why they wouldn't want to do such a thing, because the Newport Chamber of Commerce is making great money on $10-$20 admission attracting 17,000 people each year. But, for quality wineries to continue to participating and to be known as a seafood event, major repositioning will need to happen.

EDIT: It was brought to my attention that I did not discuss which wines I tasted and liked at the event. The first wine I tasted was the Hillcrest 2007 Orsatian Dry Riesling ($24) and it was my favorite white wine of the day. Its minerality and full body is a great choice for pairing with seafood. Hillcrest only sells their wines in their Roseburg tasting room and at the festivals they pour at so it was a good time to restock. My choice red from the event is a tie between the Misty Oaks 2007 Gobbler's Knob (red blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cab Franc, and Malbec) and Griffin Creek 2007 Merlot.

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