Experiencing our own Oregon Wine Experience

Tasting wine is like reading a first chapter. Life’s too short to waste your time on something you don’t like. I sample wine, and I sample books, but don’t buy into them unless there’s a draw. The Oregon Wine Experience is a great way to try wine and narrow down the favorites, while helping to support a fine charity like the Asante Foundation and Children’s Miracle Network.

I tried to imagine myself at an event that involved 100 award-winning wines. This had the potential to go way wrong if I didn’t avail myself of the taste-and-discard option on multiple occasions. I’d done my homework. I even brought a list of vintages I especially wanted to try.

Lynn agreed to be my companion and I drove Fiona, making a firm commitment to not get behind the wheel impaired. Upon arrival, I reached for my license as proof I was over 21, when I remembered that I’d removed my driver’s license from my wallet when walking and not returned it. So, not only was I tasting a tent-full of wine, but I had no license to drive. Plus, I was in Jacksonville. Enough said about that. I’ve paid my parking tickets, OK?

Some of you may recall I generally avoid a throng, but Sunday afternoon found me under a Ringling-sized tent with hundreds of fellow clowns, er, wine enthusiasts all trying to navigate the scene in resort wear, with decorum befitting a wine event. One thing about enjoyers of wine, we all become downright neighborly after a couple tastings.

Lynn and I wore hats. I reasoned that it would help us locate one another if we became separated, which happened within the first 15 minutes. She stood in one of the food lines while I scoped the layout. The food alone is worth the visit, by the way. Meanwhile, I kept running into people I knew and enjoying a chat with each before flittering off. Meanwhile, I could hear my introvert meter clicking. Side note: Introverts aren’t necessarily shy (no one would accuse me of timidity), we just need solitude to recharge, which is the opposite of extroverts like Lynn for whom a group gathering is like a charging station.

I concluded that wine judging is a lot like judging art. Medals are awarded by knowledgeable people, but opinions and favored grapes must come into play. How in the wide world of winos can these judges get through so many varietals, make an award, and live to tell about it? I’m only a judge as far as my own pallet. I sampled mostly reds and didn’t swallow all of them. But there were some ravishing reds that flowed down smoothly, which shall remain nameless except for one pleasant glass at the last.

Everyone began packing up when time came to exit, and I still had a little punch left on the meter. I turned around to try one last wine on a whim and met Joe Beaton with his daughter, Dawn. Joe and his wife, Cathy (whirlwind to Joe’s zephyr) own and farm Beaton Farm Vineyard & Winery in Murphy. He is the winemaker and she, the vintner. The Beatons farm two acres in Murphy. As in, two. Their tempranillo, a Spanish favorite of mine, wore a silver medal on its chest. Though I’d tried many others and my taste buds had gone for their afternoon nap without me, I genuinely liked it. When Joe drew my attention to the medal by humbly stating he didn’t know how much it meant, I knew they had a reason to crow. I reminded him that hundreds of wineries all over the state had entered up to five wines each, with many coming away empty-handed, but Beaton Vineyard had harvested a silver from two acres in Murphy.

Then he told me they were celebrating the vineyard’s 10th anniversary, and I knew my turning around had made my story. Congratulations to the Beatons and to the many Southern Oregon wine champions!

Reach freelance writer Peggy Dover at and on her Facebook page.

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