Another great OWE in the books

Kudos to all the hard-working Asante Foundation staff and volunteers who made this year’s Oregon Wine Experience the most successful to date.

Foundation Events Officer Sarahanne Driggs reports 4,430 attendees turned out for all components of the annual celebration, which raised a record $1,275,000 for the Children’s Miracle Network and other healthcare programs, a 25 percent increase over last year.

Besides being treated to wines from more than 100 different wineries from across Oregon, guests had the opportunity to try artisan charcuterie and cheese, hand-made products of the Applegate Valley’s Wooldridge Creek Vineyard and Winery. I also heard enthusiastic comments about Posh Potties luxury portable restrooms, a much-appreciated upgrade in the creature comforts category.

A highlight of OWE is the Oregon Wine Competition that singles out three Best of Show wines (red, white and specialty). This year’s winners of top honors, Old Ninety Nine Cellars 2014 Tempranillo, Awen Winecraft 2017 Viognier and Quady North 2017 GSM RosĂ©, were all produced by their individual winemakers at Medford’s Barrel 42 custom crush winery. That’s a quite an achievement for owners Herb Quady and Brian Gruber and their staff.

Before the competition results were announced, I had the opportunity to talk with Master of Wine Tim Hanni, one of six judges who tasted through the more than 400 wines entered this year. Hanni said he feels the wine industry needs to recognize and respect consumers’ tastes in wine instead of dictating to them what they should like — which is, let’s face it, what wine judges tend to do when they rate various brands. He explains, “Wine unfortunately and tragically is such an ego-driven thing. People think I’m special because of the wines I like and that I’ve got the best palate. But the best expert on the wines you like is you, because of who you are, not because I say so.”

Hanni suggests the industry may be missing the boat by ignoring some consumers’ preference for wines with residual sugar. “The surprising thing is that sweet wine drinkers have the most taste buds. We’re ignorant about the history of sweet wines. The French always loved sweet wines. It’s not a Coca-Cola thing; it’s a human thing. And the people who love those wines, nobody’s inviting them to the party. Checking into the hotel, I was talking to the receptionist and I asked her what’s your favorite wine, and she said I don’t like wine. I said, I think you do. Do you like Moscato? And she said, I love Moscato. How unfortunate that somebody with a taste for sweet wine would say I don’t like wine rather than tell you what she likes.”

Moscato or Muscat is from the white muscat grape, which is also used for fresh fruit and raisins. The wine is typically sweet, low alcohol (5 to 7 percent) and may offer a little spritz.

A fine Rogue Valley Moscato comes from Ted Gerber’s Foris Vineyards. Foris is one of the region’s oldest and most distinguished producers. Gerber has been growing wine grapes on sites near Cave Junction in the Illinois Valley since 1974. Coastal influence and vineyard elevation make for cool conditions favoring Burgundian and Alsatian varieties. Foris Moscato has enough bright acidity to balance sweetness and bring out flavors of stone fruit and melon.

Another local favorite is winemaker Bryan Wilson’s Cuckoo’s Nest Cellars Early Muscat FizzĂ©. His 2015 vintage earned Best of Show in the specialty category at the 2016 Oregon Wine Competition. With its spritz and fresh fruit flavors, this wine is made to order for a well-chilled aperitif.

Finally, a correction to the column that ran on Aug. 15. Goldback winemaker Andrew Myer emailed that he and Eric Weisinger worked in New Zealand in 2015, but they did not meet until both were back in Ashland in 2016. He also wished to clarify that while he does make his wines at Weisinger Family Winery, he is the sole winemaker involved in creating his vintages. Thanks for keeping me honest!

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