Oregon wines show swagger against Old World

JACKSONVILLE — The more one tastes Oregon wines, the more the homegrown vintages stand up to Old World counterparts.

At least that’s what the participants determined at this week’s Oregon Wine University class “Oregon Versus Old World,” led by local wine savant Peter Adesman. Of the eight blind comparison tastings pitting Oregon vintages of similar age and cost against French, Spanish and Italian wines, participants generally favored Oregon wines.

Of course, as Adesman told the attendees, there were no right or wrong answers.

The Tuesday evening session under the big tent at Bigham Knoll in Jacksonville was the first of a series of Oregon Wine Experience events highlighted by Thursday night’s wine competition medal celebration and Sunday’s Grand Tasting. Adesman, known for his personal wine-tasting events, leads Oregon Wine University classes annually.

William Koch, the beverage manager and buyer for Market of Choice, and Liza Jussiaume of the Ashland Wine Cellar, rounded out the panel.

The taste comparisons reflect the region’s advancing quality, Koch said. Rather than capture sales at the expense of other winemakers, as they did in the region’s infancy, vintners have developed “community spirit.”

“We’re learning from each other,” Koch said. “We’re a serious wine region, making serious wine. We’re making wines that are not only competing with each other or Napa, but we’ve developed our own terroir and competing on the world market now against these French wines, against these Spanish wines. As you see, it’s not my opinion. It’s a group of people’s opinion that your need to take Southern Oregon seriously.”

Jussiaume said she prefers education tastings because it allows consumers to expand their universe.

“When you live in a brand-new baby wine region, everybody gets into local wines,” Jussiaume said. “They want to drink tempranillos and pinot noirs, and that’s all they want to do because they think that’s what their wine region does. They know one side, but do you know where else they grow and where else they’re from? There is wine from your region and wine from other regions. When you compare them and try them together, then you can judge how American tempranillos and pinot noirs are.”

Dancin’ Vineyard’s 2016 Barbera Tribute crushed its opposition, a 2015 Podere Ruggeri Corsini Barbera d’Alba.

For the relative newcomer, much was to be learned, such as few grapes produce red juice — Alicante Bouschet of French origin, and Mondeuse noire from the Savoy region. Adesman noted cabernet, merlot, pinot and syrah grapes all produce white juice.

“You can get incredibly nice wine made from grapes that have almost no skin content that look like white wine, and they’re made from red grapes,” Adesman said.

Pitting his own grapes used exclusively in the 2016 Rattlesnake Butte Vineyard Syrah, the audience in a blind comparison easily preferred the local wine over a 2015 Saint Cosme Côtes-du-Rhône (Syrah Cuvee).

Among the 60 attendees were Dennis and Pam Dreeher of Grants Pass, and Ted and Mary Tsui of Talent. It was the first OWE event for the Dreehers, while the Tsuis have frequented the assemblage for five years.

Ted Tsui discovered how times have changed during eight flights, ranging from sauvignon blanc and rosé to barbera and syrah.

“I thought it was very easy to taste the difference between Oregon wine and Old World wine,” Tsusi said. “But tonight’s experience tells me — no, I cannot tell what is Old World, French or Italian wine. There is no difference.”

Dennis Dreeher said he picked up a more subtle understanding of wines gathered by Adesman for the occasion.

“I learned a lot of things about different smells and flavors and ways to evaluate wine,” he said.

While food pairings weren’t part of the agenda, Mary Tsui had several ideas.

“I would have liked a good salad with one of the rosés,” she said. “Of course, a good pasta dish with the tempranillo or syrah; and a steak — charred on the outside — with one of the syrahs or Bordeauxs.”

Reach reporter Greg Stiles at 541-776-4463 or Follow him on Twitter at @GregMTBusiness or

Share This Story