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Prepping for the biggest wine event of the year

JACKSONVILLE — Oregon Wine Experience preparation is no mean feat.

At first glance, one might suspect Rube Goldberg was in charge of the organizational flow chart for the Tuesday through Sunday celebration of the state’s wine industry.

But the logistical details for the multiple-event party on the Bigham Knoll campus runs closer to clockwork than meets the eye.

“What we’ve learned over the years, is that we’ve gotten good with working with a lot of different vendors and a lots of different people and personalities,” said event planner Kimberly Hicks. “It really takes an army of people to make this all happen.”

In 2017, more than 3,500 attendees sampling Oregon’s best vintages enabled Asante Foundation to raise more than $1 million for Children’s Miracle Network and other healthcare programs. Asante Foundation Executive Director Floyd Harmon anticipates more visitors this year with even more dollars flowing to OWE’s beneficiaries.

Sponsorships have grown to nearly 120 this year, up from 105 in 2017, adding $100,000 to the fundraising pool.

The massive tent that will house Sunday’s Grand Tasting now covers 30,000 square feet, an expansion of about 10,000 square feet, Harmon said, providing more elbow room for the more than 1,000 people expected to attend.

Hicks said added staff and volunteers have helped in making the operation run more smoothly.

“At first we were just having to make it all happen,” she said. “We’re able to start refining things a little bit more and get deeper in the culinary portion of it, and work with the chefs better.”

In deference to the neighbors surrounding the event site, preparation and staging activities are limited from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily.

“If we could, we would stage 24 hours, because there’s that much work to be done,” Hicks said. “But we just can’t be a nuisance to them; we try to be as good neighbors as we can.”

A major hurdle each August is reconfiguring the venue multiple times during the week — often transforming the layout midday.

“Some times we’ll have a wine class during the day and tear down and re-set up for that night,” Hicks said. “It got to the point where we had 43 events within seven days, and it was a little bit crazy. We were all getting a little worn out.”

That was remedied by moving the wine judging to the first weekend of the month and spreading wine classes throughout the year.

“That’s allowing us to focus on more on the big main events,” she said.

About 15 vendors supply restroom, the big tent, refrigeration units, ice, lounge set-up and recycling operations.

Patrons will find air-conditioned portable restrooms as well as the usual portable outhouses.

“We had to get our restrooms from British Columbia last year,” she said. “We finally found a local vendor that custom-built the restrooms this year.

“Oregon vs. The Old World” with local gastroenterologist Peter Adesman leads off the pour of events at 6 p.m. Tuesday. Adesman offers side-by-side tasting of some of the best wines produced in the Old World and some of the best produced in Oregon.

“The opportunity to show Oregon wine development versus the Old World wines, is really an unique opportunity,” Harmon said.

The event is sold out.

There are a few tickets left for the 6 p.m. Wednesday Clarity of Crystal seminar, where Riedel Glass representatives take attendees through a tasting with glasses designed specifically for each varietal.

“You see how different wine tastes in a specific wine glass versus a normal wine glass, a standard wine glass or just a water glass,” Harmon said. “This year, they’re going to bring their own custom designed beer glass.”

A dozen Ultimate Vintner Dinners are scheduled at wineries and restaurants throughout the region Tuesday and Wednesday.

There are still tickets remaining for the 5:30 p.m. Thursday Medal Celebration, which is expected to draw more than 500. There were 349 entries statewide produced from 38 varietals by 98 wineries judged the first weekend of August.

“The fun part is that as we reveal, we open the winners,” Harmon said. “For the people who attend you’re the first people to taste the wine.”

Five chefs will prepare food paired for the winning wines.

A sold-out Friday luncheon, featuring K-Bar beef prepared by Seven Feathers chef Mark Henry, will draw 400. A barrel auction of 320 cases of wine futures provided by 19 wineries follows. Tickets are available for the auction.

“About 60 percent of the futures are Oregon Wine Experience exclusive,” Harmon said. “You can’t get them anywhere but here.”

The extravaganza concludes from 2 to 5 p.m. Sunday with the Grand Tasting, which features tastings from 100 wineries and food from a variety of restaurants. The cost is $100 per person.

Reach reporter Greg Stiles at 541-776-4463 or gstiles@rosebudmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter at @GregMTBusiness or www.facebook.com/greg.stiles.31.

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