The 23rd annual A Taste of Ashland showcases small bites prepared by local chefs along with Rogue Valley wines and a variety of artwork. - Illustration by Bob Pennell

A Taste of Ashland appeals to all the senses

Artistic expression comes in all forms: painting, photography, sculpture. A Taste of Ashland organizers frame art in another way: They include culinary arts and winemaking in the annual art, food and wine walk to be held from noon to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, April 28-29.

Ticket holders ($55 for two days, $45 for Saturday only and $35 for Sunday only) will be able to linger in 17 Ashland galleries, studios and artistic spaces to ponder artworks on the walls and pedestals. In between whispered comments, they can enjoy dishes prepared by local chefs and paired to complement Rogue Valley wines.

"It's an opportunity to bring the best things about Ashland together," says Sue Springer, owner of Illahe Gallery on A Street where she also houses her design studio and creates ceramic sculptures, art tiles and public art. "The weather is typically nice, and people can just park their cars and enjoy our small-town atmosphere."

As art lovers have done for the past 22 years during the event hosted by Ashland Gallery Association, this year's participants may stroll streets downtown and in the Railroad District and wander into places where art is revered and, in some cases, being created on the spot.

"An exciting part of this event is that people can go into artists' studios that have been set up for the Taste and also see artists in galleries doing demonstrations, so there is more than just finished pieces on display," Springer says.

Both days will be unique, say organizers, because restaurants may serve different dishes, and some galleries will feature one food or wine provider Saturday, another Sunday.

"It gets to be competitive with wineries," Springer says. "They get a lot of exposure to people who are interested in food, wine and art, and those people like to talk to the winemakers."

At Illahe Gallery, winemaker Gus Janeway will pour tastes of his Velocity Cellars malbec and William Augustus viognier-marsanne blend. The chefs from Callahan's Mountain Lodge will prepare separate dishes for the red and white wines.

Springer and her staff will reconfigure the floor space to continue showcasing the third annual Artist Book Exhibit and also to accommodate food and wine tables and tasters with tickets.

People without tickets wander in, too, she says, and she directs them to the Plaza kiosk so they can buy a "glass pass" — a wine glass with a special sticker that serves as a ticket — and join in.

"We have a huge number of repeat people from out of town who make this an annual event," she says. "But we always see new faces, too. That's part of the fun."

The Hilltop Gallery at Mountain Meadows is participating again this year. A free shuttle bus will bring people from the corner of Fourth and A streets to and from Hilltop Gallery. Another free shuttle will take people from the Plaza to the Railroad District.

"After walking and drinking a little wine," says Springer, "it's nice to catch the bus and get off your feet for a few minutes."

Call 541-292-2303 or see www.atasteofashland.com.

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