The spirit of wine

As the Latin proverb goes, "It is well to remember that there are five reasons for drinking (wine): the arrival of a friend, one's present or future thirst, the excellence of the wine, or any other reason."

That other reason this Saturday is the fifth annual World of Wine Festival at Del Rio Vineyards in Gold Hill. The event features Southern Oregon's premier wines, gourmet food, music and dancing to Back Porch Swing Jazz.

What makes this festival unique, is the meticulous wine competition it is centered around. World of Wine is the biggest wine competition in Southern Oregon.

"There's a lot of festivals throughout the country, but at this festival all the fruit is grown in vineyards that you live next to," said Lee Mankin, festival coordinator and owner of Carpenter Hill Vineyards.

Indeed that is the only stipulation for entering the competition — the grapes must have been grown in either the Rogue or Umpqua valleys.

The 89 wines featured in the competition come from 35 Southern Oregon wineries and were judged not against each other, but on their own.

Each individual wine was judged against a scale of 20 that is used by wine critics around the world. Judging criteria included quality of the wine, texture, mouth feel, color, clarity, viscosity and varietal character — "does it taste like a pinot gris?"

The wines needed to meet a score of 16 or higher to win silver or gold in the competition. Out of the 89 wines submitted, 20 received silver medals and 10 received gold.

"The region did very well against a trio of world class judges, compared to world class wines," said Roxy Ann winery owner Michael Donovan. "The wines stood on their own legs, and their own merits."

The judges selected by invitation were wine writer and author Doug Frost; general manager of Nevada Wine Agents Ken Fredrickson; and professor, wine writer and contributor James Lapsley.

"We want out-of-the-region, out-of-state judges," Mankin said. "We like to invite them from outside the area so we can help explain what our new wines are about so they can take that back to their area. If we bring people in from outside then we get an outside perspective. We like to bring that to our consumers."

When asked if winemakers tailor wine specifically for competitions, or if they make the best wine they can and hope that it's received well, winemaker Gus Janeway says he tries not to think about the competition at all.

"The true competition is in the glass of the person who buys it," he said. "A wine has to be impressive to taste, but also enjoyable to drink.

"Our stylistic goals are for enjoyment, not necessarily striving to impress "¦ but I'm pleased that they did impress."

As a competition goes, Southern Oregon wines did very well. The judges had just come from a competition where 10 to 15 percent of the wines had commercial flaws of oxidation or corkage. Only three of the wines entered in this competition had those flaws.

According to Janeway, the combination of "high-quality fruit and high-quality facilities is a recipe for world class wines."

People from nine states, Canada and Mexico are scheduled to attend. Non-wine drinkers and ardent collectors alike come to enjoy the festivities.

"We will sell out, and it will be the fifth year in a row that we are sold out," Mankin said. A total of 500 people are permitted to attend. About 50 tickets remain.

Proceeds benefit the Southern Oregon Winery Association and the Rogue Valley Wine Growers Association. Some of the proceeds go to a local charity. La Clinica Del Valle has been a past recipient.

Tickets for the festival are $75 and are available at RoxyAnn Winery in Medford, Chateaulin Selections in Ashland, Del Rio Vineyards in Gold Hill and Elegance Fine Wines in Grants Pass.

"It's a great time to be a local wine aficionado," Janeway said.

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