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Wine University: Barrels of fun and learning

Most readers of this column are probably aware of the Oregon Wine Experience, an annual rite of summer — Aug. 17-23 this year — that takes place in Jacksonville.

Attracting wineries from around the state to compete for awards and share their products with the public, OWE is a powerful fundraiser for the Asante Foundation. In 2019, OWE raised $1.7 million, all of which stayed local, benefiting Asante Children’s Miracle Network and other Asante health care programs.

What you may not know is OWE has an associated series called Oregon Wine University, which offers classes throughout the year aimed at wine lovers of all stripes, from newly initiated to expert.

The Oregon Wine University advanced series, sponsored by Cowhorn Vineyard, is tailored for the more experienced consumer and industry professional.

“It’s an in-depth winemaker series that focuses on winemaking style,” says Sarahanne Driggs, Asante events officer.

The first advanced series class, “Wildly Sustainable, Properly Oregonian,” delves into the farming practices used to create wines on the cutting edge of sustainability. The talk and tasting, led by Cowhorn winemaker Bill Steele and co-owner Barbara Steele, is scheduled for Friday, April 24, at the new Asante Foundation spaces at 229 N. Bartlett St., in Medford.

The more basic anchor series classes offer fun and unique opportunities aimed at teaching participants to be more astute wine lovers. This year’s slate of classes preserves last year’s popular lineup but offers different wines, pairings and venues.

The anchor series began in January with a session called “Discover Your Tempranillo Palate.” Led by Tim Hanni, this guided tasting of tempranillos from around the state was presented in association with the annual Oregon Tempranillo Celebration.

Next up will be “The Art of Barrel Tasting,” Sunday, April 19, at Irvine & Roberts Vineyards in Ashland. Led by winemakers Vince Vidrine of Irvine & Roberts and Kiley Evans of 2Hawk Winery, the class aims to prepare wine enthusiasts to bid like a pro on wine futures by showcasing wines on offer at the OWE Founder’s Barrel Auction this year.

Certified fromagier Tom Van Voorhees, EdenVale winemaker Ashley Campenella and EdenVale owner Anne Root team up Sunday, June 14, for “Rogue Creamery Cheese and Wine Pairing.” This popular class centers on a menu of OWE wines and famous Rogue Creamery cheeses. “Anne, Ashley and Tom do a triple threat of taking you through the tasting,” Driggs says. The class is held at EdenVale in Medford in an open barn, a covered venue that affords beautiful views of the vineyards and gardens. Last year’s event sold out at 50 participants.

Another highlight on the schedule is “Sip, Swirl, Savor, Scenery & Shakespeare” slated for October. This class combines a walking tour of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival production building in Talent, with food and wine pairings.

“You’re seeing these sets and costumes from the previous festival and sets for the upcoming festival,” Driggs says. “OWE staff will put together food from Elements Tapas Bar in Medford and wines from across the state — everything from bubbles to pinot to syrah. We had 20 guests last year, but we plan on doubling or tripling it because we can start different groups in three different areas in the production space. It’s a big enough space where that will work, and it sold out so quickly last time.”

Last year’s 90-minute class stretched to just over two hours, because people were so involved asking questions.

“We are pricing everything at $45,” Driggs adds, “with the exception of the Riedel class, because the glassware set is included, so that will be $75. The advanced series will cost $55 if a gift bottle of wine is included. That includes a pretty significant tasting with food and, of course, the education.”

The schedule for the year — culminating with a December sparkling wine class at Harry and David Country Village in Medford — will firm up in the coming months. For the latest information and tickets, see www.theoregonwineexperience.com/oregon-wine-university-discovery-series/.

Correction: My Feb. 26 column about DANCIN Vineyards mentioned the 2010 chardonnay sourced from grapes from Griffin Creek as “Adagio,” but the correct name for the chardonnay is “Cappriccio.” Apologies.

What’s your take? Email MJ Daspit at mdaspit@jeffnet.org. For more on this topic, check out her Backstory Blog at mjdaspit.com.