Feb 28, 2010
As a college student myself, the Newport Seafood & Wine Festival felt like Halloween night at Oregon State University. It reminded me of an over-crowded fraternity house oooozing with funky odor, hot and humid body heat, and where the only thing on people's minds were whether their cups where full (with no idea as to what concoction was in the cup). Cheering took place about every 5 minutes when someone would drop and break their glass. The attendees were young, making my 23 years of age, around the low average (reiterating the Millennial Generation as a growing wine consumption segment or typical alcohol chasing young people). People flocked from all over the state, but the consensus I heard was mainly from Portland, Salem, Corvallis and Eugene. Fortunately, a majority had hotel reservations in Newport. The "cool kid" spot seemed to be outside by the port-a-potties where people socialized only going back inside for refills- again, much like college parties.
The wineries ranged from quality producers (14 Southern Oregon wineries) to value producers like Barefoot Winery, Chateau Ste. Michelle Winery, Hogue Winery and Sutter Home Wines. When I first got there it seemed surprising to have Washington and California wine producers present, but then I realized that 17,000 people would attract these often entry-wine and mass-produced brands (just think, Barefoot often sells for $5 a bottle- charging 50 cents per taste and $3 for a glass- not bad return on investment). Wine tastings seem to dwindle to buying wine by the glass as the day progressed. Pourers seemed stunned when asking about their wines, because they were probably only asked a handful of times throughout the day. In most cases the line to get wines from a specific producer was too long to even get a question out before feeling the pressure of the people in line behind you.
Most off-site events do not bring in a lot of money, if at all, to wineries. The purpose is to get the brand name out there to support future sales in retail and restaurant. However, it was the opposite at this wine event, in most cases, the wineries I talked with were making money on tastes and glass sales (due to crowd size and drinking preferences), but weren't counting on attendees remembering what wines they liked. This could detract quality wineries from pouring at the Newport Seafood & Wine Festival in the future and bring in more Barefoots of the world whose target market is beginning wine drinkers.
Then there was the seafood. Food vendors were spread out sporadically through the two tents, but mainly in Tent 1. Mo's was the only restaurant I recall serving at the event and the people I was with really enjoyed their chowder. The other vendors seemed more county fair-like, lacking quality seafood. Was it weird, I never saw a whole crab throughout the day besides the mascot? It might have been odd trying to crack a crab if there was one, because I never saw seating available.
Overall, it was good for me to experience the Newport Seafood & Wine Festival. I know now to avoid pouring at such events in the future. The wine and seafood got lost in the drunken crowd.
Newport Seafood & Wine Festival is in much need for a revamp. I could see why they wouldn't want to do such a thing, because the Newport Chamber of Commerce is making great money on $10-$20 admission attracting 17,000 people each year. But, for quality wineries to continue to participating and to be known as a seafood event, major repositioning will need to happen.
EDIT: It was brought to my attention that I did not discuss which wines I tasted and liked at the event. The first wine I tasted was the Hillcrest 2007 Orsatian Dry Riesling ($24) and it was my favorite white wine of the day. Its minerality and full body is a great choice for pairing with seafood. Hillcrest only sells their wines in their Roseburg tasting room and at the festivals they pour at so it was a good time to restock. My choice red from the event is a tie between the Misty Oaks 2007 Gobbler's Knob (red blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cab Franc, and Malbec) and Griffin Creek 2007 Merlot.
Feb 24, 2010
- Visit their Tasting Room in Roseburg
- Attend their winemaker dinner at the Jacksonville Inn this Friday, February 26th
- Check out their booths at the McMinnville Food and Wine (SIP) Festival March 12th-14th
- Taste their wine at the Greatest of the Grape on March 20th
- Attend their winemaker dinner at the Steamboat Inn on Saturday, March 27th
- Look for the yellow foiled wines on your local wine shop's shelf
To summarize it best, The New York Post author Joseph Gallivan writes, "Just over the Coastal Range, this rustic grape-growing region in one of the sunniest, non-desert parts of Oregon is worth a detour. From bright Tempranillo at Abacela to the spicy Baco Noir at Girardet (and on to the rich, surprisingly sophisticated Bull's Blood at the funky, Hungarian-influenced Palotai), the Umpqua's all about memorable reds. Winemaking here is still a laid-back affair- take it slow and meet the people behind the wines."
Feb 20, 2010
Feb 18, 2010
More coverage of our time with Rob coming soon!
Feb 17, 2010
All the wineries entered into both contests will be pouring at the Newport event, so it is a great opportunity to taste the array of award-winning Southern Oregon wines.
The Portland Seafood & Wine Festival
Agate Ridge Vineyard, Rogue Valley, 2008 Barrel Fermented Viognier
Melrose Vineyards, Umpqua Valley, 2007 Vintage Select Pinot Noir
Agate Ridge Vineyard, Rogue Valley, 2007 Estate Bottled Primitivo
Agate Ridge, Rogue Valley, 2008 Sauvignon Blanc
Cliff Creek Cellars, Rogue Valley, 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon
Crater Lake Cellars, Rogue Valley, 2008 Grenache
Crater Lake Cellars, Rogue Valley, 2008 Old World Blend
Girardet Wine Cellars, Umpqua Valley, 2008 Baco Noir
Girardet Wine Cellars, Umpqua Valley, 2007 Frostbite Gewurztraminer
Girardet Wine Cellars, Umpqua Valley, 2008 Riesling
Griffin Creek, Rogue Valley, 2006 Viognier
EdenVale Winery, Rogue Valley, 2003 Cab Franc
EdenVale Winery, Rogue Valley, 2003 Late Harvest Viognier
Melrose Vineyards, Umpqua Valley, 2008 Pinot Gris
Misty Oaks Vineyard, Umpqua Valley, 2007 Goblers Knob Red Blend
Misty Oaks Vineyard, Umpqua Valley, 2008 Pinot Gris
Palotai Vineyard, Umpqua Valley, 2006 Attila Bordeaux Blend
Spangler Vineyards, Umpqua Valley, 2008 Chardonnay
Spangler Vineyards, Umpqua Valley, Petite Syrah
Troon Vineyard, Applegate Valley, 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon
Troon Vineyard, Applegate Valley, 2007 Insomnia Port
Troon Vineyard, Applegate Valley, 2006 Old Vine Meritage
The Newport Seafood & Wine Competition
Agate Ridge Vineyard, Rogue Valley, Cabernet Sauvignon
Melrose Vineyards, Umpqua Valley, Pinot Noir
Palotai Winery, Umpqua Valley, Open Red
Valley View Winery, Applegate Valley, Cabernet Sauvignon
Chateau Lorane, Umpqua Valley, Open Red
Cliff Creek Cellars, Rogue Valley, Red Blend
Crater Lake Cellars, Rogue Valley, Open Red
Troon Vineyard, Applegate Valley, Druid's Fluid Rosé
Troon Vineyard, Applegate Valley, Druid's Fluid
Girardet Wine Cellars, Umpqua Valley, Open Red
Melrose Vineyards, Umpqua Valley, Rosé
Melrose Vineyards, Umpqua Valley, Syrah
Misty Oaks Vineyard, Umpqua Valley, Pinot Gris
Misty Oaks Vineyard, Umpqua Valley, Red Blend
Feb 12, 2010
Feb 10, 2010
Feb 9, 2010
Feb 6, 2010
Feb 4, 2010
Gus got his start in Minnesota of all places in the mid-1990s. He was searching for a new career path after doing a short stint teaching high school photography and math. He noticed that there was, of all things, a small local winery and showed up one day to see what he could do. He started by flattening cardboard boxes, stacking wine and even helping out in the tasting room. There was also the need to pallet-jack full tanks around their tiny facility, so he got the full winemaking experience in that, as everyone knows, winemaking is 90% cleaning things up and 10% moving things around. He even did some vineyard work, which led to the realization that there must be a more comfortable place in the world to grow grapes than Minnesota.
The Rogue Valley was just that place. Gus was interested in "traditional" Bordeaux varietals but figured all the good vineyard sites had been taken in such established places as Napa and Sonoma. His wife, Julia, had contacts in Southern Oregon and was able to line up a job. Gus had set out originally to follow the standard path of pursuing a degree from Davis or some such thing, but the array of opportunities in the Rogue Valley kept him too busy to follow that course. Array of opportunities is an understatement for all the places Gus has made wine- Quail Run Vineyards, Paschal Winery, and RoxyAnn Winery.
Gus had always intended for Velocity to be his sole project, but events conspired to put him at the helm of winemaking at RoxyAnn Winery in Medford even before he had bottled his first Velocity vintage in 2002. This forced his personal winemaking project to the back burner where it simmered along for six years.
It wasn't until Gus stepped away from RoxyAnn a year ago that he was able to refocus his efforts toward marketing, albeit at a challenging time economically. He rebuilt his website, created e-commerce, pushed through the complex web of interstate shipping, and got a solid handle on his business. More importantly, it also means that he gets more time to work with his wines, and more time to work with Randy Gold who is now his sole supplier of grapes (except for a little Marsanne he picked up last fall).
Gus’ approach to winemaking is to above all pay attention to character. To him this means, “Tossing out preconceptions about which varietals make the best wine, especially in other parts of the world, and to pay attention to those grapes which come out of the vineyard, year after year with characteristics born of the place they were grown.” His goal with Velocity is to produce the Rogue Valley's definitive wine, which is to say a wine unique enough, and delicious enough, to have come only from this one winegrowing region. Gus explains, “This is why attention to the grapes' inherent character comes first, because I can't create character where there isn't enough to begin with. This approach has led to some surprises. I wouldn't have put nearly so much faith in Malbec twelve years ago as I do now, but after watching the fruit come in vintage after vintage it is the varietal which, for me, has become the most compelling to work with. I feel the same way about Viognier and Cabernet franc here, although the latter presents more of a gamble from a ripening standpoint.”
Gus describes his family as a huge amount of fun right now, with Theo (4) and Josephine (2) making for thrill-a-minute days. “We read, play games, dig for worms, and just have a pretty great time together. They, and Julia, are always very appreciative of my wines. As often as I can, I get out for a bike ride to really feel alive. Currently I'm enjoying my new (used) mid-eighties era Della Santa steel road bike, a gift from Julia for Christmas last year.”
Look for the release of 2006 Velocity late this winter or early spring. It is the first Velocity bottling to be, essentially, a Malbec, since it is 88% Malbec and 12% Cabernet franc. In early summer anticipate the fourth version of his limited production Velo rosé, which is a great summer and grilled salmon wine.
Wines are available online to those within and beyond Oregon, but they are also distributed fairly widely within the state, so try your local wine merchant. Tip: Right now Velocity wines can be found in the RoxyAnn Tasting Room, thats where I bought mine!
Feb 1, 2010
We recently received our first question about Southern Oregon Wine! Jack from Medford Oregon writes:
Southern Oregon Wine Blog:
I ran across your blog a few weeks ago and have been checking in every so often. I like how you have a fresh take on wine in my area, and I wanted to know if you could help me with a bind I’m in. I am hosting the super bowl party this year and I wanted to introduce wine to all of my beer drinking friends. However, I don’t want it to be uppity or snooty, I want it to be a fun event for my friends to casually be introduced to wine. Any ideas?
Christine, I'll take this one. Jack, what you have to remember that the key to any man is through his stomach. You want your pals to have a good time and enjoy wine? Make sure you serve great food. Not fancy, intricate food, it's the super bowl so don't change your game plan (pun definitely intended), serve super bowl food.
These foods usually start it out: Chips and dip (my fav is jalapeno artichoke dip!), nachos, and Buffalo wings (are they Buffalo wings if they aren't made in Buffalo?) followed by pizza, burgers or fried chicken. And last, there is usually some sort of dessert that we force ourselves to eat even though we are so full already. Make sure you stick to a similar menu so your friends can stay in their comfort zone food-wise and take on something new in the beverage department. I'll keep it simple:
Chips and jalepeño artichoke dip: 2007 South Stage Cellars Sauvignon Blanc $18 - This wine won't break the bank and the tropical fruit aromas highlight this wine, perfectly paired with the warm, mildly spiced dip.
Nachos: 2007 Foris Gewurztraminer $16 - This Gewurz has some spicy notes to it and it's slight residual sugar offers some change of pace from all that cheesy/spice deliciousness.
Buffalo wings: 2008 Pebblestone Cellars Viognier $19 - This wine has a nice citrus after taste that will complement the heat that buffalo wings bring. Not only that, but it was the only wine from Southern Oregon to win a double gold at the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition!
Cheeseburgers: 2006 Stuckagain Misty Oaks Pinot Noir $26 - This wine is dark for a Pinot and has some incredible smokiness that would go great with bbq burgers. Top the burger with some pepper jack cheese and let the flavors co-mingle.
Pizza: 2007 Wooldridge Creek Terravow $20 - This blend of 60% Tempranillo, 30% Zinfandel, and 10% Syrah is a smooth jammy blend that will rock those pepperoni's.
Fried Chicken: NV Longsword Accolade $20 - As surprising as it sounds, a good bubbly and fried chicken go great together. And the Accolade, with it's slight residual sugar makes it a great sipper.
Brownies/Cookies: 2006 Abacela Port $25 - This port will finish off the night perfectly. Grab a delicious chocolate confection and raise a glass of this port with me in celebration of another Colt Super Bowl victory!