On Buying Wine:

The key is to find a wine shop where you feel comfortable-both physically and in being able to communicate with the owner or salesperson there. Tell him or her, "I don't care about wines with big names; I'm interested in smaller producers." Buy an assorted case (to get the normal 10-15% case discount), and make notes when you try each wine-day, food, impression, whether you liked or didn't like it. Then go back to the same store and the same salesperson, and tell her what you liked and didn't like. This gives her a better idea of your palate, and should yield better recommendations.


Vineyard events keep the spirits flowing


Let's say you want to sample a cross section of local wines, but you'd rather not drive to a half-dozen tasting rooms. One solution is to look for a tasting event that features a variety of these wines, all under one roof or within walking distance.

Some major happenings of this nature that occur annually are Greatest of the Grape in Canyonville in March, A Taste of Ashland in April, The Taste of History in Medford in June, the World of Wine Festival near Gold Hill in September and the Jefferson Public Radio Harvest Celebration in December.

Another that debuted last year and was presented again this year (on June 15) is Grape Expectations, a project of Soroptimist International Rogue Valley Sunrise and the Pacific Wine Club. It's held at the wine club's store and warehouse near the airport and cannot accommodate as many patrons as the others, but it does present an excellent opportunity to sample many local wines in one room.

This year's tasting featured 34 wines from 11 wineries — eight of them from the Rogue/Applegate district (Devitt, EdenVale, Granite Peak, Foris, RoxyAnn, Slagle Creek, Valley View and Wooldridge Creek), two from Douglas County (Brandborg and Spangler) and one from Siskiyou County (Shasta View). In addition, the wine club poured samples of six wines from outside of Oregon.

Some highlights:

* Granite Peak 2000 Rogue Valley Cabernet Sauvignon ($15.75), a very pleasant, fruity new red.
* Daisy Creek Vineyard 2005 Viognier ($18.99), among the best of its kind, made for Daisy Creek by Gus Janeway at RoxyAnn.
* EdenVale Wave label Chardonnay ($14.99), smooth and well balanced.
* Foris 2004 Gewurztraminer ($13.50). Foris has made first-rate gewurz for years. Sweeter than usual but still good.
* Brandborg 2004 Syrah ($26.49), with rich flavor.
* Slagle Creek 2004 Merlot ($12.99), reviewed earlier, a good value.

Some other old favorites like Valley View Chardonnay and RoxyAnn Claret also were available.

Admission prices for these wine and food events vary widely, from $20 to $75. But the more expensive ones are often in the evening and include enough food to pass for supper.

This year's World of Wine Festival at Del Rio Vineyard comes up on Saturday, Sept. 9, 4 to 8 p.m. Tickets go on sale July 20 at Del Rio, RoxyAnn Winery in Medford, Allyson's of Ashland and Elegance of Grants Pass. They're $60.

ADD LARKS TO THE LIST of local restaurants that do a good job showcasing local wines along with local and organic foods. The dining room inside the Ashland Springs Hotel has close to 65 wines on its primary list, plus 12 available in half-size bottles and 11 sweeter choices on its dessert menu.

About a third of the wines are from the Rogue and Umpqua districts, including some labels you rarely see on restaurant lists like John Michael Champagne Cellars, Cliff Creek, Wooldridge Creek and Melrose. Prices by the bottle start at $21. Fourteen are poured by the glass, from $5.50.

I enjoyed a glass of Henry Estate Chardonnay from the Umpqua district with broccoli-feta soup and Maryhill Winemaker's Red, a Washington state blend, with an entrée of portabella Wellington.

THE APPLEGATE VALLEY WINERIES will hold a special tour called "Applegate Valley Uncorked: Behind the Wine" from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday, July 16. At each stop, visitors will learn about some aspect of winemaking from various vendors: tending grapes, Longsword; grafting, Valley View; barrels, Rosella's; tasting, Fiasco; pairing, Wooldridge Creek; bottling, Devitt; making champagne, John Michael; oak impact, Troon. Tickets are $35 and include a lunch to be picked up at Bridgeview. Tickets are on sale at Valley View, Troon and Wooldridge Creek.

SOUTHERN OREGON WINES RECEIVED some national publicity June 24 when the Wall Street Journal ran a story headlined "North vs. South: Oregon's Dueling Wine Regions."

The article pointed out that the Southern Oregon wine region differs from the pinot noir country of the Willamette Valley, producing wines like cabernet sauvignon, merlot, syrah and viognier. It quoted Earl Jones of Abacela (Roseburg), Mark Wisnovsky of Valley View and Kara Olmo of Wooldridge Creek — both of the Applegate Valley — and featured photos of Valley View and EdenVale of Medford.

Reach Cleve Twitchell via e-mail at: clevelinda@msn.com.

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