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.


And the World of Wine winners are ...

* Bordeaux blends/claret: Gold Medal, Valley View Anna Maria 2003 Claret; silver, Troon Ltd. Reserve 2004 "Estate Select."
* Red blends: Gold medal, Paschal 2004 Civita Di Bagnoregio; silver, Wooldridge Creek 2004 Warrick.
* Syrah: Gold medal, Belle Vallee 2004 Syrah; silvers, Brandborg 2004 Syrah and RoxyAnn 2004 Syrah.
* Dessert: Gold medal, Madrone Mountain 2004 Vintage; silver, Del Rio 2004 Syrah Port.

Armed with that list, I made an effort to try a number of the medal winners. A few — like the Wooldridge Creek Warrick and Rose and Troon Ltd. Reserve — I'd had the opportunity to sample on earlier occasions.

I'd have to agree with the experts on the best of show choice. The Belle Vallee syrah was noticeably better than other syrahs I tried that evening — classy and full of flavor. I also especially liked the Daisy Creek viognier, one of the best of its kind around, and Weisinger's excellent cabernet franc.

Both the Valley View and Devitt cabernet sauvignon had appeal, as did the two winning pinot noirs, Sarah Powell and Dobbes Family Estate.

A label not previously familiar to me — Skipping Stone Vineyard of rural Medford — walked away with two medals, gold for merlot and silver for pinot gris, both worthy entries.

Some non-medal winners I found of interest were Crater Lake Cellars 2005 Wood House White and Bridgeview 2003 Cabernet-Merlot.

The Crater Lake white is a blend of pinot gris, chardonnay, viognier, muscat and sauvignon blanc. Its label depicts the historic (1870) Wood House on Highway 62 between Eagle Point and Shady Cove. The winery will donate $2 from each bottle sold to help preserve the house.

The Bridgeview red blend is notable as one of the best of its kind in the under-$10 category. It's an alternative if you don't feel like springing for one of the $20 to $35 local blends on the market.

A newcomer to watch is Schmidt Family Vineyards, not far from Troon and others in the Applegate Valley. It offers an interesting blend of cabernet sauvignon, merlot and cabernet franc called Soulea.


* Covey Run 2004 Columbia Valley Chardonnay. Here's an excellent white from Washington state that costs about $9 and tastes as good as chardonnays twice that price.
* Buena Vista 2003 Carneros Merlot. This California label is known for budget-conscious wines, so the $21 price-tag on this merlot may surprise you. But it is a grand wine, earthy and delicious.
* Kendall-Jackson 2005 Jackson Estates Grown Chardonnay. KJ has earned a reputation for fair pricing, and this chardonnay is a good value at $12. It's a little lighter than some of the winery's previous chardonnays.

Cleve Twitchell is a retired Mail Tribune editor and columnist. E-mail him at clevelinda@msn.com

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