Every year for the past 15 years I have attended the Southern Oregon wine event, “Greatest of the Grape”, held at the 7 Feathers Casino and Conference Center in Canyonville, Oregon. This event hasn’t always been held as for years it was held at the D.C. Fairgrounds, where it seemed to be more of a “prom” event. Since relocating to the Casino, it has developed over years into a classy event, IMO.
This year was no exception, as with a new organizer, things were switched up. In this I mean, the “Grand Ballroom” was set up differently, with wineries and food pairings in a different location and more tables in the stage area. Decorations were spectacular, as were the outfits of some of the ladies present. GOG is the premier opportunity for ladies of Southern Oregon to exchange their “muck boots” for 8 inch heels and mini-dresses and put on a show. For those of us who of course are only there for the wine, an opportunity to see what the area vintners have been up to.
The one major change this year was something I was longing for over the past years, a VIP admission. For a few dollars more they sold VIP tickets, and you not only were admitted an hour before the masses, but also given a respectful wine glass for tasting. Of course as usual, I had brought my own tasting glass, a “pinot” style glass I have used for events for years now, which got many stares, comments, as well as a good amount of praise from many Vintners in attendance. Sometimes it’s difficult not to be considered a “wine snob”, when all you are trying to do is taste your way.
Every year awards are given out to the “Best of Show”, best red, best white, best restaurant (for food pairings), etc. I on the other hand will be giving my own personal awards for the best new player. This year I present to you two awards, one for the best new winery, and the other for the best new wine.
My “Best of Show” new winery was Kriselle Cellars fromWhite City, Oregon located outside Medford, Oregon in the Rogue Valley. As I am always searching for a new “greatest of the grape” winery, in this winery I found it. Owners Scott and Kristell Steingraber greeted me with a smile and a “generous” pour of their 2009 Tempranillo. With a hesitant smile on my lips, I gave this dark red a swirl and a sniff, finding the pleasant fruit and pepper I expect from this grape. My first sip presented the deep fruit, plum and spices, along with a grip of tannins, not overpowering, but just right on my teethe and gums. My palate screamed for more, as I continued the roller coaster of length to this Tempranillo. Bravo!
One “note to self” and to my readers. Since Earl Jones first presented Tempranillo as a “stand alone” grape varietal a few years ago in the U.S., many wineries in Oregon have tried their hand at producing wine with this grape. As with other varietal’s soils and climates decide the outcome, and are reflected on the palate. This is the first Tempranillo that I have tasted, that performs anywhere close to that of Earl’s Tempranillo at Abacela, in my opinion.
As the wineries at this event present only one wine, and I really would love to experience the other varietals of Kriselle Cellars, it seems I must make a journey to the Medford area soon. My guess is I will find some new suprises at their new tasting room.
My second award goes to a long time favorite, Girardet who is one of the oldest producing winery inOregon along with the Roseburg, Oregon, Umpqua Valley AVA. I can honestly say that in my years of tasting their wines, I have never found one that I didn’t enjoy. Established and bred to perfection, this winery was founded in 1971 by Philippe and Bonnie Girardet. Now the second generation, son Marc has taken over and since 1999 has been the Winemaker.
With a rather large smile on his face, Mark Giradet stood behind his booth and poured me a taste of his latest creation, a white wine that no other winery in the Umpqua Valley is producing. It is called Cayuga, produced from root stock brought to the area thirty years ago by father Philippe to use in blending. It seems one day Marc tasted some of the juice from these vines and realized this grape could in fact produce a “stand alone” wine.
As I sipped this spear, crisp and refreshing wine, I couldn’t help but notice the wonderful citrus, melon and green apple I got out of it. WOW! I will surly be putting a case of this “limited edition” into my wine cellar, soon.
All in all, quite a great wine experience. If you ever have the opportunity of checking it out, the Umpqua Valley Greatest of the Grape is well worth it.