Last month I paid my second visit of the year to Portland, Oregon and the famed Willamette Valley. I returned for the American Wine Society‘s national conference where I had the honor of pouring six Temecula wines at their ‘Showcase of Wines.’ I followed up on some invitations and flew into Portland a few days ahead of the conference to explore Washington County and King Estate Winery in Eugene.
I checked into the Red Lion at Jantzen Beach headquarters for the conference and attended the orientation for newcomers. Nearly 500 wine lovers had come in from all over the country for two days of seminars, meals and plenty of wine tasting. Opening night we boarded a convoy of buses and headed to Willamette Valley Vineyards where we were greeted by founder Jim Berneau and the effervescent Wende Bennette. Several wineries provided tastings and food was plentiful as we toured the winery and nibbled on gourmet fare as we moved from room to room.
The next morning we enjoyed a sparkling wine breakfast with the wines of Franciacorta, and then headed off to the day’s multitude of sessions. I learned how to become a ’75 minute wine expert’ and then learned about Pinotage (pronounced pinn-oh-taj) with the authority on the subject Peter May. In the afternoon I learned about the different clones of Pinot Noir and how they pair with different foods with Tony Winechef Lawrence.
That evening I had the pleasure of pouring Temecula wines during the ‘Showcase of Wines.’ I offered visitors the 2010 Hart Roussanne, 2011 South Coast Winery ‘Musque clone’ Sauvignon Blanc, 2010 Baily Montage, 2009 Danza del Sol Grenache, 2009 Robert Renzoni Sangiovese and 2010 Doffo Mistura. It was a lot of fun sharing our valley’s wines with people from all over the country, many of whom had never heard of Temecula and for some who had their own perception of Temecula wines. I made several believers that night. Following the showcase I headed to the ‘hospitality suite’, two adjoining rooms with literally thousands of bottles of wine, more than I had ever seen in one place before.
After breakfast the next morning I attended a session on sustainable Oregon wine and food pairings led by the General Manager and Executive Chef of the Red Lion. Following that I attended a session on digitizing your wine cellar using software from Cellar Tracker. What you can do with this software once you’ve set up your cellar is remarkable. After lunch I learned about different Pinot Noir clones and the sub AVAs of the Willamette Valley. Wrapping things up I sat in on a session with Michael Blalock, winemaker at Quady in Madera. We had fun experimenting with alcohol levels and making cocktails with Port and Vermouth.
The ‘Grand Banquet’ was the conference’s final event. We all gathered as Jim Berneau was presented the Award of Merit for his many contributions to Oregon’s wine industry. I truly enjoyed my two plus days at the conference and the opportunity to meet so many wine aficianados and to taste a number of amateur wines, many of them quite good. The 2013 conference will be held in November in Sandusky, Ohio. I highly recommend joining this fine organization and making plans to attend the next conference.