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.
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.