The Southern Oregon World of Wine Festival sure looks like a series of carefree parties.
But from its start 11 years ago, it's had a serious goal: Attract discerning wine buyers.
People who attended the Southern Oregon World of Wine Awards Dinner last night, Aug. 9, were the first to hear results from the WOW competition.
Official 2013 WOW winners
Best of Show
White – Pebblestone Cellars 2012 viognier
Red – Spangler 2010 claret
Other category: Cuckoo's Nest Cellars 2012 fizze
(required unanimous gold medal scores by all judges)
Cuckoo's Nest Cellars 2012 pinot gris
Daisy Creek 2010 malbec
Foris Vineyards 2012 pinot blanc
Irvine Vineyards 2009 pinot noir
Jaxon Vineyards 2011 grenache
Quady North 2009 4,2a syrah
Folin Cellars 2010 petite sirah
Kriselle Cellars 2010 tempranillo
Quady North 2012 Pistoleta white blend
RoxyAnn Winery 2009 merlot
Serra Vineyards 2010 pinot noir
Serra Vineyards 2008 Bendock Estate pinot noir
Soloro Vineyards 2011 Solitaire Reserve viognier
Abacela Estate Vineyards 2012 viognier
Abacela Estate Vineyards 2009 malbec reserve
Agate Ridge Vineyard 2009 petite syrah
Bridgeview Vineyards 2012 viognier
Cliff Creek Cellars 2007 claret
Cliff Creek Cellars 2009 sangiovese
Cuckoo's Nest Cellars 2012 Aromatique
Daisy Creek 2012 marsanne
Daisy Creek 2010 syrah
Del Rio Vineyards 2011 viognier
Del Rio Vineyards 2011 pinot noir
Del Rio Vineyards 2011 cabernet sauvignon
Foris Vineyards Winery 2011 riesling
Foris Vineyards Winery 2011 Maple Ranch pinot noir
Girardet Wine Cellars 2011 Old Vine baco noir
Girardet Wine Cellars 2011 baco noir
Irvine Vineyards 2010 pinot noir
Jaxon Vineyards 2011 Tradicion
Jaxon Vineyards 2011 tempranillo
Kriselle Cellars 2012 viognier
Kriselle Cellars 2012 sauvignon blanc
Kriselle Cellars 2010 cabernet sauvignon
LaBrasseur Vineyard 2011 Ethan Cole
Ledger David Cellars 2010 tempranillo
Misty Oaks Vineyard 2012 Julio's Hill pinot gris
Paschal Winery and Vineyards 2012 viognier
Pebblestone Cellars 2012 pinot gris
Pebblestone Cellars 2008 melange
Pebblestone Cellars 2009 cabernet franc
Pebblestone Cellars 2009 syrah
Plaisance Ranch 2011 viognier
Plaisance Ranch 2011 pinot noir
Plaisance Ranch 2010 Rouge Prestige
Plaisance Ranch 2010 syrah
Quady North 2012 Steelhead Run viognier
Quady North 2011 GSM
Quady North 2008 syrah
Red Lily Vineyards 2012 Lily Girl rose
Red Lily Vineyards 2009 Red Lily tempranillo
RoxyAnn Winery 2009 claret
RoxyAnn Winery 2009 tempranillo
Sarah Powell Wines 2008 pinot noir
Schmidt Family Vineyards 2012 chardonnay
Schmidt Family Vineyards 2012 albarino
Schmidt Family Vineyards 2012 doce nectar
Schmidt Family Vineyards 2010 malbec
Schmidt Family Vineyards 2010 merlot reserve
Schmidt Family Vineyards 2010 reserve cabernet sauvignon
Schultz Wines 2011 Mission viognier
Serra Vineyards 2012 Rosa Marie
Serra Vineyards 2010 merlot
Slagle Creek Vineyards 2011 syrah dessert
Slagle Creek Vineyards claret NV
Soloro Vineyard 2011 Thunderegg Cut
South Stage Cellars 2011 albarino
South Stage Cellars 2010 pinot noir
Spangler Vineyards 2010 cabernet franc
StoneRiver 2004 Red Velvet merlot
StoneRiver 2003 syrah
TeSoAria Vineyard and Winery 2012 vermentino
TeSoAria Vineyard and Winery 2011 Bull's Blood
Trium Wines 2010 cabernet sauvignon
Troon Vineyard 2011 chardonnay
Troon Vineyard 2011 Insomnia port
Troon Vineyard 2010 syrah reserve
Valley View Winery 2011 Anna Maria viognier
Valley View Winery 2009 Anna Maria chardonnay
Valley View Winery 2012 Anna Maria sauvignon blanc
Valley View Winery 2008 Anna Maria late harvest sauvignon blanc
Provided by WOW (www.worldofwinefestival.com)
The grape-growing founders of the summer wine event, which returns to Jacksonville Aug. 21-24, needed local wine grapes to be known for their quality.
That way, the growers reasoned, they could sell more varieties to vintners and create a vineyard destination out of undefined farmland.
To accomplish this, WOW originators — Lee Mankin of Carpenter Hill Vineyard in Medford, Joe Ginet of Plaisance Ranch in Williams and Cal Schmidt of Schmidt Family Vineyards in Grants Pass — went about it the hard way.
They created a wine competition, hired out-of-state judges and demanded that they be critical.
From the judges' unfiltered remarks, then-fledgling wine producers would learn how to improve their process and the region would start to build a stellar reputation.
The idea is working.
Southern Oregon is getting attention from national wine experts and publications, and the number of wine brands here has tripled since the first WOW event in 2003.
Today, judges Christy Canterbury, Peter Marks and Jennifer Simonetti-Bryan, all with hard-earned Masters of Wine credentials, will complete their two-day task of blind tasting and evaluating about 180 wines made from grapes grown in the less-recognized southern part of the state.
From these entries, they will decide which deserve a medal.
Their thoughts — good, bad and honest — will be revealed tonight at a dinner that, for the first time, will be open to the public.
"The region's wine has advanced dramatically," says Les Martin of Red Lily Vineyards, who volunteers with WOW. "You now have professional winemakers working here, like John Quinones at RoxyAnn Winery (in Medford), and the judges have noticed the improvement."
Tonight's World of Wine Awards Dinner at Hanley Farm in Central Point is the prelude to four days of wine-centric events to take place in two weeks at the Bigham Knoll Campus in Jacksonville.
It's fitting that the events are centered around a historic school.
Education has helped fuel the region's enology success, says WOW co-founder Mankin, who has graduated to making his own wine, as have Ginet and Schmidt.
On Saturday, Aug. 24, more than 700 people will gather at the Grand Tasting on the campus in search of their favorite syrah, chardonnay or one of the other 70 locally grown varietals.
Making the tasting event unique is that the 50 family-owned wineries usually send the winemaker, grape grower or tasting room manager to answer questions about the decisions made in the vineyard or the barrel room.
Want to know why Earl Jones' once-rare Spanish varietals from his Abacela property in Roseburg now grow across the region?
Wonder how Traute Moore of South Stage Cellars decided to buy a six-acre vineyard in Talent in 1989 that has spread to more than 300 acres and supplies grapes to the state's top vintners?
Curious about Cowhorn Vineyard and Garden outside Jacksonville and owner Bill and Barbara Steele's biodynamic vintages that Wine Spectator and Robert Parker have rated at 90 points or higher?
Since education is a foundation of WOW, there are wine seminars that lead up to the Grand Tasting.
People comparing winning wines can take home Riedel Vinum glasses and those in climatologist Greg Jones' presentation will learn about the world's varying vineyard geography, geology and weather.
WOW first-timer Margaret Pashko, who moved from California to Jacksonville in May, bought a $30 ticket to a sensory evaluation of wines on Thursday, Aug. 22, led by Dwayne Bershaw of the Southern Oregon Wine Institute at Umpqua Community College.
On Friday, Aug. 23, the wine institute is putting on a professional conference at Bigham Knoll focused on the economic wine forecast, viticulture varieties and building a $1 million winery.
Wine novice Pashko won't be there, but she will listen to Peter Adesman, a WOW speaker who has been conducting blind tastings in his Medford home since 1991. He will compare Old World wines to Southern Oregon's.
"I know what I like to drink," Pashko says, "but I don't know the process."
Sampling wine and tapping experts during a party, she adds, is an easy way to gather information.
"Now that I'm living here with all these wonderful wineries," she says, "I want to know more. WOW will make that fun."
Reach reporter Janet Eastman at 541-776-4465 or firstname.lastname@example.org