Attending the same wine-tasting event year after year reaps benefits. You have an opportunity to spot trends and witness growth.
The Jefferson Public Radio wine and food party has been a December tradition for 27 years. The focus has always been on Oregon wine. But here's the interesting trend: When it first began, most of the wineries were from places like Newberg, McMinnville and Eugene -- in other words, "up north." The reason was logical: Southern Oregon didn't have a whole lot of wineries.
The 2007 lineup featured 24 wineries. Of that number, 18 were from Jackson or Josephine County. Two were from Douglas County. The other four -- just four -- were from "up north."
Another trend noticeable at ths year's party, held Dec. 6 at Ashland Springs Hotel, was this: the wines keep getting better, especially the reds.
My favorite was Valley View's 2005 Anna Maria Syrah. But I also admired two new reds from Fisaco Winery at Jacksonville Vineyards, 2005 Merlot and 2006 Sangiovese. Weisinger's of Ashland non-vintage Mescolare and 2003 Petit Pompadour, a red blend, were notable, as they have been in the past. Pebblestone (Phoenix-Talent) and Bridgeview (Cave Junction) poured good syrahs, 2005 and 2004 respectively.
John Michael Champagne Cellars of the Applegate offered a new sparkling entry -- Classic Cuvee.
King Estate of Eugene poured samples of two fine 2006 releases, pinot noir and pinot gris, the latter one of the few whites I sampled.
At an event like the JPR tasting, it's impossible to sample evrything or even one-third of all the wines offered. So I look for what's new and shy away from labels covered in recent columns or already reserched for near-future columns.
I concluded the evening with a sip of Valley View's first port, just out this month. It's a good one.
MARK SATURDAY, MARCH 15, on your calendar if you'd like to attend the 2008 Greatest of the Grape at Seven Feathers Hotel and Casino Resort in Canyonville. This will be the 38th annual wine and food celebration put on by Umpqua Valley Winegrowers Association.
Wines fromn 28 Oregon wineries will be paried with food from 14 restaurants. It goes from 7 to 11 p.m. and also includes a silent auction and live music. It's usually a festive evening, although I hope the organizers are working to solve the foot-traffic problems that caused lengthy lines and waits at last year's event.
Tickets are on sale. They cost $75. Call Abacela at 541-679-6642 or go online at www.umpquavalleywineries.org.
THE ASIAN GRILL OF MEDFORD deserves thanks for once again taking part in the "Dine Out for SMART" benefit and serving decent wine.
I enjoyed a glass of Foris chardonnay ($4.75) with a meal of teriyaki chicken, brown rice, green salad and potstickers on Dec. 4. A portion of the proceeds went to the Start Making a Reader Today program in local schools.
Beringer 2005 North Coast Merlot. An attractive California red that holds up well several days after opening. Retail is about $10. Kendall-Jackson 2006 Vintner's Reserve Riesling. I call this a riesling for people who aren't wild about riesling (I'm one of them). I liked its rich silky flavor.
Cleve Twitchell is a retired Mail Tribune editor and columnist. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.