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New name and format for World of Wine Festival

The World of Wine Festival has a new name, a new look and a new format. The annual summer event showcasing Southern Oregon wineries is now called the Oregon Wine Experience.

The venue remains the same — the big tent at Jacksonville’s Bigham Knoll campus — but major changes are planned. The Oregon Wine Experience is taking its cues from McMinnville’s International Pinot Noir Celebration to open up the festival to attract a wider regional audience, adding winemaker’s dinners, wine-tasting classes, and a big-ticket auction dinner to the event’s traditional Sunday Grand Tasting.

Local growers and winemakers Lee Mankin of Carpenter Hill Vineyard, Joe Ginet of Plaisance Ranch and Cal Schmidt of Schmidt Family Vineyards created the World of Wine Festival 12 years ago to showcase and promote the Southern Oregon Winery Association’s local product. Over time, the number of wineries represented and wines submitted for judging grew exponentially, with the venue moving from a tent at Del Rio Vineyards to the bigger Bigham Knoll site four years ago. The event has always been well worth its rather pricey entry ticket.

Last year, Asante Health System’s Foundation became a sponsor. Asante has now committed to a 10-year partnership with the Southern Oregon Winery Association, with the Oregon Wine Experience as the foundation’s major fundraising effort.

Last year, the World of Wine Festival raised nearly $300,000.

The Oregon Wine Experience runs Aug. 17-19 with the wine judging. Six nationally recognized judges — three more than last year — will taste more than 200 wines submitted by more than 50 Southern Oregon wineries, as well as other Oregon wineries using Southern Oregon grapes.

This year’s judges are business consultant Michele Anderson, wine consultant and journalist Randy Caparoso, Napa-based wine columnist Bob Ecker, wine consultant and writer Doug Frost, Seattle-based Sip Northwest Magazine editor Erin James, and James Beard Award-winning food and wine blogger Mary Orlin.

Anderson and Frost hold the prestigious Master of Wine certification granted after a rigorous three-year program of study, mentoring and testing by the Institute of Masters of Wine in the United Kingdom. Only 312 people worldwide hold this title, with 34 of those from the United States. Frost is also only one of three people in the world holding both the Master of Wine certification and a Master Sommelier title.

The Gold, Silver, Double Gold and Best of Show winners will be announced the evening of Aug. 19 at the Medal Celebration and Barrel Auction. Tastings of the winning wines will be followed by the Rogue Valley’s first barrel auction and an auction of custom crush wine futures. Tickets cost $200.

A series of sensory classes will include a Riedel wine glass seminar; Wine 101, a basic wine-tasting course; a class on vintage variation taught by local winemakers; wine and cheese pairing taught by Tom Van Vorhees of Rogue Creamery; and a panel discussion and tasting on differences in terroir, comparing pinot noirs and chardonnays of Burgundy and Southern Oregon. Classes cost $49 except for the Riedel seminar, which costs $100 and includes a set of four glasses.

Local wine expert Peter Adesman will teach two classes comparing fine Old World wines to the best wines of Southern Oregon. An Adesman Cult Class, featuring selections from Adesman’s own extraordinary wine cellar and limited to 18 participants, is scheduled for Tuesday, Aug. 18, and costs $150. A less rarified Southern Oregon Versus the Old World class at 7 p.m. Friday, Aug. 21, is open to 60 participants and costs $75.

The Grand Tasting is 2-5 p.m., Sunday, Aug. 23 under the Bigham Knoll tent. Winemakers and winery owners from more than 50 wineries will offer tastings of their best wines with local restaurants and caterers featuring wine-friendly specialty foods. There will also be a silent auction of donated wine-related “goodies.” Tickets cost $100.

The Oregon Wine Experience’s big fundraising event is the Miracle Auction and Salmon Bake Saturday night, Aug. 22. Members of the Coquille Indian Tribe will grill salmon on alder planks over an open fire in the traditional manner, while chef Neil Clooney of Ashland’s Smithfield’s Restaurant does beef and pork. Bottles of the Gold Medal-winning wines will be on each table. The auction for big-ticket donated items promises to be lively. Tickets cost $200.

The fundraising goal for the Oregon Wine Experience is $500,000. All proceeds will go to the Children’s Miracle Network program at Asante Rogue Regional Medical Center. The Children’s Miracle Network program provides a dedicated pediatrics department with neonatal intensive care, pediatric oncology, pediatric emergency trauma care and a maternal fetal clinic. There are 170 hospitals participating in the Children’s Miracle Network across the United States.

Roberta Kent is a freelance writer living in Ashland. Reach her at rbkent@mind.net.