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Fine pairings for fish, fur and fowl

The camouflage and neoprene crowd long has known a good IPA or even a few Coors Lights can be just the ticket for washing down the fresh fish and game meat they bring home from Oregon's woods and waters.

Now Dick Calafato is daring them to put down the bottle opener and pick up the corkscrew.

Go ahead. Take a mouthful of cabernet savignon from his Pyrenees Vineyard and see how it goes with this elk stew.

Now take a quaff of that award-winning savignon blanc and note how that smoked salmon just jumps off the cracker. Now try it with sauteed duck breast.

"Just get these guys to try our wine with wild game, and their expressions say more than words," says Calafato, the vineyard's co-owner.

Perhaps best of all, this party in your mouth comes with admission to the 12th annual Jackson County Sportsmen's and Outdoor Recreation Show, which opens today at the Jackson County Expo in Central Point.

The Myrtle Creek-based Pyrenees is running a booth there highlighting the Southern Oregon wine varieties that go best with the region's fish, fur and fowl.

They're cooking up local fare and letting visitors sample the vineyards' various reds and whites to show how they accentuate different wild dishes.

It's called "pairing," and this new addition to the annual sportsmen's show is enticing even the most loyal sudsmen — if for no other reason than it appeals to their "if-it's-free-it's-for-me-I'll-take-three" gene.

"People will come back two, three times asking to try a different wine with the game," says Calafato, 73. "It's not like we're getting anybody drunk with one-ounce servings, but they enjoy it."

The sportsmen's show, produced by Joe Pate's company, ExpoSure, runs through Sunday. Before coming to Medford, the show made stops this month in Eugene and Roseburg.

Headlining this year's show is the "Jungle Kings," a live lions show from trainer Steve Martin, who last year brought wolves to the Expo.

The stars of the show are two 300-pound male lions, and they are accompanied by Levi, one of two capuchin monkeys to play Jack in "Pirates of the Caribbean" movies.

New exhibits this year include the U.S. Coast Guard's Response Boat and boating-safety display, as well as a solar-powered boat and an "ideal campsite" display by the Boy Scouts of America.

Returning regular David Morris will display his Oregon big-game, record-book animal mounts, which includes a full-body mount of a 2,100-pound bison.

A 180-foot casting pool for fly-casters, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife's fish tank and the annual Southern Oregon Head and Horns Competition also are scheduled for the show.

The game-pairing, however, is drawing the lion's share of interest.

"It's been a huge hit in Eugene and Roseburg," Pate says. "It'll probably be the same in Medford."

Pate wasn't so sure 31/2 months ago when the game-pairing idea popped into his mind.

Though it's not new — numerous books and websites are devoted to the subject — it was new to the Northwest outdoor-show world. Pate talked about it with Umpqua County Fairgrounds folks, who directed them to Calafato.

"I told him, 'Keep in mind the audience who comes to these shows isn't necessarily in your wheelhouse,' " Pate says.

Calafato thought it would at least get his vineyard's name tossed around a few new venues.

"I thought, well, it's different," he says. "And there's nothing to lose."

They bought meat from a Roseburg butcher to make a deer/elk stew, sauteed duck and smoked salmon.

Visitors choose a sample of one of Pyrenees' wines, then have a taste of one of the meats.

The general rule is red wine for red meat, whites for fish or fowl. But they can be mixed.

Bolder, spicier wines accentuate the deer and elk, but good pinot noirs like those grown in Southern Oregon can fit in well with fish and fowl.

And if you like a good cabernet or tempranillo with your goose jerky, have at it, Calafato says.

"Everybody's palate is different," he says.

Twenty years ago, the only thing sounding like wine you might hear coming out of Myrtle Creek were complaints about why the Umpqua River's winter steelhead run was late.

But Southern Oregon's explosion on the wine front, particularly with white pinot gris and red pinot noirs, has landed this outdoor region on the wine-lovers' map.

Getting more hunters and anglers to trade the mug for some stemware is a quest Calafato is willing to try one outdoor show at a time.

"They're reacting well to this, better than I thought," Calafato says. "It's good timing."

Reach reporter Mark Freeman at 541-776-4470, or email mfreeman@mailtribune.com. Follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/MarkCFreeman