Barrels of fun
As wine lovers walked into a 30,000-square-foot tent at the Oregon Wine Experience on Friday, they were greeted with what appeared to be organized chaos.
Booths lining the walls of the tent were manned by owners of wineries from around the state, aided by volunteers pouring wine samples out of slender syringes straight from large, wooden barrels. Cowbells rang and people shouted as bids were placed, knocking lower bids out of the game.
At the Founders’ Barrel Auction, patrons could bid on a single case, five cases or a whole barrel of wine released specially for the event. All the wine was donated for the charity event.
OWE Development Officer Jacob Colmenero said 26 wineries donated 30 lots of wine.
“Our guests are the first to taste these wines,” Colmenero said. “You won’t be able to taste this wine anywhere else.”
All the wine at the event was considered “futures,” meaning it will be delivered to the winning bidder in a month to two years.
“Some of these wines are still in the works,” Colmenero said.
Tony Corallo, owner of Trium Wines in Talent, who won Best of Show in the white wine category Thursday at the Oregon Wine Competition with his 2018 Viognier, donated a batch of Trium’s 2017 Vintage Cabernet Sauvignon to the event.
“We produced 100 cases and donated 5% of what we made to the event,” Corallo said. “It may not sound like a lot, but to us 5% of our whole batch is a lot. This won’t be released to the public for two more years.”
It’s because reds age very well, he explained. “Red wines get softer as they mature. We have a red in the library from 2004.”
Last year the winery won five medals for its wines, but this was the first year it won a Best of Show award, he said.
“It’s exhilarating, and we’re honored,” Corallo said. “We’re also honored to be associated with the Asante Foundation and the Oregon Wine Experience.”
Nearly everyone, winemakers, patrons and volunteers, shared that sentiment.
The Oregon Wine Experience is a multiday fundraiser for the Asante Children’s Miracle Network and other Asante health care programs.
Mark MacQueen, who lives in Austin, Texas, said he comes every year to visit Southern Oregon and his friends from Asante for the event. He bid on at least eight cases of wine Friday.
He said the first year the event took place, a “Miracle kid” — a young girl battling cancer — took the stage and talked about her experience receiving care from Asante. He is the father of three girls, and she was close in age to one of his daughters, which struck a chord with him. That year he bought 10 cases after hearing her story.
“That’s hard to say no to,” he said. “I’m a big supporter of the mission. I think the winemakers really put their best foot forward. All the lots are unique, small barrel batches that you won’t see in the stores.”
According to Christian Gold Stagg, director of development at the Asante Foundation, the health system serves nine counties between Redding and Eugene and has the only pediatric oncologist in the region.
She said patrons have the option to choose where the money they donate goes.
“They can designate their contribution to support other causes if they wish,” Gold Stagg said. “They can designate to cancer services, behavioral specialists or any area they wish.”
Dionne Irvine, co-owner of Irvine & Roberts Vineyards, said the wine they donated was an exclusive blend of chardonnay from the estate in Ashland.
“We had an idea of what we would create, but we didn’t really know until a few weeks ago,” Irvine said, explaining that they start planning every year for what kind of wine they’ll produce for the event during the harvest in September.
“We always want it to be a top-tier blend,” Irvine said.
She said the fact that all the proceeds are donated to the charity “keeps the human touch” apparent throughout the event.
Medford resident Allen Purdy bid on three cases of wine from 2Hawk Vineyard & Winery — malbec from the Darow series.
“I’m very partial to the Darow series,” Purdy said. “I’m also a little biased toward 2Hawk, because I helped build the winery. It’s a great event, plus who doesn’t love wine?”
Attendees were treated to a smorgasbord of treats prepared by the culinary team from Seven Feathers Casino Resort.
“We’re the only event that celebrates everything Oregon,” Colmenero said. “Besides the fundraiser, there are 115 wineries representing 13 of 16 AVAs (American Viticultural Areas) in Oregon.”
Last year, 4,600 attendees helped raised more than $1.3 million over the course of the event, and this year they hope to exceed those numbers.
Saturday’s event features an auction, a traditional Coquille Indian salmon bake dinner and dancing, but tickets to the event are sold out. On Sunday, 100 wineries will pour at the Grand Tasting, which showcases the Gold and Double Gold medal winners.
Colemenro said he’s expecting roughly 1,000 people to show up Sunday.
Tickets for Sunday were still available at press time Friday.
For more information and to purchase tickets, see www.theoregonwineexperience.com.