Swafford on Wine: Wine, wine, good wine everywhere and plenty a drop to drink


I have previously pointed out in this space that there were only 35 bonded wineries in Oregon when Christina and I immigrated to Newport from Southern California in 1981. At the beginning of 2020, the number of wineries had reached a staggering 908! And we also know what else happened at the start of 2020.

The COVID-19 pandemic has limited social interaction, causing winery tasting rooms to see few visitors or to close altogether. Of that 908 total wineries, 75 percent are so small they produce less than 5,000 cases per year. Wine and food festivals have traditionally been a way for newer and smaller wineries to make their presence known. The Newport Seafood and Wine Festival, one of the longest running now at 44 years, has grown to 20,000 potential customers for the new releases as more than 180 vendors are normally on display under giant tents.

But this year there will be no giant tents to walk through. Faithful festival goers are asked to experiment with us by going online at newportchamber.org/seafood-wine-festival/2021-to-go-festival. There you will learn how to get your to-go festival basket with two bottles of wine, two wine glasses, wine art by amazing quadriplegic mouth-painting artist Maria Huppi, directions to virtual online wine tastings and cooking demos, contests for prizes and other items.

And for 35 consecutive years, a commercial wine competition has been held. Less than half the normal number of entries were received this year, but the quality was high, and the Newport Chamber of Commerce appreciates the support for the festival shown by the participants.

Normally Oregon’s signature wine Pinot noir would set the pace in winning medals. This year saw 17 entries, but the only golds went to the Sheridan boutique winery Garibaldi Cellars for their 2017 Pinot and the reliable Philomath area Cardwell Hill Cellars 2016 Pommard Block Pinot noir.

An exceptionally good flight of Tempranillo produced three gold medals from the six entered. The 2016 Estate Reserve Tempranillo from Stone Griffon Winery was awarded Best of Show. I asked owner-winemaker Terry McIntyre if he thought this success with a grape that did well in warmer climates could be attributed to climate change. McIntyre told me that Tempranillo, whose mother country is Spain, actually likes higher altitudes where it is cooler. He said his grapes grew at a 500-foot elevation in Carlton, northwest of McMinnville.

Joe Williams’ D’Anu Winery won gold with a 2016 Tempranillo, plus two more gold medals with a 2015 Sangiovese and a 2019 Syrah. Based in Hillsboro, Williams purchased his Tempranillo grapes from Freedom Hill Vineyard west of Salem. A relatively young and small winery, D’Anu is gaining a strong reputation and was the 2017 Best of Show winner with a 2013 Sangiovese.

The third Tempranillo to win gold was Valley View Winery’s 2016 vintage. Owners Mark and Michael Wisnovsky’s parents, Ann and Frank Wisnovsky, revived a vineyard founded by Southern Oregon Rogue Valley pioneer Peter Britt, and for nearly 50 years, Valley View Winery has produced award-winning wines like this Tempranillo. Valley View has attended our Newport Festival all 44 years of our existence. I got the chance to meet the latest generation when Mark’s son, Quinn, delivered wines to the chamber, which you will be able to purchase.

Southern Oregon’s strong showing continued with Roseburg’s Season Cellars winning gold medals for a 2016 Malbec and a 2017 Viognier. Although founded in 2012, this winery’s owner-winemakers, Scott Henry IV and his wife Jennifer Preedy Henry, have a combined 60 years winery experience between them. Scott’s family founded Henry Estate Winery on land they have farmed for more than 90 years. Jennifer’s parents were midwestern farmers before moving to Oregon. I first met her father, Larry Preedy, when he won a gold medal at an early ’80s Newport Seafood and Wine Festival Amateur Competition. The next year he turned pro, founded Airlie Winery and promptly won another gold medal for a Pinot noir in the Commercial Wine Competition.

Yes, at 44 years, our festival has a history, and I am honored to have been a witness to 40 of those years. I have met the pioneers of modern Oregon wine and hosted them in my shop, where they poured their wines. This Northwest wine country has become internationally known. Oregon wine has supported Newport’s festival over the years, and Newport will continue to enhance and return support for Oregon’s great wine industry.

Cheers!

Joseph Swafford, [email protected] 

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