Umpqua Valley wineries win big at the Oregon Wine Experience

September 4, 2016 GMT

Eight Umpqua Valley wineries took home medals in the Oregon Wine Competition at the Bigham Knoll Campus in Jacksonville, Oregon, during the week of Aug. 22-28.

The competition was part of the 2016 Oregon Wine Experience, a fundraiser to benefit Asante Foundation’s healthcare programs, including Children’s Miracle Network. Last year, it raised over half a million dollars for the cause.

Sixty-eight wineries from 13 different American viticultural areas in the state entered over 200 wines in the competition.

The event kicked off with an announcement of the competition results followed by auctions, a salmon bake, live music, tastings, wine classes and dinners at several of the featured wineries.

Abacela Vineyards in Winston won a double gold medal for its 2015 Albariño, gold medals for its 2013 Garnacha and 2015 Blanco Dulce dessert wine and silver for the 2012 South East Block Reserve Tempranillo.

“It was a very fine wine and it was recognized appropriately,” Abacela owner Earl Jones said of the Albariño. He credited the vineyard’s head wine maker, Andrew Wenzl, for a fine job.

“He’s been with us now for over 10 years and knows our fruit and understands how to make it into wine that expresses the terroir of our vineyard,” Jones said, referring to the environmental factors specific to Abacela. The four wines were produced with the vineyard’s fruit and bottled at Abacela.

The climate in the Umpqua Valley allows vintners to grow the grapes so they ripen just as the weather begins to cool in the fall.

“That’s what every person in the wine world wants, because that means the grapes retain their acid, they’re fresh and they have good fruity flavors,” Jones said.

Brandborg Vineyard and Winery in Elkton received a double gold medal for its 2013 Love Puppets Pinot Noir and a silver medal for the 2015 Pinot Gris.

“Every year we’ve won a medal, and we’ve won a gold medal, but not a double gold so this is exciting for us,” winery owner Sue Brandborg said. “It’s really good exposure for all of the Umpqua Valley.”

The judges were prestigious, according to Brandborg.

“They had a big expanse of wines to taste through from cool climates to further south where it’s really warm. The fact that a cooler climate Pinot got such a nice award, that’s exciting for us.”

She said the Grand Tasting at the Oregon Wine Experience is one of the nicest events the Brandborgs pour for.

“Between the music, the food and the wine, it just attracts a lot of really savvy wine drinkers and the whole event has grown so much over the years since Asante took over as sponsor,” Brandborg said.

Reustle-Prayer Rock Vineyards in Roseburg won a double gold medal for the 2014 Syrah and silver medals for the 2014 Pinot Noir and 2014 Tempranillo.

“We’ve just been blessed over the years, our winery has been doing really superbly in competitions throughout the world,” owner Stephen Reustle said.

Wineries from each region of the Umpqua Valley won prominent medals during the competition, and some of the judges, including Adam Lapierre, are known as masters of wine, which Reustle said is a very high credential that only about 170 people in the world have.

According to Reustle, Lapierre had said, “To get a medal in this competition means the wines have to stand out and be exceptional.”

“That really adds to the validity that this was a tough competition, there were tough wines and the Umpqua Valley did really well in it,” Reustle added.

Season Cellars of Roseburg took home a double gold for its 2015 Sauvignon Blanc, and silver medals for 2015 Viognier, 2013 Malbec and Phoenix Red Blend.

Season Cellars owners Scott and Jennifer Henry said they were excited to win medals for each of the four wines they entered in the competition.

“We’re proud to represent the Umpqua Valley well in this competition,” Scott Henry said. “Every winery that entered from the Umpqua Valley got medals, and I think it shows how well the region performed and how well it’s come along here in last few years in terms of quality of wines compared to others from around the state.”

This was the first time each of the four wines had been entered in a competition, and it was the first Sauvignon Blanc Season Cellars has ever made.

“This year it was opened up to the entire state, so that was a plus to the competition, making it more valid and worthy,” Jennifer Henry said. “Each winery could only enter four wines, so ultimately it raised the scale and the bar for the quality of the wines that were entered into the competition.”

TeSóAria Vineyard & Winery in Roseburg won a gold medal for its 2015 Vermentino Secco and silvers for the 2015 Sauvignon Blanc and 2014 Dolcetto.

“It’s an affirmation of the fact that the Umpqua Valley is a world-class place to make wine and it’s also a great way to know that my growers, staff and production folks are all doing a great job of producing wines that talk to our area, our soil and our climate,” owner John Olson said.

He said he enjoyed the classes, barrel auction, salmon bake and Ultimate Vintner’s Dinner.

“It was a really good week-long of events of education and wine tasting, and it seems like everybody did a good job and I’m sure Asante raised a lot of money for their cause,” he said, adding that he considers the Oregon Wine Experience to be one of the more highly regarded and prestigious wine competitions in the state.

Triple Oak Vineyard in Oakland received a gold medal for its 2014 Red Oak Red Blend

“For my small winery, and it’s the first competition outside of the Umpqua. I only entered one wine and to have it win gold was pretty reaffirming,” winery owner Betty Tamm said. “The quality of the judges was amazing and to see all the Umpqua Valley wineries come away with medals was phenomenal for our valley.”

She encourages visitors to come taste the award-winning wines during Umpqua “Wine Your Way,” a self-guided tour of 17 local wineries on Sept. 10 and 11.

Girardet Wines in Tenmile won silver medals for the 2014 Pinot Gris and 2014 Riesling.

“That’s actually the first time that I took home medals in that particular judging on my white wines, so I was pretty excited to see that,” Marc Girardet said. He enjoyed presenting his wines and receiving feedback during the Grand Tasting on Aug. 28.

“Along with the other Umpqua Valley wineries that took medals in that competition, I think it’s a sign of the great soils and climate that we have in this valley, and we’re starting to bring the medals home,” Girardet said. He grows his own grapes on family property in Tenmile, where he said the soils have a lot to offer as far as the flavors they bring to the wine.

Girardet just started harvesting his grapes last week, including the Pinot Gris.

“One vintage won a medal and the next vintage got harvested off the vine, so it’s an exciting time of year,” Girardet said.

Misty Oaks Vineyards in Oakland received a silver medal for the 2013 Stuckagain Heights Pinot Noir.

“The Umpqua Valley did very well and I think it just demonstrates that the region is correct for wine making and it also demonstrates that there’s some talented winemakers here,” winemaker and co-owner of Misty Oaks Steve Simmons said.

This year, the Oregon Wine Experience had more wines than previous years, lending to more competition, according to Simmons. He said he talked with the person responsible for organizing the judging.

“He said even if you got a silver medal, it really signifies the wine was really thought to be a very good wine,” Simmons said. “It’s always exciting, it allows us to brag about it a little bit when we’re pouring it in the tasting room, and it always helps sales when you can tell people that judges that have this skill set to analyze your wine found it to be good.”

For more information, visit www.theoregonwineexperience.com.