Superlative Time

May 1, 2019

Greatest of the Grape honors Umpqua Valley

By OWP Staff

Greatest of the Grape, Oregon’s oldest wine festival, continued its historical run with its 49th iteration on April 13, inside Douglas Hall at the Douglas County Fairgrounds — a new venue for the event. Presented by the Umpqua Valley Wineries Association, the gala featured 28 wineries alongside 14 local restaurants and caterers serving appetizers paired with the select wines.

Richard Sommer, the first in Oregon to plant Pinot Noir and considered the father of Oregon’s modern wine industry, helped establish the event in 1970 as a wine-tasting supper held at the Umpqua Hotel in downtown Roseburg. At the time, Governor Tom McCall said about the Umpqua Valley, “I can see where one day this may be a scenic valley of vineyards.” In an April 1970 issue of the News-Review, a reporter opined, “Humble beginnings have fostered many a giant industry. Continued success: that is our wish for the Oregon wine industry. We salute the grape.” 

Fast-forward 49 years, and the Umpqua Valley has lived up to its expectations. In fact, winemaker Terry Brandborg, the UVWA board president, says 2019 was the first year the wines presented at the celebration were solely from the Umpqua, where more than 40 different varietals, both warm- and cool-climate, thrive today.

Throughout the evening, guests tasted through wines and nibbled on gourmet bites while listening — many even danced — to upbeat music by Roseburg’s Flashbak. Some placed bids to win luxurious prizes in the silent auction, and most everyone made their palates “heard” by voting on their favorite food and wine combinations with a specially designed mobile app.

In addition, participating wineries donated bottles to the “Wheel of Wine” fundraiser for scholarships Southern Oregon Wine Institute’s viticulture and enology program. The fun diversion raised $2,500.

This year’s wineries included: Abacela, Becker, Bradley, Brandborg, Chateau Nonchalant, Cooper Ridge, Delfino, Falk, Ferraro, Foon, Freed, Girardet, HillCrest, JosephJane, Lexeme, MarshAnne Landing, Melrose, Mustard Seed, Paul O’Brien, River’s Edge, Season Cellars, Spangler, Spire Mountain, The Cellars at SOWI, Trella, Triple Oak, Vogel and Whitetail Ridge.

Restaurants included: Big K Guest Ranch, Chef Mel’s, Condon’s Culinary Creations, Creative Catering, Fairgrounds Professional Catering, Firehouse Fudge Co., Nellie’s Deli & Tap House, The Parrott House, River Rush Catering, Smokin’ Friday BBQ, Steamboat Inn, Tolly’s Restaurant, True Kitchen & Bar and Tucky’s Southern Kitchen & Pantry.

Professional judges arrived a day early to blind-taste the wines to be poured at the gala on Saturday night. This year’s panel included: Michael Alberty with The Oregonian; Dr. Liz Thach from Sonoma State University; and Matt Talbot, a wine blogger based in Lake Oswego. The trio marked select wines as platinum, gold, silver and bronze. (See winners in the sidebar.)

Not only was the wine evaluated by pros, but also the food. The culinary panel included: Chris Cook, owner of Capiche Wine Marketing & PR; Nathan Radford, a former executive chef and graduate of the Oregon Coast Culinary Institute; Nancy Rodriguez, a food-focused freelance writer living in the Umpqua Valley; and Andrew Calvert from The Perfect Occasion, who judged the best winery and restaurant presentation. (See winners in the sidebar.) If you missed this year, you’ll have a chance to catch the big one, the 50th anniversary, next year. See for more details.

Oregon Wine Press