Wine lovers savor diversity, shade at Celebration

Photo by Janet Cook

Glenn Bartholomew, left, of Three Sleeps Vineyard in Mosier, pours wine for Eric Nisley of Dry Hollow Vineyards. Behind him is Karen Deveney of Portland.


News staff writer

August 10, 2005

A shady corner of the Hood River County Fairgrounds provided the perfect venue for the 2nd annual Gorge Wine Celebration on Sunday. More than 400 people attended the afternoon event, hosted by the Columbia Gorge Winegrowers, a 40-member association of local wineries and grape growers.

Tastings were offered by 16 Gorge wineries, and the event drew people from around the Gorge as well as from farther away.

“I love your wine up here,” said Karen Deveney, who drove from Portland for the event. “What’s interesting is how diverse this climate is. There aren’t very many other places anywhere that you can grow this variety of grapes in a small area.”

Tess Bar Blues and Tilly Jam provided live music throughout the afternoon. In addition, a dozen local artists had their work on display, a silent auction was held and food was catered by Crawdaddy Junction. But attendees, who paid $25 per person in advance ($30 at the door), were unquestionably there to sample wines and meet winery owners and grape growers from this burgeoning wine region.

Last year the Columbia Gorge received federal designation as an American Viticultural Area (AVA). Designated viticultural areas allow vintners to better describe the origin of wines and consumers to better identify the wines they purchase. The unique climate of the Columbia Gorge AVA, with vast changes from its west end in Hood River to its east end in The Dalles (the AVA extends along this corridor on both sides of the Columbia River), provides ideal conditions for growing a wide variety of grapes.

This year’s celebration marked the one-year anniversary of the AVA designation.

Organizers were pleased with the event.

“I think it went really well,” said Christie Reed of Mt. Hood Winery. “We were pleased with the cooperative weather and the great location.”

Deane Seeger of Seattle attended the Wine Celebration to sample wine as well as to meet people involved in the local wine industry. Seeger and three partners recently planted an acre of Pinot Noir grapes on property Seeger owns just south of Hood River. On Sunday, he and one of his partners worked in their newly planted vineyard, then headed to the Wine Celebration for a couple of hours before driving back to Seattle.

“See, I still have dirt under my fingernails,” Seeger said, holding out his hands. He and his partner were introducing themselves to as many vintners and grape growers as possible; they hope to land work with some of them, trading “labor for knowledge,” he said.

Knowledge was available for the taking in several mini-seminars offered throughout the afternoon that turned out to be very popular, according to Reed. The seminars ranged from a discussion of grapes and soils of the Columbia Gorge led by Hood River County Extension Agent Steve Castagnoli to a talk about the health benefits of wine by Hood River nurse Kim Stolte. A lively discussion called “Wine Tasting 101” was given by Linda Derrickson of Pheasant Valley Vineyard and Winery.

“We call this the Gorge Wine Celebration,” Reed said. “It’s not just about drinking wine in the afternoon. It’s about learning about wine and the characteristics that make our Gorge wines so good.”

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