Last month I was invited to judge at the McMinnville Wine & Food Classic in Oregon’s Willamette Valley, one of my favorite places. It was exciting to see old friends, while making new ones.
McMinnville, frequently voted one of the best small towns in America and sits in the heart of the Willamette Valley – one of the top wine regions in the world, known for producing world class wines.
After tasting a large selection of wines at the competition, I can say the Willamette Valley and all of Oregon, for that matter, is producing more than just great Pinot Noir (the grape that put it on the map) and Chardonnay, these two top grape varietals. The proof was in the outcome from 15 judges representing wine buyers, wine educators, winemakers, writers, and chefs.
Seventy-five wineries from Oregon contributed wine to the McMinnville Wine & Food Classic, including such esteemed names as Alloro Vineyard, Archery Summit, Barking Frog, Beaux Frères, Cathedral Ridge, Dobbes Family Estate, LennéEstate, J. Scott Cellars, Lady Hill, Patton Valley, Phelps Creek, Pike Road Wines, Spangler Vineyards, Torii Mor, Troon, Willamette Valley Vineyards and Zerba Cellars.
This year, taking home top honors in the Wine Competition was Willamette Valley Vineyards in the Best Sparkling Wine category for their 2016 Methode Champenoise Brut. Best of Show White went to Awen Winecraft for their 2018 Grenache Blanc, and August Cellars, whose 2018 Gamay Noir claimed Best of Show Red. Cardwell Hill Cellars won Best Pinot Noir, for their 2015 Estate Pinot Noir Monet Block. Best Chardonnay went to Phelps Creek for their 2016 Lynette Chardonnay. Coria Estate’s 2018 Rosé of Pinot Noir won Best Rosé, and finishing out the awards was Apolloni Vineyard’s 2015 Dolce Vino Viognier Best Dessert Wine. Quite a diverse group of varietals! For the complete list of awards, visit macclassic.org/wine-competition
Coming up, the McMinnville Wine & Food Classic will take over the Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum on March 13-15, 2020, for its 27thanniversary event. One of the longest public wine and food events in Oregon, this festival brings together small independent producers of Oregon wine, beer, spirits, food, art and live music for three glorious days of tasting, toasting, while helping to raise funds for a local school in McMinnville.
Nicknamed “Sip,” the wine and food festival is a dedicated fundraiser for McMinnville's St. James Catholic School (founded in 1906) that has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for programs benefiting students. The event began in 1993 (pre-internet, pre-smartphone) as a small school fundraiser, but has grown into one of the largest and most beloved wine and food festivals in Oregon. Today, it attracts thousands of attendees from every age group, more than half of which have made it an annual tradition. For more information on the event including Places to Stay, visit www.macclassic.org .
To learn more about Oregon and plan a trip, visit traveloregon.com
JoAnn Actis-Grande is the Wine Editor for Taste of the Seacoast, and writes wine and travel columns for Coastal Home and TheFiftyBest.com. She also writes a weekly column “Let’s Talk Wine” for Seacoast Media Group. Contact her through Wine Jag Journeys.