Ashley Bell of Domaine Drouhin Oregon pours a 2013 Pinot Noir for Ron Penner-Ash during the Big Board Auction held annually at Domaine Drouhin outside Dayton. ##Photo by Andrea Johnson

Sold Out ¡Salud!

Annual event supports vineyard worker health program

By Karl Klooser

A private drive traversing the vineyard surrounding Domaine Drouhin Oregon served as tangible testament to a major event held at the Dundee Hills winery on Friday, Nov. 14.

Vehicles parked on both sides of the roadway almost to the entrance gate made its already narrow width a tight squeeze all the way up to the winery, nearly a quarter mile away.

The occasion was the 23rd annual ¡Salud! Cuvée Tasting and Big Board Auction, which, coupled with the Saturday evening Dinner and Auction Gala, has evolved as one of the most important events of the year for the Oregon wine industry.

Its purpose is to support ¡Salud!, a one-of-a-kind program established by Oregon winery owners and physicians in 1991 to provide healthcare services for seasonal vineyard workers and their families through the Tuality Healthcare Foundation of Hillsboro.

A sell-out crowd of 475 attended the Big Board Auction on Friday, featuring 2013 vintage Pinot Noirs from 40 wineries, all members of The Vintners Circle.

They included Adelsheim, Alexana, Amalie Robert, Antica Terra, ArborBrook, Archery Summit, Ayres, Beaux Frères, Bergström, Bethel Heights, Brittan, Brooks, Chehalem, Cristom, Dobbes, Domaine Drouhin, Dukes, Dusky Goose, Elk Cove, Erath, Gran Moraine, Hamacher, Ken Wright, Lange, Patricia Green, Penner-Ash, Ponzi, Raptor Ridge, ROCO, R. Stuart, Scott Paul, Shea, Soléna, Soter, St. Innocent, Stoller, Trisaetum, WillaKenzie, Winderlea and Witness Tree.

This year, Argyle, Sokol Blosser and Willamette Valley Vineyards assumed the special roles of Winery Partners in recognition of their ongoing support.

Cuvées, specifically crafted for the ¡Salud! event, were auctioned in five-case lots. In several instances, bids exceeded $2,000 per case. When bidding for Lot D, the last of the 10 winery groupings, closed at 6 p.m., the big board grand total topped $200,000 for the first time ever.

Though the purpose of ¡Salud! is raising money to support the Tuality Healthcare Program, the Friday tasting at DDO affords a fortuitous, one-time-only opportunity for Oregon wine professionals and aficionados.

During no other event can 40 exemplary wines from the most recently vinified vintage be tasted together. Given the logistics, wines on three levels accessed only by staircases, this writer was able to sample enough from which to draw what seem to be some valid conclusions.

First of all, a closed-in quality was common to many of these wines. However, real promise lying beneath should start to show their stuff within a year or two. Youth aside, a few are already beginning to blossom.

Among those I found particularly appealing at this early point included Antica Terra, Archery Summit, Beaux Frères, Brittan, BergstrÖm, ROCO, Penner-Ash, Ponzi, Soter and Winderlea.

Aromas are varietally correct, tannins are prominent but not rough and sweet, chewy, dark cherry fruit adds a taste-tempting quality that should continue to emerge.

All in all, these 2013s showed depth of full, ripe maturity still trying to break through the resistance of a hard but weakening veneer. Those whose attributes are seeping through the cracks announce their excellence with the message of rewarding drinkability.

Gala Event

Starting off the evening, Argyle sponsored a sparkling wine reception. Attendees then browsed 52 silent auction lots while sipping wines from the 40 Vintners Circle wineries.

Wines from more mature vintages, in vertical grouping and varying bottle sizes, abounded among the silent auction items. But so did wine dinners, tastings and tours.

Opening ceremony hosts Mimi Casteel of Bethel Heights and Anthony King of Lemelson welcomed guests before dinner, which came with the compliments of creative Allison Inn and JORY’s executive chef, Sunny Jin.

Conducted by nationally renowned auctioneer Michael Davis, the live auction featured 18 lots. Yes, wines were included, in copious quantities. One lot consisted of 33 magnums from 33 different wineries in six Yamhill Valley AVAs.

Dinner with winemakers, vacation escapes, a Latin American-flavor fiesta, a coastal fishing trip with Joe Dobbes aboard his boat and a trip anywhere in the world were gaveled off to the highest bidder that evening.

When all was said, done and saluted with after-party wines sponsored by Sokol Blosser, the 2014 ¡Salud! auction gala had raised more than $722,000.

It’s also gratifying to know that, including in-kind and sponsor donations, Tuality Healthcare has been able to leverage the cash amount raised each year up to three times the value of medical and dental services received.

Just as we can see that 2013 looks to be an excellent vintage for Oregon pinot noir, so was it an outstanding one for the ¡Salud! Program.

In 2013, 4,138 workers and family members were registered in the program, and more than 7,000 medical and dental visits were documented. They included 3,087 dental procedures, 1,664 medical clinic visits, 826 wellness screenings and 98 major medical emergencies.


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