NEWS / FEATURES
Guests mingle during the 2016 Greatest of the Grape at Seven Feathers Casino Resort. ##Photos by Angela Chenowith | www.chenowethphotography.com

Raise a Glass to the Greatest

Longtime Umpqua Valley fÊte prepares for its 47th Gourmet Gala

By Jade Helm

Within Oregon’s wine story, the Umpqua Valley sits at the intersection of history and variety. Pinot Noir was first planted in the state in 1961 by Richard Sommers at what is still HillCrest Vineyard outside Roseburg — the town where the Oregon Winegrowers Association started decades ago. The Umpqua boasts more than 40 different varietals, both warm- and cool-climate, and is home to Oregon’s longest running fine wine event, Greatest of the Grape.

Roseburg restaurant owner Buddy Reynolds of Blac n Bleu and Pam Atchinson of Melrose Vineyards serve and chat with attendees. ##Photos by Angela Chenowith | www.chenowethphotography.com

After 46 years of hosting the gala, organizers have perfected this event. Hosted at Seven Feathers Casino Resort in Canyonville and presented by the Umpqua Winegrowers Association, Greatest of the Grape is the perfect date night. This year’s celebration, March 4, promises dancing to live music by the unstoppable Timberwolf — they seem to hardly ever take a break — and a silent auction with great packages. Abundant food offerings and seating combine for a truly enjoyable time — a wine event with just one bottlenecked table of cheese trays and two tables for sitting with five chairs, this is NOT. Instead, expect delectable one-bite delights made possible by Umpqua Valley area restaurants paired with single wines from approximately 28 wineries. Missing that one table with cheese? Look in the middle. And, it is huge.

Medalists from the wine competition — held prior to the event and judged by wine writers Christine Havens, Viki Eierdam and Martin Skegg — will be announced. Most submissions are from the Umpqua with a few “visitors” from the Rogue and South Willamette valleys. Event guests taste the same wines and choose — through a downloadable voting app — the “Best Food and Wine Pairing” as well as the wine christened with the ultimate accolade, “Greatest of the Grape.”

For night owls, the party lasts a good hour to go after the awards are presented, but the end of the night “commute” could not be safer — either returning to your room at Seven Feathers or through a shuttle service to the Windmill Inn or Holiday Inn Express in Roseburg.

If you wish to prolong the celebration, make plans for an intimate wine country jaunt Sunday while you are still in town. Fuel up with an ocean-inspired omelette or fruity pancakes at Brix Grill in Roseburg before embarking on some wine tasting. Most wineries offer special discounts the day after the festivities, and you can taste more than the one wine submitted for competition. Visit the wineries with winning bottles — they are usually still excited.

Tickets and more details available at www.umpquavalleywineries.org.

When in Roseburg

Before or after the event, there are a number of places to consider visiting in the surrounding area.

Be sure to visit Paul O’Brien to experience Roseburg’s “urban” winery scene. For beautiful seating inside and out, try Abacela and Reustle Prayer Rock Vineyard. Spangler Vineyards offers an array of wines with true varietal character and great prices. HillCrest Vineyard serves both Oregon and sometimes international wines for tasting. Stop at Becker Vineyard for homemade cranberry-cherry bourbon fudge paired with their Cabernet Sauvignon — just don’t ask Peggy for the recipe. Visit Melrose Vineyards for unusual grapes and a super cute gift shop. If headed north, plan a stop at Brandborg in Elkton and try some white Pinot Noir. There are too many great places to list; it’s likely you’ll need more than one weekend to fully appreciate the Umpqua Valley.

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