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Guests enjoy wine, beer, spirits and more at last year’s SIP inside the Evergreen Aviation & Space Musuem. ##Photo by Charles Hillestad/Sip! McMinnville Wine & Food Classic

Silver Wining

McMinnville’s SIP celebrates 25 years

By Viki Eierdam

Wine tasting is a pastime Oregonians have perfected, and numerous events celebrate this liquid art form. Utilizing the 120,000-square-foot Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum as its stage, SIP McMinnville Wine & Food Classic, March 9–11, promises another special wine experience.

Attendees can savor wine and culinary treats under jets suspended from steel scissor trusses. The lines of these nostalgic aircraft are set off by lights flooding in from massive windows. Although some exhibits relocate to accommodate the event, there’s still plenty to fascinate.

This year, the fundraiser celebrates its silver anniversary. What began 25 years ago by a group of parents to establish funds making a private grade school education more accessible now contributes significantly to every area of the operating budget of St. James Catholic School, as well as scholarships.

“We started this festival with a vision to present a truly classic event featuring food, wine and art located in the heart of Oregon’s wine country,” said Steve Allen, one of the original event founders. “From conception, vendors have been chosen through a jury procedure to assure high quality, balanced offerings for the three-day event.”

As attendance has expanded over the years — from its debut of 1,000 to last year’s count of more than 5,000 guests — so has the program itself. Starting in 2011, distilleries were invited to sample their wares, and the wine competition, a perennial favorite, has grown in submissions, too. In fact, be sure to taste the medal winners and see if you agree with the palates of the professionals who met in January to perform the selfless act of assessing every entry.

For Edward Gormley, former mayor of McMinnville, his involvement in SIP is personal. Growing up in “Mac,” he graduated from St. James School and is proud to be a SIP sponsor and volunteer. He notes the entirely volunteer-organized aspect of the event setting it apart from many other larger-scale wine tasting experiences in the area, and the spirit of volunteerism embodies the McMinnville community.

Allen reflects Gormley’s sentiment.

“Our first event was held in 1993 and organized completely by volunteers,” Allen said. “This practice remains in place today. The continued involvement of parents, school staff and community volunteers makes this festival a weekend of pleasure for the attendees and a great revenue source for vendors, our school and sponsors. Because of this practice, 100-percent of the revenue goes directly back to the school.” 

In all, 170 vendors — wine, beer, spirits, food and art — will be placed throughout the ample space. Foodies will be as enamored as oenophiles as cooking demonstrations entertain while educating at the Chef’s Table throughout the weekend. Thanks to Pacific Seafood, crab and shrimp melts are back by popular demand. Visitors can also nosh on asparagus tamales, barbecue, oysters, chocolates and pastries while enjoying the lively notes of local musicians throughout the entire affair.

Wine pairings will be plentiful with strong participation from Southern Oregon wineries such as Bradley Vineyards, Girardet, MarshAnne Landing, Melrose, Spangler and Troon, as well as brands closer to home: Willamette Valley Vineyards, Namasté, Methven, Yamhill Valley Vineyards, Lenné Estate and others. Guests are encouraged to sample from the 70 participating wineries.

Find a wine you absolutely must share? Guests can purchase wines by the bottle and a valet counter will store your score until it’s time to depart the festivities. Volunteers will then help transport cellar acquisitions to your car.

Event founder Steve Bernards added, “It’s incredible that what started 25 years ago as a small volunteer effort to help the local school has turned into a wine lover’s bucket-list destination that supports not just the school, but the entire community in a big way.”

For more details or to purchase tickets, go to www.sipclassic.org.

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