With Diana Rudd by his side,
Pat Spangler accepts a gold medal for
Spangler Vineyards 2015 Carménère at
last year’s Greatest of the Grape. ##Photo provided

A Golden Ticket

Greatest of the Grape marks 50 years

By Chris Cook

Many people think the Oregon wine industry started in the Willamette Valley, but the Umpqua Valley has been growing wine grapes since 1934, making the region the first and oldest continuously producing wine region in the Pacific Northwest. This March, the Umpqua Valley Winegrowers Association is touting another industry first: the 50th anniversary of the first wine festival in the Pacific Northwest.

Greatest of the Grape, hosted at the Douglas County Fairgrounds, March 21, offers guests the chance to taste wines from 28 Umpqua Valley wineries paired with cuisine from the area’s best restaurants. Attendees vote on the best food-and-wine pairing as well as best wines in several categories.

This year’s theme, “Puttin’ on the Ritz,” sets the stage for a night out that shouldn’t disappoint. Designband from Portland will be performing from 7 to 9 pm. In addition to wine, food and dancing, the celebration also presents a silent auction to benefit the Umpqua Valley Wineries Association (UVWA), a nonprofit organization that promotes its members’ vineyard and winery businesses.

This year’s wineries include: Aaron, Abacela, Becker, Bradley, Brandborg, Chateau Nonchalant, Cooper Ridge, Delfino, Falk, Ferraro, Foon, Freed, Girardet, HillCrest, JosephJane, Knostman, Lexeme, Meadow Estate, Melrose, Mustard Seed, Paul O’Brien, River’s Edge, Season Cellars, Spangler, Spire Mountain, Trella, Triple Oak and Whitetail Ridge.

Food will be provided by Chef Mel’s, Dino’s Ristorante, Fairgrounds Professional Catering, Fun Cuisine, Los Guapos, Tavern on Kruse, The Parrott House, Restaurant O, Smokin’ Friday BBQ, Steamboat Inn, Tucky’s Southern Kitchen & Pantry and Umpqua Sweets & Treats.

In addition to the silent auction, participating wineries donate bottles to the “Wheel of Wine” fundraiser for scholarships to Southern Oregon Wine Institute’s viticulture and enology program — the fun diversion typically raises $2,500.

Professional judges will arrive a day early to blind-taste the wines to be poured at the gala on Saturday night. This year’s panel includes Tim Hanni, Master of Wine; Ellen Landis, wine journalist, certified sommelier and certified wine specialist; and Christine Havens, wine, food and travel writer.

HillCrest’s Richard Sommer, the first in Oregon to plant Pinot Noir and considered the father of Oregon’s modern wine industry, helped establish the event in 1970 as a wine-tasting supper held at the Umpqua Hotel in downtown Roseburg. At the time, Governor Tom McCall said about the Umpqua Valley, “I can see where one day this may be a scenic valley of vineyards.” In an April 1970 issue of The News-Review, a reporter opined, “Humble beginnings have fostered many a giant industry. Continued success: that is our wish for the Oregon wine industry. We salute the grape.”

Since then, the Umpqua Valley has grown to be a world-renown wine region and tourist destination. The wines presented at the celebration are solely from the Umpqua, where more than 40 different varietals, both warm- and cool-climate, thrive today. The wine industry brings in more than $107 million in revenue to Douglas County every year.

Looking ahead, the UVWA Barrel Tour, May 2, offers bus tours to wineries throughout the Valley with four routes available. In November, the UVWA will launch a brand-new wine event in Eugene.

To purchase tickets, visit or call Jean Kurtz at 541-673-5323. Visitors to Roseburg can take advantage of the shuttles to and from the event from local hotels.

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