AWS Smells the Roses

Peter Mondavi Jr. presents a session on Charles Krug Vintage Select Cabernet
from 1966 to 2008 at the 2011 American Wine Society Conference in Rochester, N.Y., in early November.

By Oregon Wine Press Staff

The American Wine Society (AWS), the nation’s largest wine consumers’ organization, has selected Portland as the site of its 2012 annual conference, the 45th conference AWS has held.

Portland’s central location to the Pacific Northwest wine industry and internationally recognized culture of nightlife, food and drink appealed to the group, said AWS Executive Director John Hames.

“Portland is a perfect destination for people who enjoy wine,” Hames said. “It’s centrally located near fantastic wine regions in both Oregon and Washington with amazing scenery, abundant locally grown foods and a wide variety of wonderful wines — what more could a wine lover want?”

The conference will be held Nov. 8–10 and begins with an opening reception of Oregon wines followed by two days of tasting sessions with leading personalities and wines from top regions throughout the wine world. Days are punctuated by wine-pairing meals, including a sparkling wine breakfast and grand banquet. Pre-conference activities include wine dinners and excursions into town and wine country. The complete agenda will be announced next summer.

The AWS Commercial Wine Competition and the Amateur Wine Competition are held in conjunction with the conference. The organization’s wine judge certification training, the only in the world, will also be held at the event.

This is the first time the organization will host its conference in the City of Roses, so Oregon Wine Press arranged with AWS Executive Director John Hames a brief Q&A in anticipation of the upcoming conference. 

OWP What does AWS hope to accomplish at this year’s conference?

JH This is our 45th AWS National Conference, and our objective is always to provide our members with great opportunities to learn more about the world of wine. We will have 49 seminars with topics that include wine education and tasting, winemaking, and wine and food pairing. We want attendees to come away from the conference knowing more about wine than they knew before; and we want them to have fun tasting great wines along the way.

OWP Why is 2012 the first time the AWS will hold its conference in Oregon?

JH The American Wine Society was founded in the Finger Lakes area of New York in 1967. For many years we only held conferences in the eastern U.S. because that’s where most members lived. Things have changed in the last few years as AWS has grown and expanded to western states, so we now look at western locations every three of four years.

We were in Sacramento in 2008 and the Oregon/Washington area seemed like the logical choice for 2012. Our members are certainly aware that wonderful wines are being made here, and we wanted to give them an opportunity to visit the area and experience the wines, food and the beauty of the Pacific Northwest for themselves.

In addition, this is an area where AWS needs to grow. We have a chapter in Portland, but we need many more chapters throughout Oregon and Washington. We plan to use the conference as an opportunity to let wine lovers know about AWS and what we have to offer. I’m confident by the time the conference ends next year, AWS will have many new members and chapters in the area.

OWP What do you personally look forward to about visiting Portland?

JH I vacationed in the area in 2009 with some AWS friends. We visited wineries in Washington and Oregon, as well as touring the countryside to enjoy all the fresh, local foods and take in the natural beauty. We spent enough time in Portland to know that we wanted to come back and explore more of what the city has to offer. My wife and I fell in love with the area in and around Portland and are excited to have a great reason to come back and visit again.

AWS is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the appreciation of wine through education, with more than 4,300 members and 120 chapters nationwide. For more information, go to

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