Sip for a good cause

Here's a chance to get a behind-the-scenes look at the life of wines, some made from Ashland grapes, before they are bottled and placed on market shelves or restaurant wine lists.

New Vintages Wines & Music, a Saturday fundraiser for the grief-support organization WinterSpring Center, will allow you inside Pallet Wine Co., 340 N. Fir St., a historic Medford building that operates year-round as a winery and wine cellar.

WinterSpring supporters who buy a ticket for $35 in advance (or $45 at the door) will be able to tour the custom-crush facility from 1 to 5:30 p.m. Saturday.

Inside and outside the two-story, timber-and-concrete building, grapes are crushed, juice is fermented, wine is aged in oak barrels and stainless-steel tanks, then bottled on the spot. There also will be a chance to peek into the laboratory to see the equipment Linda Donovan uses to perfect her L. Donovan wines, as well as her clients'. Last year, Donovan processed 27,200 cases of wine at Pallet, vaulting her into the top 20 among Oregon producers.

Guests will be greeted in the second-floor lobby and offered platters of blue and brie cheeses, salmon mousse on crostini, roasted vegetables and mushroom croustades, plus desserts.

They will then enter the barrel room to wander around huge, oak containers, each holding the equivalent of 280 bottles of wine. They can stop at 10 tables to speak with local wine producers and taste released wines, some so new that this will be their public debuts, as well as sample the future: cloudy, fruity, young wines from 2010 and 2011, still mellowing in barrels or stainless-steel tanks.

Guests then can sit in an intimate section of the 24,000-square-foot building and enjoy live music by the Oregon Little Big Band and Ed Dunsavage Trio, and check out silent-auction items (dinner at Chateaulin restaurant, Ashland Envy wine glasses and dozens of other items).

Or they can wander down into the clerestory window-lighted production area or look into the sunken bay to see towering tanks filled with pinot gris, chardonnay, gewürztraminer and viognier. The various-sized tanks hold the equivalent of 600 to 18,000 bottles.

Ashland-based producers will be pouring:

  • Dana Campbell Vineyards — 2010 Viognier and 2008 Tempranillo and, for comparison, either the 2010 or 2011 Tempranillo from the barrel.
  • Grizzly Peak Winery — 2011 Rumor, a roussanne/marsanne blend, 2011 Syrah Rosé produced by the saignee method and 2011 Tempranillo Blanco, a classic blanc de noirs.
  • Irvine Vineyards — 2009 Pinot Noir and 2010 Viognier and barrel tasting of the label's first chardonnay.
  • Philanthropie Wine — 2010 Sauvignon Blanc and barrel tasting of 2010 Tempranillo.
  • Velocity Cellars — 2008 Velocity Malbec and soon-to-be-released 2010 William Augustus Viognier Marsanne, with barrel tasting of 2010 Malbec and unbottled 2011 Viognier dessert wine.

Says Gus Janeway, who produces Velocity, Velo and William Augustus wine, "When people are invited to barrel taste a wine, they have an opportunity to influence my winemaking decisions since the final blends have not been completed.

"In addition," he continues, "I can answer questions about predictive tastings. Through experience, winemakers can taste a wine where the tannins may be raw or herbal notes strong, but we know that rough edges will be polished in the bottle."

WinterSpring, a nonprofit, volunteer organization, has offered grief support for 23 years to Rogue Valley children, teens and adults, as well as training about loss to schools, employers and community groups.

For more information on New Vintages Wines & Music or to order advance tickets for $35, two for $60, call 541-552-0620 or see Dress warmly, as the building's temperature accommodates wine.

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