Tastings for all

Ashland sidewalks are more crowded the first Friday of the month when art galleries open their doors to introduce passers-by to new works and sometimes offer them samples of local wine.

Last year, Ashland Food Co-op came up with an idea to lure people into its newly renovated Community Classroom with a First Friday tasting from 6 to 8 p.m. that coincides with Ashland Gallery Association's monthly artwalk.

Then, participants needed to be members of the Co-op's wine club and pay annual dues. As of June, everyone is invited to the event, says Kelly McNamara, the store's specialties department manager.

For $3, adults can enter the skylighted space at 300 N. Pioneer St. and try up to a dozen wines, some of which are not always on the Co-op's shelves. Tasters also can buy the selected wines on the spot at a 20 percent discount off the Co-op's already reduced retail prices.

"It's nice that anyone can come to our tastings," says Co-op beer and wine buyer Lucy Sardina.

Participants can sample moderately priced pinot noir Sept. 7 from respected Ken Wright Cellars in the Willamette Valley.

A representative of the winery will be pouring 2010 Willamette Valley Pinot Noir ($25.59), a blend of fruit from its vineyards named Abbott Claim, Canary Hill, Carter, Freedom Hill, Guadalupe, McCrone, Meredith Mitchell, Nysa and Savoya.

A pricier 2010 pinot made exclusively from Canary Hill grapes ($45.99) also will be poured, as well as 2010 Pinot Blanc ($22.59).

The winery's value label, Tyrus Evan, also will be available with syrah made from grapes grow at Del Rio Vineyards in Gold Hill and Walla Walla (both $36.99).

The discounted prices reflect the Co-op's mark-up policy, says Sardina.

Other wines to be sampled at the next First Friday tasting are from Troon Vineyard in the Applegate Valley: 2011 Vermentino ($13.99), 2011 Dry Riesling ($15.69), 2010 Druid's Fluid red blend ($16.99) and 2009 Reserve Cabernet Franc ($31.49).

For people who like sparkling wines, there will be tastes from Argyle Winery in Dundee and Capitello Wines in Eugene. Representing the Rogue Valley will be Bryan Wilson of Cuckoo's Nest Cellars, who will pour his 2010 Oregon Early Muscat Fizze.

The monthly events, says Sardina, "is a continuation of our commitment to celebrate Oregon wines and encourage people to eat local." About a fourth of the wines she stocks are from Oregon.

The store also is promoting the annual Eat Local Challenge, Sept. 7-16. Vendors within 200 miles of Ashland will offer samples. Those scheduled to participate include Emerald Hills Beef in Riddle, Silly Zak's Gluten Free Treats in Central Point, Lemon Dream Ice Cream in Talent and New Sammy's Bakery in Talent. See a schedule of events at www.ashlandfood.coop.

Other wine tastings will continue in the Co-op's store, 237 N. First St., Ashland. Call 541-482-2237.

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