2019 American Wine Society conference casts spotlight on Pacific Northwest

By on July 28, 2019
Christine Clair, winery director for Willamette Valley Vineyards, stands alongside Jim Bernau, founder of the winery in Turner, Ore. Clair will present two seminars this fall at the American Wine Society’s national conference in Florida. (Photo courtesy of Willamette Valley Vineyards)

There will be a sizable contingent of Pacific Northwest producers this fall in St. Pete Beach, Fla., at the national conference of the American Wine Society, the largest organization in the U.S. for wine consumers and professionals.

Many of the group’s 8,000 members will gather in the Sunshine State from Oct. 31 to Nov. 2, and several seminars feature Northwest winemakers and vintners. Each seminar seats about 100 attendees, who will experience well-crafted wines from across this ever-expanding wine region.

This year’s sold-out conference will increase the visibility of the Northwest wines for organization’s hundreds of consumers and wine professionals.

Below is a preview of several of the Northwest wine sessions being presented this year:

Earl Jones was working as an immunology researcher in the Gulf Coast when he purchased land in Oregon’s Umpqua Valley in 1992 for Abacela. (Photo by Eric Degerman/Great Northwest Wine)

So. Oregon leads charge for Tempranillo

I will be moderating The Tantalizing Tempranillos from the Great Northwest session, which features southern Oregon winemakers/vintners Earl and Hilda Jones, founders of Abacela; Stephen and Gloria Reustle, winemaker and co-owners of Reustle-Prayer Rock Vineyards; Betty Tamm and Geoff Faraghan, co-owners of Triple Oak Vineyard; and Eric Weisinger, winemaker and general manager of Weisinger Family Winery. 

Attendees will learn more about why this red variety from the Iberian Peninsula is so well suited to the Northwest and taste award-winning Tempranillos from these skillful producers. Wines crafted here deserve to be recognized among high quality Tempranillo-based wines from the Ribera del Duero and Rioja regions of Tempranillo’s native country of Spain, and other regions around the world.

Janie Brooks Heuck stands on the balcony of the new tasting room at Brooks Wines with her nephew, Pascal Brooks. (Photo by Andréa Johnson Photography/courtesy of Brooks Wines)

Brooks Heuck to share family story

Janie Brooks Heuck, managing director of Brooks Wines in Oregon’s Willamette Valley will present her session Peace. Bread. Land. Wine. She will discuss how these elements of life fit into the making of a successful, small family-owned winery. Participants will taste six different wines from Brooks while hearing her family’s captivating story.

The sister of the late Jimi Brooks also leads a second seminar entitled Dry Riesling from Around the World. Not only can Brooks Heuck share some insight behind one of the Pacific Northwest’s most thoughtful Riesling programs, led by her longtime winemaker Chris Williams, but she also sits on the board of directors for the International Riesling Foundation.

Christine Clair is the winery director for Willamette Valley Vineyards. (Photo by Eric Degerman/Great Northwest Wine)

Solidarity story to be shared in Florida

Christine Clair, winery director of Willamette Valley Vineyards near Salem, Ore., will present her heartwarming session Solidarity, Great Wines that Define the Oregon Spirit.

Participants will learn how Rogue Valley grape growers faced a challenging situation, and how Oregon wineries joined together to save the crop. This story of generosity and caring spirits will be joined by a palate-pleasing and heartwarming tasting of Oregon Solidarity wines.

Stephen Reustle of Reustle Prayer Rock Vineyards in Roseburg, Ore., will be participating in this year's first Steamboat Inn Guest Chef and Winemaker Dinner. The historic Oregon river resort has expanded its schedule to 26 dinners.
Stephen Reustle of Reustle Prayer Rock Vineyards in Roseburg, Ore., will showcase wines from the Umpqua Valley at the 2019 American Wine Society annual meeting. (Photo courtesy of Reustle Prayer Rock Vineyards)

Reustle promotes wines of Umpqua Valley

Stephen Reustle, winemaker/co-owner of Reustle-Prayer Rock Vineyards will present Oregon’s Umpqua Valley … Better Wines that their European Counterparts? In his session, he will discuss the impressive diversity of the Umpqua Valley and provide a side by side tasting of multiple grapes, comparing award-winning examples from the Umpqua Valley to high-scoring European counterparts. Participants will taste and judge for themselves New World vs. Old World wines.

Clair will be back on stage to present Modern Day Pioneering in the Oregon Wine Industry. In this seminar, she will focus on how the Oregon wine industry continues to grow and thrive, as well as discuss several of the state’s remarkably diverse regions. Participants will taste wines from regions including Walla Walla Valley, The Rocks District of Milton-Freewater, Rogue Valley, Umpqua Valley and the Willamette Valley.

At this conference there are opportunities to explore wines from other global regions too, including:

Paul Wagner, founder Balzac Communications and Marketing, will be presenting The Heart of the Left Bank seminar. Taste a selection of Grand Cru wines from Saint-Estephe, Saint-Julien, Pauillac and Haut-Medoc from a variety of vintages between 2011 and 2016, and learn what makes them unique.

Will Costello, Master Sommelier and Ambassador for Bien Nacido and Solomon Hills Estates. His presentation, A Primary Source – Bien Nacido Vineyard: From Farm to Bottle, leads a virtual tour through what is often called “The Ferrari of vineyards along the Central Coast of California.”

Max Kast, Master Sommelier/regional sales manager of Broadbent Selections, Inc., will be presenting Iconic Family wineries of the Southern Hemisphere. Taste and gain more insight into wines and vines from top wine-producing regions in the Southern Hemisphere.

Pamela Wittmann, Millissime PR and Marketing Services, offers Champagne! Who doesn’t enjoy a fine glass of bubbles? Taste through five Champagnes and gain history from the perspective of the oldest cooperative in the region, Collet-Cogevi (established in 1921).

These represent a few of the sessions that focus on other wine regions around the world that participants can choose to attend. There also are wine tastings presented with wine-friendly meals scheduled throughout the conference for further education and enjoyment.

AWS award recipients include Jim Bernau

Pambrun vineyard in SeVein in Walla Walla Valley.
From left are Marty Clubb of L’Ecole No. 41, Norm McKibben of Pepper Bridge Winery, Christine Collier of Willamette Valley Vineyards, Chris Figgins of Leonetti Cellar and Jim Bernau of Willamette Valley Vineyards. They participated in the groundbreaking ceremony for Bernau’s Pambrun Vineyard in the southern Walla Walla Valley. (Photo courtesy of Andréa Johnson Photography)

Jim Bernau, founder of Willamette Valley Vineyards, received the American Wine Society Award of Merit in 2012, an important sign that the group has recognized the work of the Pacific Northwest wine industry for quite some time.

Each year this conference offers members the opportunity to increase their knowledge about wines from around the globe, converse with vintners and wine specialists from near and far, meet with friends and colleagues, and develop new connections.

The American Wine Society has several chapters across the country, and more continue to be formed. There are two in Oregon (Portland and Salem), one in Washington (Puget Sound) and two in Montana. There is no chapter established in Idaho.

Membership in the AWS is something that I’ve found to be quite beneficial and rewarding. It’s fun, educational and stimulating, and it appeals to newcomers and experts.

The inaugural American Wine Society conference was staged in 1967 at Dr. Konstantin Frank, which has grown into an iconic property and brand in the Finger Lakes region of New York State.

Visit the AWS website to learn more about the organization, including how to join, chapter locations, how to start a chapter and the benefits of becoming a member because there is always more to learn about the wine industry!

About Ellen Landis

Ellen Landis is a certified sommelier, wine writer, wine educator, wine event moderator and frequent judge at prominent regional, national and international wine competitions. Ellen and her husband, chef Ken Landis, sold Landis Shores Oceanfront Inn, a boutique resort on Miramar Beach, Calif., in 2015 and relocated to the Pacific Northwest.

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