Oregon wineries woo sports broadcaster Tony Kornheiser

By on May 13, 2020
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What began with a mention by ESPN personality Tony Kornheiser about his desire post-pandemic to play golf at renowned Bandon Dunes has led to three mentions of two Oregon wineries in less than a week on the popular The Tony Kornheiser Show podcast.

First, there was an email from Duska Jensen at Willamette Valley Vineyards inviting Kornheiser to tour and taste during his time in Oregon. Heck, she even got the New York native to correctly pronounce the name of Jim Bernau’s famous winery by passing along the “It’s Willamette, damn it!” trick.

“Wasn’t that cool?” winery director Christine Clair told Great Northwest Wine via email. “Duska is our Senior Winery Ambassador, and she is always making great connections!”

According to Jensen, “I wrote into the Tony Kornheiser podcast after hearing an episode that sounded like they were coming to Oregon to golf at Bandon Dunes. They made mention of what wineries to stop at and places to eat so I wrote in on my own accord with some advice.”

Bells Up Winery home to ‘loyal little’

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Sara and Dave Specter moved from Cincinnati to Oregon’s Willamette Valley in 2012 specifically to pursue Dave’s winemaking dream. (Photo by Ellen Landis/EllenOnWine.com)

Early on during Kornheiser’s podcast for Monday, May 11 came his reading of a follow-up email from Jensen. Then came the notion of Bells Up Winery in Newberg becoming the unofficial Chehalem Mountains Winery of The Tony Kornheiser Show because of an email from Bells Up co-owner/winemaker Dave Specter – a longtime fan of the former Washington Post columnist.

“I haven’t heard from Dr. Porthauser with a shipping address yet, but I’ll be following up shortly,” Specter said via email, playfully referencing one of the myriad nicknames attached to Kornheiser by his listeners, aka “The Loyal Littles.”

Jensen said, “I have a care package I would like to send him, now that I know his DOB is ‘ancient’ we should be set. Too funny. I enjoyed listening to the banter. I know he was giving me a hard time but all in good humor.”

Kornheiser, 71, is most famous for his current run as founding co-host of the television show Pardon The Interruption, which ESPN launched in October 2001. His wide-ranging podcast discusses sports, rock ‘n’ roll, movies and politics while sharing some life experiences that can be reminiscent of a Seinfeld episode.

“He has a large following,” Jensen said. “I’m looking forward to seeing where this communication might go!”

Kornheiser’s reaction Monday morning at the prospect of receiving samples of Oregon Pinot Noir from a pair of award-winning Willamette Valley producers was, “We’re good! We’re good! We’re really, really good!”

Specter’s wife, Sara, a marketing consultant by trade, points out that it was an unforgettable way for Dave to begin another week at the winery operating under Oregon’s shelter-in-place guidelines.

“He’s positively giddy right now,” she noted. “It’s pretty dang exciting stuff. He didn’t tell me he did this – just made me listen this morning. LOL.”

Dave, one of the state’s smallest producers at 500 cases, added, “I’ve been telling her I’m never going to let her live down that I got a marketing coup on my own.”

Willamette Valley Vineyards, one of the Northwest’s largest wineries and traded on the Nasdaq Stock Market, was named Oregon Winery of the Year in 2011 by Wine Press Northwest magazine. The wines crafted by New York native Joe Ibrahim are available in the District of Columbia, where Kornheiser records his podcast.

“I didn’t know word was spreading around the Willamette Valley about this,” Clair added. “That is fun to see. “

About Eric Degerman

Eric Degerman is the President and CEO of Great Northwest Wine. He is a journalist with more than 30 years of daily newspaper experience and has been writing about wine since 1998. He co-founded Wine Press Northwest magazine with Andy Perdue and served as its managing editor for a decade. He is a frequent wine judge at international wine competitions throughout North America and orchestrates 10 Northwest competitions each year.

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