There’s an increased thirst for Northwest wine throughout beer-focused Deschutes County — the fastest growing region in Oregon — and that topic will be the underlying theme Tuesday in Terrebone when the Central Oregon Winegrowers gather.
A recent report produced from the U.S. Census by Portland State University showed that the population in Deschutes County increased nearly 26 percent since 2010. That helps explain why famed Willamette Valley wineries such as Domaine Serene and Stoller Family Estate have opened satellite tasting rooms in Bend, following the footsteps of acclaimed Walla Walla producers Va Piano and Bledsoe Family Winery.
But many wine lovers also enjoy exploring new varieties and supporting local producers, which is why the Central Oregon Winegrowers have invited the public to their Aug. 17 moderated panel discussion at Faith, Hope and Charity Vineyards, a winery and events center near Terrebone that features 15 acres of vines.
Central Oregon vineyards span from Terrebone in the north to Prineville to the south with Bend and Redmond in between. Its high-desert climate — ranging from 2,800 to 3,600 feet in elevation — is a prohibitive challenge to vinifera.
However, growers and winemakers are making headlines with winter-hardy varieties such as Brianna, La Crescent, La Crosse, Frontenac, Frontenac Gris, Léon Millot, Maréchal Foch and Marquette.
Earlier this year, the Redside Ranch 2019 Marquette, which carried “Deschutes County, Oregon” as the American Viticultural Area, received the highest score in its category and a gold medal at the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition. It was the first commercial release of Marquette between Redside Ranch vineyard manager Kerry Damon and Christopher Kirk Ermisch, a Bend winemaker who also owns and operates importer Elixir Wine Group and Bodega Calle in Argentina.
Marquette, developed by the University of Minnesota and released in 2006, received an early boost in Washington state thanks to acclaimed vineyard manager Paul Champoux. He grew it as a tribute to his alma mater — Marquette High School in Yakima — and a personal research project coming off the cool vintages of 2010 and 2011 in Washington’s famed Horse Heaven Hills. Much has changed in the past decade.
Another variety that’s worthy of exploration in Central Oregon is Itasca, a white grape related to Frontenac Gris that has been turned into a delicious wine by Montana vintner Robert Thaden at Tongue River Winery in Miles City.
Organizers of Tuesday’s panel discussion would like for RSVPs to be sent no later than Monday to to firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
“After the discussion, there will be a festive social hour,” they wrote. “Please bring a bottle of your favorite wine and an appetizer or dessert.”
With any luck, a bottle or two of the Redside Ranch Marquette will be open.