Cheese and wine rank among life’s most delectable treats, and starting Friday leading figures in both industries are members of the Oregon Tourism Commission when David Gremmels of Rogue Creamery received an appointment and Maria Ponzi, past-president of Ponzi Vineyards, was granted another four-year term.
Gremmels’s post became official on the 20th anniversary of his purchase of the Central Point creamery — July 1, 2022.
“Travel Oregon is thrilled to retain Maria’s expertise and looks forward to welcoming David Gremmels and his unique industry perspectives and insights,” the agency stated in a news release.
Gremmels replaces Don Anway, COO of the Neuman Hotel Group, an Ashland business leader who served on the commission since 2014. Vice-chair of the nine-member board is Richard Boyles, co-founder of Iris Vineyards in Eugene. The four-year term of commissioner Erin Stephenson, founder of the Atticus Hotel in downtown McMinnville, ends in 2025. (The Iris Vineyards 2020 Pinot Gris won best of show at this year’s McMinnville Wine Classic, and the Atticus is an on-going supporter of the judging.)
Travel Oregon, the dba for the Oregon Tourism Commission, announced Thursday the appointments made by Gov. Kate Brown, who is in the last summer of her second and final term in Salem. Three times, Gremmels, a graduate of Pacific Lutheran University, has received governor appointments to the Sustainability Board of Oregon — the past two from Brown.
Rogue Creamery, Gremmels win best of show at 2019 World Cheese Awards
Soon after acquiring Rogue Creamery from acclaimed second-generation cheesemaker Ignazio Vella, Gremmels and then-partner Cary Bryant began taking the company to another level and helped raise the culinary profile of Southern Oregon along the way.
In 2003, the Rogue River Blue earned the title of Best Blue at the World Cheese Awards. In 2019, Gremmels used the Rogue River Blue to win best of show at the international competition in Bergamo, Italy, a historic first for the U.S. cheese industry.
News of Rogue Creamery’s title made headlines in the New York Times, a report that highlighted one of the keys to Gremmels’s success — wrapping the cheese in Syrah leaves soaked with pear spirits. In recent years, those leaves have been from the Biodynamically certified Cowhorn Vineyard & Garden in nearby Jacksonville.
Gremmels is credited with spearheading the Oregon Cheese Festival and creation of the Oregon Cheese Guild, which began in 2006. Portland native Katie Bray, who spent eight years as the marketing and events director for the Oregon Wine Board, has served as the executive director of the Oregon Cheese Guild since 2015. Prior to the pandemic, the two-day Oregon Cheese Festival drew 4,500 cheese lovers to the Rogue Valley.
For the past five years, Rogue Creamery has earned recognition from the international Certified B Corporation with a “Best For The World” ranking – an achievement for being among the top 5% of all B Corps worldwide for its environmental work. Brown, during her time as Oregon’s secretary of state, is credited with inspiring Gremmels to seek B Corp. status for Rogue Creamery — a three-year process that led to its certification in 2016.
His civic work includes having served as President and Chairman of the American Cheese Society. He’s currently Ambassadeur, Secretary and Treasurer of the North American Chapter of the Guilde Internationale des Fromagers.
A passion for cycling also prompted Gremmels to ride in Cycle Oregon’s Magnificent Seven – a 2014 tour that provided views of seven Cascade peaks in the same week.