It's time again for the First Taste of Oregon!
The event formerly known as the Oregon Wine, Food, and Brew Fest is being held at the Oregon State Fair & Exposition Center (aka the fairgounds). Doors open Saturday 26th January at noon, and the event concludes at 10:00pm tonight.
Featuring cooking demonstrations on the chef stage, along with live music & mixology demonstrations on the main stage, this year's event has drawn 16 breweries (ciders as well as beer), 7 distilleries, 6 eateries, and no less than 31 different wineries! You'll also find artists (11), commercial & non-profit companies (12), and a number of different "Lifestyles" exhibitors (12).
On Friday the event kicked off at 4pm and I arrived around 6pm. My wife and I were joined by some close friends and we had a great time.
The evening began with an ID check and a neon green "21" wrist band. A complimentary coat check and concierge area was a nice touch, since none of us wanted to lug our coats around. The concierge also made it clear we could bring by any purchase we wanted throughout the evening and these could be picked up as we were leaving.
Overall it was a great sampling of products from local, regional, and state-wide folks making delicious food and drink for you to enjoy. A commemorative wine or beer glass is only $5, and likewise, prices (both for a glass of beer and wine, as well as the samples) were quite reasonable. In fact, many places offered free samples!
We decided to eat first: partly because we were pretty hungry, and partly because we knew we'd be sampling some alcohol. Although the eatery choices were good, and the food hit the spot, I thought food, in general, was a bit under-represented this year. After perusing the offerings we settled on some fare from:
Hot Diggity Dogs
|Spicy Italian with pepperoncinis & deli mustard|
|Spicy shrimp & pineapple kabob|
|German Sausage (with kraut & yellow mustard, of course)|
Sufficiently noshed up, we began touring the exhibit hall. We spent at least 3 hours walking through and sampling vendors' wares. As expected, some were not that exciting, some were OK, and some were definitely worth writing home about! Here are our highlights:
I have to start with my personal favorite: TeSóAria Vineyard & Winery. Just look at all those awards!
ruby port. I've always preferred tawny port, since ruby port is often overly syrupy and sweet. Obbligato has all the richness of a tawny, with a brighter finish, zero syrup textures, and a lighter alcohol content than ports often boast. He's been talking about making something like this since I first met him a few years ago at the Oregon Wine, Food, and Brew Fest. I'm glad to see his creation come to fruition, if you'll pardon the pun.
Inspired Leaf had delightful blends of organic tea.
Wildtree was an educational stop about grapeseed oil.
Mt Angel Brewing Co has some wonderful craft root beer which won the silver medal in 2012!
Olive Grand has a particularly flavorful variety of olive oils and balsamic vinegars.
Crater Lake Spirits has some amazing vodkas
Big Bottom Whiskey had some creative flavor profiles.
They wondered: what would happen if the whiskey spent some time aging in a barrel which had previously held some fabulous vino? The result: beautifully crafted wine-infused whiskey. OK, re-reading that "wine-infused whiskey" I realize it might not sound good -- but if you like wine, and you like whiskey, you owe it to yourself to give this a try!
We ended the night at Bear Creek Artichokes, where we sampled some of their various offerings.
So -- it's past noon as you are reading this. The doors are already open! You've been thinking about going, you're a bit hungry, a bit thirsty, and more than a little intrigued...
Well, do yourself a favor: get up off the couch and head over to the fairgrounds. Now! What are you waiting for! Go! You will not be disappointed!
(When he is not sampling local food and wine, you can find Keith out running, at work as a hospice nurse, or on Facebook & Twitter.)