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Art, Music, Wine

Eugene’s first celebration of summer

Before launching into this month’s wine discoveries, let me briefly explain last month’s rant against racism and misogyny. Wine, see, is one of life’s little pleasures, but I find it hard to write about such pleasures when my mind is tormented by thoughts of hundreds of young girls abducted and enslaved by gun-wielding fanatics. I can hardly bear to think about their fear and pain, much less devote time and attention to tasty vinos while they suffer. 

Maybe I can be partly forgiven if I disclose that I have (had) five sisters and four daughters, so I’m very vulnerable to threats against young females. In fact, such threats make me a bit crazoid. 

That said, I still have to admit that my outrage is barely constrained enough to turn us toward this year’s 31st Art and the Vineyard, again sponsored by Maude Kerns Art Center, Friday, July 4, through Sunday, July 6, at Alton Baker Park.

The great blues poet Tom Waits sings the line, “Fishing for a good time starts with throwing in your line.” This principle applies to discovering our personal preferences in pleasures, whether in art, music, food or drink of any kind. There will be 65 artists’ booths at AV, plus lots of music, food booths — and chances to sample the wares of 24 wineries, some quite venerable (Girardet), some so new (Bennett) it might be challenging to find their wines anywhere else.

Now, it’s true that 24 wineries represent only a fraction of Oregon’s 400-plus active producers, but some of these 24 rank among the very best. And they’ll be offering a wide array of wines: light whites, shocking pinks, deep reds, dry wines and sweet. If you’re in the early stages of your wine explorations, taste them all. Trust your own tastebuds; let your palate become a palette, daubed with the (wine) colors that paint your own preferences. Don’t let someone else tell you what you should like (except me, of course).

Piece of advice: Use the spit-buckets. Taste, spit, taste again, sucking a little air across the liquid still in your mouth, spit. Think about the flavors: compare, contrast, enjoy. And if you choose not to spit, please, don’t even think about driving.

And don’t fear the chardonnays; while it’s true that Oregon chards have taken decades of bad-rapping for being under-ripe, tart, dull and uninteresting, our viticulturalists are now producing some superb varieties. Don’t miss Noble Estate’s chard or Spangler’s unoaked. Later, shop for Oak Knoll 2011 Chardonnay ($10, on special), a deft blend of oaked and unoaked juice, yielding flavors of ripe apples, spice, a nice match for veggies and pastas.

Respect the pinks; check the spectrum, from almost transparent to almost red. J Scott will have a booth, and J. Scott Oberlander crafted Poco Collina Oregon Pinot Noir Rosé ($18.50) for the Gelardi family. If he’s pouring samples of this pink, reach for it: It’s almost ghostly pale but packed with flavors that approach the complex rosés of Provence (southern France), the world’s standard. 

Be prepared to meet terrific pinot noirs, merlots, syrahs and much more. Later, find Vista Hills 2011 Pinot Noir ($15, a bargain): forward flavors on a light body, a happy wine.

Art, good food, good wine; these offer solace to us all. Let’s rejoice in our pleasures — but never forget: Keep your pleasures close, but your conscience closer.