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Summit draws those wanting to make city a wine destination

Sherwood zip codes lists 26 vineyards/wineries


by: AMBER GARDNER - Vintners, business people and city officials all gathered Nov. 13 to discuss how to make Sherwood a wine-country destination.Why shouldn’t Sherwood be a destination location when it comes to vineyards and wine-tasting tours, after all, there are 26 wineries in Sherwood’s 97140 zip code.

That observation was highlighted during the Sherwood Chamber of Commerce’s 12 @ 12 Vintners' Forum — a wine summit of sorts — held Nov. 12 at Bella Via, a boutique wedding reception and event venue in Old Town.

The gathering attracted local winery owners, business people and government officials hoping to lay the groundwork to make the wine industry in the Sherwood area more viable.

“Our No. 1 request in the (Sherwood) Visitor’s Center is wine maps,” said Nancy Bruton, executive director of the Sherwood Chamber of Commerce. “There’s no question people are traveling here to go to our vintners.”

Sylke Neal-Finnegan, director of marketing and communications for the Washington County Visitors Association agreed, calling Sherwood the gateway to wine country during the hour-long discussion.

Sherwood City Manager Joe Gall related said when he first came to Sherwood more than a year ago, he wondered why there were so many limousines in the Albertson’s parking lot, later discovering they were picking up and dropping off tourists for area wine country tours.

“This is the launching point for a lot of tours into wine country,” Gall noted. He said his goal is to start a dialogue regarding what the city can do to help them out.

Keith Mays, former mayor and on the Sherwood Chamber of Commerce’s Community Affairs Committee, said wine is an important industry for the city.

“We certainly consider wineries as our collective family,” said Mays.

Meanwhile, Bill Blakeslee, owner of Blakeslee Vineyard Estate, who along with his wife Sheila run a vineyard on Chapman Road just above Sleighbells, said they’ve been overwhelmed with the acceptance of their business.

“We cannot believe how our business has exploded since last May,” said Sheila Blakeslee, pointing out that people don’t realize they don’t have to drive to Newberg or even McMinnville to find a vineyard.

Still, Bill Blakeslee said there are not a whole lot of places to send people who want to spend the night in Sherwood. (Sherwood has no hotel or motel in its city limits.)

Following up, Gall posed the question that if the city were able to secure a hotel in the future, what would be the price point, or the amount they’d be willing to pay.

“I don’t think $200 a night is unreasonable,” said Annedria Beckham of Beckham Estate Vineyard on Parrett Mountain.

Laurel Dent, marketing manager at Ponzi Vineyards on Mountain Road, pointed out that she’d like to have more tools at her disposal to help her guide vineyard tourism in letting them know where to spend the night and to eat as well.

“I guess I’m a little embarrassed that I don’t know where to send people,” Dent said, pointing out that Ponzi attracts visitors from all over the world who visit during the summer.

Asked by Gall how many winery tourists were from the Portland area versus outside the region, Bill and Sheila Blakeslee said it surprised them how many people come from out of town, noting that locals will come during a certain times of the year while those from out of town or from other states tend to come at different times.

“I definitely agree it’s seasonal,” said Ken Morrison, owner of K & M Wines on Heater Road. “Definitely the bigger buyers tend to be out of state.”

Meanwhile Matt Langer, whose family has property holdings throughout the city, said a portion the new Sentinel Self-Storage facility planned for the Parkway Village at Sherwood complex will cater to wine connoisseurs with 1,500 square feet of climate-controlled storage space. Langer, who also is a member of the Sherwood City Council, said the facility would be big enough to handle hundreds of cases of wine.

“We modeled this after several facilities in Portland,” he said.

Wrapping the gathering up, Bruton asked for ideas about how to promote Sherwood-area vineyards and wineries, noting that the local Albertson’s has taken the step of featuring a special local wine section in its store.

“I think it’s a perception issue that people don’t think Sherwood is wine focused,” said Morrison, who purchased the 30-year-old vineyard in 2006 and runs a tasting room in Carlton.

Following the meeting, Morrison said he felt it was a good session and was supportive of a follow up meeting.

Jared J. Rallison, owner partner of Rallison Cellars on Parrett Mountain Road, said he’d like to see another meeting as well.

“It was a good start,” he said. “We do need to develop a brand.”

Bill Blakeslee said the gathering was fruitful as well.

“I thought it was good start to some good dialogue,” he said.



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