Imagine a wonderful place full of tables laden with many types of cheeses, truffles, chocolates, jams and jellies, pickled delicacies and baked goods, all overflowing from their displays. And almost more abundant than the tasty treats are the breweries, wineries and distilleries whose bold, delicate, earthy and even naughty beverages beckon to visitors and help wash down hastily noshed crumbs and curds. Such a place existed in Central Point, Oregon on March 18th – 19th – the 2017 Oregon Cheese Festival had come to town beneath puffy clouds and large white tents.
I wasn’t sure what to expect from the entirely reasonable price point of $25 a ticket (which included, supposedly, 3 “adult beverage tasting tickets”), so we approached the festival with open minds. However, upon walking in to that vast, main sail-top tent and seeing the seemingly endless tables arranged before us, I began to feel like we could really get our money’s worth here (and indeed we did take full advantage of all 6 hours on that Sunday). This was compounded by the 10 drink tasting tickets that came coiled in each souvenir wine glass we received – plenty of bang for buck here.
Wild River Pizza handcrafted food and ale; wicked good Rye Saison (warranted seconds) and by far the most generous tasting pour(s) of the festival!
Rogue Creamery – largest selection of cheeses (5 bleus plus 5-6 others), definitely made a statement as the “host” establishment
Naked Winery – after randomly gifting a couple friends with the “Gay Rosé,” we encountered them here. Naughty names and delicious bubbles delighted!
Upper 5 Wines – off the beaten path – no tasting room, but give them a call and they’ll invite you over!
Marshall’s Haute Sauces – basic to ghost pepper and everything in between.
Vintner’s Kitchen – huge selection of jams, mustards and spreads. Amazing flavors, including pear, cranberry and pinot noir jam!
Fry Family Farm – delicious seasoning salts; the cherry bomb was the bomb.
Portland Creamery – “sweet fire” habanero marionberry goat cheese. Need I say more?
Crater Lake Spirits – I don’t like coffee or hazelnuts, but their hazelnut espresso vodka was to DIE for.
Rogue Ales – “Dare – Risk – Dream” – what’s not to love? Cold brew pale ale was pretty refreshing, too.
Immortal Spirits and Distilling Company – everything from a delicate Limoncello to a lovely aged whiskey…tasting room and restaurant, too!
BJ’s ice creams – a childhood favorite! So good I chomped the cup in my eagerness for a bite.
And SO many more! It was overwhelming in the best possible way.
Perhaps our favorite highlight? A beer and cheese pairing class with Ginger Johnson, author of How to Market Beer to Women (www.gingerjohnson.com). She was the most entertaining presenter and educator I’ve seen since college. Jelly beans and brown ale, soft, creamy cheese and kolsch, sharp cheddar and a marionberry stout – she hit the nail on the head each time. And it was FUN!