Passport to Oregon: Michael Hughes Explains the Magic of Oregon's Wines and Winemakers

"The wines are truly haunting," says Michael Hughes about the wines to be featured at "Passport to Oregon" on February 21.

Wine expert Michael Hughes, who is also the general manager of Joe’s Wines & Liquors in Midtown, says it’s difficult to put into words what makes Oregon wine so special, but he did a great job nonetheless with a handful of questions about the store’s upcoming wine tasting called “Passport to Oregon.”


The popular event will be held February 21 at the University Club and will feature several dozen wineries from Oregon along with appetizers that reflect the tastes of America’s much-loved northwestern corner. Last year’s event was a sellout, and Hughes' enthusiastic description of Oregon wines explains why.


Memphis Stew: The first “Passport to Oregon” was very popular. Why do you think people are so interested in the event?


Michael Hughes: More and more people in Memphis are seeking out unique wines from regions other than the typical. They are also thirsty for wines that give a sense of place and have real life and soul in them. Oregon wines provide exactly that and so much more. The industry there grew from families who had a love for good wine as well as a deep rooted respect for the land. That coupled with the fact that representatives directly from the winery will be here pouring their wines make this event something special. Most of the people pouring will be the very founders of the Oregon wine business. How amazing is that?


Why are you profiling Oregon wines again?


The wines are truly haunting, the people are incredibly friendly and love what they do, and the place is magical.  Oregon's wine business is still quite small and most of the wineries work together to help each other succeed.  Everyone in turn benefits. 


Bringing a piece of Oregon to Memphis will show wine lovers how special Oregon is as well as show the winemakers how great of a city Memphis is. We host this event first and foremost for our wonderfully supportive wine club members and customers, but also for Memphis as a whole.  We love where we live, and we want to help make it a better place.


What new wineries will be featured this year?


In addition to the over 20 wineries that came last year, the new additions that are joining this year are: Anne Amie, Maysara, R. Stuart (the wines were poured last year but Rob Stuart himself will be here) and Four Graces. I'm still waiting to hear back from a few others at this time.


Sometimes people new to wine are a little intimidated by wine tasting events. Can you explain briefly what to expect?

I completely understand the intimidation factor. That is without a doubt why I work so hard at putting people at ease. This event is for the novice wine drinker all the way up to the collector. All of the winery people attending are easy going, fun and friendly. People can interact with them however they wish, or they can simply taste quietly.  With nearly 100 hundred wines to taste, people shouldn't feel pressured to rush and taste everything. Many people who attended last year had intricate critiquing systems on their tasting sheets, and many others simply put "yum" or a smiley face.  The crowd last year was a combination of people who simply enjoy wine and people who covet it.


If people purchase wines at the event, do they receive a discount? And what will the price range be?

We will definitely be offering discounts for any orders placed that evening.  They will receive 10% off one bottle, 15 percent off if they order six bottles or more and 20 percent off for 12 bottles or more ordered.  The prices will range from approximately $17 to $65 with perhaps a couple higher end specialty bottles that don't normally leave the winery much less make it to a market such as ours.


And finally, is there anything else you'd like to add?


This is a rare opportunity to taste the best wines from a truly stunning wine region with the very people who made them. It is a rare thing to taste a wine that evokes the place it comes from. They don’t just sit in the glass; they really speak to me while I sip them.


Event details: February 21 from 4:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the University Club, 1346 Central Ave. Tickets are $45 person plus tax and can be purchased at Joe's Wines & Liquors, 1681 Poplar. For more information, call 901-725-4252.

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