Ashland area wineries won an unprecedented number of top awards in statewide competition at the 14th annual Oregon Wine Experience (OWE) Aug. 24-28 in Jacksonville.

A wine and culinary event formerly known as the World of Wine festival, the 2016 OWE competition was open to wineries throughout Oregon for the first time. Making Southern Oregon the venue for statewide wine competition is important for recognition of our local wines.

“Oregon is a powerful marketing word,” Southern Oregon Winery Association President Michael Donovan explains, “and we in the south are Oregon every bit as much as Willamette or Walla Walla. To have this event in our own back yard is terrific.”

This year’s OWE competition was judged by a panel of nationally renowned experts, three of whom are Masters of Wine (who have proved their understanding of all aspects of wine by passing the Master of Wine examination, recognised worldwide for its rigour and high standards, according to the Master of Wine website).

In all, 218 wines were entered by 68 wineries statewide, 70 percent of them from the Southern Oregon American Viticultural Area. The 12 Ashland area wineries that cooperatively market themselves as the Bear Creek Wine Trail hauled in one of only three Best of Show awards, and three of 14 Double Gold Medals.

The Best of Show award is given to the top red, white and other (dessert, sparkling or blush) vintage.

The top white wine out of all 66 entries was Pebblestone Cellars 2015 viognier, an amazing performance by this Bear Creek boutique producer, considering Pebblestone 2014 viognier also won Best of Show at last year’s OWE.

Double Gold Medals are awarded to wines receiving Gold Medal scores from all judges on the panel. The Bear Creek wineries that won Double Gold Medals are RoxyAnn Winery for the 2012 claret and Weisinger Family Winery for both the 2013 malbec and the 2015 chardonnay. Weisinger was the only winery in the competition to win two Double Gold Medals.

Edenvale, another winery with a strong Ashland association through its Enoteca tasting room on the Plaza, won Double Gold for its 2008 Tempranillo.

The 2014 Pinot Noir from Irvine Family Vineyards, located on Emigrant Creek Road, also won Double Gold.

Gold Medals went to Belle Fiore, Grizzly Peak, Pebblestone, and RoxyAnn in the Bear Creek group, as well as Ashland’s Eliana Wines. Aurora Vines, Belle Fiore, DANCIN, Grizzly Peak, Irvine, Ledger David, RoxyAnn and Weisinger collected silver medals.

Since 2014 OWE has been the signature fundraising event of the Asante Foundation. Over the past three years OWE has generated more than $1.7 million to support pediatric medical programs at Asante, including the Children’s Miracle Network at Rogue Regional Medical Center. Asante Rogue Regional is one of only 170 hospitals nationwide offering this stellar brand of pediatric care.

Ashland freelance writer MJ Daspit is co-author of "Rogue Valley Wine."