By Joseph Ditzler

The Bulletin

For Maragas Winery, earning a silver medal last month in one of the nation’s largest wine competitions tempered the loss of 19 acres of young vines destroyed by a deep freeze in December.

The winery north of Terrebonne is rehabilitating the grapevines lost when overnight temperatures dipped to minus 21.5 degrees early Dec. 8, owner Doug Maragas said. The young vines, in the ground only a year, died, and “snapped like twigs” once he assessed the damage, he said.

Then came word the winery had scored three medals at the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition, which calls itself the largest wine competition in the U.S. Maragas, a pioneering Central Oregon winemaker, trumpeted the silver for Tootsie, the winery’s estate wine.

“That’s a great sign,” he said. “That’s consistency, not an anomaly, a statement that we make fine wine.”

The grapes of 25 varieties from the original 2 acres of the vineyard produced Tootsie, according to Maragas. An estate wine is one grown, processed and bottled at the winery.

Maragas said he intends to replace the vines lost in the freeze.

According to Patty Skinkis, Oregon State University viticulture extension specialist, producing grapes could take three years minimum. Maragas in December said the cost to replace the vines could reach $40,000 to $50,000.

Central Oregon vineyards experienced the coldest temperatures around wine country that night, followed by Southern Oregon, according to a report Dec. 12 by Skinkis for the Oregon Wine Research Institute. Temperatures fell to single digits in the Willamette Valley, where minor damage occurred to buds, from which the plant may recover, Skinkis said. The cold at Maragas destroyed the vines themselves, Maragas said.

Along with the award for Tootsie, Maragas won a silver medal for a 2010 cabernet franc at the competition and a bronze for its 2013 malbec.

This year, 5,825 wines entered the Chronicle competition, which is open to only U.S. wines. The wines are grouped according to price, as well as type. Tootsie entered in the rose/blush category; 18 other wines in that category also won silver. Of all the winners in that category — gold, silver and bronze — only Maragas came from Oregon.

“It has to be outstanding to get a silver,” said Frances Larose, marketing manager for the competition.

The award helps the label stand out for restaurateurs, for example, looking to buy wine. It also helps wine aficionados identify good wines at affordable prices, Larose said. The Maragas winners range in price from $20 for Tootsie to $25 for the malbec and $30 for the cabernet franc.

Maragas only distributes his wines through local retailers and from the winery, he said. “We want the right kind of growth for our business plan,” he said.

— Reporter: 541-617-7815,