What do you get when you put a retailer (Bob Wolf, Oregon Pinot Noir Club) a west-coast palated sommelier (Keith Goldston), Oregon winemaker (Andrew Rich) and an opinionated, strong point of viewed wine writer (me) on a panel for the Oregon Indie Wine Festival? You get a lot of dissent, a lot of great dialogue and not a whole lot of consensus. Welcome to our own personal Tower of Babel. I understand the need to 'judge' to eliminate the bad wines from the good so this festival gets to showcase the best that the Portland Indie can produce. I was excited to be invited to be on the panel. I wanted to peek in on what the next generation wine maker is up to in Oregon. But the concept of judges coming together from such disparate points of view seems at first unfair and then absurd and then fascinating and then.... it all worked out. Sommelier Keith gave the higher points to wines he felt he could serve in a restaurant. Retail Bob voted with his points for wines he felt could sell, whether he personally liked them or not. Winemaker Andrew was extremely reasonable. I adored tasting with him. He gave the analytic breakdown (when asked) and perhaps the fairest scores. Writerly me gave the points to wines I felt had authenticity. I just could not award any wine that was smothered in toast. Unlike anyone else on the panel, I did not see brett (whether a little mousy or a little barnyardy) as a flaw. Iím pretty much sure Andrew found me amusing. Iím not sure the other two (with varying intensity) thought my perspective was valid and I donít view judging a wine; ď I donít like it but I could sell it,Ē is valid either. However for some magical reason the averaging of our scores in the end did seem to select the best wines. Over all the quality was much better than last year. Fewer relied on obvious oak. A few wines had the courage to allow delicacy. And, one wine really caught my attention. #100. #100 started off by throwing sauerkraut. At first it was an odd duck. But I had a suspicion and swirled and aerated like mad. I wrote a note: this wine needs a wide-mouthed ceramic pitcher. Then I wrote another note: 'watch out for this winemaker." By the time oxygen worked its magic on the wine it had turned pretty, one of the few wines on the table that had the guts to let the earth (and not just the fruit) shine through. The wine was made by Jason Lett, (David Lett of Eyrie Vineyard's son) under the name of Black Cap. The wine had life. It was a treat. Big congratulations to Lisa Donoughe. She concepted the Indie four years ago because she wanted to give winemakers, who produced in micro-quantities, a forum. The festival is a fabulous venue for the little guy. Lisa is one of those rare, enviable individuals who have the capacity to get an idea, a crazy idea, capture it, and actualize it.