Portland Center Stage at the Armory Coriolanus Portland Oregon

Music in the wineries: a fine pairing

Old world and new meet and match in a heady balance at the Willamette Valley Chamber Music Festival.


Good wine is a natural companion to great music, perhaps better than strawberries and cream in Oregon’s midsummer. In pairing the two, the old world meets the new, and each enhances the other, says Leo Eguchi, co-founder of August’s Willamette Valley Chamber Music Festival. 

A cellist and wine collector, Eguchi explains how the alchemy works: “In the summer of 1890, an aging Johannes Brahms felt that he had one last mountain to summit, and it was a big one. He sat down to write one final piece before retirement, and he poured in everything left to say. The resulting work, the String Quintet in G Major, opus 111, demonstrates a perspective that only an aging master can provide: exuberant joy, mournful tragedy, love lost and won … in short, a life complete and well-lived.”  

(As it turned out, the piece wasn’t Brahms’ swansong.)

Festival founders Sasha Callahan and Leo Eguchi at J. Christopher Wines in Newberg. Photo: Kelly Stewart

The vintage that partners with Brahms’ piece during the first festival weekend, Eguchi explains, is “restrained or extravagant. Archery Summit’s 2016 Red Hills Vineyard Pinot Noir has a depth and balance to accompany the string quintet. Ripe cherry and roasted tea flavors mirror the music’s surprise turns from major to minor, and the wine strikingly shows the same warm richness that can only be the voice of Brahms, deepened even further in the mid-range by this quintet’s additional (extra) viola.”

Give it a whirl!


Portland Columbia Symphony Adelante Voices of Tomorrow Beaverton and Gresham Oregon

Now in its fourth year and the brainchild of Eguchi and wife/fellow musician/onetime Oregonian Sasha Callahan, the festival combines chamber music with some of Willamette Valley’s best vintages. The three weekends of music join the two-year-old Aquilon Music Festival as a sign of cultural growth in Oregon’s wine country, less than an hour from most parts of Portland. Archery Summit joins J. Christopher Wines, Sokol Blosser Winery and Elk Cove Vineyards as hosts. 

This year’s music theme is New World/Old World. “We’ve designed each program around a major pillar of the Old World (Brahms, Beethoven Bach) in conversation with New World voices that help us hear the masterpieces differently,” says Callahan, a violinist. 

On Aug 3 and 4 at J. Christopher Wines’ Newberg barrel room, you’ll hear J.S. Bach’s huge Goldberg Variations paired with contemporary composers Caroline Shaw’sLimestone and Felt” and Missy Mazzoli’s “Lies You Can Believe In.”  Shaw’s work explores Bach’s contemplative, sacred components, while Mazzoli plays with more rock ‘n’ roll variations. Throughout the concert, the music is matched with three 2-ounce pours of J. Christopher’s wines.

The second weekend, Aug. 10 and 11, features Brahms’ quintet with works by composers Amy Beach, Caroline Shaw and violist Kenji Bunch, a friend of Callahan’s from Wilson High School days in Portland, a prolific Oregon-based composer, and a member of the festival group. Saturday’s concert is at Archery Summit Winery in Dayton, and Sunday’s at Elk Cove Vineyards in Gaston.

Jessie Montgomery, a New York City-based composer and violinist, will be at Sokol Blosser Winery for two concerts on the final weekend, Aug. 17 and 18.  A student of Joan Tower’s, last year’s composer-in-residence, Montgomery and the chamber musicians will play her exciting “Source Code” and “Strum.” Her music will be paired with Baroque composer Elisabeth–Claude Jacquet’s Sonata for D for Violin and Cello and Ludwig van Beethoven’s String Quartet No 15. Op. 132, his prayer of thanksgiving composed after he recovered from a serious illness.       

Jessie Montgomery, composer-in-residence. Photo: Jiyang Chen

Montgomery, 37, who has known Eguchi since high school years when they attended Meadow Mount Summer String Camp in upstate New York, is the festival’s composer-in-residence. The daughter of an actress/playwright/professor mother and musician father, Montgomery is an accomplished violinist and has been lauded for her ability to infuse her music with various genres including jazz, rock, classical and her own innovative voice. She is a member of the Catalyst Quartet, a collaborator with Yo-Yo Ma’s Silkroad Ensemble, and a recipient of numerous commissions from chamber groups, dance companies and orchestras. As well as playing violin, she will be on hand to talk about her pieces. Look for an OAW story on her in mid-August.   

Festival musicians Greg Ewer and Sasha Callahan, violin; Charles Noble, viola; Leo Eguchi, cello. Photo: Dan Lewis

A schedule and musicians’ biographies are on the festival web site. In addition to Callahan, Eguchi, and Bunch, string players include Charles Noble and Megumi Stohs Lewis. Amelia Lukas adds her flute-playing to the group during the second weekend for Amy Beach’s  Variations for Flute and String Quartet.


Portland Opera Puccini in Concert Keller Auditorium Portland Oregon

All concerts begin at 5 p.m. Cost is $50 for general admission; $35 for members of the hosting winery’s wine club. Season subscriptions are $120; students and youth can attend for $20. Expect three wines per concert, with more for purchase. All concerts are inside in barrel or tasting rooms, due to better acoustics than the outside world provides and for the protection of instruments. Find tickets here.

With the event designed to be relaxing and intimate, the concerts provide chances to open music- and wine-lovers’ senses to time-tested and new-fangled sounds and tastes.

Angela Allen lives in Portland and writes about the arts. She is a published poet and photographer and teaches creative and journalistic writing to Portland-area students. Her web site is angelaallenwrites.com.

Be part of our
growing success

Join our Stronger Together Campaign and help ensure a thriving creative community. Your support powers our mission to enhance accessibility, expand content, and unify arts groups across the region.

Together we can make a difference. Give today, knowing a donation that supports our work also benefits countless other organizations. When we are stronger, our entire cultural community is stronger.

Donate Today

Photo Joe Cantrell

Angela Allen writes about the arts, especially opera, jazz, chamber music, and photography. Since 1984, she has contributed regularly to online and print publications, including Oregon ArtsWatch, The Columbian, The San Diego Union-Tribune, Willamette Week, The Oregonian, among others. She teaches photography and creative writing to Oregon students, and in 2009, served as Fishtrap’s Eastern Oregon Writer-in-Residence. A published poet and photographer, she was elected to the Music Critics Association of North America’s executive board and is a recipient of an NEA-Columbia Journalism grant. She earned an M.A. in journalism from University of Oregon in 1984, and 30 years later received her MFA in Creative Writing/Poetry from Pacific Lutheran University. She lives in Portland with her scientist husband and often unwieldy garden. Contact Angela Allen through her website.

Corrib Theatre From a Hole in the Ground Contemporary Irish Theatre Alberta House Portland Oregon
Kalakendra Indian Classical Instrumental Music First Congregational Church Portland Oregon
Portland Opera Puccini in Concert Keller Auditorium Portland Oregon
Portland Center Stage at the Armory Coriolanus Portland Oregon
Cascadia Composers May the Fourth be with you Bold new music for winds and piano Lincoln Recital Hall PSU Portland Oregon
Chamber Music Northwest Imani Winds and BodyVox Beautiful Everything The Reser Beaverton Oregon
Portland Columbia Symphony Adelante Voices of Tomorrow Beaverton and Gresham Oregon
Newport Visual and Performing Arts Newport Oregon Coast
Kalakendra Indian Classical Instrumental Music First Congregational Church Portland Oregon
Triangle Productions Perfect Arrangement Portland Oregon
NW Dance Project Moving Stories Newmark Theatre Portland Oregon
Oregon Repertory Singers Finding Light 50th Season Portland Oregon
Portland Playhouse Passing Strange Portland Oregon
Imago Theatre Carol Triffle Mission Gibbons Portland Oregon
Maryhill Museum of Art Goldendale Washington
Portland State University College of the Arts
Bonnie Bronson 2024 Fellow Wendy Red Star Reed College Reception Kaul Auditorium Foyer Portland Oregon
PassinArt Theatre and Portland Playhouse present Yohen Brunish Theatre Portland Oregon
Pacific Maritime Heritage Center Prosperity of the Sea Lincoln County Historical Society Newport Oregon Coast
Portland Art Museum Virtual Sneakers to Cutting Edge Kicks Portland Oregon
High Desert Museum Sasquatch Central Oregon
Oregon Cultural Trust donate
We do this work for you.

Give to our GROW FUND.