Wine Down Eugene

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Wine Down Eugene October 2-8

A couple days ago, I received a tweet via Twitter from @16TonsCafe (we all know and love 16 Tons), and here’s what it read: “@WineJulia you must be in wine heaven with all these new places opening.  It’s kind of epic for Eugene’s urban wine scene.”

OWL gewurz
Oregon Wine Lab logo glass filled with a lovely William Rose Gewürztraminer

There’s no denying it, I am indeed in wine heaven these days.  There’s the new Tap and Growler, where a plethora of wines are on tap just waiting to fill either a wine glass or four different sized growlers.  We’ve got the new Route 5 Wine Bar at Fifth Street Market, and I know of two other wine-centric places that are in the works in the same general area.  Territorial Vineyards and Wine Company and Eugene Wine Cellars are no longer Eugene’s only urban wineries, the new Oregon Wine Lab, which I checked out for the first time just yesterday, is now open daily.

Owned by Mark Nicholl of William Rose Wines, who was also the previous winemaker at Sweet Cheeks Winery, the Oregon Wine Lab is all about Local Artisan Brands – the Lab portion of the creative name Mark came up with for his new business.  Located on Lincoln Street, just behind Utopia Salon on 5th, Mark has found the perfect location for an urban winery and tasting lounge.

OWL bar
Check out that gorgeous bar top

With plenty of room for a crowd of wine enthusiasts, the tasting lounge is large, open and airy, with high ceilings and polished concrete floors.   Vinyl records and mood lighting (that changes color at the touch of a button on Mark’s phone) create a uniquely inviting, comfortable and unpretentious environment.  A gorgeous recycled barrel stave tasting bar is the center of attention.  Made by Mark with help from his father-in-law, the tasting bar boasts a salvaged wood bar top from Urban Lumber Company that is naturally cut and beautifully refinished.

There’s an area off the tasting room that’s been designated for wine education and classes, where AVA maps and aroma wheels will adorn the walls. Upstairs, there’s a special events room with a floor to ceiling window that looks down over the tasting room.  But what convinced Mark to sign on the dotted line for this particular building was the space that is accessed through a single door in the tasting lounge – a space perfect for a soon-to-be full-blown winery that will be bustling like mad come harvest 2014. 

OWL record player
Mark is building a collection of vinyl records to play in the Tasting Lounge

With a focus on supporting local businesses, Mark will be working with a local restaurant to create small plates to offer guests, he plans to have local art throughout, and he’s working on bringing in other local wineries without walls so they can make and sell their wine at the Oregon Wine Lab.

Before departing, Mark gave me a sample of his not-yet-labeled 2012 Illinois Valley Gewürztraminer – one I tried months ago while it was still in a stainless steel tank.  Housed in a 500ml bottle that is sleek and lean, the William Rose Gewürztraminer is truly a treat.  With just 8.5% alcohol and 4.5% residual sugar, the Gewurztraminer is sweet, but not too sweet, with a lovely faint acidity and solid structure.  Aromas and flavors of white peaches, rose petals and ginger roll in waves from the front of the palate to the lengthy, delectable finish.  It’s a must-try wine.

OWL tasting lounge
Looking down into the tasting lounge from the upstairs special events room

Read more reviews on Mark’s line of William Rose wines on my award-winning wine website, WineJulia.com.

Visit The Oregon Wine Lab 7 days a week from noon to 8 pm.  488 Lincoln St., Eugene.

Julia has been in the wine industry for nearly 20 years. First through creating European wine tours, then opening her own wine bar, Julia loves writing about food & wine on her website, WineJulia.com.

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