Wine Down Eugene

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by Sarah Tunnell – the Frugal Wino

Oregon Pinot Noir can be a very difficult wine to find while maintaining a frugal budget.  I’ve tried many less than $20 dollar Pinots, and until now I’ve had a tough time finding one that truly impresses me. Attending industry tastings gives me the chance to try countless Pinot Noirs from all over Oregon.  Ranging mostly from $30-$75 dollars, each is delicious and offers distinct flavor characteristics which are brought on by the area where the grapes are grown, but under $20 dollar excellent Pinots are a rare find.  There is great diversity in the Willamette Valley alone; If you taste a Pinot Noir from the Eola-Amity Hills AVA or Dundee Hills AVA  (the areas between Salem and Newberg, Oregon), it is more likely to be filled with flavors of big red berries, spices, and floral notes.  Wines from the southern region of the Willamette Valley, near Eugene, are more likely to be earthy and peppery. The diversity makes me want to try wines from every unique terroir in Oregon!

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Carlo & Julian is a winery right outside Carlton, Oregon (in the northern Willamette Valley).  Owner and winemaker Felix Madrid studied at UC Davis, much like many great winemakers.  He planted his first vines – Pinot Noir – in 1991.  In 1996, after his first crush, he started Carlo & Julian – named after his two sons.  His estate wines include Pinot Noir, Grenache, and Tempranillo, but he also produces Malbec, Syrah, and Merlot from the Spofford Station Vineyard just south of the Washington border near Walla Walla.  Madrid produces 1000 cases a year and self distributes throughout Oregon. When I saw the bottle of 2009 Carlo & Julian Estate Pinot Noir, I was immediately intrigued and had to try it.  Boy am I glad I did!

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The first thing I noticed when I poured a glass of the ’09 Pinot was the color – it was beautifully dark, like blackberries or plums.  Aromas of blackberries and pepper flowed on to the palate with flavors of cherry, spices and oak.  A smooth mouthfeel and finish (my favorite part), left residual flavors of roasted nuts and vanilla.  

At $18 dollars a bottle, this wine was worth every penny – it was hearty and fantastic.  The next time I’m in Carlton, my first stop will be Carlo & Julian.  Cheers!

Kelly Asay is an entrepreneur, software developer and performing musician. As the publisher of Eugene Daily News, Asay is continually searching, finding and promoting the best unknown journalists, photographers and inspirational people from all over Lane County.

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