From Crémant to Cava to…Champagne. Sparkling Wines to Ring in the New Year!


Can you believe it? We are just days away from the year coming to a close and a fresh new one beginning. Such a great time to create a clean slate! Begin anew! And mix things up a little! I thought this New Year’s post should follow suit!

While I love, love, LOVE creating sparkling cocktails for a New Year’s celebration, and I’ve made a few in the past for this here blog, we all know that when the clock strikes midnight, most people turn to the bubbly stuff all on its own. This year I decided to focus on those bottles that will be the most bang for your buck – those that look festive and taste special, but won’t break the bank, especially if you want to get multiple bottles for you and your guests.

My picks range from the number one selling Prosecco in Italy priced around $15, to an award-winning Blanc de Blanc Champagne priced under $50, to a Spanish Cava made in the traditional Champagne style that you won’t believe is under $15.

The sparkling wine category has grown steadily year after year, especially in the U.S. almost primarily due to the Prosecco trend. It has nearly eclipsed Champagne in recent years. Clever marketing and the lower price point has been key, of course. And while there has been a glut of questionable quality Proseccos that have flooded the market, there are still many brands that have been able to rival Champagne in taste.

Out of the five featured sparklers featured here, I’ve included two Proseccos. They are both from the same producer – Valdo, crafted in the heart of Prosecco–Valdobbiadene, are both made from 100% Glera grapes, and are priced similarly – around $15. But each one has a slightly different appeal. The Valdo Brut Prosecco DOC is the number one Prosecco consumed in Italy and it is pretty clear why. It goes down incredibly easy; It is slightly drier and has a touch higher alcohol content than the Valdo Oro Puro Prosecco DOCG – the fruitier and toastier of the two. The Oro Puro is aged a bit longer in the bottle and delivers a more complex profile than its modest price might suggest. The fat, elegant shape of the bottle also gives it a little more gravitas than the Brut. Spring for both and serve the Brut with food and then graduate to the Oro Puro to toast afterwards.

If you want to go French but would like to explore something other than traditional Champagne, a good quality Crémant may be just what you’re looking for. It is made using a second fermentation method like Champagne, but is not from the Champagne region. There is more freedom in terms of what grapes to use for Crémant, but they still adhere to fairly strict guidelines during production. The “Côté Mas” Crémant de Limoux Brut St. Hilaire from Languedoc in southwest France is the kind of bottle that Champagne producers don’t want you to know about. In fact, the Limoux appellation has been producing sparkling wines even longer than the Champagne region, having produced the first sparkling wine on record. The Côté Mas has silkier and more delicate bubbles than a traditional Champagne. Citrus, honey and stone fruit come through reflecting the dominant grapes of Chardonnay and Chenin Blanc. This delicious sparkler is just under $15 a bottle and your guests will never be the wiser.

Spanish Cava has long been known as the poor man’s Champagne substitute. (Prosecco has since taken that title but they somehow have made it sexier!) While Cava production has increased over the years, it still does not get the love it deserves. This is by far the most bang for your buck that you’re going to get. The Paul Cheneau line, produced in the Penedès region, takes a lot of influence from the French style and is made in a classic Champagne method but using Spanish grape varietals. The result is a lively and fresh, almost floral quality. The lengthy age comes through in a silky mouthfeel and a nice round finish. At about $14 a bottle this may be one of the best deals in the bunch.

Of course a list of sparklers to ring in the new year would not be complete without mentioning a Champers. Almost all Champagnes are made with a blend of Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier and Chardonnay, but Blanc de Blancs are made entirely from white grapes. It may not be traditional exactly, but it happens to be my Champagne of choice!

Because Blanc de Blanc is made with only white grapes, it tends to be a little more austere and crisp and have a little more minerality than most other Champagnes. But André Jacquart Champagne Blanc de Blancs Premier Cru Brut Experience goes in a different direction. It is lush and rich, heavier than you’d think when just using 100% Chardonnay grapes. The minerality is still there and it even has a touch of green apple but the depth of flavor and complexity in this Blanc de Blanc belies its single grape. Consistently rated in the top percentage of wines in the world, the $50 per bottle price tag seems like a steal.

Whatever you pick to toast the new year, I hope you get your hands on some if not all of these bottles at some point. With these prices, you can do your own taste test and see which ones are your faves. Because there is always an excuse to pop open a bottle of bubbly!


The post From Crémant to Cava to…Champagne. Sparkling Wines to Ring in the New Year! appeared first on Bit By a Fox.

What’s In My Glass? Ste. Chapelle Chardonnay

Chardonnay grapes on the vine

This summer weather sure is sticking around! It’s an excellent excuse to pop open a bottle of cold Chardonnay if you ask me. Precept wines recently sent me a delicious box of wines to taste, and the first one I picked was this delectable Chardonnay from Ste. Chapelle Winery. I was especially excited when I found out it comes from Idaho! I was able to do a little tasting there this summer and was blown away with what I tried. Finding a new wine region is always so fun, especially one that is growing like crazy, like Idaho!

Chardonnay is absolutely one of my favorite varietals. I like the cold and crisp versions aged in stainless steel, and ones that have seen some oak contact and have a hint of butter. The Ste. Chapelle Chardonnay definitely had a bit of oak contact, but I loved it! There of course were flavors of toast, but I also got notes of pineapple and bright citrus. Oak contact done right can create a wine that is smooth and has very nice balance. This wine was a great example of this! I loved the smooth, balanced mouthfeel and how fruit forward this wine was. This is the perfect summer wine.

Idaho is a region that I am definitely going to keep my eye on. There are some good things coming out of this area. Cheers to new wine regions, and delicious affordable wines.

What’s In My Glass? A to Z Chardonnay


There is just something about a good Chardonnay. This varietal is not only one of the most popular in the world, it is also grows pretty much everywhere. There are Chardonnays that winecome out of California and can be done in an oak-y and buttery style, and those grapes thrive in the heat. However, the Chardonnays of Oregon are a bit different. For the most part they are dry, crisp, and fresh – with no hint of the butter that some people are accustomed to. While I do like both versions, I absolutely LOVE Oregon Chardonnays. It is especially exciting if
I find them in my under $20 range, like the 2013 A to Z Chardonnay. This is one that is not only a fantastic find, but in the perfect price point.

The 2013 A to Z Chardonnay produced in Dundee was the perfect warm weather wine. From the moment the wine hit my glass I got flavors of ripe lemons and white fruits like green apples and peaches. This wine was fairly dry, and was dying to be paired with anything fresh off the grill. The best part of this wine is that it’s a great value and can be found pretty much anywhere that sells Oregon wine. If you are a Chardonnay lover that is looking for a fantastic bottle under $20 – while keeping it local – look no further. You’ll love this wine!

What’s In My Glass? Willamette Valley Vineyards


Willamette Valley Vineyards was one of the very first wineries that I tasted. I still remember picking up my first bottle of Oregon Blossom and loving every sip. While I still do love Oregon Blossom, I recently stopped by their tasting room and got a taste of the 2012 Dijon Clone Chardonnay. What a beautiful wine! I’ve been on a bit of a Chardonnay kick lately and this one was just perfect. Flavors of tropical fruits and bright citrus popped. There was a hint of oak, but it was just the right amount. I really enjoyed how fresh this wine was.


Lucky for us, Willamette Valley Vineyards is available at many retail stores in our area. I picked this up at my local grocery store but I do highly recommend stopping by one of their tasting rooms (one is right off I-5 just south of Salem, and the other is in downtown McMinnville). They have some very impressive selections! Make sure and try this 2012 Dijon Clone Chardonnay there as well, it is just delicious. Cheers!

Oregon Chardonnay Symposium: A Clonal Adventure


Chardonnay and I have been friends for years. I started by sipping on the buttery and oaky California versions, like many people. However, once I tried the local versions with a little less oak and some acidity, I never turned back. Oregon’s history with Chardonnay goes back all the way to the mid-1960’s, when it was first planted at the Eyrie Vineyards. The Eyrie is known from some fantastic Chardonnay to this day. Their 2012 vintage was even called one of the best in the world – what an honor!

It is because of how successful Chardonnay has been here in Oregon that Stoller Family Estates hosts the Oregon Chardonnay Symposium each year. This event features some of the best Chardonnay being produced right here in Oregon. There is also a technical tasting, which this year featured an amazing panel of wine industry veterans. This event really shined a light on the magnificence that is Oregon Chardonnay.

The Technical Tasting options – Chardonnay heaven!

On a typical Saturday in the Willamette Valley, I made the trek up to Stoller Family Estates for this fabulous event. I was honored to be in the presence of some very knowledgable wine industry folks. If I’m perfectly honest, each of these people could have an article written about just them and their incredible feats! The panel consisted of Jason Lett of the Eyrie Vineyards, John Paul of Cameron Winery, Craig Williams of X Novo Vineyard, Mini Casteel from Bethel Heights Vineyard, and Thomas Bachelder of Bachelder Wines. The whole tasting was moderated by Rajat Parr who has studied at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park New York, and is a master sommelier. The panel ranged from owners, winemakers, and vineyard operators and was focused on clones. In fact, the event was called, “Attack of the Clones”.

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(Photo Credit: Andrea Johnson)


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The Panel (Photo Credit: Andrea Johnson)


What exactly is a clone? Well, a clone is an exact copy of a “mother plant” vine. They will share DNA and characteristics and be identical. Why clones are important is a big can of worms. However, each clone is slightly different than the other and clonal selection for any vineyard is important. This event focused on clones and how they make a difference. There are many Chardonnay clones planted here in Oregon but the most common are “The Dijon Clones” from Dijon, France. There are a few different types, like Dijon 76, Dijon 95, and Dijon 96. They may sound very similar but they all have distinct characteristics. For example, Dijon 76 is known to produce intensely aromatic and well balanced grapes. While Dijon 96 is known for it’s sharp and elegant characteristics.

Talking about vines, clones, acid levels, and all things wine related are so interesting. Especially when the discussion is lead by such knowledgable company. I haven’t planted any grapes myself yet, but this event really showed me that Chardonnay is a rising star here in Oregon. All of the panelists present had planted Chardonnay themselves and had great success. Clones do matter. Picking one that fits the site and climate will help ensure higher success. More importantly though, is that wineries are making the choice to grow this grape here in Oregon. Just like the Pinot Noir grape, Chardonnay is a gift to Oregon. These grapes are also grown everywhere throughout the world, but here especially we can grow some incredibly complex and beautiful grapes. These grapes are the first step in producing the  phenomenal wines that Oregon is known for.

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Tasting with Mimi Casteel of Bethel Heights (Photo Credit: Andrea Johnson)

All of this talk about Chardonnay definitely made me thirsty. Luckily, there was a second portion of the event: The Grand Tasting. Grand is a perfect adjective to describe it. There were 60 different wineries present, all tasting their favorite Chardonnays. This grape really shows a “place” well, meaning that each wine gave characteristics of the location that the grapes were grown. I’m not exaggerating when I say that I loved every single Chardonnay that I tried. Each taste I had was distinct, and delicious! The love that goes into each vintage (and even each bottle!) is incredible.

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(Photo Credit: Andrea Johnson)

Here are a few shining stars from this fantastic event:

  •  2013 Foris Barrel Fermented Chardonnay – $14                                           (Clones: Dijon and California) This wine is from the Rogue Valley so it really stood out here. It had just the right amount of oak contact, with flavors of crisp apples and a hint of pineapple.
  • 2013 Chehalem INOX Chardonnay – $19                                                          What a treat! This wine was aged in steel barrels, and as a result was crisp and refreshing. Flavors of citrus and crisp fall fruits popped. No oak means this wine was not “toasted”, but I loved the nice acidity and balance.
  • 2012 Monte Ferro Chardonnay – $20                                                            (Clone: Dijon 76) This was another varietal without any oak contact. It had a richness to it, and was extremely fruit forward. The finish was perfectly crisp though, and was dying to be enjoyed on a sunny day.
  • 2013 Seven of Hearts Willamette Valley Chardonnay – $24                          (Clones: Dijon 76,95 & 96) Light bodied and crisp, this wine was made with neutral oak and steel barrels. Two vineyards were used in this varietal. Nice balance and perfect acidity.
  • 2010 Belle Pente Vineyard Chardonnay – $30                                                      (Clones: Dijon 76, 95 & 96) Made with 100% Estate grown grapes, this wine has some oak (10-15% new oak) but is well balanced. White peach and pear flavors make this wine very fruit forward. A fantastic find.
  • 2012 Stoller Family Estate Reserve Chardonnay – $35                                         (Clones: 76, 95 & 96) This 2012 vintage is made from mostly neutral oak, but some new was used to create a toasted effect. Hints of lemon zest and spice popped on this varietal. The balance was just right with a hint of crispness on the finish. Delicious!

Tasting wines back to back like this can be an eye opening experience. Each nuance is pronounced in a way that is harder to see when tasting individually. Delicious food was provided during the tasting as well, which helped neutralize the palette between sips. Recipe provided the delicious bites that included house made charcuterie and various canapes. The selections were beautiful!

Talk about delicious! Pork tenderloin roulade with mustard seed gremolata


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Cheese Board from Cow Bell (Photo Credit: Andrea Johnson)

An event like the Oregon Chardonnay Symposium is an excellent opportunity to taste some of the wonderful Chardonnays coming out of our beautiful state. Doing a technical tasting is such an amazing experience. Tasting wines while the winemakers and grape growers talk about the process (and the clones involved!) is awe inspiring. This event is hosted every year in March and is absolutely worth checking out. The technical tasting and grand tasting both leave you with an excellent sense of the high quality Chardonnays being produced here. Cheers to a Oregon wine, and the future of this wonderful grape!

It might’ve been a drizzly day – but what a stunning location. Thanks Stoller Family Estates!


The Frugal Wine Gal: Argyle Chardonnay


Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris are arguably the most popular varietals here in Oregon. However, many people might say a close third would be Chardonnay. This varietal is so versatile and can be found in many different styles.

My first experience with Chardonnay was probably similar to many other peoples, the buttery and rich versions that hail from California. Now, it is not fair to say that all Californian Chardonnay’s are of this style or that I don’t appreciate a good glass of this style of wine from time to time. Many of the Chardonnay’s that I’ve encountered from my home here in Oregon are of a different type; the crisp, fruity, cold climate style. This is what I discovered when I picked up a bottle of the 2012 Argyle Chardonnay. This wine was in our frugal budget, and truly representative of the Oregon cold climate style.


(Photo Credit: John Morgan)

Argyle Winery has a long history here in Oregon. Nestled in Dundee, right off of highway 99, this winery produces some incredible varietals. Since 1987, Argyle has been producing high end Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and “Methode Champenoise” style wines. They have many wines that have been rated 90 points and above by Wine Spectator magazine as well! Many of their wines are produced with grapes grown on one of their three vineyards; Knudsen, Lonestar, and Spirit Hill.

To ensure quality they even chill all of the fruit they pick overnight before they crush, to help preserve the fruit flavors. It is always exciting to try a wine that has so much love and care put into it. From the vineyard to the winery, and best of all to my glass.


On an especially crisp January evening, I grabbed my chilled bottle of Argyle Chardonnay from my fridge and screwed off the cap. Yes, they use screw caps versus a traditional cork. Personally, I love when wineries do this. The characteristics of the wine stay just the way they were when they were bottled (due to lack of oxygen contact) and it helps the wine stay longer in the fridge. On the off chance you don’t finish a bottle you can save it for just a tad longer. This Chardonnay poured a beautiful pale yellow, and had aromas of fresh pears. I knew immediately it was steel barrel aged because of the crisp scents it was giving off. First sip had flavors of ripe green apples and hints of white peaches. Overall, this wine was fresh, balanced, and had a mild acidity that would pair with so many things. Seafood, asian food, and anything with a hint of black pepper would be excellent options.

As for the cost, I picked this up on sale at my local market for around $16, but on average it will be about $20. Argyle produces very high quality wines that have been wowing us for years. This is a great winery for go-to delicious varietals for any occasion.They have also just released a 2013 Chardonnay for $20 that has a little bit of oak age added to it. I can’t wait to give it a try. Cheers!

Wine Down Eugene


Wine Down Eugene June 4-10

Keeler Estate Vineyard

Being the fan that I am of the wines from my beautiful home state of Oregon, and everything that has to do with the Oregon wine industry; including, the wineries and vineyards, the winemakers, the harvesters, the gorgeous rolling hill wine country, the thriving varietals and the hundreds of micro-climates throughout the state, I always get super excited when there’s a new addition to the already fabulous list of wineries we have.

KEV all 5

Towards the ladder part of last year, Keeler Estate Vineyard was suddenly the buzz among my wine writing friends and I. We all received news of the opening of a new winery in the Eola-Amity Hills AVA, located in Amity, Oregon.  We each received an invitation to attend their special media opening, and I was very excited to visit this new winery for many reasons.

For starters, I love many of the wineries and wines that are associated with the Eola-Amity Hills AVA.  It’s an AVA that has some world renowned wineries like Bethel Heights, Zenith Vineyard, Brooks Winery, St. Innocent Winery, Evening Land Vineyards, Witness Tree and, of course, the newer Keeler Estate Vineyard. Secondly, they focus on two of my favorite Oregon varietals: Chardonnay and Pinot Noir (as well as Pinot Gris).  Thirdly, the owners have a fabulous story to tell.


Sadly, I was unable to attend the event.  As a wine-writing mother of two boys, 9 and 10 years old, I had to cancel my plans at the last minute when my son came down with an awful cold.  Friends in the industry that attended the event sent me updates throughout the day via texts, telling me great things about the owners, Craig and Gabriele Keeler, the gorgeous property, and the absolutely stellar wines.  I knew I was missing out on a superb day.

Gabriele Keeler, being the gracious and thoughtful person that she is, kindly forwarded five bottles of the Keeler Estate wines so I would get a chance to taste the wines that all of my friends were raving about.  Although I have yet to see the beautiful grounds and vineyards in person, which are organically and biodynamically farmed, I have certainly been able to experience the terroir through the Keeler’s earth-driven wines that are well worth the buzz they’ve been receiving.  

The five Keeler Estate wines that are all the rave:

Keeler Estate Vineyard 2011 Pinot Gris:  Fresh white fruits on the nose and palate are balanced to perfection with just the right amount of zippy acidity.  The lengthy finish will entice you to not put down your glass.  More please.

KEV 12 chardKeeler Estate Vineyard 2011 Chardonnay:  Balance perfection between alluring tropical fruit notes and solid acidity.  Excellent complexity, yet focused and pure, and the varietal characteristics try shine exactly the way they should.  My favorite Chardonnay of all in 2013.

Keeler Estate 2011 Pinot Noir:  Dark cherries, violets and brown spices showcase delicate elegance on the palate with lovely acidity giving it a nice balance.  The terroir of Eola-Amity shines through as this evolves into an earthy, mushroomy delight by the next day.  This is why I love Oregon Pinot Noir.

Keeler Estate 2012 Pinot Gris:  A lush, juicy summer sipping delight!  Pears, apricots, honeysuckle and star fruit with palate pleasing minerals and excellent acidity.  Exceptional balance.

Keeler Estate 2012 Chardonnay:  Taste the Eola-Amity Hills in this beautiful, crisp refreshing Chardonnay. Focused, clean and absolutely delicious aromas and flavors of the tropics: pineapple, grapefruit, lemon and Key limes.

KEV corks

To read about the Keeler’s fabulous story and a history on their incredible vineyard; including details on their organic and Biodynamic farming practices, please follow me over to my award winning website,  You won’t want to miss learning more about one of Oregon’s most talked about wineries!

Can’t make it up to Amity soon enough?  Head over to the Oregon Wine LAB, where owner Mark Nicholl’s is proud to represent not only his own stellar line of wines (William Rose and Bootlegger), but other Local Artisan Brands, as well – like Keeler Estate Vineyard. 




Wine Down Eugene


Wine Down Eugene May 21-27

May 23 is National Chardonnay Day

There’s been a lot of buzz about Chardonnay lately.  Not only here in Oregon, where our Chardonnay is now being recognized by critics around the world (much like our Pinot Noir has been for years), but its popularity is on the rise and wine lovers from around the globe are raising their glasses filled with this wonderful varietal.

A cluster of Chardonnay at Willamette Valley Vineyards in Oregon

One of the reasons why I personally love Chardonnay is that its characteristics are naturally very neutral, allowing it to be easily influenced by terroir.  Therefore, depending on where the varietal is grown, characteristics of the terroir are soaked in from the roots up – ending in terroir-driven wines with exciting, distinctive and complex essences and components.

I was recently invited to attend a live Twitter wine tasting of Chablis, so imagine my excitement for an event that revolves around one of my favorite varietals.  Wondering what Chablis has to do with Chardonnay?  Chablis IS Chardonnay; in fact, ALL Chablis is Chardonnay; however, all Chardonnay is not Chablis.  A Chardonnay is Chablis when it comes from the Chablis region of France.  So technically, there is only one true Chablis, and it is Chablis from France.

Chablis 3D map
Part of the swag in our media package was a super nice 3D map of the Chablis region

Chablis, France, lies within the larger region of Burgundy, also known as Bourgogne.  It’s in the northeastern portion of Burgundy, near Auxerre, and the vineyards of Chablis lie along the river Serein (“serene”).  Much like it does in Oregon, geology plays a very important role in the quality and characteristics of the wines, and no other region in France has put its faith more firmly in the geology and terroir than Chablis.  

As a part of the media package I received for this special Chablis tasting, hashtagged as #PureChablis on Twitter, I received a chunk of the very unique Kimmeridgien soil from Chablis attached to a key chain.  My favorite swag of all time (yes, I’m what they call a Dirt Nerd or Soil Geek), the Kimmeridgien soil attached to the key chain is made up of (best described by Ben Carter of Benito’s Wine Reviews), “limestone + clay + oyster shells + 150 million years = great white wine.”  This soil is truly what makes the Chablis wines so unique.

The chunk of Kimmeridgien from Chablis
The chunk of Kimmeridgien from Chablis

Other goodies within the media package were excellent informative materials; including, several maps of the region (one was a 3D map), a Burgundy Wines Aroma Guide, The Art of Tasting Burgundy Wines guide, detailed information on three of the four AOCs of Chablis (Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée – Chablis, Premier Cru and Grand Cru areas), a Passport to Bourgogne wines (a handy pocket-sized booklet of the five wine producing regions of Burgundy), and of course, three Chablis wines: one Chablis AOC, one Chablis Premier Cru AOC and one Chablis Grand Cru AOC.  (The fourth AOC is Petite Chablis) 

Each of the three wines were vintage 2011, so it was incredibly fun to discover the differences and similarities between the three AOC regions – all harvested the same year and sharing the same soils. Starting with the Chablis AOC, the least expensive of the three, we ended with the Grand Cru AOC, the most expensive. The three producers were: La Pierrelée 2011Chablis ($20), Domaine William Fevre 2011 Chablis Premier Cru ($45) and Domaine Christian Moreau Chablis Grand Cru ($80).  

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La Pierrelée 2011Chablis

I’ll be describing the wines in detail on my award-winning website,, so follow me over there to find out more about each of the three wines and the significance of their particular AOC’s.

On Chardonnay Day, be the witty one at the party: bring a Chablis.  But if you’re a Zalto stemware user like me, leave those at home…your Chardonnay/Chablis Day just may end in tragedy. Thank goodness the wine was well worth it!



*All the swag and wine were provided to me for review purposes

Wine Down Eugene


Wine Down Eugene April 2-8

Spring has arrived in the Willamette Valley.  Along with the usual rain, blue sky one day, grey sky the next, enhanced by massive diurnal swings in temperature from day to night – everything is pretty normal around here this time of year.  Except one thing: I usually fill my glass with Pinot Noir up until the day I dust off my flip flops, but this spring, I just can’t seem to keep my hands off of Oregon’s Chardonnays.

photo: Julia Crowley
photo: Julia Crowley

Those who know me well, know I have always been a fan and advocate of the Willamette Valley’s Chardonnays.  My devotion and appreciation for the Chardonnays produced in the Willamette Valley has a lot to do with the region’s cooler climate.  Wine grapes grown in cooler climates produce less sugar; therefore, the grapes retain a greater natural acidity than wine grapes grown in warmer climates.  Natural acidity in wine creates crisp and refreshing characteristics that I simply love, and Chardonnays that have that natural acidity tend to be very food friendly – making them a staple at the lunch or dinner table.  No matter how food-friendly they are, however, I often find myself sneaking in a few moments of spring’s occasional sunshine and warmth while simply sipping a chilled glass of Chardonnay all on its own.

I recently participated in an on-line virtual tasting of three absolutely outstanding Oregon Chardonnays produced by one of my favorite Oregon winemakers, Kim Kramer (of Kramer Vineyards), located in the Yamhill-Carlton AVA of the Willamette Valley.  With three Dijon clone Chardonnays, each produced from grapes grown on the estate vineyard, we tasted Kramer Vineyards 2009 Cellar Door Club Reserve, 2011 Chardonnay Estate and 2012 Chardonnay Estate.

photo: Julia Crowley
photo: Julia Crowley

Each of the three Chardonnays were unique thumbprints of the weather patterns of their harvested years – showcasing excellent varietal characteristics special to their vintage, terroir and Kim’s impressive winemaking style.  In all three vintages, Kim used basically the same winemaking techniques (with some variation in new, older and neutral French oak selection): harvested by hand and whole cluster pressed in October, primary fermentation in stainless barrels, aged on the lees with bi-monthly stirring until spring racking, heavier lees discarded and returned to barrels to age (and to undergo malolactic fermentation) until bottling in the fall.

All three were incredibly different, yet similar in quality and deliciousness. 

Kramer Vineyards 2009 Cellar Door Club Reserve ($20) offered rich and beautiful aromas of pears, apples, pineapple. On the palate, that richness was matched with a lovely, velvety texture that finished with the perfect amount of acidity to round out the rich fruit flavors to ideal precision.  The Willamette Valley had almost record long hang time in 2009, and the fruit was riper than usual because of a heat spike in late September.  Overall, most vintners considered it a warmer than average season.  Brix at harvest for the Cellar Door Club Reserve was 22.5, alcohol is 13.5% and the TA (total acidity) is 6.3 g/l (grams per liter)

photo: Julia Crowley
photo: Julia Crowley

Kramer Vineyards 2011 Chardonnay Estate ($18) displayed alluring tropical aromas and flavors of Key limes, mangoes, orange blossom and pineapple topped off with hints of mouthwatering white pepper.  Super refreshing and crisp on the palate, I loved the solid acidic backbone that rounded out all of the components in excellent harmony.  The weather in the Willamette Valley in 2011 was a huge challenge for vintners.  Spring came late and summer never really warmed up.  According to the 2011 Oregon Vineyard Report, “sugar levels developed slowly, but heavy pruning and favorable fall weather led to a quality crop. Many growers harvested later than ever before, risking late-season disease and animal exposure…the consensus was that 2011 will be a memorable vintage.”  Brix at harvest was 19.3, alcohol is 12.5% and the TA is 8.0 g/l.

Kramer Vineyards 2012 Chardonnay Estate ($20) was like tropical paradise in a bottle, I had visions of sandy beaches and swaying palms.  Star fruit, pear, coconut, pineapple, grapefruit, limes and peaches all take over the senses, but aren’t overpowering – giving it elegance and delicateness. Seamless, soothing waves of fruit balanced by awakening (but not jolting) acidity gave it a really smooth, fluid and tranquil quality that I absolutely loved.  I just wanted to be on a beach somewhere.  Some called the 2012 growing season in the Willamette Valley “epic,” and many of the most notable quotes from vintners around the Willamette Valley were compiled for a piece I wrote on my website, 2012 Harvest Quotes – Willamette Valley.  Brix at harvest were 21.9, alcohol is 13.2% and TA is 6.7 g/l.

photo: Julia Crowley
photo: Julia Crowley

It’s a fact, I’m attracted to acid driven wines, and the Willamette Valley’s cooler climate and unique terroir (depending on the AVA) acidity is showcased, along with many other characteristics with each growing season.  And because our weather patterns vary greatly year in, year out, I look forward to every vintage with anticipation – excited for a whole new experience.

I try a lot of Oregon Chardonnays, and I recently attended the Annual Oregon Chardonnay Symposium.  Read more on my award-winning website, 




Wine Down Eugene


Wine Down Eugene March 5-11

As I prepare myself for yet another necessary major surgery (sigh), I just can’t help accepting every invitation with glee to events and stellar opportunities that have been tossed my way.

“Want to fill a position on the judging panel in Cannon Beach for the SavorNW Wine Awards?” I’d be honored.  “Would you like to attend the Oregon Chardonnay Symposium at the beautiful Stoller Family Estate and savor Chardonnays from 40 Oregon wineries?”  Wouldn’t miss it for the world!  “How about joining us for a live tasting of the wines of Uruguay?”  Indeed, I’d be delighted.  “Want to join us for our first Wine vs Beer Food Pairing Event at the Tap and Growler?”  You betcha.

The line-up of J. Scott Cellars wines: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Syrah

Without a doubt, I am going to get in as much fun as I possibly can before going under the knife and being laid up for a couple months.  Enjoy. Every. Minute.

As I wrote in last week’s Wine Down Eugene, being a part of the esteemed wine judging team of the impressive SavorNW Wine Awards will undoubtedly be the ultimate highlight of the year for me.  The Savor Cannon Beach Wine & Culinary Festival is taking place right now, and the folks attending are in for some amazing, award-winning wines.

The Wine vs Beer Food Pairing Event at The Tap and Growler was incredible and featured three of some of my favorite local producers of fine wine, creative brews and mouthwatering foods: winemaker Jonathan Scott Oberlander of J. Scott Cellars, Oakshire’s Brewmaster Matt Van Wyk, and Michael Landsberg of Noisette Pastry Kitchen – quite the trio of talent.

Oakshire’s PTO Pale Ale, 7th Anniversary Ale and Overcast Espresso Stout

Taking place in the Tap & Growler’s Barrel Room, located behind what I like to call, “the great wall of wine taps,” the event was sold out – all twelve seats were taken by like-minded people with palates that were just waiting to be tantalized by some really outstanding wines, brews and handcrafted small bites.

With Jonathan of J. Scott Cellars, Matt of Oakshire and Michael of Noisette each explaining what they had brought to the table, we were excited to start tasting and finding our favorite matches between the food, wine and beer.  There were three brews and three wines alongside a plate of six different mouthwatering savory and sweet bites.

The Oakshire brews:

  • PTO Pale Ale (standing for Paid Time Off – a great story to ask about when visiting Oakshire’s Public House) – full bodied, citrus-centric hop monster. Loved it!
  • Brewer’s Reserve 7th Anniversary Ale – quite possibly my favorite beer of all time. Baltic Porter, barrel aged in both bourbon and Pinot Noir barrels and matured on tart cherries.
  • Overcast Espresso Stout – year round, rich smooth, oatmeal stout.
  • A bonus sample of the Funk d’Farmhouse (aged in Oregon Pinot Noir barrels for a year, need I say more?)

The J. Scott Cellars wines (all from wine kegs):

  • Chardonnay – classic Chardonnay with an excellent depth of character and smooth, silky, creamy mouthfeel
  • Pinot Noir – light bodied, yet full of character with aromas and flavors of cherries, cranberries, earth and spice.
  • Syrah – black and red fruit aromas with a touch of smokiness and a zippy black pepper finish.
  • a bonus sample of the ’12 Zinfandel (read my review here)

Noisette small-bites:

  • Ham & Cheese Bread Pudding
  • Chicken Liver with Pepper Jelly
  • Savory Spiced Corn Puff Honeycomb
  • Curry Nut Meringue
  • French Macaroon
  • Chocolate Sesame Pokey Stick
Clockwise from bottom right corner: Ham & Cheese Bread Pudding, chicken Liver, Corn Puff Honeycomb, Meringue, Macaroon and Pokey Stick
Clockwise from bottom right corner: Ham & Cheese Bread Pudding, Chicken Liver, Corn Puff Honeycomb, Meringue, Macaroon and Pokey Stick

I would love to go into great deal about all of the incredible flavors in everything that was involved (indeed, each beer, wine and small bite was delicious), but with limited space and time, I’ll share three pairings that were totally unforgettable and simply stunning together:

Ham & Cheese Bread Pudding with Chardonnay: Although the saltiness of the ham was super nice with the hoppiness of the PTO Ale, there was something really palate pleasing about the creaminess of the bread pudding that went amazingly well with the creamy texture of the Chardonnay. The flavors, and in particular the textures, sang in harmony.

Savory Spiced Corn Puff Honeycomb with the Syrah and the Overcast Espresso Stout: This was a perfect tie.  The super savory honeycomb had loads of flavors, both sweet and spicy. the Syrah toned down the spiciness while popping the sweet qualities, while the Stout did the exact opposite. The honeycomb was light and airy, contrasting the heaviness of both the wine and beer – the contrast is what made it distinctively delicious.

The delicious Ham and Cheese Bread Pudding with J. Scott Cellars Chardonnay – a beautiful marriage of textures

French Macaroon with the 7th Anniversary Ale: Wow. This pairing was unbelievably perfect in every single way, shape and form.  Go, no run, to Noisette and pick up a French Macaroon (with chocolate inside), take it to the Tap and Growler and get a pint of the 7th Anniversary Ale before it’s all gone. Now.

Kudos to the Tap and Growler’s General Manager, Toby Harris, for putting together a stellar event that included three of Eugene’s rock stars in their own fields.  For being among some of the first special events to take place at the recently opened Tap and Growler, I’m more than impressed with Toby’s collaboration of food, drink and good cheer – I can’t wait to see what other events he’s got up his sleeve.

Keep up with what’s going on at the Tap and Growler on Facebook:

A bonus sample of Oakshire's Funk d'Farmhouse - a must-try brew
A bonus sample of Oakshire’s Funk d’Farmhouse – a must-try brew

Follow me over to my award-winning website to read more about my evening at the Tap and Growler – it didn’t end with the completion of the event.  Some new found friends and I were having way too much fun, so we decided to check out a flight of brews and wines from the Tap and Growler’s expansive tap list, discovering some excellent beverages.