J. Scott Cellars

Behind The Wine: J.Scott Cellars


On a ridiculously gorgeous Friday I had the privilege of sitting down with Jonathan Oberlander, winemaker and proprietor of J.Scott Cellars. I’ve been a fan of his wines for many years, after initially working winemaker dinners with him through the Heidi Tunnell Catering Company (now the delicious Creswell Bakery, just south of I-5). If you want to talk about diverse wineries, J.Scott has it all. He produces over 20 varietals, with grapes from all over Oregon. Officially launched in 2003, J.Scott Cellars truly has something for everyone to enjoy!

J.scott Cellars

Jonathan didn’t start out his career here, but in California. He originally received a Bachelors Degree in Finance. He started out his wine career in San Diego doing wine sales. While visiting his now wife, Bonnie, at UC Davis he tried some Fetzer and Korbel wines. The scent of the wood, cedar and wine in the cellar really kick started a love of wine. It was at that time he thought to himself, “I could do this”. He then took the leap to going to UC Davis, and eventually transferred to Fresno State. After working in California for many years at Bernadus Vineyards and Winery as an Assistant Winemaker, then Associate Winemaker, both he and his wife needed a change. Eugene, Oregon was the perfect fit for their family.

Jonathan Oberlander of J.Scott Cellars

The move to Oregon was pretty sudden for them. After applying to a position as Assistant Winemaker at Silvan Ridge, they sold their home in California in less than a week! The draw of Oregon truly was the fantastic wines, the lush green landscapes, and the friendly people. After being at Silvan Ridge for many years, Jonathan started his own label. J.Scott Cellars has high quality, delicious wines that truly have an Oregon spirit.


How would you describe your approach to making wines?

Really I’m looking to make a balanced wine out of each one and I want each wine to have its own personality. So I don’t want Pinot to taste like Syrah, you know. I want Pinot to be pretty and delicate and feminine. I want Syrah to be kind of meaty. And I want Cab or Petit to be kind of fat and manly. I try and let the grape express its typicity and natural characteristics and just build on those a little bit. The use of oak and what percentages.

How many varietals do you make? 

Right now we currently have 22 in house. Sometimes we blend. Our sirens is a blend of Muscat and Gewurztraminer. We do a sweet Rosé that’s a blend. We do a red blend that’s always different every year. I think we have 22 different wines right now, and 16 of those are single varietals.

Do you think blends are catching on?

It’s tough. The blend category I notice in stores like Safeway and other places, it’s definitely growing. So there are more people looking for it.

[Speaking about his Avanté red blend] With the Avanté I try to hit a certain style every year. I want it to be an inky dark wine that’s got some muscle to it but not overly tannic. I find that sometimes blends sit because people don’t know what they are. Everyone knows what Cabernet is, everyone knows what Chardonnay but they don’t know what Avanté or Red Truck are. However, I think that acceptance of the blends is coming around more. People are tempted to experiment more, which is really nice. I like to say that there are only three kinds of wines out there wines you like, wines you don’t like, and wines you haven’t tried. So I want people to get out and experiment. So you haven’t ever tried a wine, Try it! If you don’t like it that’s okay. You aren’t going to hurt my feelings. But why not at least run it up the flagpole.

Do you have a favorite wine you like to make?

That is really, really, really hard. I honestly don’t have a favorite. It’s like asking which is your favorite kid! I love them equally but in different ways. I was super excited to get Grenache Blanc in, I’d been trying for a couple of years. I love Pinot, I love inky reds, I love Syrah and Petit Syrah, but I love playing around with new stuff. Just seeing what does well. Different wines stand out in different years. Which wine I’m in love with, it changes from year to year because some years you just hit it right on. It’s tough!J.scott

Have you seen any drastic changes in the wine industry since starting? Whether it be styles that are selling better, or the way wineries are operating?

I would say that one thing is that overall quality is gone up across the board, just in winemakers ability. The other thing is that it’s gotten a lot more competitive. It seems like everybody and his mother wants to own a winery. All the rock stars want to be winemakers, movie stars want to be winemakers. Everyone needs a wine brand. It was already a competitive business. Because unlike my wife who competes with only vets in Lane County, we compete with wines from California, Spain, France, New Zealand, and Australia. All of those wineries produce multiple things and everyone is competing for the same shelf space.

What are the benefits of an urban winery?

I find in the wintertime it is one of our busiest times because people don’t have to brave the icy roads. Because even if it doesn’t snow it’s cold enough that it can get slippery out there and it gets dark early. People who live in the south hills can drive down here and have a nice glass of wine, listen to some music, and be home in 5 minutes. It’s very practical.

Do you have a favorite wine or winery here in Oregon?

Boy, I have a lot. I like Elk Coves wine, they do a nice job. I love Willakenzie’s Pinot Blanc. I like Cowhorn Viognier down in Southern Oregon. I’m a big fan of Southern Oregon stuff. Red Lily, they do some spanish wines. They make a nice Tempranillo.

Do you have any regular or special events coming up at your winery?

We have a couple. This is our second year running it, the Block Party that we do. The block party is in the summertime and we basically block off the entire parking lot. Last year we had 800 people here. It is on July 18th from 2 to 10 pm this year. We will have a stage, live music, three food trucks, and red wagon creamery out. It’s a big party! We just crank the tunes.

We are also open every Friday from 4 – 9 and Saturday 1 – 8. Or longer, depends on the crowd. Fridays we always have live music and then some Saturdays we do if we are doing special events.

J.Scott Cellars
Gwen pouring some of the fabulous 2014 Grenache Blanc

Where can we find your wines here in Eugene? Are there any around the $20 range?

Yeah, there are quite a few. We have one red, that’s the Avanté. It’s $22 right now. But I think you can probably find it less because different places have different mark ups. Market of Choice, there are three or four them in Eugene. They all have different stewards, all with different tastes. Some have some of our wines, and some have other wines. Sundance, Jiffy Market, those are good choices. Capella has a couple. Creswell Bakery has a good selection.

We’ve got a bunch of wines under $20. Mostly our whites. They don’t require barrel or extended aging so they are at a better price point. So right now we have a killer Pinot Gris out that’s a new wine for us, for $16. We’ve got the 2013 Sauvignon Blanc at $18. The 2013 Pinot Blanc is $17. We have a new sweet Rosé we are doing that is actually a blend. It’s got Viognier, Muscat, some Pinot Gris and a little Petit Syrah for color. That one is $14. Roussanne is $19. The Sirens song is $16, that’s a blend.


Do you have any predictions for the 2015 season?

It started out just as good [as 2014] , we had a super mild winter. An early bud break, which is good. Then it got a little cool, which there is a potential for frost. I think right now, my rule of thumb is usually once you make it to mothers day you are probably safe from frost so that’s coming up in a few days. You always have fall frost too. If you can get past the spring frost, those are the ones that will really damage your crop. Because it will reduce your yields. Spring frosts if they fry your leaves.

I think it’s going to be good though. It’s been beautiful. This is the mildest winter that I can even remember. I got to wear shorts all winter long. Normally in December, January, and February I have to wear pants. I don’t like that.

That must be the Californian in you.

I think so!

Where you’ll usually catch Jonathan, working hard with a smile on his face

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: facebook.com/TapandGrowler.

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 WineJulia.com 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.




Wine vs Beer Food Pairing Event in the Barrel Room at Tap and Growler


The Tap and Growler is certainly making use of their well thought out meeting space, the Barrel Room, that sits behind the wine taps of their bustling new tap room.  Just a couple weeks ago they had a Valentine’e Day event that focused on the history of Oregon wine, and now they’re bringing together two rock stars of the local wine and beer scene in for a Wine vs. Beer Food Pairing Event: Jonathan Scott Oberlander of J. Scott Cellars and Matt Van Wyk of Oakshire Brewing.

Tap and growler barrel room
Tap & Growler’s Barrel Room

Noisette Pastry Kitchen will be supplying 3 “savory” and 3 “sweet” food items to pair with 3 carefully selected Oakshire brews and 3 J. Scott Cellars wines.  There will be a vote after every pairing to determine the winner of the Wine vs Beer food pairing challenge. The pairings are as follows:

Savory Items:

Savory: Ham & Cheese Bread Pudding
Wine: Chardonnay
Brew: PTO Pale Ale

Savory: Chicken Liver with Esplette Pepper Jelly
Wine: Pinot Noir
Brew: Overcast Espresso Stout

Savory: Savory Spiced Corn Puff Honeycomb
Wine: Syrah
Brew: 7th Anniversary Porter with Tart Cherries

Sweet Items:

Sweet: Curry Nut Meringues
Wine: Chardonnay
Brew: PTO Pale Ale

Sweet: French Macarons
Wine: Pinot Noir
Brew: Overcast Espresso Stout

Sweet: Chocolate Sesame Pokey Sticks
Wine: Syrah
Brew: 7th Anniversary Porter with Tart Cherries

March 5, 5:30 pm. Limited seats available. $35 per person, sign up at the Tap and Growler. For more details, visit tapandgrowler.com.



Inaugural Westside Beer and Wine Loop – Westside Warehouse District


Claim 52 Brewing, J. Scott Cellars, Noble Estate Winery, and Viking Braggot Company are coming together to host the Inaugural Westside Beer and Wine Loop on Saturday, March 1, from 5-9 pm.  Live music, food carts, beer and wine specials, and a VW van photo booth will make for a fun filled night.  Bailee Jordyn and Peter Giri are among the musicians scheduled to perform, and food trucks Bacon Nation and Smokin’ Oak Bar-B-Q will be joining the festivities.

Noble Estate Line up
photo: Noble Estate Facebook page

More than 40 beers and wines will be available to sample at the four businesses located in the new Westside Warehouse District.  J Scott Cellars, Noble Estate Winery, and Viking Braggot Company tasting rooms are in the 500 block of Commercial Street, and Claim 52 Brewing’s taproom is at 1030 Tyinn Street.

My Party Bus will be providing party bus limo service between Tyinn and Commercial Streets. Starting at Claim 52, shuttle service will run every half hour.  Transportation tickets can be purchased for $10 per person the evening of the event or ahead of time by either calling 541-554-7979 or emailing [email protected]  (Tickets are for transportation only and do not include beer or wine tastings.)

Viking Braggot t shirt and beer
photo: Viking Braggot Facebook page

While at Claim 52, don’t miss out on the PhotoSwagon by Blue Bus Creatives. Their renovated 1973 VW Bus turned mobile photo booth will be snapping photos from 6 – 8 p.m. Hop in the bus to take some hilariously memorable photos of the night and be sure to follow them at www.Facebook.com/bluebuscreatives to find your photos during the event!

Information about each of the Westside Warehouse District businesses:

The mission of Noble Estate Vineyard and Winery is to provide customers with high quality handcrafted wine from grape to bottle.  The Noble Estate wine catalog consists of 15 current releases including Gold Medal Winning Muscat, Viognier, and Pinot Noir.  The Noble Estate Urban Tasting Room is open every Friday night from 4-9 pm.

J Scott award winners
photo: J. Scott Cellars Facebook page

J. Scott Cellars is an urban, boutique winery producing extraordinary, award winning Rhone varietals from the Pacific Northwest.  14 wines are currently available.  J Scott Cellars has two Oregon tasting rooms, one located at the winery in Eugene and one on the coast in Yachats.

Claim 52 Brewing was recently awarded Oregon’s best new nano-brewery by Northwest Brewing News.  Open just over a year, Claim 52 specializes in small-batch European styled ales such as Kolsch brewed with a Northwest flair, as well as more familiar beers like pale ales, reds and IPAs.  Hand crafted, each batch turns out a little different but is consistently tasty and delivered fresh from the tank to the tap.  Claim 52 taproom is open every Friday at 4 pm.

Claim 52 tap handle
photo: Claim 52 Facebook page

Viking Braggot Company specializes in one thing: making braggot, also know as, honey beer. They’ve taken an age old brewing tradition that was pioneered by the Vikings and adapted the concept based on modern Northwest craft beer styles.  Unique varieties of honey and herbs are used to create astoundingly flavorful and balanced brews.

Wine Down Eugene


Wine Down Eugene April 17-23

photo (91)Happy Malbec Day! Today is the day that the Malbec varietal will be celebrated for one 24 hour period – around the entire world.  Malbecs are an inky, dark purple color and often offer aromas and flavors of dark cherry, plum, raisin, tobacco, chocolate and spice. Known to have good acidity and solid tannins, a Malbec is considered to be a big, bold red wine.  Most widely grown in Argentina, this varietal can also be found in other wine regions around the world, including Oregon.

I’ll be celebrating Malbec Day with other wine enthusiasts at Sam’s Place Tavern in Eugene.  Beginning at 5 pm, we’ll be sampling several different Malbecs while using social media to share our thoughts and photos with the world.  But, what I’m most excited about is that I get to use my brand new Riedel Malbec Glass.  A pre-release glass was sent to me to use specifically on Malbec Day. Designed by Argentina’s Graffigna Winery and the world famous Riedel glass company, this glass was made to beautifully showcase and enhance the characteristics of Malbec, which will undoubtedly create an unforgettable Malbec experience.  I’ll let you know all about it on WineJulia.com, or join us on Twitter this evening and use the hashtag #MalbecDay to follow our posts.

This Saturday, one of my favorite local winemakers, Jonathan Scott Oberlander of J. Scott Cellars, will be pouring wine out in Veneta at Our Daily Bread Restaurant.  Some of the J. Scott Cellars wines that Jonathan will be pouring have recently been gaining a lot of attention: 2012 Pinot Blanc (Best of Show award Astoria Crab, Seafood and Wine Festival), 2011 Grenache (Best of Show “Greatest of the Grape” and 90 pts./Editor’s Choice Wine Enthusiast) and the 2011 Sauvignon Blanc (90 pts. Wine Enthusiast) – to name just a few.

KeeKees Big Adventures Float-On-Over-EugeneComing this Monday, April 22 from 4-6 pm, I’ll be celebrating the launch of a friend’s incredibly well written and illustrated children’s book: KeeKee’s Big Adventures. Friend and author, Shannon Jones, will be in Eugene all the way from Virginia, and we’ll be having the launch event and party out at Sarver Winery.  Since Shannon is a fellow wine writer, as well as a children’s book author, we thought there would be no better place for the launch event than at family-friendly Sarver Winery.  In addition to the unmatched view from the tasting room at Sarver, there will be lots of activities for the kids, refreshments and wine available for purchase for the adults. It should be a great time, so I hope to see some familiar faces there! To hear more about this event, tune into KPNW 1120 AM Wake Up Call on Monday morning at 8:40 am, where I’ll be talking about the details on this event, as well as some fun stories from my trip to New York City.

Check the side listing for more events -there is a lot going on these days at the wineries and around town. Don’t miss a beat with the weekly Wine Down Eugene.

Pinot, Pate and Unexpected Palatables in Portland


Julia Crowley, EDN

When I heard about the Northwest Food and Wine Festival, I didn’t blink an eye before knowing I’d be planning a road trip up to Portland to bask in a plethora of two of my favorite things: food and wine. I wasn’t excited only about food and wine, but any time there’s an emphasis on food and wine from the Pacific Northwest, there’s no doubt you’ll find me there. Little did I know that I’d be in for a lot more than just food and wine.

The Northwest Food and Wine Festival took place at the DoubleTree Hotel Lloyd Center in downtown Portland on a Saturday evening, and the dress code was cocktail dresses for women and sport coats for men. The event began at 4 pm for those that purchased a ticket, which allowed early access to the Preferred and Grand Food and Wine Tasting. Regular tickets were slightly less expensive and admittance to the main event began at 5 pm.

At 4 pm on the dot, we entered the banquet hall where the event was taking place. We were handed a logo wine glass and then immediately drawn to a large attractive display of fruits and vegetables loaded with heirloom tomatoes, cremini mushrooms, asparagus, grapes and strawberries, to name just a few. Next to the vegetable and fruit display, there was a company from Napa Valley offering samples of its product, The Perfect Puree. Their colorful array of premium purees, concentrates and specialty zests are bases used for signature cocktails, mocktails and smoothies.

My first sample was a small spoonful of the Prickly Pear Puree. Exploding with natural, intensely rich and delicious flavors, I was told that all of the Perfect Purees were sourced from premium fruit that was harvested at the peak of season.

“We’ve developed strong and long lasting relationships with our growers and we support their sustainable practices,” said Carol Jenson, Regional Sales Manager for Perfect Puree. Jenson continued, “None of our products have artificial additives or sweeteners, they’re frozen to maintain the flavor and color of the fresh fruit, and they are all natural.”

Some of the other purees I tried included the Kiwi, Ginger, Mango and Roasted Red Pepper. I also tried the Blood Orange and Caramelized Pineapple Concentrates along with the Orange Zest. Each one was absolutely true to their own characteristics, and I was clearly impressed with these savory and flavorful treats. It was easy to imagine the Ginger Puree sauteed with scallops or the Blood Orange Concentrate blended with ice for a refreshing smoothie.

I was ready to try some wine, so we headed over to a table where I saw a familiar face: Jonathan Scott Oberlander, owner and winemaker of J. Scott Cellars. Oberlander is from the Eugene area, and I’ve been a fan his wines for a long time. His belief is “Wine is a form of consumable art, in which no two pieces are ever exactly alike. Rather, each wine is a snap shot of the growing season, mixed with specific varietal characteristics unique to each grape, and a small amount of human intervention.”

Oberlander was pouring some of my favorites from his line of unique, small boutique wines produced from Oregon and Washington fruit. We started with the Rogue Valley 2010 Viognier. With floral aromas on the nose, this white wine has great structure and balanced acidity with a long smooth finish. It’s simply delicious.

Another winery from the Eugene area that participated in this event was King Estate, and I asked for a sample of their 2009 Signature Pinot Noir. Awarded a gold medal from the judges for this event, the ’09 Pinot Noir has aromas of cherry, cedar and vanilla. Bright tannins and a silky smooth mouth feel lead to a lingering finish that complemented a slice of pate that I snatched from a nearby vendor.

I then noticed that almost every food vendor in the banquet hall was offering some form of pate, and I realized that the food portion and competition of this festival had a theme to it: Pate in Portland. I later found out that handmade pate, salami and meats are very prevalent in the Portland marketplace, and with no known pate competitions within the Unites States, Portland was the perfect place to tap into a niche that hadn’t yet been tapped. This event garnered two pate competitions: one for traditional pate and one for the most creative pate.

Pate are basically a mixture of fat and ground meat minced into a spreadable paste. Many pate include vegetables and spices, in addition to wine or brandy and some are baked in a crust. Most pate are made from chicken, beef or goose liver. The most common pate and probably the most beloved is Foie Gras, which is made from the fattened livers of geese.

Although I’m not one to cook or order any form of liver, I was surprised to find that I was enjoying many of the pate alongside Oregon’s earthy Pinot Noirs. One of my favorite combinations was Cottonwood’s 2009 Piper Marina Pinot Noir with a small amount of Foie Gras on a seasoned cracker. Cottonwood Winery is located in Salem, but the winemaker, Aaron Lieberman, is also well-known for his winemaking talents at Iris Vineyards out of Eugene.  The ’09 Marina Piper Pinot Noir received a silver medal from the judges, but I felt it was more deserving of a gold or platinum medal.

Pate definitely dominated the food arena, but I also tried other foods I wouldn’t eat on a regular basis. I experienced the spicy flavors of marinated Steak Tartare (raw beef) that was piled high on a piece of fresh bread, I slurped down a raw, but delicious oyster, and I not so eagerly tried a boiled Quail egg that was actually quite good – all this while sampling excellent wines from California to Washington that paired exceptionally well with everything I sampled.

As we walked around the bustling banquet hall, we came to an area where there was a bartender competition in progress. Five rather serious looking judges sat on stools in front of a bar where a single bartender effortlessly concocted cocktail after cocktail. The judges watched closely and took notes while the bartenders mixed, shook, and poured captivating drinks for the judges to sample. The winner of the competition was bartender Emily Baker.

“Emily Baker tends bar at Rum Club in Portland, Oregon, where she views cocktails as a way to express her creativity in a social setting. That, and she likes being in really close proximity to Tequila,” commented a representative of the festival.

We meandered through the crowds, intent on continuing our tasting spree when we came across Crispin Cider. Crispin Cider has an entire line of premium hard apple ciders, and with six different flavors to choose from, I decided to sample the four Artisanal Reserves: Honey Crisp, The Saint, Lansdowne, and Cho-tokkyu. These are not your average hard ciders.

The Honey Crisp contained pure organic honey giving way to a honey-rich, full bodied and creamy taste. The Saint is smoothed with pure organic maple syrup. Although it’s extremely easy to drink, it has a depth of complexity that was truly delectable. With Irish Stout yeast and organic molasses, the Lansdowne was my favorite of the four. It was buttery and creamy, but crisp on the finish, and the flavors created a well balanced, delightfully fruity cider. The Cho-takkyu is fermented with organic, gluten-free rice syrup and contains sake yeast which gives way to a sake-ish tasting hard cider. Really bright acidity, this would be great poured over some ice and served on a hot summer day.

Not only was there hard cider in addition to wine, but there was also an extensive list of vendors from hard liquor companies. Since I was being bold with my food selections, I thought I’d be bold with my beverage selections too, so I tried the Hogshead Whiskey from McMenamin’s-Edgefield Distillery. Named the ‘2011 Single Malt Whiskey of the Year’ by American Distilling Institute, this amber colored and rich whiskey was really very good. There was a slight vanilla sweetness on the palate that I’ve never tasted in whiskey before; however, I haven’t had an abundance of whiskey in my life time, so this experience was sort of new. I also tried their Pear Brandy which was created using 100 percent Hood River, Oregon-grown pears. McMenamin’s absolutely captured the flavor of the pears, and I’m now interested in learning about the world of brandy, something I’ve never delved into before.

Amazed at how quickly the four hours had passed, we were on our way out the door when I spotted the table that housed the line-up of wines from Willamette Valley’s highly acclaimed Van Duzer Vineyards. Located in Dallas, Oregon, Van Duzer produces a spectacular Estate Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris, but the bottle that caught my attention was one from Van Duzer I had never seen: Sorcery 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon.

Apparently the owners of Van Duzer, Carl and Marilyn Thoma, own some vineyard acreage in Napa Valley where they grow premium Cabernet Sauvignon. The 2007 Sorcery displays unique earthy characteristics that are indigenous to the Rutherford Appelation where the Van Duzer Cabernet Sauvignon grapes are grown, this characteristic is known as “Rutherford Dust.” In addition to the unique earthy tones, I caught hints of both bright and ripened berries along with dark chocolate and pleasing vanilla notes. I absolutely loved this Cabernet Sauvignon, and with only 420 cases produced, I’ll be stocking up on this delicious treat for sure.

After receiving my last savory sample for the evening, we were handed fresh strawberries and a pot of gorgeous fall colored mums on the way out. The beautiful display of fruits and vegetables that had greeted us upon our entry was dwindling down as the farm stand owners gave away all of their fresh goodies to the lucky patrons of an event that offered far more than just food and wine.

I did expect great wine and food at the Northwest Food and Wine Festival, but it was the unexpected palatable pate, liquor, cider, and unusual foods that made this event far more adventurous and exciting than I had anticipated. I’m eager for the next years’ event, it is one I know I won’t miss.

A Perfect Pairing: Pinot & Panini

Yes, this is Springfield!

Whether your palate prefers a crisp, refreshing Pinot Gris or a hearty, fruit-forward Pinot Noir, you’ll be able to choose from a number of delicious Panini’s offered at The Washburne Café to devour while sipping on a glass of locally hand-crafted wine.  Located on Main Street in downtown Springfield, the Washburne’s historic yellow building, arched doorway and big picture windows were what first gained my full attention, but once inside, the refinished wood floors, exposed brick walls, and high ceilings enticed me to order up and stay a while.

choices choices choices

Super excited to see an excellent line-up of local wines; I immediately knew I’d need to scan the menu for something to pair with the wine of my choice, which was a glass of Patchwork Cellars Pinot Noir.  The menu had an alluring selection of Panini’s, Wraps, and Salads.  Two of the Panini’s caught my eye: The Portobello Panini (fresh spinach, roasted red peppers, gorgonzola aioli, & roasted Portobello mushrooms) and the Black Forest Panini (Black Forest ham, spinach, provolone cheese & sun-dried tomato garlic pesto). Knowing that Pinot Noir always pairs well with ham, I went with the Black Forest Panini.

The Black Forest Panini
Cozy and urban at the same time. A very inviting place.
Todays bill of fare.

The full-bodied, earthy Pinot Noir was, in fact, a perfect pairing with the slightly salty flavors of the ham along with the earthy infused flavors of the sun-dried tomatoes. Grilled to perfection with a side of kettle chips, the Panini and wine were gone just in time to notice a band setting up at one end of the café. I soon found out from the owner, Karen Hageman, that downtown Springfield now boasts a lively and well attended Second Friday Art Walk. Karen keeps the café open late every second Friday of each month to host artist receptions along with live music performed by local jazz and blues bands. She also brings in a different winery or brewery for each event, so guests are able to sample, free of charge, some of the area’s best wine and microbrews. Proud to support our local industry, Karen said she plans to continue to bring in local wines and microbrews. Currently, she has wines from Sweet Cheeks, LaVelle Vineyards, Patchwork Cellars, and J. Scott Cellars along with an ample selection of microbrews from Ninkasi, Oakshire and Hop Valley. I raved to Karen about the perfect Panini and Pinot pairing that I had recently discovered, and she noted that they aren’t well-known only for their savory Panini’s, but their homemade soups have acquired a sort of cult following.

The great brews are well represented.

Regulars flock the café when the soup specials involve their well-known Lobster Bisque or Philip’s Phabulous Clam Chowder. Their Hungarian Mushroom Soup has been dubbed by regulars as ‘The World’s Best’. Although my perfect pairing for the day was a Pinot and a Panini, I’m looking forward to pairing the LaVelle Pinot Gris with the Lobster Bisque on my upcoming visit, which will happen on April 8th, the Second Friday Art Walk. I plan to arrive early (before 5:00pm) because the café becomes a full house during these special events, and I’m thinking it will be very busy: Karen’s booked the Dennis St. Germain Jazz Quartet, photographer John Thomas’s ‘Portal to the World’ photo’s of old European architecture will be displayed throughout the café, and the guys from Oakshire Brewing will be there with samples of their stellar microbrews. So, whatever you’re craving- a glass of wine and a Panini or a microbrew and a cup of soup, the Washburne Café’s got you covered.

The Washburne Café
326 Main Street


The Washburne Café is on Facebook

All photo’s courtesy of Seen Eugene www.seeneugene.com

Julia – Writing about Eugene’s Wine Scene