Julia Crowley - Page 2

Wine Down Eugene


Wine Down Eugene April 9-15

I can’t sit down to write this week’s Wine Down Eugene without mentioning the weather we’ve been having the past few days.  Words cannot describe my excitement for the rosy, sun-kissed cheeks I’m sporting – I look, and feel, totally alive! Indeed, I am a sunshine lovin’, wine drinkin’ gal, that is a fact.

This particular rack displays two bottles of wine that lie down, keeping the cork moist, along with a stemware holder.  Check out that hardware | photo: Julia Crowley
This particular rack displays two bottles of wine that lie down, keeping the cork moist. Check out that hardware | photo: Julia Crowley

There’s something else that has me all excited: local artisans’ creativity.  First off, my friend and co-worker here at Eugene Daily News, Sandy Harris – talented writer, photographer and glove designer – came to visit me from Brownsville, bringing in tow with her two of the most fabulous locally made, hand-crafted wine racks I have ever seen.

A couple days prior to Sandy coming to my house, she had sent me some photos of these fabulous wine racks, but until I saw them in person, I had no idea how totally awesome they actually were.

Designed and built wholly by Sandy’s landlord, Gary Compton (who happens to live across the street from her in Brownsville), these wine racks are like nothing I’ve ever seen.  Solidly engineered with precision from reclaimed barn wood, there’s no chemical treatment whatsoever and every crevice and grain of the wood, undoubtedly, has a story to tell.  The galvanized piping used to display bottles of wine, stemware and bar ware are all reclaimed materials, and the finished product is most certainly “rustic meets refined.”

This rack displays bottles in the upright position. It has stemware holders like the other one, but also knobs for hanging barware: towels, corkscrews, etc... | Julia Crowley
This rack displays bottles in the upright position. It has stemware holders like the other one, but also knobs for hanging barware: towels, corkscrews, etc… | Julia Crowley

Gary designs and constructs other rustically refined stuff; such as, benches, tables and kitchen islands, but these wine rack displays are over-the-top awesome.  Every detail had to be meticulously thought out and measured.  From where the neck of the bottle lies down behind the curve of a pipe, to where the bottom of the bottle hits a connection from one pipe to another – the bottle is held, perfectly, in place.  And I was super happy to discover that the piping used for the wine glass rack held my beloved Zalto Burgundy and Riedel Oregon Pinot Noir glasses entirely flawlessly – each larger than the average wine glass.

Gary sells his products through etsy.com, under the name HammerHeadCreations, and looking through his timeless pieces of ingenuity is well worth a visit to his etsy page.

Once Sandy and I photographed the wine racks so I could write about their awesomeness here on Wine Down Eugene, we pulled the cork on the bottle of Winter’s Hill 2012 Pinot Noir we had used for the photos – what a stellar wine to enjoy on the patio during a sunny and gorgeous spring afternoon.  Dark cherries and blackberries highlighted by subtle earth and fall spices flowed along the palate with seamless precision, reminding me of the engineering of the wine racks I had just fallen head over heels for.  Beautiful acidity rounded out the fruit creating a really nicely balanced wine with a long, palate pleasing finish ending with notes of toasty vanilla – perfect to sit back, relax and enjoy.

Just one of the many different styles of fingerless gloves handmade by Sandy. Many are multi-functional, some have bling and lots offer two different looks in one pair. Her etsy shop is a must see! | photo: Sandy Harris

Meanwhile, Sandy pulled out her creative fingerless gloves she herself designs and sews.  Last fall, Sandy gave me a pair of her unique elbow’s length fingerless gloves, and as a wine writer, I have used them numerous times while barrel tasting in winery cellars around the globe.  Wine writer’s take note: these gloves are perfect when on media tours.  Because they’re fingerless, I’m able to take notes on my iPhone, shoot photos of the wines being tasted, and hold onto my glass without fear of it slipping out of my hand – all while keeping my hands nice and toasty while down in the temperature controlled, often chilly cellars that we, as wine wrtiers, visit so very often.  A fashion accessory that’s certainly not just stylish, but incredibly useful in so many ways.

Like Gary, Sandy also uses etsy to sell her handcrafted gloves.  Because she designs and creates a whole lot more than just gloves, her etsy shop is a must see, check out Xtremities


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, WineJulia.com: 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, WineJulia.com. 




Wine Down Eugene


Wine Down Eugene March 26 – April 1

This past weekend, Eugene Daily News writer and photographer, Sandy Harris, and I took a road trip up to the northwestern reaches of the state to attend an event that took place in the picture-perfect bedroom community of Forest Grove – located in the heart of Willamette Valley wine country.

photocb brochure
Oregon Craft Beverage Event at SakéOne

Unlike most of the wine-centric events I attend around the state of Oregon, this event focused on Oregon craft beverages.  Hosted by SakéOne, producers of premium Oregon craft saké and importers of high quality saké from Japan, vendors that participated in sharing their craft beverages alongside Saké One for this media event included a cidery, a brewery, a distillery, a meadery, and a winery that’s home to the oldest Pinot Noir vines in the Willamette Valley.

As a true lover of saké, especially when paired with all sorts of sushi dishes, I was super excited to visit the home of SakéOne, producers of some of the most delicious and unique sakés I’ve ever had. With a goal that reflects their name (to be the number one saké company in America), SakéOne chose Oregon as its home base because of the water quality – and water quality in saké is super important since it makes up 80 percent of the beverage.  Aside from aiming towards being the number one saké company in the country, SakéOne thinks educating Americans on how saké should be served is equally important.  Folks, contrary to popular belief, saké should not be served warm.  It should be served chilled, a lot like white wine, and served in a wine glass. The three sakés that we sampled were SakéMoto (a smooth, elegant Junmai saké imported from Japan), Momokawa Organic Nigori (a creamy, gingery, coconut-y tropical delight) and the outstanding, and my favorite, g fifty – a complex beauty with alluring aromas like none other.

The absolutely delicious g fifty by SakéOne
The absolutely delicious g fifty by SakéOne

A visit to the table that housed Reverend Nat’s Hard Cider brought on a few sips of the most unique hard ciders I’ve ever tasted.  First we sampled their most “cider-like” cider, the Revelation Newtown Pippin, which was naturally fermented and super dry (the way ciders were meant to be).  Then we tried the super unique, limited release Lorrie’s Gold.  Unlike any cider I’ve ever had, Lorrie’s Gold had zero carbonation and offered a complex, tannic structure.  My favorite of the three was the Hellelujah Hopricot, a Belgian wit-style cider made using heirloom American apples, coriander, orange peel and paradise grains.  Being fermented with French saison and Belgian ale yeasts gave it a craft beer quality that I found really pleasing, adding a whole load of depth and character.  Then apricot juice is added and it’s finished off with  whole-leaf Cascade and Amarillo Hops, creating a cider with pronounced, palate pleasing hoppiness.  Yes, he’s a reverend (ordained, not practicing), yes, his name is Nat, and yes, he is the master cider maker.

Reverend Nat's Hard Ciders were incredibly unique
Reverend Nat’s Hard Ciders were incredibly unique

Next to Reverend Nat’s was Kookoolan World Meadery, where we were treated to some samples of Kombucha, Elegance Mead and Vin de Noix (Green Walnut Wine).  We started with a sip of the Kombucha, which I was reluctant about at first.  I’ve had a taste of Kombucha “soda” before and found it awfully sugary and vinegary, and frankly, not my style of drink, at all.  My hesitation dissipated at first sniff of the beautiful aromatics of the Kookoolan Kombucha.  Apparently, natural Kombucha, like Kookoolan’s, has 1.5 percent alcohol, so it can’t be sold as a soda.  The Kombuchas that are sold as sodas go through a process to get rid of the alcohol which forces adding sugar and selected essences, ending with that too sugary, too vinegary product that I didn’t like.  Kookoolan’s Kombucha is divine, and it’s got just four ingredients: Black Tea, sugar, culture and water.  The super elegant mead with the super appropriate name, “Elegance,” is also divine, and absolutely stands apart from other meads I’ve tried in the past; in fact, it’s one of the best I’ve ever tried.  I guess I could sum up the products we sampled from Kookoolan as elegant and divine, because their unique Green Walnut Wine also fit into those two categories, just perfectly.

Natural Kombucha by Kookoolan
Natural Kombucha by Kookoolan

With only enough room in the Wine Down Eugene to feature three of the six extremely unique craft beverage companies, please follow me over to my award-winning website, WineJulia.com, where each of the other companies will be featured in separate articles over the next few weeks; including, a piece on the savory and delicious bites that were provided by one of Forest Grove’s top restaurants, 1910 Main – An American Bistro.  The other three vendors were David Hill Winery, Vertigo Brewing and Big Bottom Whiskey.

Sandy, being the fantastically talented photographer that she is, put together a photo essay using her beautiful photos taken during our road trip to Forest Grove for the Oregon Craft Beverage Event. Check it out here.



Wine Down Eugene


Wine Down Eugene March 19-25

It’s funny how life can come full circle.  Several months ago, the Local Lunch Gals (our trio of restaurant reviewers consisting of two high school friends and I) went to check out one of Eugene’s new and much raved about restaurants, Soubise.  It was a special Local Lunch Gals outing.  We were not only there to experience the atmosphere, wines and foods, but we were there to be featured on the Rick Dancer TV Show – an episode that focused on the restaurant boom in downtown Eugene.  (Watch the episode here.)

Soubise cheers
The Lunch Gals make a toast with the Zalto Burgundy glasses at the former Soubise

The food, service, atmosphere and wine selection at Soubise were stellar.  But most importantly, I discovered the ultimate wine glass of all wine glasses: Zalto Denk’Art Burgundy glass.

I am not a wine snob, but I am an admitted wine glass snob.  As noted in an article on my award winning website, WineJulia.com “I Am A Wine Glass Snob,” stemware plays an integral part in implementing a superb wine drinking experience.  Nothing can sour my mood faster than having a world-class Pinot Noir arrive (filled to the rim) in a glass meant for water, orange juice or maybe even chocolate milk.  Encountering the aromas of a wine is the first step to truly enjoying that wine, and any other factors that follow; such as, the mouthfeel, the texture, the flavors and the feel of the glass as it’s being held are just as important and have everything to do with the shape and quality of the glass.  Proper stemware makes all the difference.

At Soubise, when our bottle of Oregon Pinot Noir arrived with three unfamiliar looking glasses (at the time I was stuck on the Riedel Oregon Pinot Noir glass), I was instantly concerned and asked about the wine glasses.  The owner wasn’t able to hold back his enthusiasm about the Zalto Denk’Art wine glasses and was quick to conduct a side by side taste test with the Zalto next to my beloved Riedel – I was instantly hooked on Zalto and have been ever since.

A delicious glass of Dampierre Brut Rosé at Ambonnay
A delicious glass of Dampierre Brut Rosé at Ambonnay

With a seriously hefty price tag on the Zalto stemware, I decided that my love for Zalto would be exclusively savored for wine dates with my husband at Soubise.  So, imagine my despair when they suddenly closed.  What happened to all of those lovely Zalto glasses? 

Here’s where life so oddly comes full circle.  Last week, while I was up in the Dundee Hills for the absolutely amazing Oregon Chardonnay Symposium, I met up with a Portland residing wine-writing friend, Michele Francisco of winerabble.com, who graciously offered me her guest room for the evening so I wouldn’t need to drive back to Eugene after the Symposium.  Being the sparkling wine enthusiasts that we are, we decided to meet up at Portland’s well-known Champagne bar: Ambonnay.

Ambonnay is a slice of heaven on earth for those who love bubbles, like me.  It’s small, intimate, slightly funky in decor (which is so perfect for Portland), and has some of the best Truffle Popcorn I’ve ever had – one of my all time favorite pairings with sparkling wine.  They feature over 50 Champagnes and sparkling wines and offer a great selection by the glass, and best of all, they don’t serve their bubbles in flutes! I absolutely can’t stand Champagne flutes – I actually prefer sparkling wine in a Burgundy or Pinot Noir glass, where aromas have plenty of room to flourish.  With my mention to the bartender of how I appreciated their choice of stemware for sparkling wine, the topic of Zalto Burgundy stemware unsurprisingly came up – Michele is as big a fan of Zalto as I am.  I spilled the beans about my broken heart over the closure of Soubise – the only place in Eugene where I could savor wine in a Zalto glass.  When I noticed a big smile forming on our bartender’s face (while I dished out the juice on my glass obsession), he was quick to inform me that Ambonnay had acquired the Zalto stemware from Soubise!

Ahhhh...thoroughly enjoying a fabulous Pinot noir in my very own Zalto Burgundy glass
Ahhhh…thoroughly enjoying a fabulous Pinot noir in my very own Zalto Burgundy glass

Now it was my turn to smile from ear to ear, I was suddenly holding my very own (used, but like new) Zalto Denk’Art Burgundy glass – sold to me at a price I could not refuse.  From Eugene to Portland and back to Eugene, my beautiful Zalto Burgundy glass will be the nucleus for many, many stellar Oregon Pinot Noirs.  Most recently, every single sip of Adelsheim’s 2011 Elizabeth’s Reserve Pinot Noir was totally, completely savored in my beautiful Zalto wine glass.  Read all about it on WineJulia.com and join in on the month long conversation and celebration of Adelsheim’s Elizabeth’s Reserve on Twitter using the hashtag #lizziepinot

If there’s a shop in Oregon that sells Zalto, I don’t know about it. But, I do know you can purchase Zalto Denk’Art stemware through Winemonger.com.

Wine Down Eugene


Wine Down Eugene March 12-18

Last weekend, taking place at the beautiful Stoller Family Estate in Oregon’s layered and rolling Dundee Hills, the 2014 Oregon Chardonnay Symposium began with a Technical Panel and Tasting that had a very impressive line-up of Oregon Chardonnay producers.  From some of the well-known pioneers like David Adelsheim (who brought the first Dijon Chardonnay clones into the state) to today’s generation of impassioned producers like Melissa Burr of Stoller Family Estate – we wine enthusiasts were all ears when each panel member shared their thoughts on the future of Oregon Chardonnay.

Nine stellar Oregon Chardonnays waiting to be tasted during the tech panel tasting.

During the tasting, which included nine incredible Chardonnays from nine different producers throughout the state, I was remarkably impressed with the common vision the panel members had for the future of Oregon Chardonnay: plant Chardonnay on your best blocks, the future for this popular and well-known varietal that thrives in our climate is far beyond promising.  Their common vision, along with their individual voices and styles, are a force that is bound to heighten worldwide recognition for Oregon’s elegant, terroir driven Chardonnays. 

Each of the panel members discussed their thoughts on Oregon Chardonnays while we sampled their selected wine.  David Adelsheim thinks that Oregon’s Chardonnays are about “elegance, transparency and purity,” which perfectly describes his 2012 Willamette Valley Caitlin’s Reserve Chardonnay with its super fresh, focused and clean fruit that was very elegant, structured and quite classic characteristically.  Josh Bergström of Bergström Wines thinks that “vibrant acidity and mineral freshness” are of the utmost importance, which he totally accomplished with his 2011 Sigrid Chardonnay  – it was one of my favorites of the day.  Jesse Lange of Lange Estate winery believes that “acidity is the framework for white wine,” and everyone on the panel appeared to nod in agreement.  The Lange Estate 2012 Three Hills Cuvee most certainly offered a solid acidic backbone that rounded out the subtle, juicy fruit qualities to perfection.

Oregon wine industry pioneer David Adelsheim discussed his thoughts on the future of Oregon Chardonnay while I reveled in the Adelsheim Vineyards Caitlin’s Reserve

Two of the panel members who brought an international flair to the conversation were Dominique Lafor of Evening Land Vineyards and Véronique Drouhin of Domaine Drouhin Oregon.  Véronique noted that “clones, soil and the relationship with one another” were very important for producing outstanding Chardonnay.  The wine she selected for the panel tasting was Domaine Drouhin’s 2011 Edition Limitée Chardonnay made from 100 percent Dijon clones, and the super complex qualities really defined this Chardonnays classic rich palate that expressed the varietals true characteristics – it was especially lush and lovely.

After the tech panel tasting, 40 select Chardonnay producers gathered for an unbelievable Grand Tasting of Oregon Chardonnays – the largest display of Oregon Chardonnay in one room to date.  Some of my favorites from the Grand Tasting were Keeler Estate’s 2012, Domaine Drouhin’s 2012 Arthur, Omero Cellars 2012, Crowley Wines Four Winds 2011, Kramer Vineyards 2012, Big Table Farm 2012, North Valley 2011 Reserve, Brick House Cascadia 2011 and Evening Land’s 2010 Seven Springs Vineyard.

A true testament to the ageability of Oregon Chardonnay

Really, the list goes on and on – Oregon has a plethora of Chardonnays that are absolutely divine and of the highest quality.  Our producers are creating world-class wines that are true to the varietal, and without a doubt, fully deserve world-wide recognition.

And one Chardonnay I was lucky enough to sample is a true testament to how Oregon’s Chardonnay’s can stand the test of time and age with absolute beauty and grace, while retaining elegance, complexity and stellar depth of character: Eyrie Vineyard’s 1988 Chardonnay – wow. Simply wow.

I’ll be writing about each of my favorite Chardonnays from the Grand Tasting; as well as, the Chardonnays from the Tech Panel tasting over on my award-winning website WineJulia.com.




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 Down Eugene


Wine Down Eugene February 19-25

It’s been an exciting few weeks in my wondrous world of wine.  First off, I am so completely thrilled about being invited to fill a position on the judging panel for the SavorNW Wine Awards.  This will be my first time judging, and I am truly honored to take part in such a prestigious event; one that focuses on the wines I love most of all – the wines of the Pacific Northwest.

savor nw wine awards medal
I am honored to fill a position on the judges panel for the SavorNW Wine Awards | photo: SavorNW Wine Awards Facebook page

Over the course of two and a half days (while lodging at the beautiful Hallmark Resort & Spa in Cannon Beach, Oregon), our group of judges will be sampling a whopping 550+ wines.  The winners will be announced during the Savor Cannon Beach Wine and Culinary Festival, taking place March 6-9, 2014.  Savor Cannon Beach is four days of wine tastings, culinary events and a wine walk that showcases the fabulous wineries of the Northwest.  Approximately 40 Northwest wineries will be pouring tastings during the Wine Walk on Saturday, March 8; in addition to many other special tastings, a 4 course winemakers dinner at the Stephanie Inn and multiple events that will be happening all around town at galleries, shops and restaurants during the four day festival.  For details on all of the events and to purchase tickets, visit SavorCannonBeach.com.

To add to the excitement of the monumental invitation to join the SavorNW Wine Awards judges panel, I also received a couple invites to participate in virtual tastings this week. And as I’ve said before, one of my favorite wine-writing perks is having the privilege to join-in on live virtual tastings with winemakers from across the globe.  Sampling and discussing featured wines during virtual tastings is the next best thing to actually being there – the learning is perpetually boundless.

lodilive tasting with cheese
An excellent line-up of Lodi wines paired with regional and international cheeses

Last night I was lucky enough to participate in a #LodiLive (check out this hashtag on Twitter) tasting that was broadcast live on yourbrandlive.com featuring four, fantastic wines from the uniquely diverse Lodi wine growing region of California.  this was not your average virtual tasting, however.  Along with the box of four wines I received for the tasting, there was also a box containing four different cheeses – each one diligently chosen by cheesemonger Cindy Della Monica, owner of Cheese Central in Lodi, who paired each of the cheeses with a wine.  The wines ranged from a crisp and zesty 2012 Albaiño produced by Estate Crush wines to a lush and robust 2010 Petite Sirah from Viñedos Aurora – all of which I’ll be writing about in detail on WineJulia.com.

Beginning at 6 pm tonight, using the hashtag #tastekramerwine on Twitter, winemaker Kim Kramer of Kramer Vineyards (and those participating in the virtual tasting) will be popping the corks on four different vintages of Pinot Noir from the Kramer Vineyards Cardiac Hill block of vines – the steepest hillside of vines in their vineyard.

kramer vt vertical cardiac hill
Kramer Vineyards Cardiac Hill Pinot Noirs 2007, 2009, 2010 and 2011

Topics of discussion during this very special virtual tasting will largely focus on the conditions of each vintage and how the Kramer’s winemaking has adapted and evolved to the unique circumstances of each year.  The vintages we’ll be sampling and discussing are 2007, 2009, 2010 and 2011 Cardiac Hill Pinot Noirs.

Back in early December, I wrote about a Kramer Vineyards virtual tasting I had participated in where we tasted the 2010 Cardiac Hill Pinot Noir alongside the 2010 Rebecca’s Reserve Pinot Noir.  Both were excellent, and I remember the Cardiac Hill had intensely alluring aromas and flavors of cherries, violets, earth and herbs that were highlighted by a hint of creamy caramel.  The balance was superb and I loved the subtle acidity and soft integrated tannins.  I am so looking forward to sampling the 2010 again.  But to sample it side by side with the 2007, 2009 and 2011 is truly a treat, and 6 pm can’t come quick enough.  Join me for some wine tasting fun!

Ghost Hill Cellars Winemaker Dinner at the Campbell House


Jump on this opportunity to enjoy some of the gems from Ghost Hill Cellars. Taking place on February 20, beginning at 6 pm at the Campbell House, join Ghost Hill Cellars winemaker, Rebecca Pittock Shouldis, for a fabulous dinner.

The meal includes five courses plus the wine. Additional glasses and half glasses at the cocktail hour are available for purchase at a very reasonable price.

Ghost Hill Cellars Pinot Noir

Check out this mouthwatering menu:

Spiced Pear and Stilton Empanada with Coppa Sauce with
2012 Ghost Hill Pinot Noir Blanc

Halibut, Tahini and Preserved Lemon Vinaigrette, Lucques Tapenade with 2011 Ghost Hill Pinot Noir Blanc

Ahi, Fava, Fennel, Pistachio and Oven Roasted Tomatoes with
2012 Ghost Hill Pinot Noir Rose

Beef Culotte, Oxtail Ragu, Black Garlic, Potato Confit with 2010 Ghost Hill Prospector’s Reserve Pinot Noir

Brie Tart, Ham Hock Mousse, Cherry Coulis, Candied Pecans with 2010 Ghost Hill Bayliss-Bower Pinot Noir

Only 24 seats are available and at $54 per person (gratuity not included) this event will sell out very fast. To make reservations call 541-343-1119.

The Campbell House with snow
The beautiful Campbell House Inn & Restaurant in Eugene

*Rooms are also available at the beautiful Campbell House at a 35 percent discount to those attending the dinner; a great idea for the folks who are coming from out of town and would prefer to stay the night.

Wine Down Eugene: Valentine’s Special


Wine Down Eugene February 12-18

Special Valentine Edition

Just the other day, I read an excellent article on seriouseats.com by one of my wine writing colleagues, Meg Houston Maker, “For Valentine’s Day, Pour Wines From Winemaking Couples.”  Meg shared the article in a post on Facebook, stating, “Because the world does not need another Valentine’s Day story about pairing wine with chocolate.”

Hallelujah, I cannot agree more with Meg.  Simply Google wine and chocolate pairings and about 4 million results appear.  And frankly, wine and chocolate don’t really pair well; there have been very few times that I’ve actually enjoyed the two together.  I am much more inclined to enjoy a bottle of wine produced by a winemaking couple than I am to enjoy a bottle of wine with chocolate.  Meg’s article is a great read.

photovday capitello brut rose
Capitello Brut Rosé – perfect for Valentine’s Day

Although the store shelves are overflowing with heart shaped boxes of chocolates for the upcoming Valentine’s Day, I walk straight past that section to the aisle where the popcorn is.  I love popcorn, it’s my absolute favorite food.  Each year, on Valentine’s Day, I seek out new and intriguing popcorn recipes.  After the kids have gone to bed, I make a great big bowl of popcorn for my husband and I.  We cozy up on the couch in front of the TV and pop the cork on a bottle of Brut Rosé.  Some of the best food and wine pairings I have ever come across have been on Valentine’s Day, with a bowl of popcorn and a Brut Rosé.

Brut Rosé is the perfect wine for Valentine’s Day: it’s pink, it’s festive, and it not only pairs perfectly with popcorn, but with many other foods, as well.  In fact, sparkling wine, in general, pairs really well with all sorts of popcorn recipes, but for Valentine’s Day, the pinkish hue of Brut Rosés are simply irresistible.

As I was on the hunt for the perfect popcorn recipe for this year’s movie date with my husband, I couldn’t decide on just one – I came across a plethora of tempting recipes.  Over the past couple weeks, I’ve been experimenting with many of the recipes I discovered, and I’ve been in popcorn and Brut Rosé bliss.  My husband doesn’t know which recipe I’ve chosen for Valentine’s Day yet, but he’s well aware that I’ve been having a good time with my research.

I loved the Mumm Napa Brut Rosé with popcorn
I loved the Mumm Napa Brut Rosé with popcorn

The Brut Rosés that I’ve been sampling over the past few weeks are:

  • Mumm Napa Brut Rosé
  • Capitello Brut Rosé Olivia’s Cuvée
  • The Pines 1852 Brut Rosé 2010
  • Argyle Brut Rosé 2010
  • Ferrari Rosé Metodo Classico

The popcorn recipes I’ve been sampling over the past few weeks are:

  • Truffled Popcorn
  • Caramel Popcorn with Bacon
  • Pad Thai Popcorn
  • Biscoff Cookie Popcorn
  • Creamsicle Popcorn
Is there any better pairing out there?
Is there any better pairing out there?

Each of the Brut Rosés paired especially well with a specific popcorn recipe, and believe me, these pairings were, by far, tastier than any chocolate and wine pairing out there.  Follow me over to my award-winning website, WineJulia.com for detailed tasting notes, the best matches between popcorn and wine, and for the pairing that I chose for Valentine’s Day.




Tap & Growler Valentine’s Day Event: A History of Oregon Wine


The Tap & Growler, Eugene’s latest craft beer and wine bar will hold a Valentine’s Day event, “A History of Oregon Wine” slideshow presentation, in their Barrel Room with their surprise presenter, a forefather of Oregon Wine.  The slide show presentation will show how he and his friends (the brave early few) initiated and evolved Oregon wine into a world renowned industry.

Tap & Growler's Barrel Room
Tap & Growler’s Barrel Room | photo: T&G Facebook page

Taste six Oregon wines, three reds and three whites, as well as two Valentine’s special brews from Three Creeks Brewing out of Sisters, Oregon.

Learn how it all happened.  Experience how Oregon has come from no vines to some of the best fruit in the world – served not only from a bottle, but from a tap.

  • Flight of six select wines (three red and three white wines).
  • Two Valentine’s Day Special Three Creeks Brewing Brews: 10 Pine Double Chocolate Porter and Sex Panther Pinot Noir Barrel Aged Stout
  • Fine cheeses & olives along with Fresh Bread
  • Handmade local chocolates

16 Spots available, $35 dollars per person.  Sign up at the Tap & Growler Taproom.

The Tap and Growler | photo: T&G Facebook page
The Tap and Growler | photo: T&G Facebook page

For more info on The Tap & Growler and this event, please visit: www.TapandGrowler.com.

Friday, February 14, 5:30PM
The Tap & Growler, 5th and Pearl, Downtown Eugene