jumilla castle

Wine Down Eugene


Wine Down Eugene June 11-17

I had a post all planned out for today, one that will not be forgotten, but instead just delayed to be featured in next week’s Wine Down – and it’s all because of a truly incredible wine app I downloaded just yesterday: Wine4.Me


I’m going to rewind a bit so I’m able to explain how I first learned about the Wine4.Me app, which was just about a year ago to the date of me downloading it.  It was in Murcia, Spain, while driving in a van filled with some of the best known wine writer’s in the U.S. – a group that was selected to learn and write about Monastrell, a red wine grape made up of small clusters that thrives in the semi-arid Mediterranean climate of the Murcia region and surrounding wine regions of Jumilla, Yecla and Bullas.  One of the wine writer’s in our group, Amy Gross, announced her excitement about creating a very different kind of wine app, one that would help casual wine drinkers identify wines that appeal to their own tastes.  I thought at the time that it was a really unique concept, but knowing absolutely nothing about what it takes to be part of a tech start-up company, that’s about as far as my brain went with that conversation.  Not long after our ride in the van, we visited multiple outstanding wineries in Jumilla and ended the day with an amazing exclusive tour of the ancient Jumilla Castle, which fortifications date back to around 3,500 years ago.  At the base of the castle, while our hostess was looking for her temporarily misplaced car keys, Amy and I sang and danced to Pitbull and Christina Aguilera’s “Feel This Moment,” a song Amy had downloaded on her iTunes.  There couldn’t have been a more befitting tune as we soaked in the reality of where we were standing.  Amy’s easy going, a ton of fun, and she leads an incredibly busy life.

Jumilla Castle dancing

Amy publishes 2 wine blogs: VineSleuth Uncorked and the Wine4.Me blog.  She’s been featured in Better Homes & Gardens and her wine and food pairing cookbook, “Dinner and Wine for $20 or Less” (a collaboration with the popular $5 Dinner Mom Erin Chase), has enjoyed more than 10,000 downloads on Amazon.com.  In addition to writing about wine and her experiences with it, Amy also publishes MomsToolbox.com and MomsTravelTales.com, cycles to raise money for the MS Society and serves as a Girl Scout leader.  Amy lives near Houston, Texas, with her husband and three children.

Fast forward to one year after we were dancing at the base of the Castillo de Jumilla, and Amy’s added CEO and co-founder of Wine4.Me to her list of extensive and impressive accomplishments. 

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Wine4.Me is an app that makes selecting and buying wine a breeze, which is done through analyzing characteristics of the user’s favorite wines to create a unique taste profile.  User’s can filter their results by grape type, color, food pairing and more.  And what’s really awesome, is the more wines a user tries and rates, the more the program becomes tailored to that user’s personal preferences.  It literally takes the guess work out of finding the right wines for each user.

I’ll be sharing in detail how Amy’s app Wine4.Me actually works (using an unrivaled sensory science) on my award winning website, WineJulia.com.  For now, I’d like to share my experience with downloading and using the app for the first time.

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Once downloaded, I created a profile by answering a few simple questions about wines that I like.  Easy to follow directions guided me step by step, until my taste profile was created – which could not have been more accurate.  I love earthy, medium bodied reds that are plush and dry, but not too dry.  What really surprised me was that the app even did a taste profile for my favorite wine, Pinot Noir, and it was absolutely spot on with identifying the types of Pinots I prefer most of all.  Same went for my white wine taste profile, as it nailed the fact that I love dry, crisp, light bodied whites.

When I clicked on “Find a Wine” and chose “Reds,” I was surprised when wines pulled up that I had already had; like, Domaine Drouhin’s 2009 Pinot Noir and Argyle’s 2011 Pinot Noir.  I rated each of the wines, and the app then listed more wines closely related to those that I rated and loved (I rated both with the highest rating possible).

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It was awesome to see the app tailor the list to my personal tastes.  And the more I used it, the more it learned about me and the wines that I will undoubtedly love- it’s ingenuity at its finest for wine enthusiasts at all different levels.

I’ve downloaded and tested out loads of wine apps over the years, only to have kept less than a handful.  Amy’s Wine4.Me discovery wine app is here to stay.

Check out Amy’s video on her app Wine4.Me.  The app is currently available for downloading on iPhones and iPads, and Amy is working on getting them ready for other devices.  And, it’s free.

Wine Down Eugene Special Edition: Spain


Wine Down Eugene July 3-9

The immaculate Bodegas del Rosario Monastrell vineyard in the DO Bullas

For nearly 120 weeks in a row, I’ve brought the good people of Eugene a list of local wine events along with my personal wine experiences through my weekly column, Wine Down Eugene. Since the very first Wine Down Eugene in April, 2011, I have never missed a week – until last week.

This first time absence of the wine-centric column I truly enjoy putting together each week did not go missing without a good excuse: I was in Spain.

Courtesy of the Instituto de Fomento de la Región de Murcia (INFO), Murcia’s Regional Development Agency, I was invited to join a small group of wine writers to explore the beautifully unique wine region of Murcia, Spain, guided by a fantastic host, Mike Matilla of Argos Consulting.

Within the region of Murcia, the three distinctive designated origin (DO) wine producing areas we visited and focused on were Yecla, Jumilla and Bullas.  Each DO produces wines mainly form their deservedly prized varietal, Monastrell.  A red wine grape with small, dense clusters, Monastrell simply thrives in the semi-arid Mediterranean climate of Murcia, where the sun shines on average 320 days a year and total rainfall averages only about 12 inches (Eugene’s average annual rainfall is around 50 inches).

The twisted vine of the Monastrell varietal is strategically and artistically painted on the labels of the first Monastrell I’ve ever sampled.

After traveling from Portland to Chicago, where I met up with fellow wine writer Amy Gross of Vinesleuth Uncorked, we quickly toasted our upcoming flights to Madrid and Alicante (where we would then travel by car to Murcia) with a glass of sparkling wine in a great Chicago O’Hare wine bar named, Bubbles.  As we jetted off to our departing gate, we also met up with another colleague bound for Murcia: food writer, Beth Fontaine, of Rollerskating With Scissors.

Once we arrived in Murcia and settled into our rooms at the centrally located Hotel NH Rincón de Pepe (the gorgeous and monumental Cathedral of Murcia was just a block away), we met our entire group of writers, along with our trusty guide Mike, at the hotel’s outdoor bar and restaurant.  Over a few glasses of local cerveza (beer) and delicious tapas, our group casually became acquainted, unaware of the friendships that would be formed over the next few days.

An unforgettable outdoor lunch at Bodegas Castaño

Beginning with the exploration of the DO Yecla, where I sipped my very first 100 percent Spanish Montastrell from Bodegas La Purísima (an unoaked 2012 fresh expression of the varietal with a beautiful deep cherry red color), we continued the day with visits to several other wineries: Bodegas Señorio de Barahonda, Bodegas Castaño, where we had an incredible outdoor lunch, and Bodegas Hijos de Juan Gil.

The next several days were spent visiting more amazing wineries while tasting through many wines of the other two DOs: Jumilla and Bullas.  It didn’t take long to realize the wines of this region displayed common characteristics, while obtaining diversity from the terroir of their specific DOs: fresh, pure and balanced – full of complexity and character.

We not only sampled through an array of impressive wines, but we explored each of the regions, dined on locally prepared foods at beautiful, exotic restaurants (both in town and in the country), toured a 200 year old winery, and even climbed the stairs to the top of the Jumilla Castle, built over 3,000 years ago, where we were able to take-in some breathtaking views.

A map showing all three DOs of the Murcia Region: Bullas, Yecla and Jumilla

Each day that I spent in the Murcia region of Spain has given me inspiration for many articles about the spectacular wine, food, people and places of an area steeped in rich history.  There will be a plethora of educational, entertaining and interesting stories, photos, articles and tasting notes that are bound to be published in the weeks and months to come.

Follow our group of wine and food writers as we share our experiences from this vibrant and spirited region: Ward Kadel, Robert Dwyer, Amy Gross, Mary Cressler, Cindy Rynning, Meg Maker and Beth Fontaine.  Follow me over to WineJulia.com, and follow all of us on Twitter using the hashtag #Murcia8.