Since 2006, I’ve been a Tower Club Member of our largest local winery, King Estate. It was the first wine club I had ever become a member of, and I signed up for several reasons:
- I love the King Estate wines, and wine club members receive limited, special release and vineyard designate beauties.
- They have over-the-top members only special events like the exclusive tailgate parties at Autzen during football season; along with, annual events like the Crab Fest, Summer BBQ and Harvest Moon Celebration.
- Their seasonal, quarterly wine club release parties encourage me to take a break from writing and take advantage of Eugene’s beautiful wine country.
I also like to support local businesses that, in turn, support our local community. From sponsoring FOOD for Lane County’s Chefs Night Out to fundraising dinners that benefit Eugene’s Cascade Raptor Center, King Estate shows their support in many ways and they are undoubtedly an asset to our community.
Their most recent Tower Club release tasting took place while a life-long friend was visiting the Pacific Northwest for the very first time. Traveling all the way from Massachusetts with her two young boys, I planned a mom’s evening getaway at King Estate where we would attend the release tasting, have dinner at the winery restaurant, and stay the night in one of the Estate Ranch Houses. With all plans in place, a decidedly predictable evening turned out to be somewhat of a pleasantly unpredictable one.
We arrived at King Estate’s Visitor Center just after 4 pm to pick-up the key to the Ranch House. Visitor Center Manager, Austin Kumm, greeted us with a key and asked us to follow him by car to the house we would be staying in. Heading down from the winery and through the vineyards, we drove past several gobbling turkeys as they trekked through the many rows of grapes that were just starting veraison (the onset of ripening in wine grapes).
The cedar shingled farm-style house, with a welcoming wrap around front porch, was set among the vineyards and orchard trees with a view of the valley below – the perfect retreat for two hard-working mom’s that were seriously looking forward to some rest and relaxation (and a glass of King Estate wine, of course).
Austin gave us a tour of the home, which boasts a comfortable living room with fireplace, a gorgeous gourmet kitchen with breakfast nook, formal dining room, a game room with a pool table and adult beverage fridge (fully stocked with King Estate wine and local beer), and five bedrooms.
As soon as Austin bid his farewell, we popped open a chilled bottle of King Estate Pinot Gris and headed for the front porch. Just before we walked out the front door, everything went silent, and we noticed the power went out. I immediately thought to myself, “oh no, what did we do?” Austin had left some contact phone numbers for us, so we phoned King Estate’s Maintenance man, Mike Wilton, and left him a message about losing power. A few minutes later, Mike called us back to let us know that it wasn’t just us, but all of King Estate’s power had been shut down by the local electric company – a nearby fire was being fought by firefighters, so the power had been shut off for safety reasons.
With a sigh of relief (knowing that it wasn’t us that had caused the glitch in power), we continued to the front porch and poured ourselves a glass of the crisp, refreshing and delicious King Estate 2011 Signature Pinot Gris. Filled with aromas and flavors of green apples and pineapples, the finish had a nice shot of lemon-lime zest that balanced out the tropical fruit characteristics to perfection – an excellent wine to sip on a hot summer afternoon.
Once we finished our glasses of wine, we drove up to the winery for the summer release tasting event, which started about an hour before our dinner reservations. Taking place on the South Terrace and overlooking the valley and vineyards below, it was a gorgeous, sunny afternoon. No one even noticed that the power was out, and as usual, servers brought around trays of delectable foods to pair with the just-released wines: Zucchini Fritter and Minted Yogurt, Caprese Spiendini made with Estate Cherry Tomato, Basil and Fresh Mozzarella, Bruschetta with Nuvola Cheese and Blackberry Jam, and delicious Wood Fired Pizzettes with a variety of toppings. No power? No problem.
Since the power was still turned off as we approached our dinner reservation, we realized we would need to make alternate plans for dinner. Luckily, Tower Club and Direct Sales Manager, Elizabeth Allcott, said she would talk to King Estate’s Executive Chef about putting a picnic basket together that someone could deliver to the Ranch House for us. Knowing we had a comfortable front porch with an amazing view waiting for us back at the house, we were eager to return and enjoy what was left of the Signature Pinot Gris we had opened earlier.
Not long after we returned to the ranch house, Executive Chef Benjamin Nadolny arrived with an impressive delivery of delectable foods: sandwich fixings with fresh house made charcuterie and bread, local cheeses and crackers, freshly picked vine ripened tomato salad and several Pâté selections. Chef Nadolny, passionate about food, explained in detail about each of the dishes he had prepared. Surprised by his youth, we couldn’t help but be completely impressed with his enthusiasm and obvious talent. Feeling quite fortuitous, we enjoyed every bite of food (and every sip of Pinot Gris) while we watched the Blue Moon, a second full moon in a month that is extra full, rise up over the hills beyond the valley. Having no power was certainly no problem for Chef Nadolny, and as content as we were, it was no problem for us either.
Just as the Blue Moon got high enough in the sky to provide ample lighting of the evening’s darkness, the power came back on. With an iPod docking station next to the pool table, we turned on some tunes, played some pool, and popped the cork on one of the wines that were included in the wine club release. Of the three excellent wines I had received (which we had sampled at the release party), 2012 Backbone Pinot Gris, 2010 Backbone Pinot Noir and 2010 Rose Rock+Zena Crown Pinot Noir, we opened the lush and silky 2012 Backbone Pinot Gris, filled with rich aromas and flavors of peaches, pears and melons – a perfect wine to be enjoyed all on its own.
The next morning, while my friend enjoyed quiet time on the porch with a cup of coffee, I lounged in a hammock that was strategically placed among some old growth trees not too far from the Ranch House. Made from wine barrel staves, I thought it wouldn’t be the most comfortable hammock. My initial thoughts were proved wrong once I was horizontal and looking up at the tops of the trees and the gorgeous blue skies – much to my surprise, it was one of the most comfortable hammocks I’ve ever kicked-back in. But, that wasn’t all that surprised me. Just feet away, two very large red tailed hawks came tumbling down from one of the tree tops, fighting over a rodent or some other poor creature they had between each others beaks. I laid completely still, watching their intense battle – an unbelievable sight to see just feet away.
As predictable as I thought our get-away to King Estate was going to be, it turned out to be far more interesting and fun than I had imagined. We were certainly relaxed and well rested by the time we returned back to our kids, where we packed up and headed for another unpredictable getaway – this time to the Oregon Coast and California’s Redwoods.
For detailed notes on all of the wines we tried during the release tasting, visit my award-winning website, WineJulia.com.