wine down eugene

Wine Down Eugene

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One of the great things about publishing EDN is the opportunity to find unknown writers and make them known, to give them a platform for their voice.  We’ve had some inquiries about who we’ve got coming up next in our wine section. While we aren’t quite ready to spill the grapes as it were, we can tell you, you are going to enjoy getting to know them as much as we’ve enjoyed it.  Each of them has a distinctive honest voice when it comes to wine.

This edition of Wine Down I’m highlighting an article by Sarah Tunnell (The Frugal Wino!). Sarah was writing in Spring about the 2011 Cuvee Amrita – one of my favorite hot weather, easy to drink affordable wines.


Anne_Amie_Patio

The Frugal Wino: Anne Amie Vineyards Cuvee A Amrita 2011

by Sarah Tunnell

Picking out a wine during the spring season here in the Willamette Valley is always tough. One day it will rain for 12 hours straight, and the next it will be sixty degrees with sunshine. The wine I have picked out for this week I actually purchased a few months ago from Anne Amie Vineyards, which would be perfect for a warm sunny day.  I was saving it for a special occasion, but I just decided that drinking the wine that I purchased from a beautiful vineyard was enough of an occasion.  I bought the  2011 Cuvee A Amrita because it was a spectacular deal ($12 a bottle, what a steal!) and because I love a good white blend.  Don’t get me wrong, I love my single varietal whites like Viognier and Pinot Gris; however, the right combination of white grapes blended together can end in a flavorful and refreshing blend – perfect for a summer day.

anne-amie-harvestdinner

Anne Amie Vineyards is located in the Willamette Valley near the Chehalem Mountains. It’s near Carlton, Oregon; in the heart of Oregon wine country. I had the privilege of stopping there for the first time back in February, and I was blown away by the vineyards and the beautiful tasting room. It’s located in what used to be Chateau Benoit, but in 1999 the property was purchased by Robert B Pamplin, Jr. – an author, farmer, minister, and owner of the Portland Tribune. He bought the vineyard hoping to create wines of the highest quality and brought well-known local winemaker, Thomas Houseman, on board. Their primary grapes are Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, and Pinot Blanc but they also do many other varietals. I was fortunate enough to also try the Muller Thurgau dessert wine “Amie,” and it was one of the best dessert wines I’ve ever tasted. Not only are all the Anne Amie wines delicious, the view from the tasting room is to die for.

anne-amie-cork

Over the past few years I’ve been able to try lots of wine, and a few of those, upon first sniff, smell like alcohol -not a good start, in my view.  One of the first good signs I look for when evaluating wine is a fruit forward nose, and the Amrita had just that. Green apples and ripe pears filled my senses, and I knew I was in for a good white blend.  It tasted like melons, peaches, and strawberries, and had a bit of minerality with a citrusy, slightly sweet finish.  The sweetness was just right, not too much, not too little.  I loved this wine.  I was impressed that it had 10 grape varietals in it, as well!  The primary varietals were Reisling, Chardonnay, Viognier, and Pinot Blanc. I drank this on a chilly night by itself and it held up on its own very well.  I didn’t eat anything with it, but I think it would pair beautifully with spicy Asian food like Pad Thai or Curry based dishes.

At $12 a bottle, I highly recommend this wine for all of my fellow wine lovers, it’s a must try.

The Frugal Wino - Sarah Tunnell.  Yes, she does not just write, she also rocks.
The Frugal Wino – Sarah Tunnell. Yes, she does more then write, she also rocks.

Independence Week: Wine Down Eugene

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With a week of beautiful weather ahead, the 4th of July weekend is bursting at the seams with wine wine events.  This weeks wine down is another refreshing break from the standard with a guest article from Jade Helm of Tasting Pour.  Also, we’ll have Wine and Beer courtesy of BigFoot Distributing and The Steel Pail out at Dexter Lake State Park for this 4th of July (click for details)

Pairing Food and Wine: Cabernet Cliche

Cabernet Sauvignon and grilled steak sounds like a cliche.  Sometimes when a food and wine pairing is a match made in heaven there is no good reason to complicate it. We knew a Texan once who had a quick reply about the reason people call Texas “God’s Country.”  “People say it ’cause it’s based on fact.”  Well people pair it ’cause it’s based on taste.
photo by Jade Helm
photo by Jade Helm
A grass fed, grass finished local cut of beef filet hits the grill and that smell of smoke and initial singe tell your nose you are in for something good.  Your 1998 bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon has a cork that is both wine soaked and intact and you decant your Cabernet Sauvignon to give the air time to dance across the surface. Simple, basic, tried and true but there are lessons to be learned. And why does Tasting Pour think you should learn about pairing food and wine? So you can repeat your triumphs and avoid repeating mistakes. See Drink what you Like.
photo by Jade Helm / Tastingpour.blogspot.com
photo by Jade Helm / Tastingpour.blogspot.com
Lesson One – Consider the Entire Meal
The Cabernet Sauvignon will be served with more than just the steak.  We paired a green salad with blue cheese to match the wine’s richness, dried currants to pick up the fruit flavors, and an acidic dressing for balance. Our roasted potatoes were mixed with peppery smoked bacon to compliment the grilled steak and the savory flavors in the wine. Rosemary in the potatoes highlighted the herbaceous notes often found in Cabernet Sauvignon.  Steamed carrots with butter and brown sugar added a touch of sweetness absent from other parts of the meal.
photo by Jade Helm
photo by Jade Helm
Lesson Two – Pairing an Older Wine
Because this wine had aged 15+ years we expected the tannins to be softened, the fruit flavors to be integrated and transformed to dried fruits, and a dominance of tertiary flavors like leather, meat, and earth. We stored our wine on it’s side to keep the wine in contact with the cork and made sure it was in a cool dark place.  This bottle was purchased from a trusted retailer.  We were rewarded with a wine that can be described as “sitting in a leather chair by the fireplace with the smells of Christmas baking in the kitchen,”  In other words; leather, smoke, baking spices.  Because the tannins had softened it was a perfect pairing with the more delicate filet.  For more information on learning  which wines to store please see our series Pour and Store here and here.
photo by Jade Helm
photo by Jade Helm
Lesson Three – Oregon Produces More than Pinot Noir
Our wine, La Garza Cellars 1998 Cabernet Sauvignon, comes from the Umpqua Valley in Southern Oregon. The area is known as “The Hundred Valleys of Umpqua” because of the diverse climates that allow for a wide range of varietals.  This isn’t typical Pinot Noir country.  While cooler, marine influenced microclimates exist in the northern areas around the town of Elkton, much of the Umpqua Valley is drier and warmer.   Spangler Vineyards, formerly La Garza Cellars, produces Cabernet Sauvignon from ungrafted older vines (planted 1968-1971).
Grilled Meat Food and Wine Pairing

Please share some of your wine and food pairing hurrahs or faux paus. For more wine pairing tips click here.

Wine Pairing Weekend #1 Bloggers: Be sure to check out the great pairings my fellow bloggers have come up with for the first Wine Pairing Weekend! 

Culinary Adventures with Camilla is pairing “Lemon Marmalade-Glazed Duck Legs + Holman Ranch’s Off-Dry Pinot Gris

Vino Travels – An Italian Wine Blog will share “Food and Wine Pairing: BBQ with Montepulciano d’Abruzzo

Grape Experiences is sharing “Wine and Dine: Sinfo Rosado 2012 with Chicken Enchilada Burgers

Pull that Cork posted “Rolled Pork Florentine on the Grill, Which Wine Pairs Best?”

From Cooking Chat, “Grilled Pork Tenderloin Paired with a Bonny Doon Syrah

Meal Diva blogged about “Grilled Sausage Kabobs and White Wine

Curious Cuisiniere paired “Wine Grilled Chicken with Lewis Station Winery’s Oaked Chardonnay

Join the #winePW conversation: Follow the #winePW conversation on Twitter throughout the weekend and beyond. You can also visit our group Pinterest board to pin some great pairing ideas for later! Stay tuned for the July Wine Pairing Weekend, which will focus on “Refreshing summer wine pairings” on Saturday, July 12.

— Jade

This article re-published with permission.

Wine Down Eugene

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Wine Down Eugene June 18-24

Saké (pronounced sah-kay not sah-kee) originated in Japan and is an alcoholic beverage made from fermented rice.  Commonly called rice wine, saké is actually produced using a brewing process that is some what similar to brewing beer.

sake all 4

SakéOne, a saké brewing facility and importer located in the northwestern corner of the Willamette Valley, is one of only six brewing facilities in the U.S. and the only one in Oregon.  How SakéOne’s facilities ended up in Oregon has everything to do with the original owner wisely believing that the best quality water for saké was in the Northwest.  With water being one of the most important ingredients in the production of saké, the facility was built in the ideal location of Forest Grove, Oregon, situated along an eastern slope of Oregon’s Coastal Range. 

SakéOne, a name that was chosen with the goal of becoming the number one saké company in the U.S., has won more awards than any other saké company in the United States.  They not only produce high quality, incredibly delicious craft saké (some I recently sampled during an Oregon Craft Beverage event that took place inside the brewery at SakéOne), but they import some of the finest and highest quality sakés from Japan.

sake outdoor office

I was a lucky wine gal and was invited to join in on a live virtual tasting of four absolutely divine sakés from Japan that are a part of the impressive imports portfolio at SakéOne. Broadcast on YourBrandLive.com and presented by creative marketing gurus Charles Communication Associates, this very special saké tasting was hosted by SakéOne President and CEO Steve Vuylsteke and Marcus V. Pakiser Regional Director of saké for Young’s Market Company, based in Portland –  two of the foremost knowledgeable people in the U.S. saké business. Both Steve and Markus enthusiastically guided us through the tasting of the distinctively delicious imported saké.

In Japan, saké hit its peak in the ’70s and has slowly been declining since.  They now make about one third the amount they produced 40 or so years ago; therefore, as craft saké consumption increases in America, imported high quality saké is on the rise.

sake in ice

Depending on where the brewing is taking place in Japan, north to south, the temperatures are very different with the north being much colder, of course, than the south.  The varying temperatures play a major role in the characteristics of the saké: the brewing process takes longer in the north at the lower temperatures while fermentation in the south is much quicker and more vigorous from the higher temperatures.

First and foremost, do not warm up saké!  Pour it over ice in a stemless wine glass, and take a good look at the Saké Tasting Wheel that SakéOne created – a priceless tool to help identify aromas, flavors and characters of saké.

sake murai

For our tasting of the four imported saké [Murai Family Tanrei Junmai saké ($20), Kasumi Tsuru Kimoto Extra Dry saké ($27), Hakutsuru Superior Junmai Ginjo saké ($16) and Yoshinogawa Junmai Ginjo Winter Warrior saké ($27)], we started with the lighter, crisper styles from the north and worked our way south to the richer, expressive and more intensely flavored sakés.

Beginning with the Murai Family Tanrei Junmai, considered a very classic style saké, I found totally subtle aromas, nearly undetectable, and the flavors were crisp, dry and clean.  This is a saké that would pair really nicely with sushi. To be a Junmai, ingredients must be just water, rice, yeast and Koji

sake ypshi pouringThe Kasumi Tsuru Kimoto Extra Dry saké, although considered dry like the Tanrei Junmai, the Kimoto aromas and flavors were considerably more intense and complex, and even a bit earthy and smoky, with a truly lovely mouthfeel.  This would be incredible with Oregon Dungeness crab. Amazingly, the Kasumi Tsuru brewery was founded in 1725 and is still owned by the same family!

The Hakutsuru Superior Junmai Ginjo saké had really beautiful and alluring floral aromas, but what I loved the most was the silky, luxurious mouthfeel.  It was so nicely balanced, smooth and easy to drink – pure enjoyment.  Is it the Miyamizu, also known as Heavenly Water, that gives it such a heavenly texture and balance?  Perhaps.  Hakutsuru is the largest saké brewing company in the world. 

sake yoshi label

The Yoshinogawa Junmai Ginjo Winter Warrior saké was a collaboration between the master brewers of Yoshinogawa in Niigata Prefecture, and the SakéOne team in Oregon, and this one was my absolute favorite.  Floral and herbaceous qualities on the nose filled the palate with lush and juicy tropical fruits, nuts and hints of tangerine and ginger.  The finish was super long and beckoned for another sip, I didn’t want to put my glass down.

One of the most interesting facts about saké?  Once it’s opened, many stay fresh and retain all of their important characteristics and quality for sometimes up to nine months! Restaurants: Serve saké by the glass, there is absolutely no reason not to, and please don’t serve it warm!  Serve it chilled, maybe in a Riedel stemless glass – I used these for the tasting and they were truly perfect.

We were also told that saké pairs better with cheese than wine – time for a saké vs wine cheese war.

Visit SakéOne’s Kura (tasting room) from 11:00 am to 5:00 pm, seven days a week, at 820 Elm Street, Forest Grove, Oregon 97116

Wine Down Eugene

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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

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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. 

photo (1)

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).

photo (3)

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

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Wine Down Eugene June 4-10

Keeler Estate Vineyard

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

KEV all 5

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

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

KEV 11 PG

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

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

The five Keeler Estate wines that are all the rave:

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

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

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

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

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

KEV corks

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

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

 

 

 

Wine Down Eugene

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Wine Down Eugene May 28 – June 4

Southern Oregon is filled with hundreds of micro-climates among its many rolling hills, mountains, rivers and lakes, and the southernmost wine growing region in Southern Oregon is the Rogue Valley.  Within the Rogue Valley AVA (American Viticulture Area) is the Rogue River’s drainage basin and several tributaries that include Bear Creek, the Applegate River and the Illinois River.  Most wineries in the region are found in the valleys that are formed by these three tributaries.

Map via Rogue Valley Winegrowers Association
Map via Rogue Valley Winegrowers Association

Each of the valley’s formed by the tributaries have their own unique micro-climates and terroirs, allowing for the growth of both cool climate and warm climate varietals.  Most of the region is suited for warmer climate varietals like Cabernet Sauvignon, Tempranillo, Syrah, Grenache, Vigonier and Chardonnay.  But the Rogue Valley’s sub appellation, the Illinois Valley AVA (which is along the Illinois River in the westerly portion of the region and at the highest elevations – around 2,000 feet above sea level) is where cool climate varietals, like those found in the Willamette Valley, thrive.

As a wine writer, I receive a lot of wine for review purposes, but when I receive wine that’s not only from my home state, but also from the super unique Illinois Valley AVA, I get really excited.  When I opened the box to find four vibrantly-labeled Deer Creek Vineyards wines, I knew I was in for a treat.  Three of the four wines were from one of my favorite vintages in Oregon, 2011: a Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Gris.  2011 was a cooler than average year in Oregon, and in cooler years wine grapes tend to yield higher acidity levels – I love wine with zippy acidity.  The fourth wine was a Pinot Noir from the revered 2012 vintage.

DCV OR all 4

The Bryan family, owner of Deer Creek Vineyards, pride themselves on letting the terroir express the distinct characteristics of their wines.  Small lot and vineyard designate, vintner’s John and Katherine Bryan are all about making hand-crafted, authentic wines that are packed full of flavors that come from the earth where the fruit is grown.

Their winemaking philosophy of creating terroir-focused wines is clearly evident in each of the Deer Creek Vineyards wines that I sampled.  From the complex, bright fruits, to the well balanced, acid-driven finishes, I absolutely loved all four wines.  Each showcased the varietal’s true characteristics; along with, what I am sure is the expressive terroir of the Rogue and Illinois Valley.

Deer Creek Vineyards 2011 Pinot Gris ($20): Bright green apple, pear and lime are highlighted by alluring spice. On the palate, vibrant fruitiness is rounded out by a lovely shot of acidity, creating a really nicely balanced wine that would not only be great with a number of foods, but excellent all on its own while relaxing in the summer on the front porch.

dcv or pg

Deer Creek Vineyards 2011 Chardonnay ($20): Meyer lemon, honeycrisp apples and a touch of honeysuckle are round and lush on the palate, leaving it coated with gorgeous complex fruit and citrus flavors.  The finish is clean and focused, yet zesty lemon-lime finishes it off with a memorable zip.

Deer Creek Vineyards 2011 Pinot Noir ($35): This style of Pinot Noir is exactly why I love this cool climate varietal! Beautiful earthy tones are highlighted by Bing cherries and fall spices – excellent acidity balances everything out to perfection.  This is the ultimate style Pinot Noir for acid hounds, such as myself.

Deer Creek Vineyards 2012 Pinot Noir ($50): This is the style of Pinot Noir that has wine enthusiasts around the word going gaga over Pinot.  Ripe red fruits, like raspberries, strawberries and cherries are highlighted by subtle spice and rounded out by delicate, yet pronounced acidity.  It’s lush and velvety mouthfeel creates a super elegant wine that is delicate, yet complex – a gorgeous Pinot Noir.

dcv or pn

I haven’t been to Deer Creek Vineyards yet, but after browsing through their website, deercreekvineyards.com, they are at the top of my list of places to visit for more reasons than just the stellar wine: the view looks spectacular, and they offer massages in the vineyard, check it out here.

Wine Down Eugene

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Wine Down Eugene May 21-27

May 23 is National Chardonnay Day

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

IMG_2020
A cluster of Chardonnay at Willamette Valley Vineyards in Oregon

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

chablis lapierre
La Pierrelée 2011Chablis

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

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

#brokenzaltoheartbreak
#brokenzaltoheartbreak

 

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

Wine Down Eugene

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Wine Down Eugene May 14-20

Wine writing most likely won’t make me a millionaire, but this occupation that seems to have fit into my life with perfection and ease has, without a doubt, provided me with excellent perks.  Being implemented with rare and exciting opportunities has empowered me with interesting, educational and downright fun content.

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Some of the stellar events I attended during the IPNC

I’ve attended some incredible events like the world-famous IPNC (International Pinot Noir Celebration), Oregon Chardonnay Symposium and the annual Wine Bloggers Conference, to name a few.  I’ve had multiple fine dining experiences with many great folks of the wine industry; for example, I’ve joined Willamette Valley Vineyards on several occasions for some very special events; including, a Valentine’s Day Dinner in Timberline Lodge’s Historic Silcox Hut, a truffle-centric lunch in their winery, a Chardonnay technical tasting with some of Oregon’s pioneering Chardonnay growers and guru winemakers, and I the Governor’s Oregon Leadership Dinner which took place in their beautifully renovated tasting room.

I was also invited to travel abroad with a group of very talented wine writers for a media trip to the Murcia, Spain, where we discovered the land of Monastrell, and I’ve joined my pals from Snooth.com for a great weekend in New York City for the Snooth People’s Voice Awards – just two of many awesome adventures.  One of the greatest highlights of 2014 so far was being invited to join a panel of very accomplished wine judges for the annual Savor Northwest Wine Awards that takes place in beautiful Cannon Beach, Oregon.

ECC label up close
The butterfly on the label is in memory of Liz’s mother, Carolyn Chambers, who loved and collected butterflies

One of the best benefits of wine writing is receiving review samples of wine from around the world – a perk that’s certainly refined my palate and afforded me experiences with wine I would have otherwise never had.  There is nothing, however, that excites me more than receiving review samples from Oregon wineries – where my heart and passion for my favorite beverage clearly shines through my writing on Eugene Daily News and my award-winning website, WineJulia.com.

A recent excellent tasting experience came from sampling Elizabeth Chambers Cellar 2011 Winemaker’s Cuvée Willamette Valley Pinot Noir.  Does the name Elizabeth Chambers ring a bell my fellow Eugeneans?  The Chambers name is a well-known one for us native, and even transplanted, locals.  Successful Eugene business woman, Carolyn Chambers, was well-known as a pioneer of Eugene’s television and wine industries, having been a founder of both KEZI in the late 1950s and purchasing Hinman Vineyards in the early 1990s.  With her maiden name of Silva, she changed the name from Hinman Vineyards to Silvan Ridge but kept the Hinman wines for a second label.

ECC cork

Carolyn’s oldest daughter, Elizabeth (Liz) Chambers, managed Silvan Ridge for 20 years and purchased it from her mother’s estate in 2012 after she had passed away.  The Chamber’s also owned a winery located in McMinnville, Oregon, named Panther Creek Winery.  Although the Panther Creek name was sold, the actual winery was owned by Liz, which she literally used as her cellar.

Michael Stevenson, winemaker for Panther Creek since 1999 up to the date the label was sold, decided to stay with Liz to create a new brand: Elizabeth Chambers Cellar.  Michael’s winemaking style uses minimal interventions so natural flavors can be pulled from the selected vineyard’s terroir, creating distinct characteristics with each vintage.  With a goal of not adding any flavors beyond what comes from the fruit and using very limited oak, Mchael says, “Ninety percent of what is in the bottle is determined by what we pick in the vineyard.”

ECC bottle glass cork

Personally, I have always preferred less manipulated wines – I truly believe minimal intervention allows the wine to express its terroir, creating a wine that is unique down to its roots – full of complex characteristics with deep expression and distinctive aroma and flavor profiles.

The 2011 Winemaker’s Cuvée is a gorgeous Pinot Noir that absolutely represents its terroir in a feminine, elegant nature with soft, well-integrated tannins and vibrant acidity.  A juicy entrance creates a silky presence on that palate that is down right pleasing.  Aromas and flavors of cherries, earth and brown spices are highlighted by hints of violets and licorice. Liz and Michael will be focusing on single vineyard Pinot Noirs that are priced around $45 dollars a bottle.

I recently heard that one of the vineyards they chose fruit from for a certain bottling comes from a very special block of Temperance Hill Vineyard in the Eola-Amity Hills AVA.  To date, every single Temperance Hill vineyard wine I’ve had, regardless of the producer, has been totally impressive – so I’m really looking forward to trying it.  Also, a 2013 vintage Pinot Gris is scheduled to be released this month.

Visit the Elizabeth Chamber Cellar winery and tasting room daily from 12-5 pm, located across the street from the historic Granary District at 455 NE Irvine, McMinnville.

Wine Down Eugene

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Wine Down Eugene May 7-13

I mentioned briefly in last week’s Wine Down Eugene that I had recently attended the first ever Pacific Northwest Cool Climate Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO) Conference.  Although I’ll be going into great detail about all that I learned and experienced during the conference on my award-winning website, WineJulia.com, I thought a proper briefing of what took place at this unique conference should be shared with the many readers of Eugene Daily News and Wine Down Eugene.  Oregon is an amazing state, and I’m continuously marveled by what surrounds me in this beautiful and bountiful place I love to call home.  

EVOO booklet

Taking place over the course of two days, Saturday and Sunday, April 26 and 27, at the very appropriate and absolute perfect location for the conference, Red Ridge Farm’s Oregon Olive Mill, an eclectic mix of people (farmers, foodies, consumers and marketing gurus) gathered to learn and discover what it takes to cultivate olives in the cool climate region of the Pacific Northwest.  Capturing the attention of the extra virgin olive oil enthusiasts through a farm-to-table approach, industry leaders gathered to share their knowledge over the course of two days.

Saturday’s program focused on the agricultural and technical side of cool climate olive agronomy and olive grove management, including a pruning demo done on site in the grove at Red Ridge Farms, and was geared towards those interested or already vetted in cultivating cool-climate olives.

EVOO tasting

Sunday’s activities were geared towards consumers and trade folk, focusing on creating a well thought out olive oil culture for the Pacific Northwest.  Owner of Oregon Olive Mill, which is part of Red Ridge Farms and Durant Vineyards, Paul Durant opened the discussion with his olive visions of exploration, discovery and even failures.  His passion for the importance of olive oil’s history shone while he talked about creating a culture through varietal selection, agronomy, milling, packaging, marketing and educating the consumer.

I didn’t attend the first day’s program because I’m not farming olives and have no immediate plans to do so.  But as an avid lover of the complexities found in different types of extra virgin olive oils, I knew the focus of day two was going to be the one for me. 

EVOO dining room for dinner

We learned about the varietals that work well in our cooler climate; as well as, the impacts of freeze on the trees.  I was amazed to discover that olive trees are evergreens, and that site selection and soil types are oh so important (much like wine grape growing).  Propagation of olives trees has been going on for 6,000 years, and it’s immersed in rich symbology, leading it to be, “historically very significant.” [Paul Durant]

Over the course of several hours. we became well educated and learned a great deal about how to create an olive oil culture in the Pacific Northwest, starting by learning about the history of EVOO – the panel of experts clearly impressed every person in the room.  The day ended with a fabulous wine tasting in the Durant Vineyards tasting room with appetizers prepared by one of Oregon’s most famous and beloved chefs (and a personal favorite of mine), Vitaly Paley – who also prepared an EVOO-centric dinner that absolutely deserves an article of its very own.

EVOO Conference and salad

Over the next few weeks, look for articles on WineJulia.com that will focus on this super significant and absolutely stellar event that I had the privilege of attending – you won’t want to miss them!  And although I didn’t mention much about the Durant Vineyards wines in this piece, expect a plethora of information on them on WineJulia – they were incredibly delicious.  

Wine Down Eugene

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Wine Down Eugene April 23-29

Summer may feel like it’s a million years away with the rainy, cold and windy weather we’re currently experiencing.  It’s hard to imagine that in less than two months from now, I’ll most likely be moving my office back outside – where I love to work while catching every ounce of sunshine that graces the cerulean blue skies of Oregon’s Willamette Valley summers.

DM Rose bubbly sunny day
My favorite Domaine Meriwether bubbly on a gorgeous sunshiny April afternoon. Just look at that view.

With summer along the horizon, two of my favorite down-time activities of all-time will take place, as they do year in and year out: camping and visiting the wineries.  We’ve already got our beach side camping reservations set and in place for the summer, and like we do each year, we’ll pack up the camper and head for the Coast.  Along the way, we’ll visit wineries and stock up on some of our favorite Oregon wines that will be sipped and savored next to a bonfire on the beach while watching the sun set out over the Pacific Ocean.

Many times, as we’ve pulled into wineries and vineyards with our camper in tow on our way to the Coast, I’ve thought to myself, “If we could just set up camp right here, right now, life would be grand.” My visions of camping among the vines and taking the time to fully enjoy everything a winery and vineyard property has to offer have been plenty. Thoughts of long walks through the rows of vines while sipping and savoring a stellar Pinot Gris, Chardonnay or Pinot Noir have crossed my mind often. The star-filled skies at night in Oregon wine country are simply breathtaking – camping under them, and among the vines, would be nothing short of incredible.

DM entrance sign

Imagine my excitement when I found out from two of my gal pals, Denise Rossetti (of wineeventsoregon.com) and Lorrie Normann (owner of Domaine Meriwether), that my visions of wine camping have become a reality through their efforts of planning what is undoubtedly going to be the ultimate event of the summer: Wine Camp

Wine Camp is everything I’ve envisioned but so much more.  Taking place at Domaine Meriwether, August 9 and 10, 2014, this two day wine-centric, adults only, camping experience is a dream come true.  With Lorrie’s event planning experience and wine expertise; along with, Denise and Lorrie’s shared passion and enthusiasm for turning their visions into absolute realisms, I am in full-on celebration mode just knowing that they’ve been working diligently to put this unique experience together.

Domaine Meriwether property boasts the perfect area for camping
Domaine Meriwether property boasts the perfect area for camping

I met up with Lorrie and Denise a couple weeks ago, when we were having that unbelievable summer-like weather, to learn more about Wine Camp.  With a glass of my favorite bubbly in hand (Domaine Meriwether’s Brut Rosé), we walked around the property to see where the tents and campers would set-up (Lorrie envisions lights strung throughout the trees), we explored the rows of vines where the “lunch in the vineyard” may take place and we viewed possible locations where a true technical tasting of Pinot Noir will be taught by Lorrie herself.  I was quickly learning that Wine Camp is going to be the experience of a lifetime.

$149 per person (includes everything on the schedule)

Saturday

  • 10am – arrive and set-up camp at Domaine Meriwether
  • 12:15pm – lunch in the vineyard
  • 2pm excrusions – Option 1: Wine Tour – visit and taste at LaVelle Vineyards and Sarver Winery (only 20 seats available). Option 2: Vineyard Tour, “Fizz Ed & Technical Tasting” with Lorrie Normann
  • 6pm – Winemaker’s Dinner in the cellar
  • 8pm – campfire and dessert

Sunday

  • 10am – Mimosas and continental breakfast (full breakfast available for purchase from Comfort’s Mobile Cuisine
The vineyard lunch will take place down one of the rows of vines. By August, these will all be in full bloom.
The vineyard lunch will take place down one of the rows of vines. By August, these will all be in full bloom.

As we walked through the camping area, rays of light from the sun’s beams poured through the branches of the trees, creating a magical-like setting.  The smell of fresh air and pine was alluring and rejuvenating – it’s an all-around perfect place for camping.  The excitement and enthusiasm in both Lorrie’s and Denise’s voices and expressions as they told me about Wine Camp only made me want to fast forward to August – this one-of-a-kind event can’t come soon enough, and I’m already thinking about a theme for decking out my camper: Margaritaville.

To book your space at Wine Camp (better hurry), go to winecamping.com.

 

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