wine julia

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. 

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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

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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.

Local Lunch Gals Special: Eugene Foodies Potluck by Eugene Foodies Guest Writer!

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As an avid food lover and an advocate for supporting our local farmers and sustainable food growers, I (Lunch Gal Julia) have been a member of the Eugene Foodies! Facebook Group for several years, since there were approximately 26 members.  Being a member has afforded me a plethora of information from other members regarding the local food scene; like, which local CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) offers a stellar variety of vegetables, or which markets carry specific local hard-to-find items, and even which restaurants offer the freshest foods, fastest service, best burgers, best french fries, best sushi – you name it, the list goes on and on.

A basket full of locally grown goodies from Organic Redneck Farms
A basket full of locally grown goodies from Organic Redneck Farms, a farm once discussed on the Eugene Foodies page

Over the years I’ve watched the group grow from its tightly knit group of just 26 to what is now over 2,600 (2,861 to be exact, as of May 23, 2014), and I’ve learned a great deal while forming friendships along the way.  When a celebration was suggested to commemorate the group reaching 1,000 members, everyone agreed on a potluck get together.  With the groups founder and administrator, Chris Calise, at the helm, a date was set, a space was rented and plans were solidified.

Although I had planned on attending and writing about the Eugene Foodies’ first official celebration, my plans were derailed at the last minute and I was unable to attend.  So, I turned to some of my Eugene Foodies friends for help.

Eugene Foodies! Founder chris Calise talks with other Foodie members during the very first Pot Luck get together
Eugene Foodies! Founder Chris Calise talks with other Foodie members during the very first Pot Luck get together

The very gracious and kind, Sherri McCutchen (an active member of the Eugene Foodies Group), offered to step in and cover the event with the help of Marilee Reyes, another active group member, who has a background in journalism.  Together they created this splendid piece about the event, and I am truly grateful for their contribution to my popular Local Lunch Gals column here on Eugene Daily News:

How does a Foodie Facebook group celebrate reaching 1000 members?  They have a potluck, of course!  The Eugene Foodies page was started by Chris Goodspace-Calise and his wife, Kathy Calise, in December 2009, as “A group of food lovers in Eugene, Oregon and surrounding areas. Dedicated to the local, sustainable bounty of wonderful food available in this area.”  Despite a mention in a Register-Guard article in March of 2010, membership hovered in the 300 range for several years – by early last summer, it was up to about 500 members.

Shrimp Ceviche
Shrimp Ceviche made by member BigDawg Occupy Occupy

Then something happened, and Chris found himself adding members daily.  By this January, it became clear that the group would reach 1000 members within just a month, which called for a celebration.  Chris suggested a potluck to showcase the many good home cooks and chefs in the group, first suggesting the Lamb Cottage as a venue, then settling on the Petersen Barn Community Center.  

Befitting for a group dedicated to food, it was decided that the potluck would also collect donations for the local non-profit organization Food for Lane County.  The date was set for Saturday, May 3.

So what do devoted Foodies bring to a potluck?  Some items would be recognized by any familiar potluck; for example, Egg Salad, by Kitte Knight.  Only this featured eggs from her own hens, handmade mayonnaise also featuring those eggs, and fresh herbs from her garden.  Was there Bean Salad?  You betcha.  But as envisioned by Marilee Reyes, this special bean salad also featured broccoli and other fresh vegetables.  There was a corn salad made by members Joe and Mandy Jostmeyer, starring fresh, grilled corn – quite a task when made in quantity, according to Joe’s comment on the Foodies page.

Robin Scotts beautiful Chocolate Cake
Robin Scotts beautiful Chocolate Cake

That may be where the small bit of similarity to church basement potluck ended.  Member Moose Joe Shaoui contributed Pork Rillettes, simmered in duck fat, covered with a wine gelee made from scratch; that is, he cooked down bones to make the gelatin.  A play on Surf and Turf was provided by Chris Calise: Sausage Ravioli in a Shrimp Alfredo Sauce.  An Offal treat was the dish shared by Ellen Brenner, who prepared what she called “Gateway Offal” (the “waste” parts of an animal, such as organs, head, etc.): Braised Beef Tongue (lengua, for Mexican food lovers) with all the accompaniments.  Foodies also enjoyed Shrimp Ceviche from member BigDawg Occupy Occupy, a delicious Luau chicken (redolent of the flavor of coconut) from Rachel Martinez, and a fresh and bright Spinach Salad with strawberries, almonds, and homemade poppyseed dressing provided by member Kallen Korin.  Desserts included Robin Scott’s Dark Chocolate Bundt Cake with chocolate glaze and purple pansy garnish, Kathy Calise’s “Better Than Anything” cake; along with, chocolate chip cookies made with whole wheat flour from Skyeanna Malito.

The several dozen foodies that gathered discussed food, of course, like favorite meals and recipes, Eugene area restaurants past, present, and ones we all hope for, farms and CSAs and plans for future gatherings.  There are already monthly meet-ups at area restaurants planned on the last week of each month.  Coming up is a meet-up at Plank Town Brewing in Springfield, May 30, at 4:30 pm.  Subscribed dinners include Ox and Fin on June 26, and more exciting food-related events will soon be announced.

Cathy Calise: Better Than Anything Cake
Kathy Calise: Better Than Anything Cake

This Eugene Foodies event collected 105 pounds of donated goods for Food For Lane County.

While Eugene Foodies is a closed group to prevent SPAM (the non-food kind), all interested local food lovers may easily ask to join.  There are great benefits to being a member, where food-related conversations about recipes and restaurants flow, advice is sought and given, and loads of events are in the making.  Bon Appetit!

A little information about contributing writer, Sherri McCutchen:

As a native of New Orleans growing up with great cooks, I’ve been blessed to eat well my whole life; I knew what good food tasted like and appreciated it.  Although I was the only one in my family of three girls who didn’t cook – when I started college the freezer in my apartment was loaded with Banquet TV dinners.  I began to learn to create my own food, often cooking with friends.  In the early ’70s ingredients for Asian food were hard to find, but we enjoyed making dim sum and Szechuan dishes and searching out new hole-in-the wall restaurants.  After teaching for several years, I went back to school for an MBA in Hotel/Restaurant administration, met Chef Daniel Bonnot, began working in his kitchen at the Louis XVI Restaurant in the French Quarter, and never did get that degree.  It was inspiring to cook with such now-famous chefs as Susan Spicer and David Kinch.  I’ve cooked in a natural foods deli, a fraternity, an Italian deli, and a Mexican restaurant.  Eventually settling in Colorado, I ran the café at Naropa, the Buddhist college in Boulder – my German partner and I received a four-star review for our little place.  Being a mom ended my full-time career, although I catered for a while.  Both my sons, now in their twenties, loved growing up with Peking Duck as a regular meal and are now quite good cooks who love experimenting with food.  I love the variety of great food available in Eugene and the Northwest, and find lots of inspiration on the Eugene Foodies Facebook page, both for eating out and cooking in.

 

Memorial Weekend at the Wineries

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Local wineries will be swinging their doors open for one of the South Willamette Valley’s most celebrated 3 day weekends: Memorial Day Weekend.  Winery Open Houses will be happening throughout the valley, it’s the official kick-off to the summer season.  Featuring, special releases, barrel tastings, live music, artisan treats and an endless flow of the areas hand crafted wine, from Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris to Brut Rose and Chardonnay, each winery entices us to head their way for a number of reasons.  And with the recent openings of several urban wineries, it’s no longer necessary to head into wine country to celebrate the official kick-off of summer – some of the areas most prized wines can be conveniently experienced in town.

Mem oregon wine lab
Oregon Wine LAB – one of the urban winery stops on the Eugene Urban Wine Circuit’s: Wine in the City!

Whether you decide to head out to the gorgeous rolling hill countryside of the south Willamette Valley or hit the streets of downtown Eugene to check out Eugene’s thriving urban wine scene, here’s a list of some of the events not to be missed.

  • Wine In The City – Sun. May 25, 2-6 pm. Presented by Eugene Urban Wine Circuit and South Willamette Wineries Association, six urban wineries and tasting rooms will be kicking off summer in style. Each tasting room location will be pouring 3 artisan small batch wines, showcasing live music, and featuring a local caterer or food truck. A guest winemaker/winery will also be featured at each location. Host Wineries include: Capitello featuring Stanton Vineyards, Eugene Wine Cellars featuring Opine Cellars, J. Scott Cellars featuring Gelardi Vineyards, Noble Estate Wines featuring Camp Creek Cellars, Oregon Wine LAB featuring Abbelone and Territorial Winery featuring 5H Cellars. Tickets can be picked up at one of the 6 particpating winery locations (must be 21 or older to participate) or purchased online at EventBrite.com.  Wine circuit goers can check in at one of the 6 locations to pick up their logo wine glass and stamp card. Ticket holders MUST present either their online ticket confirmation sheet or their stamp card in order to participate. Eugene’s own My Party Bus will also be providing shuttle service between wineries/tasting rooms for $10 per person. You must be a ticket holder to use the shuttle service. To reserve your space on the shuttle, call My Party Bus directly at 541 554 7979.
  • Domaine Merwiether – May 23-26, Celebrate Memorial Weekend at Domaine Meriwether beginning May 23, Friday night, for Sparkling Nights (6-9 pm) with music by the lovely Jen Sennett. Decorate your memorial lumineer in honor of loved ones who are no longer with us. A tribute walk through the vineyard starts at dusk. Enjoy food from Comforts Mobile Cuisine (available for purchase), and complimentary tastings of Domaine Meriwether Winery’s fine wines. This Sat.-Mon.: Come back for more Memorial Weekend festivities from 11am-6pm, admission is free, all food and drink is for purchase.
  • Capitello Wines – May 23-24, 12-9 pm & May 25, 12-6 pm. Wine and Swine Memorial Weekend with exciting new wine releases, exclusive tastings of Capitello limited Reserve Pinot Noir & Brut Rose’ & and they’ve labeled up and re-released their popular (and extremely limited) 2012 Sauvignon Blanc Straw Wine! May 23, 6-8 pm Friday Night Live Music Series featuring Americana artist & folk blues singer Tyler Fortier. No Cover & Happy Hour extended to 8 pm (save $1 on any glass purchase). Artisan Fruit, Cheese & Cured Meat plates available all day & night. Sat.-Chef Elizabeth Stuart of Elizabeth Stuart Catering & Co will roast a whole hog in their lot and serve it up Cuban style with black beans, rice & salad for just $10 dollars. Sun.-Elizabeth is serving it up Suthahn style featuring pulled pork sandwiches with vinegar slaw and chips.
  • Silvan Ridge – May 24-26, 12-5 pm, enjoy live music each day from 2-5 pm, free wine tasting, sale prices on wines and free admission.
  • Chateau Lorane – May 24-26, 12-5 pm. Wine at the Lake – enjoy this special event at our facility on the shore of beautiful Lake Louise. Sample over 15 different wines, bring a picnic or purchase picnic supplies.
  • Bennet Vineyards and Wine – May 26, 12-6 pm, GRAND OPENING. Enjoy food, entertainment and of course wine. Check out the south Willamette Valley’s newest winery and tasting room. 25974 Highway 36, Cheshire, 97419. 541-998-3336.
  • Brigadoon Wine Co. – May 24-26, 12-5 pm. Enjoy an assortment of tapas and local artisan cheeses with the family produced wines. The 2012 Pinot Noir “Lylee”, 2013 Riesling, 2013 Rose of Pinot Noir, and the newly released 2013 Pinot Blanc will all be available for tasting and purchase. There will be a $5 tasting fee for the weekend. Bring a picnic and enjoy the family’s vineyard views and hospitality – a natural, peaceful setting like none other.
  • Benton-Lane Winery – May 24-26, 12-5 pm. Have your palate seduced by silky Pinots at the picturesque, family-owned estate Winery & Vineyard. Estate Tasting Fee – $7.00 for four wines, First Class Tasting fee – $7.00 for two wines. Each tasting fee is refundable with $20 wine purchase.
    Meat and Cheese plates available for purchase daily. May 26 ONLY – Noon to 4 pm, gourmet pizza’s from our wood burning oven – $10 each. May 24-25, 1-4 pm live music with Jerome Monaco and band.
  • LaVelle Vineyards – May 23, 6-9 pm, Friday Night Flights are back! Enjoy live music by Michael Conley and food offerings from VineCuisine. Each guest will receive a complimentary flight of 3 wines to start off the evening. Additional wine will be available for purchase. All guests are welcome to walk to the grounds, and even up to the Deck that overlooks the vineyard. As always, guests are welcome to bring their own food if desired.
  • Sarver Winery – May 23-26, 12-9 pm. Enjoy live music a wood-fried pizzas all weekend. Open 7 days a week starting Memorial Day.
  • RainSong Vineyard – May 24-26, 12-5 pm. Enjoy new releases like ’12 Allie’s Rose’ of Pinot Meinier, ’12 chardonnay and ’11 Sparkling Rose’. Free tasting and complimentary appetizers. Tasting of their Barrel Bottling Wines. 20 percent case discount on all wines.
Heading out to wine country? Enjoy bubbles with a view at Domaine Meriwether
Heading out to wine country? Enjoy bubbles with a view at Domaine Meriwether

With three, and often four, days of events going on at the wineries and tasting rooms, this is a weekend packed with countless wine-centric events.  It’s truly the ultimate way to kick-off a summer-long celebration of artisanal wine and Oregon wineries.  But, know this: before I blow off the dust from my flip flops and sun-glasses, and unpack the boxes that have housed my favorite t-shirts and shorts for the last 8 months, I’ll take a moment to remember those who have fallen in battle fulfilling their obligation to the great country in which I live, and I’ll also be lighting a special lumineer at domaine Meriwether for my late father, “Colonel Maurice H. Leiser, USMA Class of ’54 – the wind beneath his daughter’s wings.”

The freedoms that I enjoy everyday are protected and ensured by men and women who have put their lives on the line to protect my country and what it stands for.  After a moment of silence and heartfelt gratitude so deserving of our military, I’ll be ready to swirl, sip, and savor all that our stellar local wineries have to offer, and I will raise a glass to our American heroes.

 

 

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.

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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.

16 Tons Celebrates 4 Years During Their Wild Ale Festival Today!

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From noon to 10 pm today, May 3, 16 Tons Wild Ale Fest and celebration of their 4th Anniversary will take place at the Tap House at 265 E 13th Avenue.  Entry is free, and it’s a cash only bar.

They will be pouring 70 different Wild Ales ranging from Farmhouse to Funky, from Tart to Tooth-Achingly-Acidic.  Rustic, Sour, Barrel Aged, Spontaneously Fermented, and simply Wild ales.

16 tons 2 beers for press release

Each year they have teamed up with a brewery to brew a special anniversary beer as part of their “Phantom Limb Series” that pays homage to a famous author who lost an arm or leg as a result of their adventures.  This year they are very excited to work with Breakside Brewery to create “A Saison in Hell,” a Wallonian-Style Wild Rye Saison that pays homage to Arthur Rimbaud, who is from the Ardennes Region where this working class beer originated.

A few notable beers at the festival: Oakshire Frederic C. Noir, Upright El Coloquio Cervantes, The Commons Fishing with Hallet, Block 15 Wild Chardonnay Ale, Block 15 Kriek, Crux Better off Red, Logsdon / Solera Half Naakte Paasvankantie, BFM Abbaye de Saint Bon-Chien, Double Mountain Devils Kriek, Deschutes Green Monster, and Russian River Consecration.

Some of the featured breweries include: Breakside, The Commons, Oakshire, Upright, Block 15, Cascade, Deschutes, Hair of the Dog, Flat Tail, Logsdon, Hanssens, Mikkeller, Jolly Pumpkin, Goose Island, The Bruery, Crux, Anchorage, Russian River, Stillwater, New Belgium, Evil Twin, Propolis, Rodenbach, and more!

Wine Down Eugene

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Wine Down Eugene April 30 – May 6

I know I’m biased, but seriously, is there any better place on earth than Oregon? I think not. Reflecting on just the past two weeks alone, I have had the opportunity to join in on three absolutely fabulous and memorable events, and although each of the three events were totally unique and different, they all shared a common ground: wine.

Seufert Belly menu

These three events included a spectacular dinner and a show in Eugene, a sensory invoking Riesling-centric wine tasting in Portland, and the first ever conference based on cool climate olive oils, stationed at an olive farm and mill in the Dundee Hills.  Although this week’s Wine Down focuses on just one of these three Oregon events, the other two totally memorable and notable events will be written about in full detail on my award-winning website, WineJulia.com.  Be on the look out for Remarkable Rieslings of Brooks Winery and EVOOs Cool Climate Culture of the Pacific Northwest.

The first of the three events was enjoying an impressive dinner at Belly followed by an inspirational show at the Hult Center for the Performing Arts: Zoot Suit Riot, presented by the Eugene Ballet Company and the Cherry Poppin’ Daddies – a ballet like none I’ve ever seen before.  Invited by the great folks behind the stunning Seufert Winery wines, Michelle Wasner and Jim Seufert, I was sure to make room in my schedule for an evening I knew was going to be nothing short of spectacular.  Not only do I love Belly, it’s truly one of Eugene’s finest restaurants, but Jim Seufert makes some of the best wine in Oregon.  (Read about an unforgettable flight of seven single vineyard 2009 Pinot Noirs I experienced at Seufert Winery here.)  In tow, Jim brought two wines with him to share at dinner: a 2013 Chardonnay (the first-ever Chardonnay for Seufert) and a 2009 Barrel Select Willamette Valley Pinot Noir.

Enjoyed each sip of this beautifully evolving, stellar Pinot Noir.
Enjoyed each sip of this beautifully evolving, stellar Pinot Noir.

The food I ordered was solely based on the two wines Jim had brought, so I started with the salad special to pair with the Chardonnay, and for an entree, I ordered the Ginger and Coriander Braised Beef Short ribs to go along with the Pinot Noir.  Being a first attempt at Chardonnay, Jim’s winemkaing expertise radiated in the beautiful rich, alluring, aromas of pears, apples and spice.  A soft elegant entrance onto the palate displayed lively hints of honeysuckle that rolled in seamless, juicy waves from the front to the back, ending with the perfect zing of acidity to round out the fruit to precision.  The 2009 Barrel Select Pinot Noir was absolutely divine with the braised short ribs.  Dark and light berry fruits with an emphasis on cherries and raspberries were beautifully highlighted by mushrooms, earth, cedar and fall spices.  Great complexity and depth added loads of character, yet the wine’s elegance and delicacy were undeniably noticeable and totally palate pleasing.

It was tough to get up and leave for the ballet; I could have easily stuck around a few more hours simply enjoying the lovely nuances of the Seufert Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and of course, the shared conversation.  But as much as sipping and chatting the night away would have been a true delight, I was crazy ecstatic about seeing Zoot Suit Riot.  I’ve been a big fan of Eugene’s Cherry Poppin’ Daddies since they played their first show at the W.O.W. Hall not long after I graduated from Sheldon High School back in the late 80s.  The thought of the Cherry Poppin’ Daddies belting out the tunes alongside the Eugene Ballet Company was nothing short of intensely intriguing.  Could they pull it off?

The oh so delicious braised short ribs at Belly
The oh so delicious braised short ribs at Belly

Well, pull it off they did, and with pure perfection at that.  The music was just as incredible as when I saw them play in 1989, and the choreography was in utter harmony with the Cherry Poppin’ Daddies swing-style, big-band, make me want to get up and dance music.

*A very special thank you to Michelle Wasner and Jim Seufert for the generous invitation and fun-filled evening. From the wine and food to the conversation and musical performance, thank you!

 

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