wine writing

Wine Down Eugene


Wine Down Eugene April 9-15

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Wine Down Eugene


Wine Down Eugene July 17-23

Wine Writers life
The life of a wine writer

As I pack-up for my next adventure in the world of wine and wine writing, I’m reminded of how much I love what I do. Although writing about wine takes a lot of time, dedication and research (gotta love the cartoon that says it all), the perks are far beyond what I had imagined when I started down this path.

With loads of exciting travel taking place these past few months, including trips to New York City, Washington, British Columbia and Spain, I also enjoy tasting the wine that gets shipped to my door.  From Tuscany, Italy, to Oregon’s Willamette Valley, I receive a lot of wine and have discovered some unfamiliar varietals and real beauties through samples that are sent to me for review.

Last week, I received an entire case of Oregon Riesling from marketing extraordinaire’s Watershed Communications, and as I pop their corks each week from wineries like Trisaetum, Brandborg, Argyle and Elk Cove (to name a few), I’ll be writing about them on Best Case Scenario on In the next few days, I’m expecting several Willamette Valley Pinot Noirs to arrive at my door for an on-line Twitter tasting and #WineChat that will have a focus on the upcoming IPNC (International Pinot Noir Celebration).  Hosted by William Allen of Simple Hedonisms on Wednesday, July 24, 6-7 pm, I am really looking forward to a vibrant discussion and tasting my absolute favorite type of wine: Willamette Valley Pinot Noir.

work for winejulia
My husband snapped this photo while I was working

Most recently, I received two different style Müller-Thurgaus from one of my favorite Oregon wineries, Kramer Vineyards. The Müller-Thurgaus, one bubbly and one still, were sent to me for another on-line Twitter tasting, where wine enthusiasts will join each other under the hashtag: #TasteKramerWine.  Not taking place until this Thursday, my will power caved in as the Kramer duo chilled in the fridge – I couldn’t wait, so I popped the corks.

Müller-Thurgau is Kramer Vineyards most popular white wine. With a planting of one small block back in 1986, they have increased the plantings to three acres total. The Müller-Thurgau varietal has an interesting background: It was developed in the 1880s by Dr. Hermann Müller, and until recently, Müller-Thurgau was believed to be a cross between Riesling and Silvaner.  Recent DNA testing revealed that the varietal Madeleine Royale actually pollinated Riesling to produce Müller-Thurgau, so no Silvaner was involved at all.

Kramer Müller-Thurgaus
A duo of Kramer Vineyards Müller-Thurgau – outstanding wines

Tasting one varietal made in two totally different styles was really interesting.  I tried the Kramer Vineyards Celebrate Müller-Thurgau Sparkling Wine ($18) first. Beautifully aromatic, pear, peach, banana, lemon custard and nutmeg were displayed in both aromas and flavors.  The mouthfeel was lush, juicy and totally palate pleasing with loads of soft, tiny bubbles. The tropical fruitiness was perfectly balanced by silky acidity, and I absolutely loved it.  The aromas and flavors of the Kramer Vineyards 2011 Müller-Thurgau Estate ($12) were similar, but richer and more intense with added flavors of dried fruit and ripe apricot.  The mouthfeel was smooth and placid on the front and mid palate, and the finish had a nice shot of lemon zest. They were equally delicious, and both are perfect for summers on the patio, falls by the fireplace and New Year’s Eve.

I only recently started to truly appreciate Müller-Thurgau, and possibly because I’ve had great opportunities, as a wine writer, to taste and experience this unique and delicious varietal.  To learn more about it, pick up a bottle or two and join me for the live Twitter tasting with winemaker Kim Kramer, Thursday, July 18, 6 pm. Use hashtag #TasteKramerWine.