I am loving how we are getting to know some of our favorite wine writers in this series of profiles. So far we’ve “met” Ben Carter and Clifford Brown and it’s really been very interesting learning more about these folks. We “know” them from their wine recommendations, social media posts and from their participation in our online events but we really didn’t know them afterall.

Getting some of the background from each of these authors just enhances my interactions with them and today we turn the spotlight on WineJulia: Julia Crowley. Coming to us from Oregon’s wine country, Julia’s an invaluable voice helping to turn people on to the fabulous wines from Oregon’s exploding wine scene. I’m sure we’re going to hear a lot more from Julia in the coming months but for now lets get to know Julia Crowley!Snooth: How did you get involved in wine?  

JC: There were actually two "aha" moments in my life that unlocked my passion for wine. My first moment was the simple discovery of wine and how complex and delicious it can be. I was in the Loire Valley with my sister, in the small town of Brissac, not too far from Angers, France. We stayed the night in a historical and absolutely incredible 11th Century castle named Chateau de Brissac. We were the only two guests staying at the castle along with the Duke and Duchess of Brissac and their children.

Their chef prepared us a phenomenal dinner which was served in the castle's main dining room with a table that could easily seat 100 people. But it was just my sister and I, and just two places were set right in the middle of the longest table I had ever seen. Chateau de Brissac's wine was served with our meal, and I was particularly fond of one of their reds.

When the Duke came in to check on us after dinner was over, and also to apologize because he and his family had hoped to join us, he asked which wine we liked best. We both agreed that we loved the wine that was served with the main course: 1998 Chateau de Brissac Anjou-Villages-Brissac "red wine." At the time, I had no clue it was Cabernet Franc, I just knew I loved the lush and silky texture that offered fruit characteristics highlighted by nuances of white pepper.

The Duke popped the cork on one of the bottles and gave it to us along with two glasses and said, "Enjoy this while you explore the castle. Feel free to to explore as many rooms as you wish, but be sure to remember your way back to your room." So, we did - we explored and discovered amazing theaters, bedrooms, and secret passageways through small doors behind hanging tapestries. It was marvelously incredible. I'm not sure I've ever enjoyed a bottle of wine as much as that one. So, I guess there was not only a specific wine that unlocked my passion, but a moment and a place as well.

My second aha moment was when I tasted my very first Willamette Valley Pinot Noir. New to Oregon (from Florida), our neighborhood association had a get together at Iris Hill (now Iris Vineyards) in the southern Willamette Valley not too far from where we had bought our house in the South Hills of Eugene. One unforgettable sip of their 2005 Reserve Pinot Noir stole my heart, which has belonged to Oregon Pinot Noir ever since.

Snooth: How did you get involved in wine writing?

JC: I used to own an Oregon-centric wine bar here in the South Willamette Valley which I opened not long after that first sip of Willamette Valley Pinot Noir. All of the wine in my shop was grown and produced in Oregon, with an occasional exception for superb findings from Oregon's neighbor to the north, Washington. Just weeks before closing the sale of my wine bar (I wanted to spend more time with my two young boys), I met the marketing director for the South Willamette Wineries Association. She was curious about what I'd be doing once I handed over the keys to the new owners of my beloved wine bar that had been named one of the top five wine bars in Lane County, and I simply said I'd be spending time with my boys. She mentioned that the Association was looking for someone to blog on their website, and with my knowledge of local wines, and the flexibility of working from home, I jumped on the opportunity.

Not having ever written anything professionally in my life, I was taken back by how much I loved it, and I dove right in. From there, I was asked to join the newly established Eugene Daily News as their food & wine editor, which was not long after suggested by the publisher that we, as business partners, start a wine website that focused on Oregon wines. With his expertise in building websites, including Eugene Daily News; along with, my expertise in wine, writing about wine, branding and social media marketing (which I had been establishing since branding myself as Wine Julia), WineJulia.com was born. My business partner suggested we use that name because I was already well known throughout Oregon and the world as Wine Julia - the name I used on Facebook and Twitter after selling my wine bar, where I had thousands of followers. WineJulia.com gained international attention rather quickly, and just four months after my very first post on WineJulia.com, the website won the prestigious award for Best New Wine Blog of 2012 from the Wine Blog Awards, which was presented to me during the 2012 Wine Bloggers Conference that just happened to be in Portland, Oregon, that year. Not long after, Snooth invited me to be a mentor, and I was honored and jumped on the opportunity to be a part of such a well respected and well known establishment.

Snooth: Do you have any professional background in wine?

JC: Not exactly - I guess it depends on how one looks at the term "professional." Everything I know, I've taught myself or have had vital mentors along the way. I have no certifications, nor do I have the desire to acquire any. I'm simply doing what I love and I love what I'm doing.

Snooth: What is your favorite region and why?

JC: Anyone who knows me, knows my heart belongs to Oregon. There are so many micro climates throughout the state, each with incredibly distinctive terroirs that are showcased in each and every earth driven wine. No two wines and no two vintages will ever be the same in Oregon, creating an internal anticipation with each and every harvest.

Just recently, I wrote about Oregon's tiny Illinois Valley AVA that sits along one of three tributaries within the larger Rogue Valley of Southern Oregon, where varietals like Cabernet Sauvignon, Tempranillo, Grenache, Syrah and Viognier, to name a few, thrive. But the Illinois Valley's micro-climate is similar to the Willamette Valley - it's much cooler than it's surrounding larger AVA of the Rogue. So, they are able to grow and produce some very fine and elegant Pinot Noirs, Pinot Gris' and Chardonnays like what is produced in the world renowned Willamette Valley. Oregon's climate, distinctive terroirs, winegrowers, winemakers and ever evolving wines will always pique my interest and continue to hold my heart.

Snooth: Desert Island wine? You have to drink it for the rest of your life so let us know why.

JC: Willamette Valley Pinot Noir. Shocker, I know! But, Oregon Pinot Noir not only ages well because of its elegant tannins and zippy acidity, but it's ever evolving, so I wouldn't get sick of the same old thing - because it would never be "the same old thing."  And if I could pick a vintage, I'd go for a cooler year, like 2011, where acids were higher - making it more food friendly for the fresh fish and shellfish that would be part of my diet. And maybe I'd even get lucky and find some really awesome wild mushrooms to cook with the fish. There's nothing like mushroom based dishes with Pinot Noir.

Snooth: Would you characterize your palate as new world, old world, or something in between? Why?

JC: Well, because of my love for Oregon and the Willamette Valley, I would say new world. But because I have a true appreciation and deep respect for old world regions like Chablis and parts of Austria for their terroir driven qualities in their wines that really take on characteristics of the place where the fruit is grown, I may also have an old world palate. So, I guess I'm in between but love both for the same reasons...

Snooth: What do you think about wine writing today? What do you like about it and what would you like to change?

JC: I think it's wonderful that so many people are doing what they love and showing their passion for wine through writing. There's not a thing I would change, I love that the internet has given so many people a voice.

Snooth: What wine do you look forward to trying each year?

JC: If we're talking about a specific wine, I look forward to trying Abacela's Albariño (Oregon's Umpqua Valley) each and every year - I get super excited when they release their latest vintage. I feel the exact same way about Reustle Prayer Rock's Gruner Veltliner (also the Umpqua Valley). I also look forward to anything and everything from Pinot Noir to Rosè of Carmine Sparkling Wine from "out of the box thinker" winemaker Kim Kramer of Kramer Vineyards. If we're talking a specific varietal, well then it's any Oregon Pinot Noir - surprise!

Snooth: What wine do you just not seem to like? Cabernet Sauvignon.

JC: Although I've had some incredible Cabernets from Southern Oregon, Napa Valley and Horse Heaven Hills in Washington, you'll never run into me at the market with a Cab in hand or in my basket.

Snooth: Recommend three wines. A red, a white and a Rosè that will tell our audience the most about your palate, your likes and dislikes and please tell us a little about those likes and dislikes.

JC: A Red: Stoller Family Estate 2010 Reserve Pinot Noir. I can't think of a better representation of the ultimate Willamette Valley Pinot Noir. The cherries and raspberries along with earth and fall spices are lush and round in the mouth. Zesty acidity does not take away from the delicate nature of the wine, but it does add tremendous depth and balance perfection.

A White: Bergström Sigrid Chardonnay 2011 is a great example of Oregon's stellar Chardonnays. It's got vibrant acidity, mineral freshness, well structured fruit and is focused and clean. It showcases Oregon's fruit with transparency, purity and elegance, and it's one of the best Chardonnays I've ever had.

A Rosé: Teutonic Wine Company 2013 Laurel Ridge Chehalem Mountains Rosé. Wow, this is a gorgeous rosé for so many reasons. The color is mesmerizing, the aromas are vibrant and alluring and the mouthfeel is simply heavenly. Strawberries and red berries are highlighted by mid palate lemon-lime zest that balances it out to perfection. I can't imagine a better summertime sipper on the patio.

Obviously, I am what they call an acidhound. I love wines with vibrant acidity that are complex and showcase the earth where the fruit was grown. If there's a lack of acidity, I truly don't enjoy each sip the way I do when that tongue zapping acid climbs back up the center of my palate. I also search for wines that can balance depth with delicacy, and I have certainly found that in the wines from my home state of Oregon.