This is part of a series to introduce you to interesting people in the wine industry. For many, the journey into wine is not only intriguing but often quite an adventure. These talented individuals are what make the wine industry what it is today so follow this series to meet this group of passionate people who have dedicated their lives to wine.
Why Wine? An interview with Julia Crowley, Founder of Wine Julia, a wine blog
Michele Francisco: Was there a specific wine, moment or place that unlocked your passion?
Julia Crowley: Yes, there were actually two “aha” moments 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 me, 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 passage ways 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.
MF: What did you study in school and what were you doing before you started in the wine industry?
JC: I was living in South Florida, studying Marine Biology – up until I was easily convinced by a handsome young Brit to sail through the entire chain of the Bahamian Islands on a 32′ O’Day, aptly named, Chardonnay. With no money, no dinghy and no depth finder, it was the adventure of a lifetime.
Living on the ocean, as well as, living off of the bounties of the ocean, I learned more about Marine Biology than I ever could have sitting in a class room. I eventually missed the U.S. and returned to become a travel agent, working on creating wine tour programs for escorted tours through Europe.
MF: How has being in the wine industry changed you?
JC: I can honestly say I did not love dirt before being in the wine industry – now I’m enamored with it and captivated by it.
MF: What’s your favorite part of being in the wine industry?
JC: I love that, in the wine industry, learning is endless and discovery is boundless.
MF: Looking back, was there something in your past that led you to wine?
JC: My parents, especially my Dad, had a great appreciation for wine. So much so, that when we lived in Saudi Arabia in the late 70s and early 80s, where alcohol of any kind was illegal, my father built a wine making contraption in the kitchen pantry that pumped out some pretty decent wine, according to the folks in our Army Compound. Needless to say, he was a pretty popular guy in those days. Looking back, there was no such thing as dinner without wine in my household, and my Dad always poured my brother and me a glass of wine on Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Eve. I never, not once, said, “bleh.