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Q&A with Julie Johnson, Cellar Master

The Resort is pleased to announce our new Cellar Master, Julie Johnson.

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Julie grew up in the Pacific Northwest and has a passion for traveling that brought her overseas to teach, learn, and explore abroad. In 2006, she attended culinary school in New Zealand and transitioned into the wine industry. Julie is an author and self-described hiker, yogi, and wine geek. We’re thrilled to welcome Julie as our Cellar Master at The Fireside.

Recently, I had the pleasure of conducting a Q&A with Julie.

Wine, Waterfront Dining, Resort, Olympic Peninsula

What sparked your interest in wine?

Julie: Paris. September 1991. I had just arrived in France to spend my senior year of college at a French university. I was eating dinner with some new friends at a Vietnamese restaurant near the Cité Universitaire and we ordered a bottle of Vouvray to share. I didn’t know that one sip of wine could make my heart soar. Sure, it was a late summer day in the City of Light. Sure, I’d just turned 21 and I was away from home and the United States for the first time. But I’ll never forget that first taste of the sublime.

I’m a writer as well as an oenophile. The stories told in the vineyard and in the bottle never cease to enchant me.

What is your favorite wine? Or, if you could have only one wine for the rest of your life, what would it be and why?

Julie: Believe it or not, that’s an easy one to answer. Pierre Peters Blanc de Blancs. It’s what’s known as a “Grower Champagne”-look for the letters RM or the words Récoltant-Manipulant on the bottle. It means the wine has been created by the grower of the grapes, an unusual occurrence in the Champagne region. These are small batch, hand-crafted Champagnes that are often less expensive than wines from the bigger houses. And always amazing. I never, ever, tire of Champagne.

What is the most versatile wine?

Julie:  See, now I’ll sound like a broken record, but here it is: Sparkling wine goes with everything. Year-round, for any occasion. From nachos to oysters, steak to lamb to fried chicken to chocolate chip cookies to blueberry pie. We don’t drink sparkling wine often enough in the United States- there’s a mistaken notion that it’s for celebrations only. No wine is more food-friendly than wine with bubbles. I’m partial to Cava, Spain’s Méthode Champenoise, and the original sparkling wine, crafted in the Middle Ages in the Languedoc region of southern France­-Blanquette or Crémant de Limoux. But a divine Champagne can make an ordinary meal transcendent.

What are some of your favorite local wines?

Julie: One of my favorite red varietals, hands down, is Cabernet Franc. And one of the best Cabernet Francs I’ve tasted this side of the Loire is the Olympic Peninsula’s own Camaraderie Cellars.

Syncline Cellars in the Columbia Gorge focuses on Rhône varietals such as Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre, Grenache Blanc, as well as a lovely Pinot Noir. Their wines express a sense of place that takes my breath away. The blend Subduction Red varies every year in variety content, but never in quality. And we’re always thrilled when Scintillation, Syncline’s Blanc de Blancs sparkling wine is released! It’s always in very limited quantities, so it doesn’t last long in our cellars (hint: we’ve got ONE bottle left as we await the next release!).

We’ve just received the latest releases from Washington State’s acclaimed Long Shadows, a winemaker’s dream project. Long Shadows brings together some the world’s top winemakers and gives them access to the best of Washington’s grapes. These winemakers craft unforgettable wines that showcase the diversity and majesty of Washington state terroir.  The wines will cellar for years and we invite you to take a bottle home for your collection, but sharing a bottle over a meal at The Fireside will make for an unforgettable dining experience!

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Welcome to the Port Ludlow team, Julie!

Interested in learning more about wine? Make your reservations for the Buty Wine Dinner with winemaker, Nina Buty on January 20th or enjoy a glass of wine at The Fireside from our award-winning wine list and ask Julie your questions firsthand.

For reservations for the Buty Wine Dinner or a meal at The Fireside, contact the restaurant directly at 360.437.7412.

Written by: Julie Johnson & Kaitlin Chester

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