Oregon’s Undiscovered White Wines & How Soil Changes Wine Taste with Eugenia Keegan



How has Oregon white wine evolved since it was first produced? Which elements make up the “classic Oregon” style of wine? How do different types of soil express themselves in wine?

In this episode of the Unreserved Wine Talk podcast, I’m chatting with entrepreneur and winemaker, Eugenia Keegan.

You can find the wines we discussed here.


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  • How has Kendall-Jackson Vintner’s Reserve driven the growth of Jackson Family Wines?
  • What’s the story behind Oregon’s white wine evolution?
  • What makes WillaKenzie Estate like a little piece of Burgundy?
  • Which elements make up the “classic Oregon” style?
  • How do the two main types of soil at WillaKenzie Estate express themselves in the wine?
  • What’s the tasting experience like for WillaKenzie Estate 2019 Pinot Noir?
  • How does it compare to the Penner-Ash 2019 Pinot Noir?
  • What does it mean for a wine to be full-bodied based on structure?
  • Why do winemakers have to be careful not to over-manipulate?
  • What’s the ideal setting for drinking wine?
  • How can you find the right balance of wine when it comes to your health?
  • What’s Eugenia’s relaxed perspective on wine and food pairing?
  • Which wine books are Eugenia’s favourites?
  • Which historical figures would Eugenia have loved to share a bottle of wine with?


Key Takeaways

  • We hear so much about Oregon pinot noir, so I was fascinated with how Oregon white wine has evolved since it was first produced.
  • Eugenia offers a great explanation of which elements make up the “classic Oregon” style of wine.
  • I also enjoyed learning how different types of soil express themselves in wine.

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About Eugenia Keegan

A fifth-generation Sonoma County native, Eugenia is recognized for her excellence in the wine industry as both a winemaker and a business executive. Today, she serves as General Manager and Vice President of Oregon Winery Operations and Business Development for Jackson Family Wines (JFW), leading a portfolio of prestigious Pinot Noir houses such as Penner-Ash, WillaKenzie, and Gran Moraine.

Her path to Oregon may not have been conventional, but it’s certainly been remarkable. Along the way, Eugenia built a reputation for her keen business sense, advocacy, and dedication to mentorship and community.

Eugenia Keegan joined Jackson Family Wines (JFW) in 2013 to head up the company’s fast-growing Oregon portfolio. As General Manager, Keegan oversees JFW’s holdings in the Willamette Valley: Gran Moraine, Zena Crown, Penner-Ash Wine Cellars and Willakenzie Estate wineries. She also supervises Willamette Valley winemaking for Sonoma-based Siduri and La Crema. Actively civic-minded, Keegan is the chair emerita of the board of directors of the Oregon Wine Board, and serves on the boards of the Oregon Winegrowers Association and the Willamette Valley Wineries Association, the Chemeketa Wine Advisory Committee, and the Linfield Wine Education Advisory Council.




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Eugenia Keegan 0:00
WillKenzie soils are sedimentary. So those were all old ocean beds very layered. You can still see little crustaceans when you’re walking to the vineyard. 100 million years ago, if you were standing on the edge of the Pacific Ocean you were in Idaho. So Oregon, Washington, California, it was all underwater at that time. Little crustaceans become part of the calcium carbonate in the soil. And then we have the volcanic soils. Sedimentary tends to have more tannin and darker colours, so the colours are more in the blues and the blacks. Volcanic soils are more in those cherry popping bright ruby reds.

Natalie MacLean 0:42
Do you have a thirst to learn about wine, the love stories about wonderfully obsessive people, hauntingly beautiful places and amusingly awkward social situations. Well that’s the blend here on the Unreserved Wine Talk podcast. I’m your host, Natalie Maclean. And each week, I share with you unfiltered conversations with celebrities in the wine world, as well as confessions from my own tipsy journey as I write my third book on this subject. I’m so glad you’re here. Now pass me that bottle please. And let’s get started. Welcome to Episode 187. How has Oregon white wine evolved since it was first produced? Which elements make up the classic Oregon style of wine? And how do different types of soil express themselves in wine? You’ll hear those tips and more in part two of our chat with Eugenia Keegan, a winemaker and pioneering legend in the wine industry who has some fabulous stories to share about her decades long career. Now, if you didn’t catch part one last week, that’s okay. After you listen to this one, go back and take a listen to that one. Now, on a personal note, before we dive into the show with the continuing story of publishing my new wine memoir Wine Witch on Fire, I’ve been chatting with my publisher, and we’ve decided to add the word defamation to the subtitle because the current one doesn’t allude to that part of the book, nor the online attack. So now it’s Rising from the Ashes of Divorce, Depression, Defamation and Drinking too Much. Yes, my subtitle is brought to you by the letter D.

Natalie MacLean 2:35
The extra part that I talked about last week, with a new taste for life doesn’t really fit in at the tail end. Unless I, you know, want the subtitle to be a book itself. As always, though, let me know what you think. I’m working on the new section of my website that will be dedicated to the book that requires thinking ahead about various resources I want to offer to readers. This includes bonuses for those who pre ordered the book as soon as it goes on sale. I’m going to share my ideas with you now for those but I’d love to hear what you think of them. Any favourites, any ones that maybe aren’t of interest? And if you have any others to suggest, please. But first, I should probably preface this by answering the question why would you even want to order more than one copy of the book. Well, of course, I have six very good reasons. Though if you think of others, let me know. Number one, friends and family, birthday and holiday shopping done. Number two, clients create a book and bottle gift set to say thank you. Number three, wine and book clubs buy copies as a group to qualify for the bonuses. Number four, employees and colleagues to raise awareness of gender inequity and sexism in the workplace. Number five, to sell them at your place of business. And number six, worthy causes. Donate to culinary and wine schools, free little libraries and your local library. Actually just thought of another one, it was suggested to me. So number seven, young men and young women in your life. Give them a copy of this so they can be aware of issues in the workplace before they get there. Perhaps also they’re considering a career in the wine or hospitality industry. This book will be an eye opener for them. So I’m thinking that those who preorder one to four copies will get the following. Number one, exclusive online live tasting with yours truly where we taste wines from the book together. And you can easily purchase those wines or the substitutes I’ll recommend in a custom shopping list for you. I’ll share the stories behind the wines and the book. Read a few of my favourite passages. Plus, you can ask me anything during our open q&a session at the end. Number two, personally autographed book plates for every book you get. These are beautifully designed And I’ll personally send them to you and your friends or family. There’ll be physically mailed to you, so that you can affix them inside the front page to personalize your gift book or donations to schools and libraries. Number three, the Wine Witch wine and book club guide.  Discussion and thought provoking questions for each section of the book that will help you bring your story to mind. Even if you don’t have an official book club or wine club, these questions in the guide will help you dig in even deeper into the issues that are raised in the book for yourself, or just in discussion with a friend. Number four, six wine and food pairing templates, a set of six templates for every major food group, vegetarian, seafood, chicken, beef, pasture and chocolate, very major food groups, access them on any device or print them out as a handy reference. Number five, a customized music playlist that includes songs mentioned in the book, plus bonus tracks I’ve handpicked for you. These tunes helped me to stay strong through my divorce and depression and then through the writing of this book, Dance it out. Those who preorder five or more copies get all the bonuses I just mentioned plus, plus, plus, plus a personalized video for you. I get a lot of requests for personalised videos for birthdays or graduations or other special occasions. So send me a couple bullet points and I’ll put together a two to three minute video just for you. Or for the person who asked me to address in the video wishing them well. And sharing some tips that will help them enjoy the wines they love even more, perhaps the bottle you give them for the special occasion. I can even recommend that bottle for the special occasion if you let me know a little bit about their tastes. Number two, the last chapters. There whole sections that I wrote for this book that ended up being edited out, not because they weren’t any good, but because keeping the book tight is an editor’s job. But the good news is that I still have the material and it’s included in the second bonus. Number three, exclusive audio interviews with the main characters. What’s happened since with the people in the book, including Roger aka now Daniel, Cameron and my mom. What’s changed in their lives in the past 10 years since the story took place. What are their perceptions of the book and how they’re portrayed in it? What kind of memoir would they write if they wanted to? And how would they betray me? Haha.

Natalie MacLean 7:32
Number four, Wine Witch screensavers. I’ve designed 12 Stunning Special Edition backgrounds for your desktop, laptop or mobile. With quotes from the book, you can choose your favourite, or rotate them for every month of the year. Number five, an online video wine and food pairing mini course. Food and wine pairing is my jam. And by the way, there’s a wine for jam, five video modules that you can binge watch NetFlix style in an evening or spread them out at your own pace. Because you’ll get lifetime access to this course. I’ll take you through the key pairing principles to deepen your pleasure with every glass and bite. Number five, a writer’s workshop. Three out of five people want to write a book. The other two are curious about the process. So say various studies. Even if that’s not you, you could always gift this workshop to somebody else. I’ll dive into my own journey with writing three books, insights into writing, getting an agent and a publisher and marketing a book. Alright, that’s all of them that I’ve sort of brainstormed. But again, I’d love to hear your ideas. What do you like? Not so much something I’ve missed. I also want to give some VIP bonuses to those who order 50 or more copies for a group. But I haven’t even come up with those yet. So let me know.

I’ve posted a link to a blog post called Diary of a Book Launch in the show notes at Natalie Maclean.com/187. This is where I share more behind the scenes stories about the journey of taking this memoir from idea to publication. If you want a more intimate insider seat beside me on this journey, please let me know you’d like to become a beta reader and get a sneak peek at the manuscript. Email me at [email protected] Okay, on with the show.

Natalie MacLean 11:02
So when many people hear about Jackson family estates, of course, they think of the flagship brand and a particular wine Kendall Jackson Chardonnay. Does that help or hurt the company?

Eugenia Keegan 11:13
Yeah, it depends on where you are, of course. we make a La Crema Willamette Valley and when you’re showing that wine, people may not know Willamette Valley or Oregon, but they know La Crema. And they’re like, Oh, I love La Crema. It’s my absolutely most favourite wine. Well, that’s a great way for me to be able to introduce Willamette Valley to those people, because they’re already predisposed to love La Crema. But I think that one of the things we’ve learned is that one of my staff said this once and they said, when they don’t know who we really are they call us Kendall Jackson. Because in fact, that’s a brand. We have 48 wineries around the world, which is a lot of brands. But if they call us Jackson Family Wines, then they actually understand what we’re doing. And I thought that was a very astute observation from this young staff member. That if they want to pigeonhole us into that one brand, and to your point, that one wine be our reserve, vintners reserve, then they sort of references to that way. But once they really understand that this is a fine wine company with the estates all over the world and our goal is always to make the very best wine period period period. We’re so quality driven. And I think once people understand that, there’s a new level of respect for what we do. And let’s never forget that it’s that one SKU Kendall Jackson Vintner Reserve and that is the economic engine of this company. And that one SKU I drink it when I’m out and I kissed the bottle and I thank it, because that’s the SKU and that brand Kendall Jackson that allows us to do all of these other incredible small boutique wineries that we do.

Natalie MacLean 12:46
Well, you’re echoing some sentiments. I was just chatting with Stevie Kim, who runs Vinitaly, and she said Prosecco is the engine of Italian wine. It’s like you can turn your nose up at it and there’s some great Prosecco, too. But it actually is the entry point. It’s the economic engine of Italy. All right. So why doesn’t Oregon have more Chardonnay?

Eugenia Keegan 13:06
Interestingly enough, when Oregon first planted itself, there were three varieties. Pinot Noir, of course, and Riesling and Chardonnay. And Riesling, of course, has gone the sad way of the marketplace, which is somewhat confused about what it is or it’s found its niches, you certainly know that. And Chardonnay was kind of interesting and it was a combination. And we often referenced the fact that we didn’t have the right clonal material. Chardonnay and Pinot clonal material was brought up from California, and the Pinot have translated excellently. Moved up here and did a beautiful job as we know. And they were the two clones Wädenswil and Pommard, and then we’ve expanded Burgundian selections from there. But the Chardonnay that came out, it didn’t really ripen. So you would bring in Pinot and 2, 3, 4 weeks later the Chardonnay would still be sitting out there not ripe. And it was actually David who was overworking in Burgundy and noticde that not only did Chardonnay and Pinot Noir ripen together, Chardonnay often came into the winery first. So clearly, there was something you know misaligned in Oregon. So that’s when the first effort to get new clonal materials started that David had brought in to Oregon State and quarantined through their plant importation programme. But there was another part of the story that’s super important. And what’s so ironic about it is it’s all about Kendall Jackson Vintner Reserve Chardonnay, because that became the number one Chardonnay in the country and I think, 30 years later, it’s still is, which is just the most incredible statement about the wine quality to begin with, and then of course, the people who sell it, but the wine quality has to be there to do that. And that was the de facto style of New World Chardonnay. It created, as the number one and as the one that everyone was drinking, that was New World Chardonnay. Well, we can’t make that in Oregon. Then, now, ever, climate change warming doesn’t matter. That is not a style of Chardonnay that we can actually produce here in Oregon. So a combination of us learning how to make sort of starting over with the whole concept. New clonal material, new concept, but this came hand in hand with the gatekeepers who also have moved away from that style of Chardonnay. So it’s certainly an entry level style of Chardonnay. But when you get up to these lists that are having, you know, $100 bottles of wine, $200 bottles of wine, that style has evolved. And there is much more interest in wines that have less alcohol, or a little less flavour of forward, again perhaps more complimentary with food.

Natalie MacLean 15:40
And what do you mean by gatekeepers? You mean the old critics who love to give high scores to big wines?

Eugenia Keegan 15:44
No, really the buyers. The trade buyers. Of course, they’ve moved a generation. Right. Sure. So we’re not selling wine in a restaurant in New York to the same person that we did 30 years ago. So that buyer has evolved and they too, of course, have access to a world of wine. And there is an evolution in wine style and what they want to buy and put on their list. And that’s also gone hand in hand with Oregon Chardonnay. So now I think it’s 7 or 8% of the planting, whereas Pinot Noir is 65% or something. So you can see how much distance there is. But there is a lot of Chardonnay being planted. And Chardonnay is a major focus of the community in terms of wine quality and wine sales.

Natalie MacLean 16:28
And would Pinot Gris make up the rest of the difference?

Eugenia Keegan 16:31
Yeah, lots still a lot of Pinot Gris. It’s fading. And people, of course, always ask why and why aren’t we doing other white wines. And it’s all about economics. You can’t sell a Gris for more than $20 a bottle and at that price you can’t afford to grow grapes and make wine in Oregon.

Natalie MacLean 16:50
Wow. Is that Pinot Grigio’s image of being sort of low priced wines? Gris gets sort of clumped in there with the Pinot Grigio?

Eugenia Keegan 16:59
Actually, all white wines other than being really. Think about it, you know, Chenin Blanc. Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, they all have sort of this $20 plateau. There are a few that are out there and you know, a different world from producers that are famous for that. I mean, you know, you could get Didier Silex Sauvignon Blanc is going to cost you $100. But, you know, there’s only two of those. And then there’s 102 that are $18 and $15. And so it’s really Chardonnay is really the only white wine that allows you to sell it for $35 to $50. So it’s really an economic thing. We have a short growing season, and it only allows us to ripen a certain number of tonnes per acre. Its right around three tonnes per acre. And so the economics of that really forces us into these more expensive ones.

Natalie MacLean 17:47
Sure, that makes sense. Well, you’ve done your job in making me thirsty. Let’s taste.

Eugenia Keegan 17:54
Me, too. That I was just thinking that. It is time for a  glass of wine.

Natalie MacLean 17:59
What do you have there with you today?

Eugenia Keegan 18:01
The I have two wines. So the first one I have is the WillaKenzie Estate and this is a estate bottling. We do four or five, single terroir, a single site bottlings that are sold in the tasting room. But this is the statement of literally the whole estate and it’s 140 planted acres planted in the early 90s by Bernie and Ronnie Lacroute. Bernie is a Burgundian. And he co-founded Sun Microsystems. He was the technical side and the other guy was a marketing guy. So he didn’t come without some appropriate financial wherewithal. And he bought this 400 acre parcel, and it’s like a little piece of Burgundy. And it has two ridges that run through it and so you have all sorts of aspects and elevations. Its a  beautiful piece of property. And we bought it in October of ’16. And brought in Erik Kramer who had been at Domaine Serene for five years, six years. And before that was actually the assistant winemaker at Adelsheim. Very incestuous. So he’s been making the wine since the ’17 vintage and this is the ’19. And ’19 it was a gorgeous vintage. We had warm vintage after warm vintage 2012 through ’18. Were all pretty warm finishes. It is interesting to note though, the coldest vintage in history in Oregon was 2010 not that long ago. And 2011 was the latest vintage ever. We actually finished picking on Thanksgiving weekend. So for us was quite late. Now people in Ontario or, you know, your Ontario growers are giggling because they often pick in November, but for us that’s quite late. But ’19 we had was a much cooler spring. It was a cooler summer. We tend to measure days over 90 and a lot of days would be 10 and this had no days over 90 so very cool summer. A cool right into September and then we had for rain events between the end of August and the end of September. So we ended up with these wines that are a little bit more what we would call classic Oregon. The real loads of fresh fruit, lots of acid, really super elegant, but with a lot of muscle in the mid palate.

Natalie MacLean 20:17
Wow. Okay. And 2019. Was 2020 warm for you?

Eugenia Keegan 20:21
2020 was actually becoming what we said. I wrote on the Sunday of Memorial Day weekend an email to all of my winemakers because we were going to start our major picking. We had already picked for sparkling at that point in time. And we were about to kick off what was going to be, you know, a vintage of the century. We had had complication at set, so Mother Nature had already trimmed the crop by a third. We didn’t have to go in and do any manual trimming. And we were set up for heaven. We were all just ready to go. And for those of us who live through it on Monday evening, at seven o’clock, we had a 100 year wind event. And the winds that all come in from the west, right here on the Pacific Ocean, did some sort of bizarre flip around and blew in from the east and blow in the smoke from the fires that were in the southeast of Oregon. And blanketed us in a layer of smoke that was very oppressive, and it had a very negative effect on a great deal of the crop.

Natalie MacLean 21:29
Sure.My goodness. Okay, well, back to that 2019. I’l l let you taste

Eugenia Keegan 21:32
Thank you so much. For ’20 or we’ll move right on to ’21. We were not bottling Pinot Noir  in 2020.

Natalie MacLean 21:38
What do you get from this WillaKenzie Pinot when you taste it? I’ll let you do your thing there.

Eugenia Keegan 21:45
WillaKenzie is on sedimentary soils. We have three soil types here. Two that are really dominant, the WillaKenzie soil series which are sedimentary. So those were all old, you know, ocean beds. Very layered so you can see little crustaceans, you know, when you’re walking to the vineyard. And if you think about it, 100 million years ago, if you were standing on the edge of the Pacific Ocean, you were in Idaho. So Oregon, Washington, California, it was all under water at that time. So we have these you know layer and layer and layer. The waters as they move and rush around. And then of course, all the little crustaceans that die, or vertebrae that die that become part of the calcium carbonate in the soil. And then we have the volcanic soils, the jury soils. And so you get two and they express themselves very, very differently in the wine. So this is sedimentary. And sedimentary tends to have more tannin and darker colours. So the colours are more in the blues and the blacks. Volcanic soils are more in those cherry popping bright Ruby reds.

Natalie MacLean 22:45
And why is that? What is sedimentary soil doing to create that effect?

Eugenia Keegan 22:50
That’s the stuff we don’t know, Natalie. And that’s what’s so fun about what we do. We have all sorts of theories about what it does. But the truth is, we don’t know. And I read something the other day where somebody said soil has no effect on the resulting wine. And I’m like, oh, please. I said, I get it that we don’t know exactly why. But you know that you can take the same stick and put it in the ground here and go 10 miles and put it in the ground there and treat it the same and you’re not going to get the same wine, we know that. And we know it has to do with the soil and obviously the climate. But if you get inside the Willamette Valley, you have little marginal climate variations, but we have pretty much a homogenous climate environment. So the soil is definitely doing something. And most people start with Willamette Valley wines. And so they’re usually a mixture of the two soils. So this lesson is challenging if you have a Willamette Valley blend, but if you have wines that are from 100%, from those soil types, it’s night and day. And I was at the Four graces for a while and we had a vineyard at each soil type, and made a single wine, single vineyard type wine from each. And I loved it because I could put them side by side. And all you had to do is look at them and you could see the difference. And then you know the taste and the smell everything followed through. So you get a lot of black fruits, blue fruits, you get more of the tobacco, cocoa, some of that, whereas you really with the volcanic soils, you really lean up into those fresh berries. And high tones sort of like –  I think of these things in musical ways all the time. And I always think of sedimentary soils as all the bass notes and all the cellos and the violas. And when you get over the volcanic soils, you have the violins, you know, the very elegant high tone, very refined tannins. So this wine is very, very representative of its soil type. So it’s the tannins though, of course, are very refined., Erik a very mature winemaker and he’s been around a very long time and understands how to manage tannins in the wines. So there’s very fruit forward driven. You get all the way into the cassis and the blackberry and the blueberry. If you go into cherry it’s, you know, wild cherry, but those cherry and strawberry are really for the other soil types. And then quite a bit of tannin, very robust in the mid palate and very long finish. Lots of acid. ’19 had a lot of nice acid natural acid. It was good.

Natalie MacLean 25:10
Okay. I never thought of Oregon Pinot, any of them, as having a lot of tannin. I always think of it just very smooth but that’s a generalization, of course. But if you were to compare now, the WillaKenzie with the Penner Ash. Is the Penner Ash on different, is that on volcanic soil?

Eugenia Keegan 25:27
Penner Ash is really. I’m gonna pour that. But first, I’m going to do this for the commercial.

Natalie MacLean 25:31
Let’s see the bottle. And we will put links to these wines in the show notes too, for those who are listening and want know about these. Yes, for sure.

Eugenia Keegan 25:39
So this is from the Penner Ash Estate. And it’s a small vineyard. It’s only 14 acres right there at the winery. And these are both in Yamhill Carlton. And Yamhill Carlton is known for its sedimentary soils, but there’s a very little piece of it where there is this uplift. And in that uplift comes up some volcanic soil. And so there’s a little tiny patch behind the winery, it’s actually volcanic. And so this is the estate bottling. And it’s a blend of the two, which is highly unusual in estate bottling. Usually you’re confined to one soil type and the other, particularly on a small vineyard. And this is also the ’19. I wanted to do apples and apples in that regard. But the Penner Ash style is really amazing. So Lynn Penner Ash and her husband Ron founded this winery 20 years ago. And just like the Lacroutes, they were ready to retire, although Lynn and Ron are quite a bit younger than Ronnie and Bernie. But they’re big outdoor adventurers. Their goal right now is to paddle the 100 lakes of Oregon. These kinds of things. And all their Instagram, you know, they’re all out outdoors doing stuff, but their kids wanted nothing to do with the winery. And the Lacroutes kids wanted nothing to do with the winery. So it was for sale. And we were the fortunate people that bought it. And Lynn and Ron built an extremely successful business. And Lynn, Lynn’s the winemaker, snd her style is really lush. It’s really lush and layered. And she’s pushes that mid palate so that it’s very full in the middle. It’s really velvety. Velvet is the thing that I always think of when I drink these wines. So very fruit forward, but also very plush in the mid palate.

Natalie MacLean 27:18
Okay, I was wondering why you had chosen that one second. But if it’s more expressive or has more lush fruit, I can see why you would taste it second after the one that had perhaps a bit more firm tannins.

Eugenia Keegan 27:31
It was a hard choice. I actually when I looked at them this morning, it was not an obvious choice. I kind of went back and forth and said, Well, I’ll do it this way. Yeah, it wasn’t a clear choice.

Natalie MacLean 27:41
Okay. That’s really interesting. And I read somewhere you said that, like when we think of a full bodied wine, we often think of it as having high alcohol. And certainly the two can be correlated. But you’ve also commented that wine can be full bodied based on tannin and acidity. In other words, its structure rather than alcohol. What does that mean? How do we understand that?

Eugenia Keegan 28:02
Yeah, you know, alcohol is a real easy way to lift up wine. It’s heavy. It has weight.  It has glycerol. It has real weight. That’s what causes the legs on your glass is that alcohol.

Natalie MacLean 28:15
those tears that dripping down the side.

Eugenia Keegan 28:17
Right, and the alcohol is so heavy, that it goes down the side of the glass slowly. Whereas water is so light that it goes down the glass quickly. And that’s what creates the dynamic between those two lines. And it’s easy to build body with alcohol and oak, right? It’s really easy. But we can’t get those alcohols here. If you wait that long for the alcohol, you’re not going to want to drink those wines. They’re going to be some place between prune juice and jam. So they’re going to lose all of their elegance. And it’s also important too in a warmer climate you can use tannin to build up a wine as opposed to acid. So if you taste wine from warm regions, you should taste very critically. And if you think that the back end is uplifted, think about whether or not it’s uplifted through the tannin or through acid. Because in warm climates, they often use tannin because there is no acid. It’s fired away in the heat of the day and the night. So it’s much more difficult to build the body of these wines through the grape growing and the winemaking process. And it’s also very important then to find the balance. So when I make wine and I blend wine, I always start with the middle of the wine. What’s the body of the wine? The mouthfeel? The texture? The mid palate? And then I build the front and the back end. We don’t have to worry about getting fruit in Oregon. We’re very fruit forward, fruit driven wines. So you can pull that in to support how much fruit you need. And then you can pull in the back end, the structure, the acid and the tannin, but what you’re really trying to do is come up with this seamless wine. So if you have more fruit and more tannin, then you have body. It’s your job as a winemaker to pull the front and the back end. Restrain them, because then they’re going to be out of balance and you’re gonna have a hole in the middle of the wine like that donut.

Natalie MacLean 30:03
So the fruit being the front end of the wine, so to speak, and the tannin and being the back and then so that’s balanced, trying to pull them together. Okay.

Eugenia Keegan 30:11
And doing that all together. And so some of this can be done by respecting what body you have and then building the wine to create a seamless wine. And so getting body through winemaking is really a lot of it’s about gentle handling. Because it’s like food, and the more you handle it and toss it around, the less fresh it is. You break down literally the cell walls of the berry. So you know, we talk about a gravity feed and gentle handling. And that’s part of what that’s about.

Natalie MacLean 30:40
That’s fascinating. It’s almost like over kneading the dough or whatever,  breaking down that

Eugenia Keegan 30:44
Breaking down the gluten, that’s exactly what it is. And you can knead your dough to death. You can knead your dough to the point where it no longer rises because you’ve changed the molecular structure of those glutens.

Natalie MacLean 30:57
You’ve over manipulated it. That makes sense to me for the first time really about this whole low intervention. Don’t over knead your dough. That makes so much sense. Okay, cool. And do you have an ideal setting for drinking a glass of wine? I’m sure it changes, but is there a special place you love to drink these wines?

Eugenia Keegan 31:16
I always have a wine fantasy and it’s sitting outside next to the sea on a warm afternoon with a glass of you know, Rosé or white wine. And it’s more about the sunshine in the sense of not having to do anything. You know, it’s that sense of complete relaxation. I think is what really attracts me. But my first glass of wine every day is a celebration every time. You know whether it’s at four o’clock or seven o’clock doesn’t matter. It’s like the break from the work day to personal time to family time to relaxation. And it really, you know, shifts the day for me. I take my boots off when I come in the house. And people always think they have to take their shoes off. It’s like no, that’s more for me. Right when I walk in the door, I take my boots off, put my slippers on. I’m at home now. The mental transition. Yeah, yeah. It’s my own personal way of transitioning, particularly when you work at home.

Natalie MacLean 32:11
Sure, sure. I get that. So you have a glass of wine every day.

Eugenia Keegan 32:16
Oh yeah unless I’m not feeling well. Yeah. With dinner. Yeah. I mean, maybe occasionally, you’d have a beer if you were having a certain kind of food. But we have a different bottle of wine every night at dinner basically.

Natalie MacLean 32:26
Interesting, interesting. And I know it’s your business. And you know, you have to taste wine. Tasting is different of course from drinking. But I just have to ask, as a woman, do you ever worry about wine consumption. Even, you know, the restrictions are so and I know you’re not a doctor either. But the restrictions of just you know, one glass a day? Is it like seven drinks a week? Do you ever think about that?

Eugenia Keegan 32:48
Oh, yeah, I think about it all the time. But I’m in great health. I see all sorts of people. I watched that interview that Marvin Shanken did with Ernest Gallo and 90 years old and asked about drinking wine. And he said, I drink two glasses of wine every day, one at lunch and one at dinner. And he lived to be 97. Andre Tchelistcheff drank wine every day live to be 96. Look at all those old French people. All the old Italian people. So you know, I think it’s moderation. And I think it’s moderation and everything. I also think that wine is such an appropriate companion with food, that if you’re drinking while you’re eating, and you’re not over consuming, and you get up after dinner, and you can go off and do creative and constructive things. For me, I’m personally fine with it. And then each person has to find their own balance of food and exercise and everything when they’re trying to navigate this world.

Natalie MacLean 33:45
Absolutely. That’s a good way to put it. Good internal gauge. We’re into the short questions, quick answers. I love this conversation. Is there something that you believe about wine that others would strongly disagree with you about that?

Eugenia Keegan 34:00
Not that I can think of. You know, I’m the kind of gal that puts ice in her white wine when she wants it colder. I’m pretty relaxed on things. Like I don’t think that there’s any required way of doing these things. So I can’t think of something. Unless somebody said life is better without wine, I might have to really take that one to the mat. Because I think life is better with wine.

Natalie MacLean 34:23
You’ll get any arguments here. What’s the strangest or oddest wine pairing that you’ve ever had? And perhaps it worked and you were surprised that it worked?

Eugenia Keegan 34:33
That’s a tough one. I guess I’m not caught up in pairings. I do notice when things don’t work. And I do notice when things really really work. Last night, we had guacamole and we had this very unusual wine from Southern Sicily that we thought wouldn’t go with anything and it was perfect with guacamole and you know, so like, well, that really worked why? but I’m not too much stickler on that. I’m more concerned about the quality of the wine and the quality of the food independently. If the wine is not good, I’ll just go throw it out and open a different bottle of wine. I won’t suffer bad food and I won’t suffer bad wine. But I’ll try it all together.

Natalie MacLean 35:14
Good advice. Do you have a favourite wine book?

Eugenia Keegan 35:17
You know, it’s kind of funny. I’m so old. And we started so long ago. None of these books were really written at the time. And even doing your internships, you couldn’t do your internship in California. You had to go to Burgundy. Because there just weren’t any wineries to go, you know, intern in. So the books were written after I was in the industry. But there have been some publications like the champagne book that Peter Liam has done. I think if you want to understand the world of champagne and sparkling winemaking it is brilliant. I know all of my colleagues, my younger colleagues love Karen McNeil’s Wine Bible. They all read it, they all learn from it. Of course, I happen to love Karen MacNeil, because it’s so. I’m a fan as well. She’s so easy to like, but they swear by that book. The big Jancis Robinson book that came out with every great variety for total geeky nerds like David and me. That is a book, you know, we’re in heaven in that book. So there’s a lot of really great. Oooh I love Jasper Morris’s Burgundy book. He has a new edition out so. But in the end, you only learn about wine by tasting. Yes, you can read all you want and you can understand the maps and how far it is from Nante to Tourin and all that other stuff. But if you don’t taste wine, you know, it’s like food. It’s so similar. But you have to eat every day and you started eating the minute you were, you know, popped out. So we feel comfortable eating and making comments about food and having opinions about food. And then we hesitate about wine. It’s the same thing, taste, taste, taste, taste, taste. And I always say that if you put 10 wines in front of 10 pros and 10 amateurs, they’ll rank them the same. The professionals will know why, why this wine is really good, why this wine is really bad. And the amateur may not. But you know what tastes good. And you know, it doesn’t taste good. So that was my very quick answer. Oh oh, not.

Natalie MacLean 37:16
I love that. I love that.

Eugenia Keegan 37:19
You know, I just say layman, trust your palate. You know what good music sounds like and you don’t have to be a musician. You don’t have to be a chef to know what good food tastes like etcetera, et cetera.

Natalie MacLean 37:28
Okay, last one, if you could share a bottle of wine with anyone living or dead, who would that be? And which one would you open?

Eugenia Keegan 37:35
You know, it would either be probably Thomas Jefferson, or Bob Mondavi. And I’ve shared many, many wines with Bob Mondavi. So I don’t know why I need to bring him back. I just loved him so much. And he taught me so much. And he was such an incredible mentor for me. And if it was Bob Mondavi, it would definitely be a Pinot Noir, because without him making that first ’85 Pinot Noir that set the world on fire, that oh my gos, the New World can do this followed shortly by the Domaine Drouhin Oregon that was done from Oregon, where it was like, oh, Oregon can do this. And I would want Bob to see how far Pinot had come and that we were making absolutely world class wines. And everybody would acknowledge that. And with Tom Jefferson, I have a couple little vineyards in France and they’re down in Maury. And Maury was known then for sweet wines, Grenache made into sweet wines. And of course now there’s still some sweet wines made there, but it’s mostly table wine. But I would love to share some Maury table wine with him. Because if you go to Monticello and you look at his cellar book, he has wines sweet Grenache coming in from Maury. And I’d love to show him what’s happened in the incredible little town of Maury and that they’ve continued to make wine and evolve with why.

Natalie MacLean 38:51
I love those stories. I love that you’re keeping the men up to date.

Eugenia Keegan 38:53
Yeah, well, they need that. You know, they fall behind pretty easily.

Natalie MacLean 38:59
Eugenia, this is wonderful. Is there anything that we haven’t covered that you’d like to mention?

Eugenia Keegan 39:03
One thing? You had a question that was if you had a billboard in Toronto, what would you put on it? And I really do because I would put on it “drink home grown, drink Ontario VQA wines”.

Natalie MacLean 39:16
Well said. That is great. Yeah.

Eugenia Keegan 39:18
It is so important to embrace your regional wine community. And I want every person in Ontario that’s of age, which I think is only 19 for you people, starting young up there. I want everyone to go out and buy an Ontario VQA wine this next weekend. Support your local industry, please.

Natalie MacLean 39:37
That is great. Bloom where you’re planted. Well, the Bible said it first but still, you know it is good to embrace what’s in your backyard. Did you know where can we find you or and or your wines online? I suppose each of the wineries has its own website, but any other details you want to share along that line?

Eugenia Keegan 39:57
Yeah, each of the wineries has their own website of course. And then Jackson Family has a it’s called yourwinestore.com, your wine store.com. And I think everything that Jackson family makes is available there, which is really great because we have some extraordinary wines in our portfolio. And the wines I chose today both of these brands are available at the LCBO. Not necessarily these very specific vintages that I’ve called out. But these brands are there, which is why I brought them. And I can be found at first name dot last name at GFWmail.com. I’m happy to take any follow up questions or comments anytime.

Natalie MacLean 40:38
Oh, that’s terrific. We’ll put all those links in the show notes. Eugenia, thank you so much for this. It has been a pleasure to talk to you. I love your stories. I love your insights. It’s really helped me and I’m sure the listeners will just really appreciate it as well. So thank you.

Eugenia Keegan 40:53
Well, Natalie, thank you. I have wanted to do this for a long time. I’ve read you for a long time. And now I have had an hour of personal time with you. So thank you so much for inviting me here today.

Natalie MacLean 41:02
All right, well, we’ll have to continue this chat someday in person soon I hope.

Eugenia Keegan 41:07
Yeah. Yeah. Shut the recorders off. Turn off that. Yeah. That’s great. All right. I’ll say bye for now, Eugenia. Great. Thanks, Natalie. Bye bye.

Natalie MacLean 41:16
Okay, bye bye. Well, there you have it. I hope you enjoyed my chat with Eugenia. Here are my takeaways. Number one, we hear so much about Oregon Pinot Noir. So I was really fascinated with how Oregon white wine has evolved since it was first produced. Number two, Eugenia offers a great explanation of which elements make up the classic Oregon style of wine. And number three, I also enjoyed learning how different types of soils express themselves in wine. In the shownotes, you’ll find my email, contact the full transcript of my conversation with Eugenia, links to her website, and where you can find the live stream video version of these conversations on Facebook and YouTube Live every Wednesday at 7pm. You’ll also find a link to my free online class called Five Food and Wine Pairing Mistakes that Can Ruin Your Dinner and How to Fix Them Forever. That’s all in the show notes at Nataliemaclean.com/187. Email me if you have a sip, tip, question or would like to be a beta reader of my new memoir at [email protected] You won’t want to miss next week when I chat with Mike Veseth the wine economist who has just published a new book called Wine Wars II The Global Battle for the Soul of Wine. In the meantime, if you missed Episode 64, go back and take a listen. A chat about Mike with his previous book Around the World in 80 wines. I’ll share a short clip with you now to whet your appetite.

Unknown Speaker 42:56
I learned that there was such a thing as a wine economist from a famous winer. My wife Sue and I were newlyweds. And it was so long ago that people that a lot of money to take a budget vacation in Napa Valley. On the way back in the last day we were driving up the Silverado trail, and I saw this name and I knew more about wines then than I would have recognised that it was the name of a winery that was kind of famous for that judgement of Paris that had gone before. So we pulled in for one last tasting and you know, he pulled out the corks and poured the bottles and he began to talk he learned that I was a economist, suddenly he began to ask me the research questions he wanted to know about inflation rates that they were moving up in the interest rates and it really made a difference to him because his business involves a lot of capital investment, involve a lot of time to the vineyards for the agent. He really wanted to know when these wines were ready, will consumers be there, a good situation to sell it.

Natalie MacLean 44:01
If you liked this episode, please tell one friend about it this week, especially someone you know who be interested in the wines and stories we discussed. Thank you for taking the time to join me here. I hope something great is in your glass this week. Perhaps a zesty Oregon Pinot Gris or Chardonnay.

Natalie MacLean 44:25
You don’t want to miss one juicy episode of this podcast, especially the secret full body bonus episodes that I don’t announce on social media. So subscribe for free now at NatalieMacLean.com/subscribe. Meet me here next week. Cheers.