Willamette Valley taster: A Day of Wine and an Overnight in Style

Willamette Valley taster: A Day of Wine and an Overnight in Style

Home to over 500 wineries, ‘Let’s go tasting in the Willamette Valley’ can be a broad statement. When you have friends like Janine Julian of THE VINE TRAVELERS, not so much. And, when you’re able to spend the day with a few other cool chicks who also crave a layered pinot, it’s a full blown adventure.


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Meet the wine pro: Necessity is the mother of invention


Janine Julian, owner of The Vine Travelers, offers personalized wine and brewery tours with the option of light adventure from Gorge hikes to clam digging. Laura Leadingham When outdoor enthusiast, Janine Julian, moved from Minnesota to the Northwest over 20 years ago she took on more than a full-time dental position. “Coming out here and being halfway between the mountains and the ocean I went crazy exploring and when my family came out here, I was the tour guide. I took them to wineries and hiking,” Janine said. Several years later her son, Joe, was looking for a fundraising idea for baseball and Janine went straight to what she loved—wine. Some elementary math and a couple bus company phone calls later, she had the makings for an adult adventure that far exceeded cookie dough. After that first successful winery tour she and her husband, Doug, organized others for various efforts their children were involved in but it wasn’t until they put the outings on hold for a time—and people remarked how much they missed them—that they realized they had a viable business opportunity.

Janine Julian’s at once approachable personality and love for Northwest wines are the perfect pairing for an ideal wine tour experience. Laura Leadingham

In 2011 The Vine Travelers was born and the couple enjoyed organizing winery, brewery and light adventure tours for out-of-towners and local residents as they balanced their day jobs. It was to be the combination of a back injury and a wine tour in the Casablanca region of Chile that poised Janine for the leap of faith to expand The Vine Travelers to five days a week. Using her 12-passenger van, Janine generally arranges three winery or brewery stops a day. A snack plate is included and lunch can be provided, customers are welcome to bring their own or, in the case of a brewery tour, food is ordered on site. She consults with clients beforehand to see what their beverage style is or area they’d like to tour. From there she’s able to coordinate a personalized itinerary based on established vineyard/brewery relationships. The Vine Travelers typically focus on Clark County; the Washington and Oregon side of the Gorge as far as Hood River; and down into the Willamette Valley but routinely explore new areas to stay up on this fast-growing industry. From her early tour guide experiences with her family, she realized she could add even more value to her winery and brewery excursions by providing a few extras. Janine said “They (visitors) travel with minimal items and I could be the one who offered backpacks and water bottles and park passes and they wouldn’t have to figure out what to do and where to go.” Drawing from their own interests, The Vine Travelers can incorporate light hiking in a wine tour or even take guests on a full day sightseeing trip to the beach complete with clam digging. While she doesn’t claim to be a wine expert, Janine has developed a palate dictated by the weather, activity or food a bottle is being paired with. They keep everything on hand from sauvignon blanc for Thai food to port for sipping around a campfire but her favorite wine and food combination is “salmon freshly caught that day by us and a really good pinot noir; my absolute favorite,” Janine said, echoing her adventuresome spirit. **If you like what you’re reading, follow Corks & Forks by clicking the ‘Follow’ button or follow Corks & Forks on Facebook.

Meet the wine pro: Making wine her second act


Area wine consultant, Lynda Lathrop, spends a great deal of time in Clark County, Willamette Valley and Walla Walla wineries to keep her finger on the pulse of what’s happening locally. Photo courtesy of Lynda Lathrop. The inquisitive side of local wine consultant Lynda Lathrop makes her immediately likable. For all her knowledge, there’s no snobbery and she can find value in a $10 bottle of Trader Joe wine as effortlessly as she can a Napa Valley cabernet but her palate for vino was not developed until later in life.

“I got into the wine biz in ‘99 and I didn’t really know a lot about it. I was new to the area. I’d usually order white wine in a restaurant but order a different white wine every time,” Lathrop said.

That initial curiosity spurred her to open and operate Vancouver Gift and Wine Cellar in downtown Vancouver from 2001 until 2009. Acquiring wines for her shop and conducting weekly wine tastings gave her hands-on education in a field she quickly fell in love with. During that time she immersed herself in trade publications and successfully completed an intermediate sommelier certification program.

It’s rather surprising, though, that she took the wine consultant route as opposed to vintner.

“I was more interested in horticulture-why grapes grew in certain regions due to climate and soil,” Lathrop explained. “Whenever I’d go for a wine tour with a bunch of people everyone would be surrounded by wine but I’d go out to the vineyard and talk about planting, growth, etcetera. Different wine makers do things differently. I found it intriguing—what makes it work for this guy and not for this guy.”

She shared that a wine consultant should constantly be up on what’s new in the wine industry but sommeliers are usually snatched up by high-end restaurants and typically concentrate on that restaurant’s menu. Lathrop spends a great deal of time in Clark County, Willamette Valley and Walla Walla wineries to keep her finger on the pulse of what’s happening locally.

In the past she’s helped educate wait staff at restaurants on how to pair their wine selection with the menu to offer customers an elevated dining experience and set up private cellars but, with the market demand shifting to wines best consumed now, fewer folks are cellaring wine.

Lathrop specializes in teaching wine classes from how to taste wine to blind tasting red varietals to tasting room etiquette. She also consults with local tour companies like The Vine Travelers, pours at weddings, organizes in-home wine parties, and is a founding member of Grape-ful Women, a community of ladies joined together by a love of wine who occasionally organize local fundraising events for worthy charities.

My question of her favorite wine and food pairing was met quickly with “Cab sauv and steak, really, and salmon is my second” but on the afternoon we spoke she was sitting on a sunny deck in Astoria enjoying a chilled sauvignon blanc.

“It’s from the Bordeaux region…2013,” she laughed as she realized that she’s always unconsciously testing herself.

For wine consultation inquiries, contact Lynda Lathrop at wineprincess829@yahoo.com.

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