This is a series of interviews intended to capture the wine moments happening in Willamette Valley and beyond. This week, I spotlight Eugenia Keegan of Gran Moraine in Yamhill, Oregon. Eugenia began her wine career with Joseph Swan Vineyards in ’76, which taught her a lot about vineyards and cellar work. Shortly thereafter, she traveled to Burgundy, where she worked at various vineyards.
Heading back to the states, she accepted a business manager position at Bouchaine Vineyards in Napa, California in the 80s, during the early days of the winery’s start-up. Soon thereafter, she was promoted to president and CEO. In the late 90s, she became the president at Vine Cliff Winery, also in Napa.
Fast forward to 2003, Eugenia ventured into the world of wine distribution as the founder and co-owner of Tsarina Wines, a small fine-wine-only distributor based in Portland. A few years later, Tsarina merged with the Henry Wine Group of Oregon, and Eugenia continued as co-owner and president until 2009, when the company was sold.
Her heavy load and responsibilities would be enough to kill an ordinary man, but she managed to consult and manage her own wine brand in parallel, Keegan Cellars in Russian River and Roussillon, France. She is now the General Manager of Operations for Jackson Family Wines, specifically Gran Moraine in Oregon. The winery farms over 300 acres of LIVE certified vineyards in the Willamette Valley.
Gran Moraine takes its name from the cataclysmic floods that occurred in the area during the last ice age. As flood waters receded, they sculpted the region, leaving a distinct pattern of mini valleys (moraines), similar to what you would see in Burgundy, in the Côte ’Or.
Located in the Yamhill-Carlton AVA, the 220 acres are planted to classic Burgundian varieties, Pinot noir and Chardonnay, on hillsides of 200-700 feet in elevation. Pinot noir from this region tends to produce beautiful wines that offer black fruits, mineral and floral notes.
Something worth mentioning is the adherent interest of sustainability that its parent company, Jackson Family wines takes pride in. They work hard to embed sustainable principles and long-term stewardship of the land into each property, and this was evident at Gran Moraine. From energy efficiencies to water conservation, their high pressure barrel washers use 45% less hot water and 40% less water overall. Treating and reusing winery process water also demonstrates how committed they are to sustainable practices.
As for Eugenia’s wines, she produces sophistication in a glass, and like a grande dame, always in style. Below is her current lineup which will transport you to the heart of Willamette Valley, expressing purity and elegance. And the next time you’re in the Willamette Valley, make sure to stop by the winery and say hello. It’s a definite stop the next time you’re in Oregon. Cheers!
2015 Rose of Pinot Noir, Yamhill-Carlton, Oregon ($28)
A very pretty style with quince and peach, leading to a long, refreshing, grapefruit finish.
2013 Chardonnay, Yamhill-Carlton, Oregon ($45)
A classic Oregon Chardonnay with lots of character—steely, mineral, citrus delight. Spectacular.
2014 Pinot Noir, Yamhill-Carlton, Oregon ($45)
Powerful yet elegant Pinot noir with pleasant tobacco notes in the mid-palate.
2013 Pinot Noir, Yamhill-Carlton, Oregon ($45)
Fresh, fruit forward with complex layers of violets and cranberry notes. Lovely.
2013 Pinot Noir Estate Reserve, Yamhill-Carlton, Oregon ($65)
Raspberry and espresso flavors lead to a warm, enticing, earthy finish.
2013 Pinot Noir Yamhill-Carlton, Oregon ($95)
Raspberry and truffles dance in the glass. Chocolate and sage notes finish long and strong. Devine.