Wine Geek of the Week Julia Burke
Welcome to the Wine Geek of the Week
Where I ask my favorite wine geeks shitty questions!
This week's guest is Julia Burke @vicousvinifera
Photo Credit Andrea Johnson
Tell us a bit about yourself. Why are you a wine geek?
Wine is a little bit of everything I'm geeky about: science, languages, politics, geography, history, food and culture. So it's the most efficient way to be a geek, for me. But the real answer is I fell into my first wine job by accident and met a bunch of really good wine geeks at the right time over the subsequent years.
Extraterrestrials just landed on earth. What wine do you pour them?
An aggressively natty cult wine. I wanna see if they like it without any context.
What's your favorite scent you have ever smelled in a wine?
More like a feeling: the first time I ever tried white port I remember distinctly feeling both that it would have been very romantic to date a sailor in the 19th century and also that this wine was doing nostalgia inception on me and it actually probably would have been a pain and just having the wine was way better.
Any favorite music or podcasts you like to listen to while you drink wine?
I love pairing wine and music! Tom Waits and Barolo just in general; Liten Buffel Riesling and TV on the Radio's album Desperate Youth, Blood Thirsty Babes; Savennieres and Sault, and more specifically, really good Niagara Cab Franc + Tobacco Road by Common Market. Right now I'm sipping Palo Cortado and it's definitely a Raphael Saadiq wine.
If you could visit any wine region in the world right now what would it be any why?
At this moment, pandemic notwithstanding, I'd honestly go back to the Western Cape of South Africa, where I did a couple harvests years ago. They really got hit hard during the lockdown and I miss my favorite wineries there so much! There are so many places I want to go that I've never been, but it's hard to resist coming back to what you love after a long time away and diving even deeper.
What do you think is the most exciting thing going in the world of wine right now?
I am very happy that the critical conversations about labor issues and equity in job opportunity/education are happening. I just wish they had happened on such a large scale sooner.
What would you like to see in the future of wine?
I love the science of taste and the research being done on chemical compounds that make wine taste the way it does and how our olfactory system works, and I am excited to see more research on this! Also, I want to be able to try more wine made in China, but that's a bit of a tall order.
What advice would you give yourself looking back to when you first started working in the wine industry?
I thought I could get away with just tasting neat geeky stuff and up-and-coming regions and ignoring the classics because they were too expensive, but that's like being a music student and never learning your theory or classical composers and only ever listening to, like, Chicago avant-garde bands. The truth is the great bottles don't get cheaper and the pay in this business doesn't get that much higher! So I'd tell myself to take every opportunity to taste the classics, and save up to buy them when you can or even travel to those places so you know what they taste like.
Who are some people that inspire you in the world of wine?
There are so many winemakers and vineyard managers and hospitality folks who inspire me just by the bottles they make and sell, but here I want to mention friends and colleagues who are doing awesome things to directly help others experience this fascinating world even after 2020 knocked the wind out of everyone. Miguel Marquez (@migueltacovino), sommelier and wine educator at Vino Veritas here in Portland, who is such a passionate advocate for Mexico's beautiful wines and for a more inclusive industry. Josh Decolongon (@sommeligay), who is doing incredible work on the science of flavor and making molecular craft beverages at Endless West while still finding time to be an awesome writer. Lia Jones (@theflambe), sommelier and @diversityinwineandspirits founder, who I'm sure everyone has seen kicking ass at some point promoting diversity and inclusion in wine and advocating for more educational opportunity and mentorship. Philippe André (@niquesomm) who I can list selfishly because he promotes the hell out of Oregon wine and makes my day job that much easier, but also just because he has that energy and just straight-up passion that reminds me why I got into wine in the first place. And, ok, I have to list one winemaking team: Kurt Guba and Ryan Sidoti at Freedom Run Winery, my very first wine job, in the Niagara Escarpment of New York. They've been making killer stuff that makes me homesick in the best way.
Anything in the works you'd like to mention or promote?
I may have done more than my share of promotion with the last question so I'll just say that my day job is to spread the good word of Willamette Valley wine and you all should be drinking more of it. For personal projects, ask me again if I ever come out on the other end of the MW program. My website is stellenbauchery.com (it started out as a blog about working harvest in Stellenbosch) and I still blog there occasionally to procrastinate from studying.