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The Latest News and Ramblings

A place to share various news, stories and video about wine, travel, winemaking


Scott Kelley
February 24, 2021 | Scott Kelley

Sense Memory

Yesterday I was catching up with a friend who is recovering from COVID-19. He had a pretty mild case but like a lot of people who have had COVID, he lost his sense of smell and taste. Five weeks later it still has not come back 100%. It made me realize just how important my sense of taste and smell is. As a winemaker, my livelihood depends on my palate and more specifically, my ability to sense the aromas, flavors, textures and taste of a wine. Customers often say, “You must have an amazing palate!” like it is some sort of gift I was born with. The truth is we are all born with the same biological abilities to smell and taste. What separates those that are deemed to have “great palates” is the individual’s ability to connect their brain with their olfactory and reference a previous smell or taste. Remember, none of us were born with a memory bank of smells and tastes, nor were we born with the ability to put language to describe those senses.

This concept of what wine tasting is really became clear one day while watching the “Actor’s Studio” with James Lipton. He was interviewing Dennis Hopper about his many great films and he brings up “Easy Rider”. He asks Hopper what being on the set was like and the many rumors about the drug use during filming. Hopper laughs and explains that while he was never high while acting in the film, he could have never acted out those scenes if he had never experienced being high in real life. He said the essence of acting is relying on your “Sense Memory”. That really resonated as the same idea of wine tasting; we are calling on our sense memory to recall flavors experienced in our past to describe a wine.

Becoming a great wine taster takes two things in my opinion, experience and clarity. Experience comes from our everyday life. Since the day we were born we have been taking in the world around us. Since almost all of the flavors in wine are associated with those in the natural world, our vocabulary of wine terms is often associated with things found in food and nature. I had the pleasure of working with a great chef at one of my first jobs with the Robert Mondavi winery. Her name is Denise and she taught me a lot about the importance of fresh ingredients in cooking. She would often invite me along to purchase the items needed for an upcoming luncheon we were putting together at the winery. As we strolled the aisles at the market, Denise would pull out a pocketknife and started cutting into fruits and vegetables.  “Close your eyes” she said, “here smell this tangerine…now this orange, see the difference?” I had never really taken the time to smell the difference and let it register in my brain. It was a turning point in my career. From then on, I spent more time taking in the smells of the natural world and storing them for later. We all come from different areas of the world and different cultures. Based on your experiences in the world you have specific set of personal sense memories that you can use to describe wine. I will never forget the first time I was invited to sit with the winemakers at my first job, we would taste 6-8 wines blind, then discuss. This particular tasting was chardonnay from our cellar that was being blended for bottling. As I let my pen flow with whatever came to mind, I started listing smells, flavors and tastes. When it came time to discuss, the head winemaker called on me to tell everyone what I saw in the first wine. Looking at my notes I was quite nervous, “lemon curd, pear, yeast, and mother’s makeup” everyone laughed. When asked what “mother’s makeup” was I explained that the wine smelled exactly like the base makeup my mother used to apply. I would sit on the end of her bed before school while she got ready for work…. the wine reminded me of that experience, it was my sense memory.

Another important idea in being a good taster is emotional clarity. When you are experiencing emotions such as frustration, nervousness, worry or anger, I believe our ability to sense aromas and taste wines is greatly diminished. Most days I have a routine where I come in have my coffee, answer emails and then go downstairs to taste through monthly QC, competitive sets or blend tastings.  I have found that if I am still thinking about an email or if something is bothering me, or in general my head is not clear, my tasting notes are simple and nondescriptive. Over the years when I have found myself in these situations I put on some music, the sense memories start to connect, and I am once again able to connect the dots between what I am sensing and my ability to describe it with language. I find Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon” is particularly good for Pinot Noir tasting days! Quite often we see first time tasters in the tasting room, and they are worried about the etiquette of wine. Unfortunately, wine has had its fair share of snobbery over the years that makes many people uncomfortable when tasting wine. Tasters are often so worried about how to swirl the glass or what they are supposed to be tasting that they never really get to experience all the great things about wine. We preach non-pretentious education in the tasting room and really try to help people learn and become comfortable with the terminology and etiquette, all the while having fun. I urge you to do the same when sharing wine with friends and family. We can educate without being snobs!

Remember at the end of the day wine is supposed to be fun. We all experience wine differently and there are really only two terms you need to know Yum and Yuck!

Time Posted: Feb 24, 2021 at 3:19 PM Permalink to Sense Memory Permalink
Scott Kelley
February 26, 2018 | Scott Kelley

Grape Harvester

Scott Kelley
Paraiso Springs Vineyards | Monterey 1991

Scott's Start in the Wine Business

When I graduated High school, I was seventeen years old and had no idea what I was going to study in college (or do with my life for that matter). I knew I liked chemistry and grew up around agriculture, other than that it was a mystery. I took a job that first summer working for my middle brother's soon to be father-in-law at a men's store. I had to wear a tie everyday and my first week was spent pressing & ironing clothes as they got ready for a big sale. Needless to say this was not my calling.

I called my oldest brother, who had just taken a job with a nearby vineyard management company, to mostly lament about my current job. He offered me a short term job of cleaning the grape press. At that point I would have taken a job cleaning sewers. So off I went to Soledad, Ca to scrub a grape press inside and out with a scotch pad. After that was done they told me to head over to the shop to see if they needed any help. I spent the rest of the summer changing oil on tractors, learning how to weld and fix grape harvesters. I was in heaven. But the real hook came when the owner found out I knew a bit about basic chemistry and asked me to sample vineyards to test for sugar and acidity. By the end of that first summer I was hooked. 

At the end of the summer the owners held a release party for a new winery they had started and I was invited. Meeting the winemaker and seeing the customers enjoy this magical product that came from grapes had a real impact. I asked the owner how does one become a winemaker? "You go to UCDavis" he said. There were a few other programs at the time but he was a little biased being a Davis grad himself. Both of my parents had graduated from Davis as had my maternal grandparents. Seemed like a good fit. So I enrolled at UC Davis to study Fermentation Science.

Every summer and winter break I spent back in Soledad working on grape harvesters and sampling grapes. It was a great way to learn that side of the industry and make a little money for college.  I owe my start in the wine business to that opportunity and will never forget that experience. 

Time Posted: Feb 26, 2018 at 7:29 AM Permalink to Grape Harvester Permalink
Paul O'Brien Winery
February 21, 2018 | Paul O'Brien Winery

Pairing Wine With Winter Steelhead


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Lemon Butter & Garlic Steelhead



1 LB Steelhead Filet, Skin removed

2 TBSP Butter

Juice of 1/2 Lemon

2 Cloves Garlic, minced

1 TSP Parsley, minced

Salt & Pepper to taste


1. Preheat oven to 375 F

2. Spray a sheet of aluminum foil with cooking spray and place the trout filet in the center.  Fold up all four sides of the foil.  Season the trout with salt, pepper and lemon juice.

3. Melt butter in microwave-safe bowl, stir in fresh minced garlic and drizzle over the trout.  Top with fresh minced parsley.

4. Fold the sides of the foil over the trout, covering completely, and seal into a closed packet.  Place directly on oven rack and bake until cooked through, about 15-20 minutes. 

*You'll know it's done with you can flake the fish with a fork and the meat will be opaque.


The 'Lure' of the Umpqua

The Umpqua Valley has a special place in Scott's heart.  He grew up fly fishing the North Umpqua River with his father and knew early on that someday he would move to the area to make wine and raise a family.  

Did you know? One of the things that makes the North Umpqua River so unique, is that it is home to both summer and winter Steelhead runs.  This is special because there are very few Summer Steelhead runs left.  Pretty cool, huh? 

The North Umpqua River possesses 31 miles of the most scenic flyfishing-only water in the Northwest.  Right now, winter run steelhead are in the river, coming into the North Fork of the Umpqua River beginning in January, peaking in February and tapering off through the first part of March.  We are huge advocates for catch and release for all wild steelhead, but do enjoy a hatchery fish every now and then.


NOTE: You can tell if a fish has come from a hatchery because the adipose fin is clipped, making it legal to keep.


Many people may not know how to properly pair wine with Steelhead, so in honor of this wonderful winter bounty that we're so lucky to have, we're sharing our favorite recipes and wine pairings to get the most flavor and enjoyment out of your Winter Steelies.  Enjoy!


our 2015 Paul O'Brien Susan's Vineyard Pinot Noir pairs perfectly with SteelheadSteelhead falls into the Meaty Fish categoriy, types of fish that are firm with a meaty and steak-like texture.  For meaty fish,  the best wine pairings are rich white wines with lots of flavor and even a few red and rosé wines.  This this particular recipe, we recommend our 2015 Susan's Vineyard Pinot Noir.  This wine's silky texture with sweet fruit is balanced enough not to overpower the sometimes delicate flavor in Steelhead and quenching enough to pair well with smoked fish recipes.



Time Posted: Feb 21, 2018 at 7:37 AM Permalink to Pairing Wine With Winter Steelhead Permalink
Paul O'Brien Winery
February 5, 2018 | Paul O'Brien Winery

Nutella, Italy and Oregon Hazelnuts


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Northwestern Italy: an Agricultural Diversity     

by Scott Kelley

My first visit to Italy started in the Piedmont region where the great Nebbiolo, Barbera and Dolcetto vines line the hillsides of Alba and Asti. While my focus was on wine, I could not help but notice the orchards of hazelnuts planted on the valley floor. They are everywhere and a big part of the agriculture of northwestern Italy. Fast forward 20years and I am now settled in Oregon where 99% of the countries hazelnuts are grown. 

I have always been fond of hazelnuts as a snack but was amazed at the diversity of uses. My wife often makes macaroons or shortbread cookies with the ground up flour, we have crusted a local Elk tenderloin with chopped hazelnuts as well as crusted halibut. However my all time favorite has to be Nutella. Chocolate mixed with pureed hazelnuts makes chocolate and peanut butter seem like yesterday's news. 

Wine grapes line the hillsides overlooking a valley of Hazelnut groves in the Piedmont region of Northwestern Italy.

Italian Nutella Crepes
by Scott Kelley

I first came across Nutella while working in Italy during the Christmas season. Every year Florence hosts an amazing Christmas market in the Piazza Santa Croce. All around the market street food vendors line up to serve the captive audience. After having a Gyro from a Turkish food cart, I happened upon a crepe maker. Standing in the cool December night I ordered up the owners favorite, his choice. He made a perfect light pancake filled with this nutty chocolatey sweet stuff called Nutella. I was hooked. To this day it is one of my favorite food memories.

Recipe: Oregon Hazelnut Nutella
by Scott Kelley

With all the local hazelnuts in Oregon, we have the opportunity to try a lot of recipes. Here is a recipe for making your own "Nutella". If you can't find Oregon grown hazelnuts I am sure it will still turn out OK, but be sure to tell your grocer they are missing out. 


1 Cup Oregon Hazelnuts

12 oz milk chocolate, chopped

2 TBSP mild vegetable oil, such as canola

3 TBSP confectioners' sugar

1 TBSP unsweetened cocoa powder

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Salt to taste


Preheat oven to 350 F

Spread hazelnuts in a single layer on a baking sheet and toast them in the oven for about 12 minutes, until they've browned a little and the skins are blistered a little.  Wrap them in a kitchen towel and rub vigorously to remove as much loose skin as possible.  (Some skin will cling to the nuts when you're done. It's okay - not to mention inevitable.)  Let cool completely. 

Melt the chocolate in a saucepan over gently simmering water or in the microwave.  Stir until smooth.  Let cool completely.

In a food processor, grind the hazelnuts until they form a paste.  Add the oil, sugar, cocoa powder, vanilla, and salt and continue processing until the mixture is as smooth as possible - or as smooth as you like.  Add the melted chocolate, blend well, and then strain the mixture to remove any chunks of hazelnut that remain.  The resulting homemade Nutella will be thin and somewhat runny and maybe even a little warm but it will thicken as it cools.

Transfer to a resealable container and let cool to room temperature.  Your homemade Nutella will keep on the counter for up to 2 weeks.




Time Posted: Feb 5, 2018 at 5:27 AM Permalink to Nutella, Italy and Oregon Hazelnuts Permalink
Scott Kelley
January 19, 2018 | Scott Kelley

Movie Night: Popcorn and Wine Pairings

Movie Night: Wine and Popcorn Pairings

Truffle Salt & Pinot Noir


Earthy Truffles want an Earthy Wine. Truffle Salted Popcorn pairs perfectly with Pinot Noir.

You can always air-pop your popcorn for a lower-fat option, but we like adding salt (in this case, truffle salt) to the oil in a big heavy dutch oven pan before popping.  The oil in the pot is nicely infused and the salt gets well distributed throughout the batch.  This also means you don't lose that beautiful truffle salt to the bottom of the popcorn bowl like you do when sprinkling on after popping.

Buy Your 2014 Paul O'Brien Pinot Noir HERE.

Also pairs with Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah or Tempranillo.

Also pairs with Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel or an oaky chardonnay.

Parmesan & Sangiovese

Pair with our Paul O'Brien 2014 Sangiovese, Southern Oregon


Strong cheese flavors require a robust wine, such as our Sangiovese.

In order to make the Parmesan stick better to the popcorn, try pouring the popcorn and Parm into a large Tupperware container or ziplock bag immediately after the popcorn is done popping (while it’s still hot).  Seal the container and give it a good hard shake in different directions.  The heat and moisture from the popcorn will help the parm stick to the popcorn much better this way.  If the toppings aren’t sticking, you may also need to use a bit more oil.

Buy Your 2014 Paul O'Brien Sangiovese HERE.

Garam Masala & Fume Blanc

Pair with our Paul O'Brien 2016 Fume Blanc, Southern Oregon


Global Spices like Garam Masala and other strong flavors pair deliciously with our Fume Blanc.

Add garam masala and popcorn kernels together and stir until well-combined. Lower heat to medium, close lid, and while securely holding the lid in place, shake the pot (toward and away from you) continually as the popcorn pops. As soon as you hear a 2- to 3-second pause between pops, immediately turn off heat and transfer popcorn to a separate bowl. Season with salt and cayenne pepper to taste. 

Buy Your 2016 Paul O'Brien Fume Blanc HERE.

Also pairs well with Gewürtztraminer and Riesling.

Time Posted: Jan 19, 2018 at 11:15 AM Permalink to Movie Night: Popcorn and Wine Pairings Permalink
Scott Kelley
September 11, 2014 | Scott Kelley

Partners plan several wine-related businesses in downtown Roseburg

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Time Posted: Sep 11, 2014 at 4:30 PM Permalink to Partners plan several wine-related businesses in downtown Roseburg Permalink
Scott Kelley
August 1, 2014 | Scott Kelley

Joint venture Paul O’Brien debuts in downtown Roseburg

Read the story here

Time Posted: Aug 1, 2014 at 4:46 PM Permalink to Joint venture Paul O’Brien debuts in downtown Roseburg Permalink
Scott Kelley
October 28, 2013 | Scott Kelley

Mondavi connection launches new Umpqua Valley winery

Read the story here

Time Posted: Oct 28, 2013 at 4:42 PM Permalink to Mondavi connection launches new Umpqua Valley winery Permalink
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