If we’ve learned anything over the last few years, it’s that life is precious and moments– if not seized –can pass us by. So let’s celebrate the here and now, the little victories as well as the life changing ones! Vicki Sowa is here to help us do just that with her deep knowledge and appreciation for bubbly! Vicki’s website The Bubbly Side of Life, is a celebration of bubbles. Vicki is also the Hospitality and Guest Experience Manger at Domaine Willamette, Oregon’s first sparkling wine facility that produces world-class méthode traditionnelle sparkling wines. Before focusing on Domaine Willamette, Vicki was the Winery Ambassador Manager at Willamette Valley Vineyards, she knows the Oregon wine industry like the back of her hand, and we are excited to share her words of wisdom with you below. Vicki recommends reading it with a glass of bubbly in hand…
Dundee Hotel (DH): Can you tell me a little bit about your background and how you first got involved in the wine industry?
Vicki Sowa (VS): My professional career started as a middle school teacher in Illinois. After leaving the classroom, I sold textbooks for many, many years. I realize none of this is related to wine, so it might seem odd that I transitioned to opening my own business focused on sparkling wine education. So let me connect some dots.
I was living in Oregon and attended Bubbles Fest, of course, and I posted on social media. One of my favorite wineries replied back with, “You really are living your bubbly side of life.” I quickly asked if I could have that phrase and they said yes. Now, at the time I had no clue what I was going to do with it, I just loved the phrase Bubbly Side of Life.
I got it trademarked and sat on it for a bit. I knew that I wanted to live my Bubbly Side of Life and help others do the same. But I didn’t know exactly what that would turn into.
And then after many years of people telling me when it was ok to celebrate the many victories in life, I created a company that encouraged celebrating all the everyday moments big and small, of course, with a bottle of bubbly in hand.
Vicki Sowa, Winery Ambassador Manager at Willamette Valley Vineyards and creator of the website The Bubble Side of Life.
Each winter Anne Amie Vineyards hosts an annual Bubbles Fest. Sample sparkling wines from across the region while enjoying local music and culinary delights!
DH: What is your position with Willamette Valley Vineyards how has it Evolved?
VS: When I came to Willamette Valley Vineyards, I supported the Ambassador team as the Assistant Manager and then was promoted to Manager. Most recently, I was promoted to the Hospitality and Guest Experience Ambassador at Willamette Valley Vineyards’ newest project, Domaine Willamette where I support the day to day operations of the winery.
The Domaine Willamette Experience gives you to chance to immerse yourself in wine country with a curated flight paired with Willamette Cuisine culinary offerings. Taking inspiration from the characteristics of their wines, Executive Winery Chef DJ MacIntyre prepares three courses to highlight three wines for an elevated experience.
DH: What do you think separates Willamette Valley Vineyards from other wineries?
VS: Please come in for a visit and let us share our wine and stories with you so you can experience the winery for yourself. Book a tour and tasting, let us show you around while pouring you some amazing wine and share how Jim Bernau, our founder, started this amazing vineyard in the 80’s.
Willamette Valley Vineyards is expanding! You can enjoy our wines at any of our locations with the sparkling facility in the Dundee Hills, the Estate in Turner, the vineyard in Forest Grove, tasting rooms in McMinnville, tasting room restaurants in Lake Oswego, Vancouver, Happy Valley and coming soon to Bend.
DH: What experience is offered at Domaine Willamette?
VS: At Domaine Willamette we offer two different experiences.
Our 90 minute tasting experience allows you to explore our wines in one of two ways: 1) you can enjoy the monthly flight and create your own pairing with our petite or grand options; or 2) you can choose one of the petite or grande pairings, and couple that with the wine suggestion.
Our other experience is called a Domaine Willamette Wine Journey. If you have ever wanted to learn about biodynamic farming practices, and how sparkling wine is made, you will want to book this experience. You will taste several wines along the way including, of course, some sparkling wines, and end in a private tasting room with a small cheese plate.
Domaine Willamette is dedicated to producing sustainably grown sparkling wines that showcase the Willamette Valley’s ability to grow and produce sustainable sparkling wines equal to the great Champagnes.
The experience at Domaine Willamette is quite stunning, and a favorite of The Dundee’s guests. With a beautiful tasting room, and incredible views that inspire appreciation of the land and how it informs the winemaking process.
All of the winery’s vineyards are certified sustainable through LIVE (Low Input Viticulture and Enology) and Salmon-Safe. Additionally, Bernau Estate Vineyard is farmed using biodynamic principles and practices.
Domaine Willamette’s new patio verlooks the picturesque Bernau Estate Vineyard and the spectacular water features throughout the biodynamic garden.
DH: Tell us about The Bubbly Side of Life! How did it start? What brought about its creation?
VS: Honestly, once I had the name, Bubbly Side of Life, I had this moment that I knew this was going to be more of a mantra. Living my Bubbly Side of Life was something I set out to do and wanted to help others do the same.
I had realized in my own life that others were telling me when moments were worthy of celebrating and I wasn’t embracing and celebrating the big moments let alone the everyday moments. Bubbly Side of Life truly became a passion project not only for myself but for those around me.
Bubbly Side of Life has evolved into so much more as the years have gone on. I not only have shared so many sparkling wines and worked with amazing brands, but I also have been able to create corporate events focused around bubbly.
DH: I love the question you ask on the Bubbly Side of Life website, “How do you turn an everyday moment into a Bubbly moment?” Is one of your hopes for this company to encourage people to celebrate the everyday moments?
VS: This truly is the foundation of Bubbly Side of Life. Everyday moments should be celebrated because we never know when we’re going to get that opportunity again.
I personally have always regretted when I put off celebrating a moment because I was waiting for the perfect time, the perfect people to join, the perfect location. Let’s be real, there’s no such thing as perfect, so celebrate that moment in the moment and enjoy!
When I started Bubbly Side of Life, I realized that people don’t hesitate to open a bottle of wine on a random Tuesday and put the cork back in to enjoy more the following day. And yet, people use the excuse that they can’t do the same with a bottle of bubbly to celebrate because it’s bubbly and the cork doesn’t go back in.
Well, I have the trick for you on Bubbly Side of Life. It’s my most favorite trick and it will keep your bubbly bubbly for up to 4 days and if you have a spoon, you can make it work. You might just have to go and check it out!
Embracing the idea that everyday moments are worthy of celebration is the essence of what Vicki has coined “The Celebration Effect”.
There’s always a reason to celebrate with bubbly!
DH: I saw on your bio that you were once a middle school teacher, (talk about deserving a glass of bubbly at the end of the day!) How do you think your experience as a teacher has influenced your work in the wine industry?
VS: I am truly always going to be a teacher at heart. And one reason why I opened Bubbly Side of Life was to share my knowledge on sparkling wine and help to educate people that there are so many types of sparkling wines out there, made using different methods.
Since I love to visit different wine countries all over the United States because it’s just so much easier than hopping a flight to Champagne, France, I tend to shine a spotlight on sparkling wines made here and in Canada so that they are more accessible to my community.
DH: The Bubbly Side of Life also emphasizes community. Why is community important to you? And what role does wine play in supporting that?
VS: Wine is truly enjoyed more when with friends and family. And there’s nothing like popping a bottle of bubbly to celebrate an everyday moment with friends and family. And whether it’s in person, virtually or long distance, I truly value being able to share in a celebration with others.
It’s the community that helps inspire and motivate me. When someone writes me a message and tells me they tried a bubbly I shared or that they popped a bottle because it was a perfect evening and why not, or that they tried the spoon trick and it really worked, those are the things that keep me going and want to create more and figure out other ways to bring people together.
With each fizzy pop of the cork Vicki is creating and encouraging connections.
With each fizzy pop of the cork Vicki is creating and encouraging connections.
DH: What do you think makes sparkling wine special?
VS: The bubbles, of course! I always say, “everything is better with bubbles!” And I truly believe that.
Sparkling wine is truly a labor of love. If a bottle of sparkling wine is made using the traditional method, you typically won’t be drinking that bottle for several years. The process is much longer than a bottle of still wine because it goes through a second fermentation in the bottle for a minimum of 15 months.
DH: What is your favorite food to pair with sparkling wine? What about Pinot Noir?
VS: Sparkling wine pairs so well with salty, fatty foods, so French fries are definitely one of my most favorite foods to pair with it. We have had a lot of fun creating sparkling wine pairings with everything from potato chips to macaroni and cheese to pizza.
Pinot Noir is one of those red wines that is so easy to pair with so many foods. I love it with pizza, a burger, even pasta with a bolognese sauce.
Bubbly and fries? Yes please!
DH: When picking out a new wine to try, what do you look for?
VS: I know this sounds silly, but I first go by the label. If the label catches my eye, then I look to the back label for information. I personally don’t like sweet wine, so I tend to stay away from that, but when it comes to trying new wine, I will try anything once.
Check out The Bubbly Side blogs of ways to taste, mix, cook, and pair with this versatile libation!
DH: What is one thing about wine that you wish more people knew? What is one myth that you’d like to debunk?
VS: This really isn’t a myth, but more of an overall belief of many people. You do not have to wait for a special occasion to pop open a bottle of bubbly! Every single day you have a reason to celebrate, so there is always a reason to pop that bubbly in celebration!
DH: How do you see the Oregonian wine industry changing over the next 5-10 years?
VS: I have been watching the sparkling wine industry grow out here for years now and I think it’s just going to continue to expand. The Willamette Valley will always be known for the pinot noir, but I believe it will also be a destination for the sparkling wine enthusiast as well.
DH: If you could make your own wine, what varietal would it be and what would you call it?
VS: This is truly a dream of mine and, of course, it would be called the Bubbly Side of Life!
I do love a blanc de blancs (100% chardonnay), so I would love to create that to start, but the possibilities are endless.
Blanc de Blancs is used to refer to champagne produced entirely from white grapes, most commonly Chardonnay.
Look at that beautiful fruit! Harvest in the Valley is in late summer, early fall and is the perfect time to visit.
DH: What is your favorite wine memory?
VS: I was in Spain doing a cava tasting and they let me disgorge 2 bottles of cava. Disgorging is the part of the process when second fermentation is complete it is ready to be enjoyed. It’s a process for sure and an experience I will never forget and honestly can’t wait to do again.
DH: What about the wine industry has surprised you the most?
VS: I think I always knew this, but there is so much to learn and always something new to learn which truly makes each day exciting.