Jens Strecker
Owner and wine guy extraordinaire, Jens has, frankly, a very unusual story.  He is an anesthesiologist, intensive care & emergency doctor by training in his native Germany, but after finishing his residency in Dresden in 1999, he took off to be with his wife in Seattle.  Upon arrival, he decided to take a break from studying (as he had to retake the American boards to practice medicine in the US) and do something fun to improve his conversational English, applying at Best Cellars, a local wine shop in the UniversityVillage.  In Germany, wine had been his hobby since he was a teenager and his knowledge of European wines was deep, but American wines are seldom available in Germany and so a whole new world opened up for him to explore.  He stayed at Best Cellars until he decided to forego medicine long-term for a life as a wine merchant, founding Portalis Wine Shop + Wine Bar with his wife, Julie, in 2003.  The concept of combining a wine shop with a wine bar was his, as he was trying replicate his favorite German wine store, where all wines available for purchase were lined up on a narrow bar along one wall and you could taste whatever you were interested in before picking out your case to go.  Portalis didn’t end up exactly in that format, but it is a place where, through the bar and a steady string of tastings, many wines are available to taste before making your selection.  The beauty about Jens is that he doesn’t need to be told what’s good to buy it.  He’s an early adopter if he thinks the wine is good for the money, and his customers value his knowledge, his pleasant directness (he’s German after all) and his knack for pairing them with the right wine.

Gina Gregory
Funky Fresh Gina, as many know her, has an equally unusual route to the world of wine.  She majored in musical composition and had various business management positions before landing a part-time job (for the fun of it) on the floor at Best Cellars in 1999.  She, like Jens, has a deep love of wine and through the exposure that Portalis has provided, combined with her own initiative (and she’s got lots of that), Gina has upped the ante on her wine knowledge to be one of the best local wine people in Seattle.  Not only has she traveled extensively (with and without her Irish architect husband, Kenny) through wine producing lands, but she studied for and passed the first two sommelier exams, earning her Sommelier Certificate in December 2007.  As if she didn’t have enough to keep her busy, she has taken on several positions in addition to her manager role at Portalis, including wine buyer for Scott Carsberg at the prestigious Bisato (formerly Lampreia) in downtown Seattle ( and she has started her own wine tourism to Tuscany:  Simply stated, Gina is the best.  She’s gracious yet no nonsense.  She’s meticulous yet low key.  And more than anything, she loves wine, she knows a ton about wine and she loves hooking people up with the wine they are looking for.  You’ll enjoying reading what she has to say on the Portalis Wine Blog

Kyle Rowland
A born & bred Seattleite, Kyle is a Europhile at heart. Having both lived and worked in such places as Berlin, Paris, Frankfurt, and Monaco, she is loves anything & everything about food & wine. Kyle is very excited to be able to join the rest of the team at Portalis, and to continue her wine education.

Julie Howe
Julie, unlike Jens & Gina, didn’t get into this business because of the wine bug.  She entered through the back door.  She was keen on running a small business and her husband’s inspiration seemed the ticket.  So, she set about doing everything that people don’t see (marketing, accounting, etc.); the things that make a successful business look effortless (but aren’t).  All running of the business aside, Julie is a partaker and a lover of wine in her own right.  She’s not Jens or Gina by any means, but hanging out with them can get anybody fired up and through some hardcore osmosis, a lot of wine drinking, and just flat out sitting down with the book and learning (is there another way?), she can now hold her own out on the floor … and even enjoys doing it.  Her specialties:  value wines & food pairing.

Karli Pickett
Karli got into wine while studying art history at the University of St. Andrews, where (just for the heck of it) she became a member of the St. Andrews Wine & Cheese Society wine tasting team, competing in blind tasting competitions (against the University of Edinburgh, Oxford & Cambridge), with scoring based on her ability to identify grape varietals, country of origin (including sub-districts) & the year the wine was produced.  In addition to serving, she writes up wines & other related topics for the Portalis website & its blogs.

Phil Gilman
Phil is a creative professional and bon vivant with a background in food and drink. His family runs a small farm and artisanal cheese dairy, and he worked in a variety of kitchens and bars around the country before becoming a media professional. He now spends much of his spare time in the pursuit of quality food and drink, and in the sharing of such experiences with others. Perhaps someday he’ll open a restaurant, winery, bakery, cidery, distillery and/or brewery… until then he’ll continue to seek out, cook and share meals and drinks with friends.

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