frugal wine gal - Page 2

Sundance Wine Cellars: What a Selection!


Buying wine is one of my favorite activities. I really mean that. There are so many options out there and I just love the excitement of bringing it home and pouring that first glass. One of the best spots in town to pick up a bottle of local Oregon wine, or any bottle for that matter, is Sundance Wine Cellars. I remember the first time I stepped in to their cute location on 24th and Hilyard and quickly realized, these people love wine more than I do!

This is just their Oregon Pinot Noir selection!

They are open 7 days a week and offer complimentary wine tasting each Friday and Saturday from 5 – 7 pm. What I love most about coming here is the ever rotating wines that they offer. I know when I stop by I’m going to see an exciting new release, or a winery I haven’t had the chance to try yet. If you consider yourself a wine lover I highly recommend stopping by this shop and picking out a delicious bottle for yourself. Cheers!

Just a corner full of delicious, local Oregon wines


Pinot Gris Pairing with Rosa Mariotti!


Pinot Gris is one those classic Oregon varietals that is so versatile. We are so fortunate to live in an area that grows some pretty incredible Pinot gris grapes. Almost all producers in Oregon make this varietal, and they are a little less finicky to grow than Pinot Noir so they are usually at a great price point as well!

Pinot Gris grapes on the vine. (Photo Credit: Megan Cole)

This week I was introduced to a beautiful Pinot Gris produced by Territorial Vineyards, located right here in Eugene! Their tasting room is right downtown, near the Whitaker, and features some delicious oober-local wines. Their location is an old coffee warehouse converted into a winery. They also grow all of their own grapes at one of their two vineyard sites. One is near Crow, and the other is near Junction City and they grow a total of 26 acres. So you can say these grapes are sourced as local as it gets! Their winemaker is none other than Ray Walsh, who produces wine for a few wineries in town. He does some amazing work with grapes, that’s for sure.


The Territorial Vineyards 2013 Willamette Valley Pinot Gris was bursting with flavor! The nose was very aromatic, and had notes of honeysuckle and apricot. My initial reaction was that this wine was going to be on the sweeter side, but it leaned more on the dry side. Flavors of lemon peel and crisp green apple popped on each sip. It was medium bodied, with just a hint of tartness that was dying to be paired with something delicious. I know the perfect person to tackle the job!

(Photo Credit: Gerry)

Rosa and I had the opportunity to taste this Pinot gris together, and knew it had to be paired with one of her fantastic italian dishes. Lucky for us, Pinot gris is very versatile for pairing. Like I stated above though, this wine was dying to be paired specifically with seafood. The perfect pairing with this dish is Rosa’s homemade squid ink fettuccine with a wine (try it with the Territorial Pinot Gris!), black garlic, and cherry tomato sauce. Top it off with butter seared scallops and you have a match made it heaven. Thinking about enjoying the Pinot gris with the homemade fettuccine and seared scallops is making my mouth water. I know what I’m eat for dinner tonight. Cheers!

Rosa’s Squid Ink Fettuccine with a wine, black garlic, and tomato sauce. Topped with butter seared scallops and black sesame seeds – YUM!

Check this out! Growing Up Italian: Black Is The New … Pasta

Frugal Wine Gal: Ken Wright Cellars


As a frugal wine buyer I hardly ever feel limited in my options of wines to buy. In fact, every time I go to pick out a bottle, I usually end up with too many! However, one wine I’ve been dying to try is a Pinot Noir produced by Ken Wright Cellars. His wines are above my budget enough that I’ve been saving it for a special occasion. That is, until now.

Ken Wright Cellars is well known for producing high quality pinot noir, right in the heart of the Willamette Valley. Ken Wright himself is a staple in the community in Carlton, Oregon and has had his beautiful tasting room located there since 1994. He was a major proponent for the creation of the northern Willamette Valley AVAs (American Viticulture Area), and even wrote the proposition for the Yamhill-Carlton AVA to be made. His emphasis on terroir creates wines that emphasize the flavors and characteristics of the many vineyards he works with.

The old Carlton depot. It is now is Ken Wright Cellars tasting room. (Photo Credit:Keith Ewing)


This producer places high emphasis on the health of the soil and vines he works with. Healthy soils and vines are known to produce higher quality wines overall. The soils in the Yamhill-Carlton AVA are perfect for creating amazing Pinot Noir. Generally Pinots from this area are richer, darker in hue, and have less acidity than other regions. Although, it is to be said that each vineyard (even each block in a vineyard!) will have their own characteristics. Yamhill-Carlton is an excellent destination for those looking for some phenomenal, well balanced Pinot Noir.

I had been dying to try a Ken Wright Pinot Noir for ages. Each time I would walk by one of their beautiful bottles at my local market I would eye it and scheme of the time I could pick myself up a bottle. That was until my recent trip to Sundance Wine Cellars. I was picking up a bottle or two for Valentines day and spotted a Ken Wright Cellars Pinot Noir a little above my usual $20 price range. My heart leapt, and of course I had to get it! This particular Pinot was the 2013 Willamette Valley Pinot Noir, a blend of Pinot grapes from 5 different vineyards. An Oregon Pinot at this price range, and from an amazing producer – I got quite a deal.


This bottle from start to finish was perfect. It had a rich, luscious color of deep red. The nose had scents of cocoa, and blueberries. It had a slight acidity on the end but had the perfect velvety smooth mouthfeel. Flavors of dark berries like blackberries and currants popped out at me, and notes of vanilla and oak lingered. Each sip of this wine was impeccable. I even managed to save some for the next day, and it tasted even better!

My advice to you is, don’t walk but run to get this wine. I was so sad when I poured that last glass out of the bottle that I wanted to get up right then and pick up another! You can find this wine for $25 – $28, and it may be a pinch above our budget but it is totally worth it. Cheers!




What is Wine?


So very often we pop open our favorite bottle, pour it into a glass, and drink it up without a thought of what we are really consuming. What is really in that glass of wine we are drinking? Not until I actually witnessed a real harvest was I fully aware of the process, and that was what really sparked my interest in making my own wine someday. The actual science behind wine is fairly simple, and I feel the more a wine drinker knows about its processes the more one can appreciate the beauty that is wine in the glass.


(Photo Credit: Alex Ranaldi)

Obviously, wine is made with grapes. However, not the table grapes we are used to eating. Wine is made with wine grapes, which are much sweeter. They are picked at the perfect amount of sweetness. Actually, once the grapes have reached the perfect balance of acidity and sweetness then they are ready for harvest. Another simple indicator is, are the birds eating them? That means they are close to perfect.

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Freshly harvested grapes ready for processing
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Oregon Pinot Noir being de-stemmed at J.Scott Cellars

Once these grapes are ready and picked they are brought to a winemaking facility and processed in a few different ways. If a red wine is being processed the juice (known as the “must”) is left in contact with the skins, seeds, and sometimes stems to create a rich color profile. If it is a white wine the aim is little skin contact, as to not extract any color. The musts of grapes is then fermented with yeast (most commonly Saccharomyces cerevisiae, although there are more species that will also work), and then the yeast microbes convert the sugar into alcohol. The more sugar present in the must the higher alcohol content the wine can have. Wine is simply the product of fermentation.

In addition to being fermented it is aged, sometimes filtered, and “fined” for clarity. Wines can be aged in a few different vessels, but mostly they are aged in either oak or steel barrels. These are of course the general processes behind winemaking, but each winemaker will choose to make wine the way they like. There are many variations to each step, and that is why wines are all so different.


(Photo Credit: Christian Haugen)

Learning behind the processes of wine really helped me see the beauty and artistry in each glass. No two wines are ever the same, which is why I’m an equal opportunity wine taster. The next time you pour a luscious red or a crisp white wine, keep in mind the amount of love and care that went into just that one bottle. It’ll really change the experience. Cheers!

What’s In My Glass? Eola Hills Merlot


Merlot is a fantastic, big bodied wine that is not often found here in Oregon. Recently, I was fortunate enough to find one that is not only from our home state but a delectable treat. The Eola Hills 2011 Merlot was a knock out!


It was produced just west of Salem in Rickreall, Oregon and the grapes were picked in both the Colombia and Applegate Valleys. Since the grapes were grown in warmer areas this wine has all of the big bodied fruit flavors you’d expect, but also had a nice complexity. The nose was full of wood notes and a strong cup of coffee. The first sip reminded me of chocolate covered blueberries, and had jammy fruit flavors. It had a hint of licorice spice and erred more on the dry side. What a treat! Check out the Eola HIlls 2011 Merlot for yourself, at less than $20 a bottle this wine is a steal. Cheers!

To Age or Not to Age


I recently mentioned the basics of cellaring here, but sometimes I’ve been faced with the question: Does this wine need to age at all? Most wines are ready to go when bottled and may only benefit from a short amount of aging. How do you decide whether or not to age? A lot of it comes down to a couple of basic rules. First, is it a frugal find under $20? It more than likely doesn’t need to be aged. Many times these will be aged in oak barrels for an adequate amount of time before it is even bottled so aging will not benefit the final product.


(Photo Credit: Ren Kuo)

Next up, is it a red or white wine? White wines have a much lower tannin content because of their lack of content with the skins, seeds, and stems during processing. The exception to this rule is when a white wine is aged in oak barrels, where it will pick up some tannins and help round out the final product. Many Chardonnays will age for 1 – 2 years. Red wines benefit from aging much more. Big red varietals can be aged anywhere from 5 – 10 years easily, just keep an eye out for corked wines when opening. Our beautiful Oregon Pinots can benefit from 3 – 5 years of aging. If you happen to pick up a Beaujolais or Dolcetto though, those are ready almost right away.

Aging and cellaring wines can be very simple. Remember that most wines are ready right away, but some aging on big reds can help round out the harsh tannins and create a more full experience. When in doubt though, just pop that bottle open and give it a try. Cheers!

What’s in My Glass? Blue Moon Riesling


I’m going to be honest. Most wines I find are above $10, and more in the $15 – $18 dollar range. I have tried a few that were under $10 but rarely do I feel they are worth the mention. Recently though, I found a gem that was not only under the $10 mark – but delicious!


I spotted the Blue Moon Riesling at my local supermarket for only $7! I thought to myself, why not? Riesling is a really interesting varietal to me. Many of them are sweet, and sometimes I find myself craving one to pair with my spicy dishes or to drink on its own on a nice summer day. This particular occasion I was just watching a movie at home and poured myself a nice glass. The Blue Moon Riesling was slightly sweet, with flavors of honey-suckle, apricot, and fresh fall fruits. It was extremely well rounded and an all-in-all a fantastic find. For an average of about $8, this wine is a killer deal. Produced by Bridgeview wines in Cave Junction, you can buy this knowing you are supporting a local winery as well. Cheers to great local finds!

What’s in My Glass? Hinman Vineyards Rogue Red


Although I taste wines from all over Oregon and Washington, sometimes I find wines that were made within a few miles of my own home. This particular occasion I found a bottle of the 2009 Hinman Vineyards Rogue Valley Red Wine. I’ve had the 2008 version in the past and absolutely loved it, so when I found the 2009 I had to try it.


This was a blend of mostly Syrah, but with a bit of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc. All grown in the Rogue Valley in Southern Oregon, this was a big wine with booming flavors. It was plump with berry flavors like blackberries and cherries and had a little tannic kick on the end. I picked this up for less than $15 at my nearby grocery store. This is about as local as it gets. For any red wine lovers out there this really is a must try. Cheers!

Wine Pairing with Rosa Mariotti!


This term I had the opportunity to take Lane Community College’s “Oregon Wine Country” class with Rosa Mariotti, Eugene Daily News’ own talented Italian chef. Her recipes are authentic Italian cuisine that are meant to be enjoyed with family and friends alike. Recently, we had a chance to try a wine that was not only fantastic, but was dying to be paired with some delicious Italian cuisine. The local wine we loved was the Remy Wines 2012 “Ciel Du Cheval” Sangiovese, an italian varietal that was grown in Washington but made right here in Oregon. Rosa came up with the perfect pairing for this wine, the italian classic “Timballo Di spaghetti”. It is absolutely drool-worthy!

image Remy Wines 2012 Sangiovese. Behind it is another delicious varietal, the 2009 Barbera.

Remy Wines is one of my favorite wine producers in Oregon. Remy Drabkin, the winemaker and brains behind the operation, has spent time making wine in Burgundy and then found a passion for Italian style wines. She produces almost exclusively Italian varietals like Barbera, Nebbiolo, and of course, Sangiovese. In a place full of delicious and delicate Pinot Noirs, Remy Wines really stands out. She puts her passion into making some of the best big red varietal wines I’ve ever had, and I’m so glad I get to share them.


The 2012 “Ciel Du Cheval” Sangiovese was such a great find. From the first sip to the smooth finish, I enjoyed every step of the way. It had flavors of big berries like ripe blue and blackberries. It’s aging in oak added notes of vanilla and toasted nuts as well. It was big bodied but had a luscious and velvety mouth feel. The tannins were rounded out just right, creating an all around fantastic experience.

DSCF2658 Timballo Di Spaghetti and Sangiovese: A match made in heaven.

This wine really called for a dish that was rich and filled with meat and red sauce to balance out the tannins and big flavors. Timballo di Spaghetti is the perfect fit. A spaghetti pie filled with homemade red sauce and delicious lamb is an excellent pairing for this big bodied red wine. For a delicious, authentic italian recipe for this dish check out the recipe here. Wine and food were made to enjoyed together, and this pairing is the perfect way to experience it yourself. Cheers!

Frugal Wine Gal: Sineann Red Table Wine


I love the excitement of buying a new red blend. You never know what the winemaker had in mind for the blend, or what grapes he used. It is kind of like a grab bag! When I saw Sineann’s 2013 Red Table Wine, it was a no brainer for me. I have tried a few of their Pinots in the past really enjoyed them, and the fact that they also produce some big varietals as well intrigued me.

(Photo Credit: Angelo Amboldi)

Sineann is a winery located in St. Paul, Oregon. They produce quite the wide variety of wines. Everything from traditional Pinot Noirs to big bodied Cabernet Sauvignon. Winemaker Peter Rosback made his first vintage of Pinot back in the 1980’s and started Sineann in 1994. They source the grapes for their wines from all over the state (hence the wide variety of wines being produced) but try to focus on using single vineyards as much as possible. I myself have tried one their single vineyard wines, the 2012 Merlot from Champoux Vineyard in Prosser, Washington, and it was phenomenal. Wineries that take that the time to do single vineyard wines are ones that I really look up to. It reflects their desire to create wines that truly represent the terroir of the vineyard the grapes are sourced from.

The most interesting part of this red blend is that it is made from all of the red grapes Sineann produces. The 2013 was made with mostly Pinot Noir but also had Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc. This wine was, for lack of a better term, so good. From the first sniff of the aromas to the finish. Red blends like this are exactly what created my love for red blends.


The nose smelled of licorice and very earthy (probably notes from the Pinot in the mix). The color was gorgeous, like blackberries fully ripened in the summer. Flavors of black currant, spicy pepper, and a hint of cocoa filled my palate on the first sip, and it only got better as I let it rest. This wine was so good I almost forgot it was under $20! As usual, it depends on where you pick it up but I found this bottle for $15.49 at my local supermarket.

Sineann produces some very complex and phenomenal examples of what kinds of wines can be made here. Don’t hesitate to pick this bottle up, it was worth every penny and then some. Cheers!


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