sarah tunnell

What’s In My Glass? Ste. Chapelle Chardonnay

Chardonnay grapes on the vine

This summer weather sure is sticking around! It’s an excellent excuse to pop open a bottle of cold Chardonnay if you ask me. Precept wines recently sent me a delicious box of wines to taste, and the first one I picked was this delectable Chardonnay from Ste. Chapelle Winery. I was especially excited when I found out it comes from Idaho! I was able to do a little tasting there this summer and was blown away with what I tried. Finding a new wine region is always so fun, especially one that is growing like crazy, like Idaho!

Chardonnay is absolutely one of my favorite varietals. I like the cold and crisp versions aged in stainless steel, and ones that have seen some oak contact and have a hint of butter. The Ste. Chapelle Chardonnay definitely had a bit of oak contact, but I loved it! There of course were flavors of toast, but I also got notes of pineapple and bright citrus. Oak contact done right can create a wine that is smooth and has very nice balance. This wine was a great example of this! I loved the smooth, balanced mouthfeel and how fruit forward this wine was. This is the perfect summer wine.

Idaho is a region that I am definitely going to keep my eye on. There are some good things coming out of this area. Cheers to new wine regions, and delicious affordable wines.

What’s in My Glass? Bridgeview Pinot Noir


I truly love being an Oregonian. We have gorgeous summers, lush green back drops, and grow fantastic Pinot Noir grapes. There are many varietals that grow well here of course, but our Pinots are show stoppers. They can be a bit on the pricy side (especially compared to our other great grape, Pinot Gris), but there are some gems out there that are under the $20 mark. I recently spotted the 2010 Bridgeview Pinot Noir at my local market and picked up a bottle. This wine was absolutely fantastic and a total steal!

WINEThe summer is the perfect season for Pinot Noir. It is especially good if you chill the Pinot before you pour it. I served this wine on the colder side and thoroughly enjoyed it. Ideally Pinot should be served at 50 – 55 degrees, but a little colder isn’t going to hurt it. The 2010 Bridgeview Pinot Noir had flavors of raspberry, cherry, and blackberry. There were some tannins present, but they balanced this wine out perfectly. The subtle hints of smoke and spice brought this wine to the next level.

Overall, this wine was lighter bodied and yet very bold. It was a bit on the “masculine” side, with the smokiness and bright tannins. I loved every single sip. I picked this bottle up for $12 at my local market and plan on picking up some more. This wine would be great for any occasion. Cheers to local, delicious wines!


Wine Tasting Adventure! Sweet Cheeks


There are few things I get greater joy from than wine tasting. It isn’t just that the wine is delicious (which, of course it is!) but that the product was created by someone who put his/her heart and soul out there. Winemaking isn’t an easy business. I often compared it to being a chef – you really have to love it! It is challenging, expensive, exhausting, and most of all, rewarding. When I am able to try wines that were created right outside Eugene I totally swoon. These grapes were grown (usually!) in my home state, and made just a few miles from my house. You can’t get more local than that!

Love this view!

Sweet Cheeks is a winery I’ve been going to for many years. I love the view, the wines, and the staff is always so friendly. This past week I realized it had been WAY too long since I’d stopped by, so I made the short trek out to the winery. My goodness it is beautiful! The views of rolling hills and vineyards is entrancing. I of course was able to try some really fantastic wine as well, and they have many in the under $20 range!

The first one I knew I had to mention was their 2014 Dry Rosé. It is no secret that I love, love, love Rosé wines, but I especially loved this one. There was a nice crispness to this wine with hints of strawberries and red delicious apples. It had an almost effervescent mouthfeel to it. If you are unsure of whether or not you love a rosé wine, you should drink this one. It was everything I love about this style of wine and more.

On the sweeter side, I tried the 2014 Rosy Cheeks. This one is very well known in the area, and is almost exclusively sold at the winery. Aged in all stainless vessels, this wine is a bit on the sweet side. However, it had nice balance and with flavors like peaches, honey, and a hint of strawberries and cream. It was thoroughly delicious from start to finish. Pair this wine with the lovely view from the vineyard and you truly have the perfect day.

Some of the line up – Makes me thirsty just looking at it!

Oregon is known for its fantastic Pinot Gris, Riesling, and Pinot Noir grapes. The line up at Sweet Cheeks was a great example of this being totally true. I loved the 2014 Pinot Gris, filled with ripe green apple and crisp citrus flavors. The 2014 Dry Riesling (being a traditionally “sweet” grape, this can be a bit tougher to find!) had flavors of honeysuckle and pear, with hints of key lime lingering on the tongue. And lastly, the 2013 Pinot Fusion (also not over $20) was one that I knew I had to share. I’ve had this wine before, but it had been a while and the age had only added to this wines deliciousness. Dark cherries, blackberries, and currants filled my palette. There was even a hint of smokiness present that I absolutely loved. This medium bodied red wine was a great value, made locally, and fantastic. What a win!

Sweet Cheeks Winery has some wonderful wines in its line up. Only a short drive from Eugene, this spot is worth checking out for the beautiful view and the fantastic selections. For a Frugal Wine Gal like me, Sweet Cheeks has many options as well. Cheers to local AND affordable wines!

the view
I’ve gotta soak in that view just one more time…

What’s In My Glass? A to Z Chardonnay


There is just something about a good Chardonnay. This varietal is not only one of the most popular in the world, it is also grows pretty much everywhere. There are Chardonnays that winecome out of California and can be done in an oak-y and buttery style, and those grapes thrive in the heat. However, the Chardonnays of Oregon are a bit different. For the most part they are dry, crisp, and fresh – with no hint of the butter that some people are accustomed to. While I do like both versions, I absolutely LOVE Oregon Chardonnays. It is especially exciting if
I find them in my under $20 range, like the 2013 A to Z Chardonnay. This is one that is not only a fantastic find, but in the perfect price point.

The 2013 A to Z Chardonnay produced in Dundee was the perfect warm weather wine. From the moment the wine hit my glass I got flavors of ripe lemons and white fruits like green apples and peaches. This wine was fairly dry, and was dying to be paired with anything fresh off the grill. The best part of this wine is that it’s a great value and can be found pretty much anywhere that sells Oregon wine. If you are a Chardonnay lover that is looking for a fantastic bottle under $20 – while keeping it local – look no further. You’ll love this wine!

Underwood Wine: In The Can!


The more I dive into the world of wine, the more I realize not only how cool it is (obviously!) but just how complicated. There are so many choices to be made with each wine. For the winemaker, it starts in the vineyard and extends all the way into how you want to enclose your wine. Union Wine Co. based in Tualatin, Oregon has done something quite daring with their wines, put them in a can! Their Underwood brand (that I talk about here!), is the label chosen for this. I really enjoyed the Pinot Noir in the bottle, and this past week I finally found the canned version of both the Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris. I snapped them up of course.

wine in a canBefore I talk about this delicious wine, I have to say that it was a very different experience taking my first sip of wine out of a can. As a fan of beverages in a can though (cold beer out of a can is heavenly!), I was very impressed. The Pinot Gris especially was an excellent fit for the can. Each sip of the Gris was crisp and refreshing with flavors of ripe grapefruit and apples. The Pinot Noir was equally delicious. This wine had a bit more body of course, with flavors of cherry and dark berries. There was a hint of smokiness that I loved as well. I remember when I initially tried this Pinot I loved how flavorful it was, yet light bodied. This wine is perfect for any occasion, and would pair great with a wide variety of foods.

I can totally see the benefits of putting wine in a can now that I’ve tried it. You don’t have to worry about breaking any glass, it’s easy to open, and it truly tasted the same as in the bottle. One benefit of bottles and corks is the aging potential for a wine, and with this kind of enclosure you lose some of that. With that being said, these wines are ready to drink now! These are meant to be delicious, fresh, and food friendly wines that are ready to sip on. The cans are the perfect choice really! Each can holds half a bottle, which is a nice amount too. I picked these up (finally!!) at my local grocery store for about $6. You can order from their website as well in 6 packs, which is pretty cool.

I highly recommend this wine as a daily drinker. Both varietals were balanced, and very enjoyable. I know I can’t wait to stock up!

The Frugal Wine Gal: Ponzi Riesling


Oregon is a state known for fantastic wines. Specifically Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris – both of which absolutely flourish here. However, I do a lot of wine tasting (such a rough job!) and exploration of varietals grown here and have grown very fond of the Riesling grape. Wineries from all over Oregon grow this grape and I am so glad. I’ve had ones that are extremely dry, and also ones that are thick and sweet. Each example, while different, is totally enjoyable depending on context. The 2014 Riesling from Ponzi Vineyards was one that I was able to try at their tasting room right off highway 99 in Dundee, and I instantly fell in love with it. Once I found out it was under $20, I knew it was the perfect choice for those who love local AND frugal finds.

Photo Credit: Ponzi Vineyards

Whenever I talk about Ponzi Vineyards I always feel as though it is hard to give it the credit it truly deserves. For someone like me, who has a passion for wine and the process involved, Ponzi has laid the ground work for my career. All the way back in 1970, after lots of research about what grapes to plant and where, Dick and Nancy Ponzi planted their first grapes. They of course planted the Pinot Noir we adore and love. We know now that this grape is perfectly suited for this climate. It may be a lot of work but it is absolute heaven in the glass. By taking a chance on an area that wasn’t exactly known for growing these grapes, the Ponzis truly helped shape the landscape of the Oregon wine industry we know today. They were also one of the first wineries in Oregon to plant Pinot Gris back in 1979, how cool is that?

The Riesling grape itself is super interesting to me. From a winemaker’s perspective it can be made in many different styles. There are the very dry versions, the off-dry, and the sweet. It can even go into very sweet territory if you allow the fermentation to end early enough. Each of these types are fantastic in their own way. For me it really depends on the occasion. I love having a glass of dessert wine for a post dinner treat. There is something truly decadent about it. The drier versions are also thoroughly enjoyable though and pair great with many types of cuisine. All in all, you could say that the Riesling grape is versatile and just plain delicious.

The 2014 Ponzi Riesling – in the glass. So beautiful!

Winemaker Luisa Ponzi (Yes, this winery is family owned – I love it!) has truly outdone herself with this wine. Like I said above, all types of Riesling styles are great in their own way but this one stood out to me. It was light, refreshing, and very fruit forward. On the nose I got scents of honeysuckle and very ripe red apples. I thought it was going to be very sweet from the nose, but I found it leaned more toward the dry side. The first sip I got notes of apricot and bright tropical fruits like pineapple and mango. The finish was perfectly dry, and my first thought was, “What a perfect balance of acidity”. This wine was just fresh from start to finish.

All I have to say is, buy this wine. It is made right here in Oregon, and it is the perfect choice for literally any occasion. Cheers to delicious, and totally local wines!







The Frugal Wine Gal: Cinder Winery


I cannot believe how quickly the summer is going already! All of these warm temperatures have been making me crave very cold, crisp, and fresh white wines (enjoyed on the patio of course!). Just recently I was able to take a long road trip with my husband, and we explored some very interesting wine regions. Our journey brought us to Boise, Idaho where we had our first taste of the wines coming from this gorgeous state! We were there on a day that not too many wineries were open, but luckily the Cinder Wineries tasting room is open 7 days a week. That is where I discovered my latest find, the 2013 Laissez Faire White Table Wine. Laissez Faire is a second label for Cinder, and this blend really impressed from the very first sip!

I didn’t know a lot about the Idaho winery scene until we stayed in Boise, but I am so glad that I took the time to check it out. While the area is still up and coming, they already have 51 wineries as of 2013. The Snake River Valley AVA (American Viticulture Area) is where Cinder gets most of their grapes. All of the grapes in the Laissez Faire white blend come from this region. There are some really warm temperatures in this state, so I was able to taste wines like Tempranillo and Syrah. There are about 1500 acres of grapes planted in the whole state, so many wineries also source from Eastern Washington (where the climate is similar). All in all, I look forward to trying more wines from this region. I loved everything I tried at both Cinder, and Telaya Winery, both of which share the same tasting room.


Cinder winery is a business with quite a history. Melanie Krause is the owner and winemaker, and started the brand in 2006. Before that she worked at Chateau Ste. Michelle on their Canoe Ridge brand as the assistant winemaker. After returning to Idaho, she decided to start up her own label. The actual location of their winery facility and tasting room is in Garden City, Idaho, very close to Boise. They shared the space for many years but finally have the whole place to dedicate to a wine facility. They also feature guest wineries like Telaya and Coiled. If you stop by on the weekend you can taste three wineries in one place!

The inside of the Cinder Winery – so spacious and beautiful

The Laissez Faire White Table Wine was so good that I toted the bottle with me on the 1.5 mile walk to our hotel in 90 degree weather. I knew I just had to share it with the world, and the journey was totally worth it. The color of this wine was like light straw, and on the nose I got scents of crisp citrus like grapefruit. There was a freshness to this wine that was present throughout. Flavors of peaches, ripe apples, and notes of green flavors really stood out on winethis. By green flavors I mean it was almost vegetal, but in a great way. This wine was just so fresh and enjoyable. The finish is long and lingering, yet not too dry. Versatile is a great way to describe this wine. It would be great with almost any food pairing (seafood would be a great choice though!), and it would drink fantastic all by itself.

The Idaho wine scene really blew me away. I look forward to finding more wines from this region and experiencing all that this state has to offer. For only $16 this wine was just perfect, and really represented how delicious Idaho wines can be. Try this! You will love it. Cheers!





(Special thanks to Alan for the feature photo.What a gorgeous view of the Snake River Valley!)

Wine Tasting Adventure: Archery Summit


On a slightly drizzly Tuesday, I was cruising around McMinnville and decided to do some wine tasting. Arguably one of my favorite activities, wine tasting is an excellent way to try new varietals and find out what new releases wineries have. Trying to taste on a weekday can be a bit of a challenge, due to some wineries only being open on weekends. However, I was able to find a few places that are open every day. One of those stops was Archery Summit. This is a winery known for its focus on estate Pinot Noir, and producing some incredible wines. Many of their wines are above my frugal price point (and worth every penny – their Pinots really blew me away!) – but they did have two that really stood out and came just a little above that $20 range. The 2013 Vireton Pinot Gris and 2014 Vireton Pinot Noir Rose were fantastic and at a great price point.

Archery Summit
Pinot Gris – chilled and ready to sip

The 2013 Pinot Gris was a prime example of why so many people grow Pinot Gris in Oregon. From start to finish this wine was delicious! In the true spirit of Pinot Gris, it was bursting with fall fruit flavors – like pears and crisp apples. But this wine also had tropical notes of pineapple, and hints of peaches. Citrus flavors were throughout as well. I would describe this wine as very lively, and it had a bright acidity to it. Pinot Gris is a very versatile wine that can be enjoyed with many things, but this one drank just perfectly on its own!

I loved the raspberry like color of this rosé

I am always a sucker for a good rosé, so when I was offered the 2014 Pinot Noir rosé – I of course had to try it. My goodness, this rosé was well done. There wasn’t a lot of oak flavor present, due to being aged in neutral oak. It was slightly crisp, with flavors of cherry, red apples, and strawberry throughout. The color was absolutely gorgeous! Sometimes there is only a little bit of skin contact when wineries make a rosé. I love it when I winery allows a little more color to seep into the must. The dark pink (almost magenta!) was perfect.

Both of these wines sell for just $24. The quality present in these wines was incredible, and I cannot wait to stock up for the summer season. Sometimes it is worth the splurge to get a wine that is made with love, from start to finish.

As a quick side note – the tasting room at Archery Summit is located on top of a very steep hill that over looks the Willamette Valley. It is absolutely breathtaking! Stop by and see the views for yourself, they really are awe inspiring. Cheers!

The gorgeous view at Archery Summit



Tasting Adventures at Remy Wines


This past weekend, I caught the traveling bug and decided to head up north to do some wine tasting. I have quite a few places I like to stop, but I always make a point to taste at Remy Wines. This is a small production winery that specializes in italian varietals. Yes, you heard it right. Remy Drabkin, the winemaker, has a passion for italian grapes in the heart of McMinnville. She of course sources her grapes from warmer regions, but there is something about the wines she makes. There is a sense of warmth and love with each sip.


Remy makes many different varietals (mostly reds) but they sell out so fast that sometimes it is hard to get them in time! This particular occasion there were a couple that really jumped out at me. Remy has a second label that is meant to be an “every day” type of label, known as Three Wives. This second label has some incredible options at very nice prices. As a person who drinks a lot of wines in and around the $20 range, I can say that Three Wives is one of my favorite labels. I started by sipping on her “Remy’s Red” many years ago, and have tried almost every release since!

There is only one white that is currently available at Remy, the Fischerman’s Pinot Gris. It was incredible and it is sold at only $17 a bottle. Flavors of honey crisp apples and hints of lemon peel popped. It had incredibly smooth balance though, with just the right amount of acidity. There was even a hint of oak contact that created almost a buttery mouth feel. This wine is an example of Oregon Pinot Gris at it’s finest.

I love that color!


I’ve always been a fan of Remy’s red blends. The Remallaia is a blend that was recently released and is made of 50% Sangiovese and 50% Cabernet Sauvignon. This wine was so delicious! It was medium bodied with flavors of ripe blackberries and vanilla. On the end I was left with hints of smoke and cracked pepper. The whole taste from beginning to end had a nice toast to it. In traditional old world style, this wine had a good amount of oak contact. This method of winemaking creates smooth tannins, and complex flavors throughout. For an aspiring winemaker, this wine was an inspiration!

There are so many tasting rooms in McMinnville that it can be overwhelming. The Remy Wines tasting room is more than worth the visit. The ambiance is beautiful and wines are delicious – what more do you need? They are open every Thursday to Sunday from 12 to 6ish. Cheers!

I loved this little seat – all I needed was a glass of vino!



What’s In My Glass? Vista Hills Pinot Gris


Finding a new winery is always so exciting. On a sunny weekday, I was exploring some of the wineries in between Dundee and McMinnville, and stumbled upon the Vista Hills Vineyards and Winery. The first thing I noticed was just how gorgeous the view was! We were basically in a tree house, right among all the trees, with rolling vineyards below. It was safe to say I was impressed before I even took a step into the tasting room.

The View

Vista Hills Vineyard was started in 1997, and released their first vintage in 2001. I felt so fortunate to be doing some tasting at their lovely location. I truly loved everything I tried. One that really stood out though was the 2014 Treehouse Pinot Gris. Of course this grape is perfectly suited for our colder climate here in Oregon, but Vista Hills did a fabulous job with this wine. It was very dry (only .5% residual sugar) but was super fresh. Ripe citrus and pears filled my senses with every sip. This wine was dying to paired with fresh seared seafood, or a light pasta.

Vista HIlls

Worth notable mention were both the 2011 and 2012 Treehouse Pinot Noir, as well. While obviously two different years, I enjoyed each equally. The 2011 was a bit more on the masculine side, with notes of tobacco, smoke, and cherry. The 2012 was a much bigger wine full of flavors of spice and black fruits. I really couldn’t pick a favorite between the two!

Vista Hills Vineyard and Winery have some truly phenomenal selections. The next time you are exploring the Willamette Valley, I highly recommend heading to the Treehouse and sipping on some fantastic estate grown Pinot Gris while soaking in that view. Cheers!

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