sarah tunnell - Page 2

Wine Tasting Adventure: Montinore Estate

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One might say that I have a slight obsession with wine tasting. I go as often as I can! Just recently I discovered the 2014 Montinore Estate Pinot Gris, and I made it one of my goals to check out what other varietals they have to offer. On a slightly overcast Tuesday I made my way up North to check out their tasting room in Forest Grove. Not only was this tasting room very easy to find (just of highway 47!), it was absolutely gorgeous. It was more than worth the drive just to see the rolling vineyards and stunning views.

I love it when I find a winery that makes some phenomenal wines, and also keeps them in my frugal price point. All of the varietals I tried at Montinore Estate were really good, and they had a quite a few right around the $20 range. They also practice biodynamics and organics in their vineyard, which I find fascinating. While they make many varietals, they really had something for everyone.

It might’ve been rainy, but it was truly a beautiful view!

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The Borealis is a white blend made with 39% Gewurtztraminer, 37% Muller-Thurgau, 19% Riesling, and 5% Pinot Gris. It was a little on the sweet side, but had really nice balance. I got notes of nectarine and honey suckle throughout. This one is a great bargain at only $16. I can really see myself sipping this on a beautiful sunny day while grilling and soaking up some rays.

Borealis

Another stand out was the 2014 Pinot Noir Rosé. It is no secret I love a good rosé, so I was excited to try this one. It was a bit on the dry side but had delicious flavors of grapefruit and red cherry. The color of this wine reminded me of ripe strawberries. The acid balance was perfect on this wine so it was fruit forward, but also refreshing. Another frugal find, this wine retails for $20. A fantastic deal!

Montinore

When I find an Oregon Pinot Noir around $20 that’s as delicious as the 2013 Willamette Valley Pinot from Montinore Estate, I have to share it. This Pinot was light bodied with quiet tannins, and nice touches of oak. There were flavors of black cherry and it was very earthy. There was a hint of spice on the end as well. I loved every sip of this wine! This is an exceptional find that is a great value for how delicious it is.

Pinot Noir
I loved this Pinot Noir chocolate sauce! It was an excellent pairing with their Port

Oregon wines are so diverse. Montinore Estate produces a dynamic array of wines, and does it all with organically grown grapes! Check out their beautiful tasting room, or at least pick up a bottle of one of their fantastic wines to sip on. They truly have a wine for every occasion. Cheers!

(Special Thanks to Jim Fischer for the gorgeous cover photo!)

The Frugal Wine Gal: Gilbert Cellars Rosé

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It is no secret I love a good rosé. With all of this hot weather we’ve been having my craving for them has definitely spiked! There is something about the crispness and fruit forward characteristics of a nice rosé. You can find these characteristics in many white wines throughout Oregon, but I just love the gorgeous pink hue of a good rosé. While on the hunt for a good wine to share with everyone, I stumbled upon the 2014 Gilbert Cellars Rosé. I drink many wines from both Oregon and Washington, but when I saw that this wine had a blend of Mourvedre and Grenache I knew I had to try it! I am so glad I took the risk. What a delicious find!

wine and wood

Gilbert Cellars has quite a history. Located in Yakima, Washington, this winery was started about 10 years ago. Before that though, the Gilbert family had been farmers in this area since around the time of World War I. Megan Gilbert and Laura Rankin were the founders of this winery back in 2004, and both were descendants of Curtiss Gilbert (who Mt. Curtiss Gilbert in Washington is named after!). I love a winery with a long history! Curtiss was an avid hiker, and was friends with the Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas who was his favorite hiking partner. When Curtiss passed away in 1947, William O. Douglas named the highest point in the Goat Rocks Wilderness in his honor.

roséWhat really drew me to this wine was the blend of 58% Mourvedre and 42% Grenache. I drink many rosé wines and this blend is one I hadn’t tried before. Grenache is one of my very favorite grapes, and while it does grow here in Oregon, it isn’t super common. Slightly bigger bodied than Pinot Noir, Grenache carries flavors of strawberries and raspberries and is often used in blended wines. It is actually one of the most popular grapes in the world, and once you try it you can see why! This blend is more Mourvedre than Grenache though, which definitely makes it stand out.

Mourvedre is a thick skinned berry that is grown all over the world. It is often used in blends, and very commonly with Grenache. The high amount of tannins and phenolics present in this grape make it a great pairing with Grenache, which is a little bit softer. Both of these grapes prefer warmer climates. That is exactly why you don’t see too many Grenache and Mourvedre rosé wines here in Oregon. I will say that they do exist though, and I have tried Grenache in the form of rosé and as well as a red wine. At least in the North, our climate is better suited for colder varietals like Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, Gamay Noir, and a few others.

Dessert
This White Chocolate Raspberry dessert from Red Hills Market was the perfect pairing with the 2014 Rosé

My favorite part of a good rosé wine is the color. The gorgeous salmon color of this wine was just perfect. On the nose I smelled fresh strawberries. It didn’t smell like it was going to be too sweet, and my prediction was correct. This wine was very dry, but had flavors of ripe peaches and a hint of grapefruit. The acid balance was just perfect. I love a crisp wine that has rich fruit flavors. I happened to pick up a White Chocolate Raspberry treat from Red Hills Market, and the creamy sweetness of the dessert paired with the dry rosé was impeccable. If you love a good dry wine, especially rosé, this wine is made for you.They will soon be changing their name to “Gilbert Peak”, so keep your eyes peeled for some of their new releases this year. This bottle was just around $18, and a total steal. Cheers!

What’s In My Glass? Portlandia Pinot Gris

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Portlandia is not just a great show anymore – it’s a winery producing some award winning wines! I picked up a bottle of this very hip looking wine and opened it on a beautiful summery evening. I loved the golden color and crispness throughout. Oregon Pinot Gris is truly delicious and a perfect grape to be grown here.

WINEThe 2013 Portlandia Pinot Gris was such a treat! Very true to Oregon style, I got flavors of crisp green apples and fall pears, with a hint of meyer lemon (not too much citrus – just right!). Produced in Dundee by winemaker Jody Thoet, this wine really stands out in terms of its quality and its mission to produce nicely priced Oregon varietals. I loved that the grapes were sourced from vineyards all over the state (from Willamette and Rogue Valley specifically). Sourcing from many vineyards creates a wine that truly represents our gorgeous state.

I found this at my local grocery store, although you can find it at many places including their website. Enjoy with fresh seafood, grilled chicken, or on it’s own. Cheers!

The Frugal Wine Gal: Eola Hills Cabernet Sauvignon

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zAs a wine lover, I get asked if I have a favorite wine from time to time. I always say that there are certain types I am drawn to but generally speaking I love all wines. Very rarely do I taste a wine with no redeeming qualities. The experience of drinking wine is so much more than just tasting a beverage though. It is about life! Each wine I’ve tasted represents a meal, an experience, or just a time with my friends and family.

When it comes to Oregon wines, I love that we have so many varietals to choose from and areas those varietals can be grown. Living in Eugene we are right in between the amazing Willamette Valley where we have some of the worlds best Pinot Noir, and the phenomenal Southern Oregon wineries. Many times a winery will buy grapes from the North or the South and create a masterpiece at their own facility. Eola Hills has done it again with their 2013 Oregon Cabernet Sauvignon.

Wine in glass
I love the color of the 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon – so rich and beautiful

Eola Hills has an amazing array of varietals to choose from. I recently stopped by their McMinnville tasting room and enjoyed a flight full of cold climate varietals like Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir, but also tasted some Merlot and Zinfandel (with grapes bought from Lodi, California!). Their first vintage was in 1986, and in 1987 they built the Eola Hills Wine Cellar in Rickreall, Oregon. They produce many diverse varietals, and have selections at a wide variety of price points. For us frugal buyers, finding a winery that makes a point to keep their wines at an affordable level is so nice. They have many selections that are under $20 like the 2012 Pinot Noir, the 2008 Classic Syrah, and the 2013 Classic Chardonnay.

The 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon was a really nice find. Cabernet is a hard varietal to find in Oregon. There are many options out there, but at the normal grocery store usually most Cabs come from California and Washington. This is mostly due to the amount of heat that certain areas of these states get. When I spotted the Oregon Cabernet Sauvignon, I got really excited to try one that has grapes that are grown closer to home. Usually big bodied, and full of ripe tannins – I love a good Cab! There is just something so luscious and unique about this varietal.

Grapes
Cabernet Grapes on the vine (Photo Credit)

The first thing I noticed when I poured this wine into my glass was of course the color. I love the deep purple color of a good red wine. Cabernet is pretty heavy on the scale of reds, so a dark color is very common and a sign of things to come. While I’ve had “thicker” Cabs in terms of body, I thought this one was perfect. It leaned toward medium bodied, but was very rich. My senses were bombarded with flavors of cocoa, dark berries, and hints of smoke and leather. I even got notes of coca-cola! The 78% dark chocolate bar I ate while I drank a glass of this wine was the perfect pairing. I loved the way the smooth chocolate brought out the smokiness and berry flavors of this wine. There were of course tannins, but overall the balance on this wine was perfect.

This wine had everything I love in a great wine: it was delicious, from Oregon, and at a fantastic price point. I picked this wine up for about $16 at my local market, but have seen it everywhere. If you happen to be near Rickreall, OR (Just 10 miles from Salem – not far!), I highly recommend checking out the wonderful options at Eola Hills. They also have a tasting room in downtown McMinnville.

Wine
Dark chocolate and Cabernet Sauvignon – a match made in heaven

Summer may be coming, but Cabernet Sauvignon is the perfect choice for most any occasion. This wine goes great with grilled meats (especially a nice thick steak!), and snuggling up on the couch with your favorite movie. Cheers to delicious, local wine!

 

 

What’s In My Glass? Oregon Blossom

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There are few significant wines that I’ve encountered in my wine journey. Boedecker Cellars Grenache was the first one I fell in love with, and Oregon Blossom was a close second. Produced by the amazing Willamette Valley Vineyards, this is a wine that is not only consistently delicious but also perfect for any occasion. It is a bit on the sweeter side of Rosé wines, but I absolutely love this wine. It is decadent, feminine, and very fruit forward. The residual sugar is really balanced by a nice acidity that creates a very smooth but refreshing experience.

On the nose of this wine I got flavors of crisp raspberry and citrus. Once it hit my palette though, it tasted like summer. Ripe strawberries, sweet watermelon, and honey suckle filled my senses. After the first sip I was thinking to myself, when is the next time I can have a barbeque and soak up some sunshine? Anything grilled, or with a hint of spice would be the perfect pairing for this Rosé. Along with great company and some sunshine, of course!

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The good news about this wine is that it is available everywhere! I usually can pick this wine up for around the $10 – $11 dollar range at most retailers that sell Oregon wines. Pick this up for yourself, get it nice and chilled, and pop it open during your next get together. It’ll be a great hit. Cheers!

The Frugal Wine Gal: Brandborg Riesling

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There are many areas in Oregon that are growing Pinot Noir. The Elkton AVA (American Viticulture Area) has been growing this grape since the early 1970’s, but was recently added to the list of Oregon AVAs. Located 33 miles from the coast and 55 miles from Eugene, Elkton is absolutely beautiful. Highway 38 has some stunning views of rolling hills and lush greenery. It really is awe inspiring!

View
Elkton from Above. Talk about green! (Photo Credit: Jody Newell)
Wine
A couple of Brandborg’s award winning wines

When cruising into Elkton, you can’t miss the Brandborg Winery. It greets you right as you come into town, drawing you in to try some delicious wines – and rightfully so! Brandborg was named Wine Press Northwest’s “Winery of the Year” in 2015. Terry Brandborg, the winemaker, creates a high quality product and does a great job preserving the flavors of each grape he works with. I had a chance to chat with Terry recently and it was so inspiring to see his love of all things wine. Originally from California, he and his wife Sue looked around all over Oregon before settling in Elkton. They were drawn to the cooler climate of the North Umpqua Valley.

Terry sources many of his grapes from Bradley Vineyard, in addition to their own vineyard. The town of Elkton is actually home to four wineries (Brandborg, Bradley Vineyards, Anindor Vineyards, and Rivers Edge Winery). All in a town of about 200 people! You could say that this is an area known for fishing in the Umpqua (you can hear the river running outside of the Brandborg tasting room!) and the delicious wine poured there.

River
The river in Elkton. Breathtaking! (Photo Credit: Rick Obst)

The creation of the Elkton AVA was a big achievement for this area. Being on the northern end of the Umpqua Valley makes it a very distinct area. Elkton is an excellent area for colder climate varietals like Pinot Noir and Riesling. The ability to label wines with the very special “Elkton AVA” is a victory, and helps these wineries stand out.

Barrels
The Brandborgs have a wonderful production facility.

The 2012 Oregon Riesling is the first official wine labelled as being from the Elkton AVA. I cannot wait to try more! Brandborg produces many varietals, including Gewurtztraminer, Pinot Noir, Gamay, and of course, Riesling.They even make one of my favorite varietals, Grenache, with grapes sourced from Southern Oregon. While they do source from many vineyards, they have 50 acres near Elkton that they source from as well. The diverse line up of wines at Brandborg really are a draw. It is fun to be able to taste lots of delicious Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir wines, and end with a Gamay or Syrah. There truly is something for everyone.

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The 2012 Oregon Riesling hit my glass and had such a lovely light straw color. It was beautiful in the glass, and even better on my senses. The nose was slightly sweeter with hints of peaches. I thought it might be a little bit sweet based on the nose, but I was wrong. This wine was fairly dry, yet so fruit forward. Right away I got hints of grapefruit, and bright acidity. The mouthfeel was light and gave me flavors of tropical fruits, like pineapple. The acid balance was just perfect. At just $16 a bottle, this wine is a total steal.

All I have to say is drink this wine! Better yet, head down to Elkton and try all of them. The coast is just a few miles down the road, and it really is the perfect day trip. Cheers!

 

What’s In My Glass? Erath Pinot Blanc

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Roaming around the Dundee Hills, you can’t help but think that this place was meant to be a source of fine grapes that make some beautiful wines. There are blue signs that lead to wineries on every turn it seems. It really is like wine heaven! One of the first people to plant grapes in this area was Dick Erath. After studying at UC Davis and experimenting in his garage, Dick Erath moved his family up to Oregon to make fine wines. He planted 23 varieties in 1969 and noticed that his Pinot Noir was flourishing. Dick Erath’s hard work and determination helped put Oregon on the map.

imageWhile Erath produces some fine Pinot Noir, I had always wanted to try some of their other varietals. They produce many Pinot Noir wines from quality blocks and vineyards, as well as Pinot Gris and Pinot Blanc. Pinot Blanc is a very interesting grape. While not as common as Pinot Gris, it is growing in popularity. It is also a genetic mutation of Pinot Noir. Sometimes white grapes will grow on Pinot Noir vines, and those are Pinot Blanc grapes. By propagating these mutated grapes, Pinot Blanc was born. It isn’t coincidence this grape grows well here, due to its relation to Pinot Noir. Both grapes are distinct, and delicious!

I picked up a bottle of the 2012 Pinot Blanc, chilled it, and popped it open. Generally Pinot Blanc is going to have flavors of crisp citrus and ripe apples. This wine had these flavors in a way that was truly enjoyable. I loved the bright acidity and balance of this wine. Delicious, and at a great price point – Erath has outdone themselves with this wine. Lemon peel, key limes, and ripe apples popped with every sip. I loved this wine! Pick this up for yourself and give it a try, it is perfect for any occasion. Cheers!

Great Gift Idea: Wine Bottle Candles!

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During my recent tasting adventures I have spotted a very unique product in quite a few tasting rooms: wine bottle candles. Made by Bella Bevanda, these are organic soy candles that are made and placed in recycled wine bottles. What a great idea! Not only do they smell delicious, they also tote labels from some amazing wineries here in Oregon (and Washington!).

Willamette Valley Vineyards
A variety of candles at Willamette Valley Vineyards

The use of recycled wine bottles is not only good for the environment, but it is a really cool souvenir from a day of wine tasting. These candles are available at many wineries and retail shops in Oregon and Washington, as well as on Etsy. Check them out for yourself! I know I cannot wait to collect some from my favorite wineries. Cheers!

Evolution
I love this wine (And the candle!) (Photo Credit: Bella Bevanda)

 

 

The Frugal Wine Gal: Evolution Sparkling Wine

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There is something really special about a glass of sparkling wine. The beautiful bubbles and the effervescent texture are just right for any occasion. I drink sparkling wines from all over the world (who doesn’t love a good Prosecco or Champagne), but I especially love it when I find sparkling wines made right here in Oregon. We have quite a few producers making sparkling wines here (Argyle, Domaine Meriwether, and Capitello just to name a few), but I found one that I just had to share. Sokol Blosser Evolution Sparkling Wine was so delicious, and is produced by Sokol Blosser nearby in Dundee. This is exactly the type of frugal find I aim for, fantastic, local, and a great deal!

Evolution

Sokol Blosser is one of the founding wineries here in Oregon. If you’ve ever driven on Highway 99 right near McMinnville and Dundee, you have probably seen their gorgeous, rolling estate. Susan and Bill Sokol Blosser planted their first grapes back in 1971, and released their first vintage in 1977. They currently have 86 acres in the Dundee hills and produce 6 varietals. The thing I love about this winery is that they are not only family run (son Alex is the winemaker), but that they aim to be as green as possible. All of their vineyards are organically grown and maintained, and they are a “Certified B Corporation”. This means that they take active measures to operate a sustainable business. Everything is considered from what chemicals are used in the vineyard, to ensuring that all materials are recycled. There are many ways that Sokol Blosser ensures a sustainable business model. For more examples see here.

Sokol Blosser
Rolling vineyards and solar panels. What a gorgeous view!

Evolution is a second label for Sokol Blosser that also has a red and white blend. All of these wines are right around our $20 range and just fantastic. I have tried all three (and all are worthy of a review!) but I knew I had to share the sparkling wine. I recently wrote about how sparkling wines are made, and this wine was made in the “Methodé Champenoise” method. This is the traditional french method that has been done for centuries. Labeling laws state that you cannot really label it as such, so it is called “American Sparkling Wine”. Having tried many different types of sparkling wines though, ones done in this traditional style are my favorite. The Evolution Sparkling wine was just perfect, and had a quality that I would expect from a higher end wine. The “bang for your buck” here cannot be understated! The love that Sokol Blosser puts into each bottle absolutely extends to their second label.

The moment this wine was popped open and poured into my glass, it was gorgeous. I just can’t
get over how lovely bubbles look in the glass. The color was one of rich straw. The flavors that really stood out were bright citrus (think fresh squeezed lemons), white peaches, and a hint of tropical fruit like melon and pineapple. The finish was nice and dry, just the way I like it. A wine that can balance between fruit forward and the perfect dryness really steals my heart.

Evolution

Sokol Blosser has really outdone themselves with this wine. I picked this up for around $20 at my local market. The value here is just amazing. This is a wine that is made with love, and meant to be enjoyed at any occasion. For me, it was the perfect pairing for snuggling on the couch while watching one of my favorite shows, Mad Men. Although, a warm and sunny day on the patio would also be a great fit. Cheers!

 

 

What’s In My Glass? 2014 Chehalem Rosé

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On a drizzly Tuesday I was exploring downtown Newberg, and I was lucky enough to do some tasting at Chehalem. I’ve had a few of their wines before, (the Inox Chardonnay is fantastic, and right in my frugal price point!) but only after doing a full tasting was I able to see just how many amazing wines they are producing. I’m going to be honest, I didn’t know that they had a Rosé in their line up. When I was able to try it, I knew I just had to share!

Chehalem

Chehalem is a winery that focuses on quality in every varietal. They officially planted grapes back in 1980, and officially launched the Chehalem label in 1990. The name Chehalem comes from the Calapooia Indian tribe’s word translating roughly to “valley of the flowers”. The current winemaker is Wynn Peterson-Nedry, who studied Viticulture and Enology at UC Davis. She has experience working at wineries around the world, and this skill is shown in each varietal produced. Her father, Harry Peterson-Nedry, was one of the founders (and winemakers!) of this winery. In the case of Chehalem, winemaking runs in the family!

Rosé
Look at this stunning color – it is just perfect!

One of the best parts of drinking Rosé is how diverse each one is. The 2014 Chehalem Rosé of Pinot Noir was gorgeous. Even the color of this wine made me happy. This wine had a good amount of skin contact, which made it a richer hue of pink. On the nose there were scents of ripe red delicious apples. The first sip was full of strawberry, cherry, and rhubarb flavors. This was a medium bodied and very balanced wine. It was bigger bodied than other rosé wines I have had, so it could easier help balance out a richer meal as well.

This wine had limited production, but it is out there. Pick a bottle up for yourself! If you enjoy a good Oregon Rosé, you’ll love it. Cheers!

book
This is the newsletter they put out each year that talks about everything from current harvests to soils. Very cool read!
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