sarah tunnell - Page 3

What’s In My Glass? H3 Sauvignon Blanc


Sometimes I find a value that is so good I can’t believe it. The H3 Sauvignon Blanc is in that category. Sauvignon Blanc can be very hit or miss, and I really enjoyed this one! H3 is a label produced by Columbia Crest in Paterson, Washington. Now this label is huge in terms of production, but the H3 really stands out. This label is specifically wines that are made from grapes grown in the Horse Heaven Hills AVA (American Viticulture Area). This is an area that is known for growing some fantastic warmer climate grapes like Cabernet Sauvignon, Sauvignon Blanc, and Merlot. Although, there are a total of 37 different varieties planted in the AVA!


If you are on the hunt for a great value, and a delicious Sauvignon Blanc, than look no further. This wine really impressed me from the moment it hit my glass. Tropical fruits hit my senses upon my first sip, but there was a crisp and ripe feel to this wine. Sauvignon Blanc can sometimes have an “herbaceous” flavor to it, and this wine is a fine example of why that is a good thing! From start to finish this wine was just, fresh. I enjoyed this wine served very chilled, and it is perfect for any occasion. Cheers!

What’s In My Glass? Underwood Pinot Noir


Oregon wine can be extremely affordable. This is the foundation I started my writing on, and I’m continually impressed with the options I have as a frugal buyer. An amazing option that I just recently discovered was one that I knew I had to share. The 2013 Underwood Pinot Noir. What makes this wine stand out so much? The balance of price and, well, deliciousness. From the moment this wine hit my glass I loved it. This wine is a blend of Pinot grapes from all over the state and is an excellent example of affordable Oregon Pinot Noir.

Underwood Pinot
Underwood Pinot in the glass

In my glass the Underwood Pinot Noir had a beautiful hue. It was light in color, and in body, and had really nice balance. It was earthy with hints of oak, and flavors of currant and spice really came through. The tannins were perfect, and the wine had a nice smooth finish. Another cool fact about this wine is that it’s available in a can. That’s right! A can!


Union Wine Company, the producers of Underwood Pinot Noir, really focus on value and quality. For frugal wine buyers, and especially lovers of Pinot, this wine was an amazing find. Buying a Pinot and loving it all for less than $15 a bottle – is a gift! Pick this bottle up for yourself at most local grocery stores and retailers. The running price for this wine is about $12. Yes, just $12 for a thoroughly enjoyable Oregon Pinot. Run, don’t walk to get this wine. It is delicious and enjoyable treat. Cheers!

The Frugal Wine Gal: Anne Amie Pinot Gris


Wine is one of my favorite things. I study it, read about it, drink it, and just enjoy its creation. Another joy of the wine experience is going straight to the source, the vineyards and tasting rooms. Anne Amie is one of those wineries that are just unforgettable. The view, the staff, the wines are all perfect! I was able to make the trek out there recently and was so inspired. It is hard not to be with views like these!


Now, the view is one thing, but the wines that Anne Amie creates are heaven. I mean it. While they primarily focus on the Pinots, like Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, and Pinot Blanc – they are all very distinct and delicious! They also grow Müller Thurgau on their estate that was planted all the way back in 1979, when it was Chateau Benoit. Fun fact! Mark Nicholl of William Rose Wines and Oregon Wine Lab used grapes grown here for his almost released 2014 Müller Thurgau. I had the chance to try it this past week at the wine lab and can’t wait to pick up a bottle once it is available, make sure and try it for yourself. It is heavenly!

Anne Amie
Look at that blue sky!

The 2014 Pinot Gris was very light. It had a crispness and effervescence that I loved. Flavors of crisp green apples and lemon popped with each sip. There was almost a hint of herbaceousness to it, and it had a very bright acidity. From start to finish, this truly was an example of Oregon Pinot Gris at it’s finest.

Anne Amie
Pinot Gris and Rosé of Pinot Gris – same label but very different wine!

You may think that the 2014 Rosé of Pinot Gris might be similar to the 2014 Pinot Gris, but they were definitely different. One similarity I would say was the light bodied, effervescent quality of both of these wines. Both were dying for a beautiful sunny day as well. The 2014 Rosé has grapes that come from the Huntington Hill Vineyard. This wine had the most gorgeous color in the glass. It was a shade of pink that reminded me of a sunset. On the nose I got scents of bright red berries. The first sip gave me flavors of sweet red delicious apples and a slight hint of grapefruit. I loved the balance of sweet and citrus.

Anne Amie
The tasting room is simply gorgeous

Both of these wines were crisp and dry. Perfect to be paired with many different foods and experiences. For me, wine is about enjoying with food and friends. Or sometimes with a great show at home after a long day. Anne Amie wines are not only enjoyable, but made with a care and quality that I’ve come to love. The tasting room is right outside of Carlton, Oregon and absolutely worth the drive. The wines themselves are worth the trip, and the view is simply an added bonus. Cheers to delicious and local Oregon wines!

Anne Amie
I loved these candles, and they smelled incredible

New Winery Alert! Cória Estates


Finding a new winery is always so exciting. There are so many that I can’t wait to explore that it can almost be overwhelming! Recently, I heard of a winery that was just recently opened (and still expanding!) just outside of Salem. Cória Estates was one great find! They have three phenomenal wines released currently. Their first vintage was in 2013, and they produced Pinot Gris, Rosé of Pinot Noir, and Pinot Noir. These are the wines I was able to try and I loved them. Each was very distinct of course, but really well balanced.


All of their wines are made from estate grown grapes, and they have 90 acres total. Now that is a lot of vines! They are planning of planting more grapes this year too. The 2013 Pinot Gris was the first taste I had, and it was so crisp – flavors of lemon peel key lime popped right away. I would describe this as dry, but absolutely balanced. It was fruit forward with a bright acidity.

The Rosé of Pinot Noir was one that I had to take home with me. It was so fruit forward, yet perfectly dry. I love a good dry rosé and this one really stood out. Flavors of strawberry rhubarb and ripe cherries were really distinct, but the mouthfeel was almost creamy. It was very fruit forward overall with a nice dry finish. Wine Spectator Magazine also rated this 90 points! I have a bottle of this in my fridge I can’t wait to sip on.


The last taste I had was of the 2013 Pinot Noir. Oh my goodness. This wine smelled very bold to me, that is I got notes of spice and tobacco. The color was lovely, and it had flavors of blackberry, currants, and bit of white pepper. It was still very smooth throughout and had the perfect balance of tannins. It was just what I want in a Pinot.

I loved this cool decanter. It decants quickly – so that you can sip on your bottle that much sooner!

Their site for growing grapes is relatively cold, which means that the fruit develops a little slower and has more hang time at the end of the summer. Combine the quality fruit and talented wine making, and Cória Estates has it nailed. All of these wines were right around our $20 price point as well. Check out their tasting room just south of Salem, it’s a bit off the beaten path but the drive is totally worth it. Cheers!

What’s In My Glass? Torii Mor Pinot Gris


When cruising through downtown McMinnville, Oregon there are banners that line the road that say Torii Mor Winery. This is part of what inspired me to check out their tasting room! While I will say I had heard of this winery before, until I made the trek out to their tasting room I hadn’t had the pleasure of trying any of their varietals. I am so glad I took the time to check out their beautiful facility. They even make their own brandy from their own Pinot Noir, which is out of this world!

Torii Mor

Located in a renovated mother in law suite, this quaint tasting room had a fun feel to it. The name “Torii Mor” translates to “Gateway to the Earth” in Japanese and the whole tasting room had a theme that matched this.  The other cool feature of this tasting room was the sensory wall! It was full of tiny jars that had various flavors that you might find in wines. Pineapple, butter, and peaches were a few of my favorite scents. This is great for those trying to work on their wine tasting skills.

Torii Mor
The sensory wall – such a cool idea!

The 2014 Torii Mor Pinot Gris was super delicious. Ripe pears, crisp citrus notes, and tropical flavors filled my senses. This wine would pair perfectly with seafood, or just by itself! The best part is this wine sells for only $18. For an Oregon Pinot gris in this area, and this good – this is a steal. Cheers!

Frugal Wine Gal: David Hill Farmhouse Red


In the beautiful countryside just northwest of Forest Grove lies David Hill Winery. Nestled on some very historical land that dates back to the late 1800’s, this is a winery that makes a wide variety of wines from their large estate. The winery itself is named after a combination of an old family name in the Forest Grove area, the Frederick David Family, and the site where the winery is located. It has gone through many names since, but this hilly area was originally known as “winery hill”. They also have a farmhouse that was built in 1883 that they use for their tasting room. I love a winery with an interesting history!

The gorgeous farmhouse (Photo Credit: Joshin Yamada)

The David Hill label was launched in 2000 and currently has 40 acres of grapes grown on their massive 140 acre property. They produce many varietals like Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc, Gewürztraminer, and Riesling. For the most part they use their own estate grown grapes, but do have a couple of “bigger red” options from Southern Oregon and Washington. The wine I just had to share though, was the David Hill Farmhouse Red. This is their answer to a traditional table wine. The blend changes from year to year, but is always a delicious blend of robust red grapes grown in Washington.


Wineries like David Hill make red blends for many reasons. One is that blending different varietals can help make a wine that is unique and highlights some of the best qualities of all the grapes used in the blend. Blending is the art of sitting down and putting together a mix that works well and creates a divine experience. This blend is a “non-vintage”, which means that wines from different years were mixed as well. Different varietals vary from year to year, which means that this wine is very distinct.

The Farmhouse blend consists of 40% Sangiovese, 40% Mouvedre, 10% Malbec, and 10% Barbera. These are of course grapess that do not grow so well here in the Willamette Valley, mostly due to the amount of heat we get. Sourcing these grapes from Washington is a great way to get these warmer climate grapes. Our neighbors up north get some crazy warm temperatures and we can benefit from those climate differences by creating beautiful blends.

David Hill

From the first moment this wine hit my glass, just based on the color, I was very excited. The color was dark and alluring. I could tell I was in for a bold drinking experience. The nose was full of rich chocolate, spice, and had a hint of smokiness. My initial sip had flavors of dark cherry and black fruits. Then notes of coca-cola and spicy pepper crept it. There were bold tannins, but they rounded out and ended very smooth. Vanilla and hints of oak were left behind on my palette. This is exactly what I want in a red blend! Bold, complex, and heavenly.

Table wines are a classic choice for any occasion. They are great on their own or with a big meal but are always meant to be enjoyed with friends and family. This wine paired perfectly with my evening of snuggling on the couch and watching a movie with my husband, dog, and cat. Not only was this wine really enjoyable, but the price point was amazing. At $12 a bottle, you really can’t beat the value you get here. You can find this bottle at most retailers, or at their tasting room in Forest Grove. Pick this up for yourself, you’ll love it. Cheers!


What’s In My Glass? Willamette Valley Vineyards


Willamette Valley Vineyards was one of the very first wineries that I tasted. I still remember picking up my first bottle of Oregon Blossom and loving every sip. While I still do love Oregon Blossom, I recently stopped by their tasting room and got a taste of the 2012 Dijon Clone Chardonnay. What a beautiful wine! I’ve been on a bit of a Chardonnay kick lately and this one was just perfect. Flavors of tropical fruits and bright citrus popped. There was a hint of oak, but it was just the right amount. I really enjoyed how fresh this wine was.


Lucky for us, Willamette Valley Vineyards is available at many retail stores in our area. I picked this up at my local grocery store but I do highly recommend stopping by one of their tasting rooms (one is right off I-5 just south of Salem, and the other is in downtown McMinnville). They have some very impressive selections! Make sure and try this 2012 Dijon Clone Chardonnay there as well, it is just delicious. Cheers!

The Frugal Wine Gal: Sparking Wine 101


Sparkling wine is one of life’s greatest treasures. There is just something about hearing the cork pop out of the bottle and seeing those tiny bubbles in the glass. Many people like to reserve these kind of wines for special occasions, but I say drink bubbles anytime! There are many affordable options that are just too good to save.

(Photo Credit: Sam Howzit)

Recently I discussed just what exactly is in a glass of wine here. The process is of course complex and one that is constantly changing and improving. When it comes to sparkling wines though, there is a whole different approach to how they are made. The process is a long one indeed. Here in Oregon we have quite a few wineries that make this type of wine, like Domaine Meriwether, Sokol Blosser, and Argyle (just to name a few!). Another one of my favorites is the Michelle label by Chateau St. Michelle. Their brut rosé is just to die for!

A delicious example of “Méthode Champenoise”


The bubbles in the glass may look beautiful and the wine itself may be crisp and delicious – but how is this kind of wine actually made? There are few ways to do it of course. Sparkling wines are essentially wines that have additional CO2 (Carbon Dioxide) in them to create bubbles. One way to achieve this type of wine is to add yeast and sugar to an already fermented wine to create a secondary fermentation. It can be done in big batches and then bottle under pressure. Wines like Prosecco are made this way.

There is another way that sparkling wines are made. This method originates from the Champagne region of France, dating back all the way to the 1600’s. While complicated and a bit time consuming, this method produces a very high quality product. Fun fact! Only wines made in Champagne can be called “Champagne” on a bottle – so that is why when you go shopping for sparkling wines most of the time they will have different names. Sparkling wine is the most common name here in America though. Many wineries still use the practice that was originally started in France. They simply put on the bottle that it the wine was made by “Méthode Champenoise” to indicate how the wine was made.

The start of “Méthode Champenoise” is picking grapes at the optimal ripeness for this type of wine – a little less sweet. They are picked a little earlier to ensure higher acid and lower sugar content. The grapes are picked, the musts are fermented and turned into wine, and are aged for a time. After they are aged for a while, they are then blended. This blend is called a “Cuvée”. The blend then has sugar and yeast added to it and placed the bottle with a soda cap on it. The addition of sugar and yeast to this blend creates the secondary fermentation. These are aged for a minimum of 3 years, but many age longer. It is required that Champagne have contact with the lees. Lees are the yeast and sediment left from fermentation.

Bubbles in the glass


Once the winemaker feels the the wine has aged enough, they move onto the next step. Just to get to this step can take many, many years. For example, many of Domaine Meriwethers sparkling wines (that are made with this method) started the process back in 2000 and 2001. Good quality takes time, that’s for sure. The next step in the process is “riddling”. This is a fairly simple step. Basically the wine needs to be free of sediment. By slowly moving the bottles over a long period of time in a vertical “riddling rack”, the lees start moving toward the top of the bottle.

Once they are all in at the top, the “disgorging” process can happen. Put simply, the bottle needs to be flipped upside down and the lees need to be removed without losing any of the wine. There are many ways to do this but one common practice is to freeze the top of the bottle to form a “plug” – then eject it from the bottle. I haven’t seen this process myself but I would love to someday!

There is still one last big step until the wine is ready to go. At this point it is close but the winemaker decides whether or not to add a “dosage”. That is, to add sugar to the wine the bottles. This process creates a very dry wine usually, so sugar can be added if desired. Many producers keep their wines bone dry, while others go for a sweeter end product.

There are different levels of sweetness. “Naturel” is the most dry, with no added sugars but low acid. “Brut” means that there is some sugar added but it is still very dry. Ironically, “Extra Dry” means that the wine is slightly sweeter than a “Brut”. Two other options you’ll see are “Demi Sec” (slightly sweet) and “Doux” (medium sweet).

Brut Rosé – up close and personal (Photo Credit)

Now that the wine has had secondary fermentation, sat on the lees for a long time, and been “disgorged” and “dosaged” it is ready to be corked. The cork goes in and is pushed into a mushroom shape for safety in storage. The pressure in the bottle can pop corks if not sealed properly. That is why when the metal cap is on the top as well, for an extra safety measure.

The first time I read about how sparkling wines and Champagne were made I thought to myself, what a process! The amount of thought, love, and skill that goes into a normal bottle of wine blows me away but this takes it to the next level. The next time you are thinking of a new bottle to try, pick up some bubbles. Not only do they look good in the glass, but they are oh so delicious. They also pair well with popcorn, so it is the perfect movie accompaniment. Cheers!

What’s in My Glass? Montinore Estate


The sunshine has been poking its head out again these past few days, so I decided to head out on a wine adventure. Interestingly enough, many wineries aren’t open in the middle of the week – but I did find a spot that had a fantastic wine list: Le Bar at Marché. This restaurant has some of my favorite food in town and their wine list does far from disappoint. So, on a Wednesday afternoon I ordered myself a glass of the 2014 Montinore Estate Pinot Gris.

Montinore Estate
Montinore Estate vineyards (Photo Credit: Montinore Estate)

I’ve seen the Montinore Estate label many times and it was definitely on my list of “to try” wines. After trying this varietal, I can’t wait to make a trip up north to Forest Hills to try the rest of their selections. This was one of those wines that was pleasant from the moment it hit my senses. The nose was crisp and had hints of tangy, yet sweet grapefruit. I was expecting this to be more on the tart side throughout, but it was definitely not. Flavors of tangy key lime first hit my palette, then it changed into more toasted and tropical fruit flavors. It was light bodied and incredibly smooth, especially on the finish. My goodness, this wine was just plain delicious.

What really drew me to this wine was not only that it was from 2014, a vintage I have not tried much of (since many of the white wines produced this past fall are just being bottled – or are still aging), but that it was made from certified organic and biodynamic vineyards. These two topics are an article in themselves, but I hadn’t actually tried a wine that was certified in both organic and biodynamics. This wine had some very interesting (and delicious!) characteristics though. It was a very distinct Pinot gris. Growing grapes, and making fantastic wine out of those grapes is a form of art. Montinore Estates have created a masterpiece with this 2014 Pinot Gris, that’s for sure.

White winemaker, Stephen Webber, taking samples out of a barrel (Photo Credit: Montinore Estate)

The 2014 Pinot gris was just recently released, and they sell it for $16 a bottle. What a great deal! I paired this wine with a simple salad made with meyer lemon vinaigrette, but as we know Pinot gris pairs well with so many things. Pick this bottle up and open it on a beautiful sunny day, it is just dying to be drank.


lunch and wine
Fresh salad with meyer lemon vinaigrette, fresh bread and butter, and the 2014 Montinore Estate Pinot Gris – YUM!



The Frugal Wine Gal: Kung Fu Girl Riesling


Wine shopping is probably my favorite activity. Perusing the aisles filled the delicious looking wines is an adventure every time. I buy wines from all over of course, but usually I start at my local market. In Eugene we have some incredible stores that have a wide variety of options. Picking wines that anyone can find is a goal of mine though. That being said, I recently found a wine at my local supermarket that once I had my first sip I knew it was too perfect to not share. The 2013 Kung Fu Girl Riesling from Charles Smith Wines was an amazing find!

Riesling grapes
Riesling grapes on the vine (Photo credit: Anja Pietsch)


I’ve been really into finding good wines from Washington lately, and this was an example of some of the delicious varietals coming from this beautiful state. Did you know that there are 750+ wineries in the whole state? Many of these wineries are producing big bodied varietals like Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Syrah due to the amount of warmer temperatures that the state has. Eastern Washington has an exceptionally hot climate that has some incredible grapes grown there. It is there that the grapes for the 2013 Kung Fu Riesling were grown, at Evergreen Vineyards just outside of George, Washington.

Charles Smith Wines is a label produced by owner Charles Smith. He initially started K.Vintners in 2001, and made some amazing, award winning Syrah. His second label, Charles Smith Wines, was started in 2006. This label was created with the intention making wines that were meant to be enjoyed now. Charles Smith is a world traveller and self taught winemaker that fell in love with the Walla Walla area, and decided to make his own wine there. I am sure glad he did! Not only was his first label K.Vintners named winery of the year in 2008 by Wine & Spirits Magazine, but he continues to make delicious and affordable wines today.

Riesling in the glass

Riesling and I have an interesting relationship. I appreciate the sweet versions bursting with honey suck flavors but I am also drawn to the more fruit forward and crisp creations. This wine was definitely a nice balance of these two worlds. On the nose I smelled overly ripe pears and white fruits (like peaches). I initially suspected this wine would sweet since the grapes were grown in a warmer climate, and the nose was so aromatic. It was definitely more middle of the road though. The first taste – which carried a lot of the white fruit flavors like peaches and apricots was sweet, but then it had a fresh acidity to it on the end. This wine was so fresh! I loved the crisp finish with hints of citrus flavors, like lime peel. Needless to say, this bottle didn’t last too long in my house.

For those wine drinkers out there who prefer their wines on the dry side, don’t be afraid to try a medium-sweet riesling like this one. In a sense it was a traditional riesling (much like those I’ve had from Germany), but the acidity really created a unique beverage here. The balance was impeccable. Even if you prefer wines on the sweeter side, you’ll love this wine. Charles Smith Wines also produces some other wines that are not only delicious but in our frugal price point. The Velvet Devil Merlot is a great example, at only $12 a bottle.

kung fu girl wine bottle

There are so many excellent options below $20, especially in the Pacific Northwest. The best part is that each wine (even each vintage!) is so unique. The 2013 Kung Fu Girl Riesling is not only a great buy, but was perfect for any occasion. With summer coming up, having crisp white wines ready to sip on any time is essential! I picked this up at my local grocery store, for about $14. It was a real steal. Cheers!

chicken and asparagus
Spicy chicken and asparagus. A great pair for this wine.


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