On February 7th there is a very special event coming up – the 5th Annual Heart of Willamette Wineries Barrel Tour. With this event you get to travel to four different wineries: Namaste Vineyards, Treos Wine, Emerson Vineyards, and Benton-Lane Winery. All of the wineries will have 3 wine selections and delicious bites paired with them. Tickets go for $75 a person and each person gets a complimentary wine glass and transportation. Don’t delay on this too much, tickets sell out fast. Cheers!
The quality of wines I have been finding lately has been amazing. Usually I will peruse the wine aisle at my local Market of Choice, Safeway, or even Sundance Wine Cellars and just see what catches my eye. This week I saw a single varietal wine from Eastern Washington that caught my attention. A 2011 Merlot? For under $20? I had to give it a shot, and I am so glad that I did.
Milbrandt Vineyards is a family owned and operated winery in Prosser, Washington. While I was a young kid I lived in Prosser, but had no idea that there were so many incredible wines coming out of the area. The vineyards were established in 1997, and the grapes were highly sought after right away. In 2007, they decided to start their own label with their own estate grown grapes. Located in an isolated area two hours east of Seattle, Milbrandt’s Vineyard produces some fantastic wines like Merlot, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Viognier. Colombia Valley is an exceptionally warm area and can grow some very big varietals. The merlot I found is proof that Colombia Valley is another great spot to pick up some complex, delicious wines.
Merlot is a grape that is a little bit rare to find locally. They do grow some in Southern Oregon but a majority of the ones I’ve been finding are from California and Washington. It’s a grape that requires very warm temperatures. Some of the general characteristics of this grape are big bodied, full mouth feel, and really soft tannins. The Milbrandt Vineyards 2011 was a prime example of this. The color was absolutely beautiful. Very dark and rich, which is caused by lots of contact with the skins and pulp from the grapes during fermentation. This also allows time for the wine to develop it’s characteristic flavors and rich tannins.
Right on the nose I smelled ripe blackberries, French oak, and charcoal. It was almost a little smokey. Very complex! The flavor profile on this was amazing as well. Chocolate, coffee, and toasted nuts burst in my mouth. Combine all of this with a full mouth feel and a very smooth finish, I thoroughly loved this wine.
I paired this wine with, well, nothing. It drank great on it’s own. Whatever you decide to pair with it will have to be very rich and meaty. It would be great with a mushroom based dish like creamy pasta, or grilled meats.
I picked up this fantastic bottle for only $14.99, although price will vary depending on where you find it of course. It is a great value and I plan on stocking up – what a great find. Cheers!
Erath Winery is one of the founders of the Oregon wine industry. Dick Erath planted his first vines of Pinot Noir all the way back in 1969, and the first vintage was released in 1972. Ever since, they have been producing great examples of Oregon Pinot noir, Pinot blanc, and Pinot gris.
In my glass today, I have their 2013 Oregon Pinot Noir. It is spicy, filled with dark berry flavors, and light bodied. What a treat. Available at most retailers, pick a bottle for yourself and enjoy. Cheers!
The importance of proper stemware cannot be understated when it comes to drinking wine. It depends on the what is being poured, but there is a wine glass that fits and compliments each type of wine. The right glass can add depth and flavor to wine that may other wise not be noticeable.
My go-to wine glass is Riedel. They make glasses fitting for any wine that you may want to drink. There is even a glass specifically made for Oregon Pinot Noir! If you haven’t already, I highly recommend picking up a glass or two for your own collection. Available at many retailers, they are an excellent investment for any wine lover. Cheers!
Cabernet Franc is a wine with quite a history. It’s origins go all the way back to the 17th century, where it was first planted in the Libournais region in the southwest of France. Here in Oregon, and in places all over the world, Cabernet franc is commonly used in blends with Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. These wines are called Bordeaux blends, and are one of my absolute favorites.
When I recently walked into the Falling Sky Delicatessen (if you haven’t gone – check out their amazing selections of house made pastramis!) and spotted a single varietal Cabernet Franc available, I had to give it a shot. It was fantastic! It was a little spicy, earthy, and popping with big berry flavors. It was very reminiscent of the Pinot noir wines I am accustomed to. In addition to this one by VELOX Wine Works, you can find Cabernet Franc wines all over Oregon. Abacela, Spangler Vineyards, and Sylvan Ridge are just a few to pick from. I drank mine with a “Barley & Sirloin” soup and it was great. Although a nice smoked ham or a creamy mushroom sauce would pair excellent. Cheers!
Do you have a wine lover on your shopping list? Look no further than this Scratch & Sniff book that teaches you the basics of tasting wine. I loved this item because it did a walk through guide of what elements to look for in wines, and the general rules of what varietals will have what characteristics. This would also be an interesting addition to any beginning wine drinkers book collection. Cheers to learning more wine!
I happened to have some leftover Willamette Valley Pinot Noir hanging around, and decided to put it to good use. A few clicks on Pinterest and voilá! Wine Jelly was so simple to make and turned out delicious. You can use any wine you might have laying around, or make a big batch like I did to hand out as gifts. Cheers! (Works with leftover champagne from your New Years Party too!)
Champagne has been used for celebration for centuries. For a lot of that time people didn’t really understand why there were bubbles in their wine, and a lot of wine makers considered it a fault. Many times the pressure in the bottle would be too great and they would explode before they could be consumed! We definitely approach making these wines differently now. The bubbles present in champagne and champagne style wines are simply the result of a second fermentation of a bottle of wine, and although there are many ways to achieve this style, this is the traditional method.
No matter what the science behind bubbles, sparkling wines have been used to celebrate special occasions for a very long time. Associated with luxury, the wines were a status symbol used by nobility at fancy parties and balls. Nowadays we might not consider them a status symbol, but they do represent something bigger than just what they are. They represent a joyous occasion, something a little bit extra. While they are drank throughout the year by millions of people, a popular occasion sparkling wines are used for is New Years Eve.
There is just something about popping that cork and watching the foam try and pour over. New years eve is the perfect time to pick up a bottle of bubbles, and you don’t even have to look very far. We have some phenomenal sparkling wines coming out of Oregon and Washington, although we commonly call them “Brut” wines. To be called a true “Champagne”, the wine must be made in Champagne, France in the traditional style. Many wineries use similar production styles here, and places all of over the world showcase some incredible examples of this type of production.
Right here in Eugene we have two local brut producers. If you have ever gone to Florence via Highway 126 you might’ve seen a sign for Domaine Meriwether. If you haven’t had a chance to stop in yet, you must. They are a local winery that produces their brut by “Methode Champenoise” – that is by the traditional second fermentation in the bottle. This method creates very high quality bubbles. These do run over our $20 budget, but they are more than worth it. I highly recommend the Meritwether Brut Rosé Cuvée 2001 ($45) or the Meriwether NV Discovery Cuvée ($24). These wines are a blend of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay that is locally sourced and aged for an upwards of 10 years. They can be found at most local retailers as well.
Capitello is another fantastic local producer. They have a tasting room right on 5th street and feature many different varietals. Make sure and try their Sauvignon Blancs, one from New Zealand and one from the Willamette Valley. Both of them are made by the same winemaker but the results very delicious but different. They also produce some amazing brut. Made in the traditional style, they are made with Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grapes. There are flavors of crisp apples and pears, a light dry finish. It is truly a joy to drink and would pair well with light appetizers or drinks great on it’s own.
Moving up north, there are quite a few options of brut style wines to choose from. Sokol Blosser is right off of highway 99 and makes many different varietals (including some killer Pinots!). Their second label, Evolution, has some awesome frugal options; including Evolution Sparkling Wine. Light bodied, fruit forward, and crisp this sparkling wine is thoroughly enjoyable. A little over our budget at $22 per bottle, this would be a great choice for any celebration (or anytime really!).
Argyle is not just a pattern anymore; it is a winery located in Dundee that specializes in sparkling wines! My favorite is the 2011 Vintage Brut. That year was the coldest year for grape growing since 1954, and this wine is an interesting reflection of that. Full of crisp acidity and ripe plum flavors, this wine is definitely an excellent choice for this new years celebration. Check out their tasting room next time you head up to highway 99, it is located in Dundee and a fun place to stop and try some delicious bubbles.
During my exploration of wines from the Pacific Northwest, I’ve encountered so many delicious wines that come from not only Oregon but from Washington as well. Many of these places are just a short drive away! Chateau Ste. Michelle is located in Woodinville, Washington – a great location for finding wineries that are producing some amazing wines. They produce on a very large scale and distribute all over the country. They have a second label simply called Michelle that produces exclusively brut wines. These wines are an excellent bargain, most of which are sold for less than $15 a bottle. I highly recommend trying the Michelle Brut Rosé or the Michelle Brut, both of which are well under our frugal budget. Available at most retailers, these wines will really give you a bang for your buck.
Treveri is a winery located in Wapato, Washington (near Yakima). They produce exclusively sparkling wines. This is an interesting winery because they make sparkling wines that are a little out of the ordinary like ones made with Riesling and Syrah. Most of their selections are under our $20 budget, and are a steal. Since opening in 2010 they have had a goal of putting Washington on the map for sparkling wines and they really stand out. The Treveri Cellars Sparkling Syrah Brut ($19) and the drier Treveri Cellars Extra-Brut “Blanc de Blanc” ($14) would be my recommendations. They would be a great addition to any party or celebration.
There are so many options for sparkling wines and bruts out there that it can be very hard to decide which one to pick! The nice thing is there are options for every price range, and you can keep it really local by buying some from Eugene or venture a little up north and have something a bit different. By purchasing a bottle of delicious bubbly you are participating in an almost ancient tradition of using these phenomenal wines for celebration. I may add that they are totally great for normal occasions as well – sparkling wines pair perfectly with so many different foods ranging from oysters to popcorn.
It can be incredibly easy to just pick up the cheapest bottle of Cook’s or Andre brut but keeping it local can be super affordable and extra delicious as well. Whatever bubbly you decide to go with, make sure to give a cheer to this past year and to the new one as well. We are onto new adventures, which is exactly what sparkling wines represent. Cheers!
Domaine Meriwether, known for their fantastic champagne style wines, has some amazing still wines as well. The 2012 Riesling and 2009 Pinot Gris both retail for under $20! Made from locally sourced grapes – both of these wines are worth a stop at their tasting room.
Don’t forget to say hi to “Mo” the winery’s cat – he is too cute. Open 7 days a week from 11 – 5 pm. Cheers!
The holidays are a time of year meant for family, friends, and good times. The years keep coming faster and faster it seems, and now more than ever it is important to make time for those who matter most. It is also one of the busiest times of the year for most people. Every weekend fills up with parties, celebrations, and shopping for our loved ones. I know sometimes that I can get caught up in all the hustle and bustle of holiday madness, but it is so important to slow down and enjoy the small things. Like a delicious glass of local Oregon wine perhaps?
One of the best parts of this time of year though is the food. There is good food everywhere. From the slow cooked stews coming out of our crock pots, to big dinners with all of our extended family. Endless sweets and treats are presented to us on a daily basis it seems! There is of course always good spirits as well. Wine is the perfect accompaniment to any occasion. One of the hardest things to do though is pick wine for many different people. I’ve found that some people only like red wine, or just white. They may even go as specific as liking one varietal – either dry or sweet. There are so many options out there, it can be a tough decision to just pick one or two.
As a big wine lover, I’m trusted pick out wines a lot of the time. I like to think of it as a great honor. I’ve found that there are some specific guidelines I like to go by – especially for the holidays. My first rule of thumb is always have some bubbly on hand. I really enjoy anything by Domaine Meriwether myself, but Argyle Winery and Sokol Blosser also have some great options in the under $30 range. During the holidays, and especially for bubbles, it is worth going a little bit above the $20 range. The reason why bubbles are so nice is that it is indicative of a special occasion. Sparkling wines are great for any celebration, but especially ones around this time of year. Family and friends getting together is also a great reason to pop that special bottle you’ve been saving and treasure it together. After all, even our most anticipated wines from our cellars are meant to be enjoyed.
Not in the mood for bubbles? That’s okay because there are plenty of big bodied reds that make good options as well. This frigid cold weather really brings out the flavors in those reds and makes snuggling on the couch watching christmas movies that much better. A few of my go to red varieties are Cabernet sauvignon – like the Del Rio Vineyards Cabernet I reviewed here. J.Scott Cellars 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon with grapes sourced from Southern Oregon is also an excellent choice. It is a little out of our frugal budget but worth every penny. Another great option to pick up is a classic red blend. Now there are thousands of these available from all over Oregon, it can be a hard decision to pick just one!
Red blends are a fantastic option for any get together because they bring a few different varietals together and create a very different experience than you might have in a single varietal wine. During the cold winter months red blends are just what is needed to warm up any evening. Although there are many options and quite a price range for these wines, there a few must tries that I have to share. Three Wives “Remy’s Red” is one of my favorite go-to red blends. The varietals chosen vary from year to year, but they are always produced with italian grapes and aged in an old world style. Oaky, fruit forward, and smooth, Remy’s Red is an excellent blend good for any old occasion. Another great option is Grochau Cellars “Tinto” blend of Tempranillo and Syrah. With red blends you can really get a good bang for your buck. It is so easy to find phenomenal wines made within our great state that will add to any holiday celebration.
Planning a big meal with all the fixings is a part of holiday traditions all over the world. Whether you roast a big turkey or slow cook a honey ham, there is a wine that will pair well with your meal. One of the biggest issues that I’ve run into during large meals like this is that sometimes I just want something on the lighter side to go with it. That is where rosé comes in. Rosé is a great choice for any occasion really, but during the holidays it is an excellent pairing. Rosé wines are made from red grapes that have as little contact as possible with the skins. They are light, flavorful, and excellent for nearly any weather or occasion. I could make a list a mile long of my favorite rosés if I’m perfectly honest, but for all intents and purposes there are a couple that I feel pair best with holiday feast and celebrations.
Adelsheim Vineyards 2013 Pinot Noir Rosé is one my new favorite finds. Very fruit forward and light, this wine is perfect for a Christmas Eve celebration or a big feast. It will compliment most anything it is paired with. Another fantastic option is the William Rose 2013 Prohibition Rosé. This rosé is 100% Sangiovese. It is crisp, fruity, and good even on its own. I like this one because of its beautiful pale pink color as well.
Wine choice may seem like just one choice in a line of many during the holiday season, but it is much more than that. Wine brings us together, helps us connect, and encourages celebration. After all the craziness during pre-holiday preparation, pop open a bottle and pour yourself a nice glass of whatever makes you happy. Bubbles, big reds, and rosé wines are all great options, but it is all about what you enjoy the most. I wish you all the happiest holidays, and cheers to another great year!