Oregon Wine

#pinkiesdown: it’s wine in a can

Love that hashtag. You’ll find it on Union Wine Company’s Underwood Pinot in a Can. It sums up their approach to wine and wine making…making crafted wines from Oregon that are affordable.

Underwood is just one of three wine brands from Union Wine Company.  They also have Kings Ridge and Alchemist.

Union Wine Company

Underwood draws from the diverse palette of vineyards and wine growing regions that Oregon offers to create approachable everyday drinking wine.

I’d been interested in trying the wine in a can since it came out and finally came across it at Cordial Wine in DC’s Union Market. And boy was it fun popping a can of wine. 🙂

Underwood Pinot in a Can

Underwood Pinot Gris

  • Variety: 100% Pinot Gris
  • Aroma: Peach and grapefruit
  • Taste: Peach, grapefruit, pear
  • Price: $24 for a 4 pack one their website. One can is 375ml so half a bottle.
  • My thoughts: Loved it! Definitely gonna order more of this for the summer…perfect for the beach, picnics, concerts in the park. You can smell the goodness in the can and the taste is right on Oregon Pinot Gris.

Underwood Pinot Noir

  • Variety: 100% Pinot Noir
  • Aroma: Cherry
  • Taste: Cherry, raspberry, hints of cocoa
  • Price: $24 for a 4 pack on their website. One can is 375ml so half a bottle.
  • My thoughts: Picked up a little cherry on the nose in the can. Taste had much more depth but a light Pinot Noir. Still a great summer red option…would be great with a slight chill.

Also ordering their Underwood Rosé bottle. Looks gorgeous and only $12.

You can’t go wrong with Oregon Pinot! #pinkiesdown cheers!

West Coast Book Tour Wine & Travel Adventures: Sarver Winery

One of the great things about a West Coast Book Launch Tour (for my new book, KeeKee’s Big Adventures in Paris, France) was the great travel and wine experiences to be had…from Washington to Oregon to California!

After Washington, we hit Oregon and THE region for Pinot Noir in the U.S….Willamette Valley. Sarver Winery was our stop outside Eugene as they hosted our Oregon launch event.

We had story times and activities for the kids, and the adults enjoyed the fabulous wines and beautiful vistas at this family owned winery. It’s the perfect family destination with Erin and Chris as wonderful hosts.

Elhanan Vineyard at Sarver Winery was established in 1984 as one of the first growers of premium Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris grapes in the southern Willamette Valley. Chris and Erin took it over in winter 2008.

At the end of our event, I was able to taste through their incredible wine line up…2011 Estate Stainless Pinot Gris, 2011 Estate Barrel-Aged Pinot Gris, 2012 Pinot Noir Rosé (bottle and on tap), 2010 Estate Grown Pinot Noir, 2009 Cuvée (blend of Syrah, Grenache, Petite Syrah), 2011 Gewürztraminer, 2011 Estate Riesling and 2007 Porto “Syrato.” Truly all the wines were outstanding, but I had to pick a few to take home …

Sarver Winery 2011 Estate Stainless Pinot Gris

  • Variety: 100% Pinot Gris
  • Aroma: Floral, citrus
  • Taste: White flowers, lemongrass
  • Price: $15.00
  • My thoughts: You can’t beat a Pinot Gris from Oregon and this is the perfect example!

Sarver Winery 2012 Pinot Noir Rosé

  • Variety: 100% Pinot Noir
  • Aroma: Summer berries
  • Taste: Strawberry, raspberry with hints of earthiness
  • Price: $19.00
  • My thoughts: This was my favorite! They were serving it from the bottle and on tap, giving it a little CO2 and effervescence…fun but I preferred it straight from the bottle. Perfect for the start of summer!

With summer coming, I went with these, but I will definitely be ordering their Estate Grown Pinot Noir for Autumn!

Special thank you to Wine Julia for the suggestion, coordination and all the promotion!

Cheers to Sarver Winery, the amazing Pinot Noir they are growing, and the Willamette Valley!

More to come from the West Coast Book Tour Wine & Travel Adventures.

The Wide World of Sparkling Wine

Champagne, Sparkling Wines … always make any occasion festive! But it is a very complicated subject. What makes Champagne, Champagne? And what’s the difference between Champagne and Sparkling Wine?

During our March Fine Wine Divas event, we set out to explore the subject. Here are some of the highlights and the group favorites.

What is Sparkling Wine?

Sparkling wine is a wine containing significant levels of carbon dioxide – making it fizzy. This carbonation may result from natural fermentation in the bottle or in a tank (see “How is Sparkling Wine Made?” below), or as a result of carbon dioxide injection.

Sparkling wine is usually white or rosé, but there are examples of sparkling red wine such as Italian Brachetto and Australian Sparkling Shiraz.

Types of Sparkling Wines

  • Champagne: The classic example of a sparkling wine is Champagne. This wine is exclusively produced in the Champagne region of France. While many other countries produce exceptional sparkling wines, they cannot be called “Champagne.”
    • Since 1985, use of the term “method champenoise” has been banned from all wines produced or sold in the European Union.
    • Blending is the hallmark of Champagne wine – usually involving a blend of Chardonnay (finesse and ability to age), Pinot Noir (body) and Pinot Meunier (fruit and floral notes).
    • The majority of Champagnes produced are non-vintage (NV, no year or vintage listed), but vintage Champagne is produced when the producers feel that the grapes from that year have the complexity and richness to warrant being on their own.
  • Crémant: Sparkling wines designated as Crémant (or, “creamy”) were originally named because their lower carbon dioxide pressure gave them a more creamy rather than fizzy mouth-feel.
    • French law dictates that a Crémant must be harvested by hand with yields not exceeding a set amount for their AOC. The wines must also be aged for a minimum of one year.
    • The Loire Valley is France’s largest producer of sparkling wines outside of the Champagne region.
    • The designation “Crémant” is not limited to use within France, and other EU countries that fulfill the production criteria may use it.
  • Prosecco: Prosecco is an Italian sparkling white wine made from Glera grapes.
    • As opposed to champagne, Prosecco is almost always made by the Charmat, or “tank method.” Large steel tanks keep the wine under pressure to capture the fresh fruitiness of the prosecco grape.
    • Prosecco can be either Spumante (more bubbly) or Frizzante (less bubbly), but the taste is usually Dry or Extra Dry.
  • Cava:  Cava is Spanish white or rosé sparkling wine produced mainly in the Penedès region in Catalonia (southwest of Barcelona).
    • Cava is produced in the method champenoise, but includes grape varieties different than those used to make Champagne.
    • In 1872, Cava was first created by Josep Raventós after seeing the success of the Champagne region.
    • Cava can be produced in six Spanish wine regions, and must be produced in the traditional method utilizing a combination of the following grapes: Macabeu, Parellada, Xarel-lo, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Subirat.

How Is Sparkling Wine Made?

  • The Traditional Method: The classic way is the méthode traditionelle (traditional method), or méthode Champenoise (Champagne method), developed in Champagne, France. Wine is produced in the normal way, then bottled with a sugar and yeast mixture to sit for a second fermentation. Carbon dioxide is produced during this fermentation creating the tiny bubbles. The yeast cells die and sink to the bottom of the bottle, referred to as the lees. While the wine is aged on the lees, complexity in the flavor develops (Champagne requires a minimum of 15 months for this second fermentation). Next the sediment is removed through ‘riddling,’ the tilting of the bottle on riddling racks to allow the sediment to move to the neck. The neck is then frozen, the cap removed, the plug of frozen sediment shoots out from the pressure. The bottle is then topped up with dosage (small amount of sugar solution, amount added varies based on sweetness and dryness levels desired), recorked and wire caged. Whoosh! Quite a process. Now you know why Champagne is expensive!
  • The Charmat Method: This method, also known as the Italian method, is quicker and used to make many less expensive sparkling wines. In this process, the yeast and sugar are added to the wine in the pressurized stainless steel fermentation tanks.Then this wine is bottled.

For our Fine Wine Divas event, we tasted the following 8 Sparkling Wines:

  • Baby Prosecco Veneto IGT, Veneto, Italy ($10)
  • NV Codorníu Anna de Codorníu Cava Brut, Catalonia, Spain ($16)
  • 2008 Trump Sparkling Rosé, Virginia, USA ($29)
  • 2008 Argyle Willamette Valley Brut, Oregon, USA ($25)
  • J Cuvée 20 Brut (NV), California, USA ($28)
  • NV Louis de Sacy Brut Grand Cru, Champagne, France ($37)
  • 2006 Marguet Pere et Fils Grand Cru Brut Champagne, France ($50)
  • 2010 Inniskillin Sparkling Ice Wine, Ontario, Canada ($70)

And the evening’s favorites were…

J Cuvée 20 Brut (NV)

  • Variety: 49% Chardonnay, 49% Pinot Noir, 2% Pinot Meunier from Russian River Valley, California
  • Aroma: Nose of lemon peel, honeysuckle, and delicate yeast.
  • Taste: Flavors of apple, grapefruit, angel food cake and almond. Balanced acidity.
  • Price:  $28 available on www.jwine.com
  • My thoughts: Judy Jordan has developed an amazing wine here, and in the Sparkling Rosé they have. Founded in 1986, Judy started the company after working for her father’s Jordan Winery. You can taste the care put into the wine…grapes are hand-harvested and pressed in a special gentle press.

2008 Argyle Willamette Valley Brut

  • Variety: 63% Pinot Noir, 37% Chardonnay from Willamette Valley, Oregon
  • Aroma: Nose of pear, apple, citrus and brioche.
  • Taste: Flavors pear, Meyer lemon and toasted bread.
  • Price: $25 available from Argyle Winery
  • My thoughts: With Oregon known for its incredible Pinot Noir, it’s not surprising to find this incredible Sparkler there. Argyle has produced world-class, award-winning Champagne-style Sparkling Wine since 1987.

2010 Inniskillin Sparkling Ice Wine

  • Variety: 100% Vidal Blanc, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada
  • Aroma & Taste: Nose and flavors of peach, apricot and honey.
  • Taste: Tropical fruits and honey.
  • Price: $80 available from Inniskillin
  • My thoughts: Ice wine is created by leaving the grapes on the vine into the winter months in order to concentrate the flavors. This wine packs a sweet punch but it’s a perfect after dinner drink.

While many in the group liked the Marguet Pere et Fils Grand Cru Champagne, the majority of the likes went to the above three. Nice work North America!

For more on tasting of Sparkling Wine, see Around the World of Sparkling Wine. And check out this great Sparkling Wine infographic.

Cheers to the world of Sparkling Wine!


Wine Discoveries: Red Speed Tasting at Wine Bloggers Conference 2012

As part of the 5th Annual Wine Bloggers Conference in Portland, we had the opportunity to travel Oregon and around the world via wine glass.

During Live Wine Blogging sessions, think speed dating for discovering new favorite wines, we spent a fast paced hour of wineries visiting tables and giving several minute presentations on the one wine they were pouring. Our table for the Red session had ten wineries pour for us of the 31 pouring.

Here were my favorites, no surprise two lovely Oregon Pinot Noir, and where you can find them…

Alexana Winery 2009 Signature Pinot Noir

  • Variety: 100% Pinot Noir from Oregon’s Willamette Valley Dundee Hills, selected from Alexana’s top nine barrels
  • Aroma: Red fruit and molasses
  • Taste: Cola, cherry and molasses
  • Price: $75
  • My thoughts: This wine and the other two I tried at the conference are stunning in aroma and taste (2010 Alexana Pinot Noir – Revana Vineyard $42 and 2011 Pinot Gris Dundee Hills $26)! Alexana Winery is owned by Dr. Madaiah Revana, also of Revana Family Vineyard in Napa Valley, and the wines are made by Oregon’s famous winemaker Lynn Penner-Ash. Dr. Revana’s goal is to produce Pinot Noirs that rival those of Burgundy, France. The 80-acre property is unique in that it has eighteen soil types (great picture of this on their homepage). This wine, I believe, is only available for wine club members. You can order the others here.

J. Christopher 2010 Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley

  • Variety: 100% Pinot Noir from three of Oregon’s Willamette Valley AVAs: Dundee Hills, Chehalem Mountains, Eola Hills
  • Aroma: Big dark fruit
  • Taste: Dark fruit with a nice minerality
  • Price: $28
  • My thoughts: This wine is unfiltered making it very nice and fruit forward! J. Christopher, a small winery established in 1996 by Jay Somers, specializes in Pinot Noir made using the traditional methods of Burgundy, France. This passion for Pinot Noir formed a friendship between Jay and the famous German winemaker Ernst Loosen, Dr. Loosen and J.L. Wolf wines. In 2010 they formed a partnership building a winery and vineyard in Newberg, Oregon. The new venture produces wines under the already established “J. Christopher” brand. You can buy the wines online.

Seven of Hearts 2010 Chatte d’Avignon

  • Variety: Grenache, Syrah and Mouvedre from the Washington side of the Columbia Gorge in the Columbia Valley AVA
  • Aroma: Leathery dark fruit
  • Taste: White pepper and raspberry
  • Price: $25
  • My thoughts: This red wine, inspired by France’s Rhône region reds, is yummy! Seven of Hearts is the passion of Byron Dooley and his wife Dana, started in 2006. It’s a great story! Visit their tasting room in Carlton, Oregon and order their wines online.

For more Live Wine Blogging, see my White & Rose article.


Wine Discoveries: White & Rosé Speed Tasting at Wine Bloggers Conference 2012

In addition to visiting three fabulous wineries at the 5th Annual Wine Bloggers Conference in Portland, we had the opportunity to travel Oregon and around the world via wine glass.

One lively tasting opportunity was the Live Wine Blogging, think speed dating for discovering new favorite wines. This fast paced hour has wineries visiting tables and giving several minute presentations on the one wine they are pouring. Our table for the Whites & Rosés session had 9 wineries pour for us of the 29 pouring. Here were my favorites and where you can find them…

Gloria Ferrer Caves & Vineyards Va de Vi

  • Variety: 89% Pinot Noir, 8% Chardonnay, 3% Muscat from Sonoma, California
  • Aroma: Apple and pear notes
  • Taste: Vanilla peach with hints of citrus
  • Price: $22
  • My thoughts: In Barcelona they say, “Va de Vi!”, “it’s about the wine!” This new sparkling wine from Gloria Ferrer, the first sparkling wine house in California’s Carneros region, celebrates their Spanish heritage. I really liked the mouth feel of this wine…small bubbles and velvety with a touch of sweetness. You can order it here.

Recuerdo Wines 2010 Torrontés 

  • Variety: 100% Torrontés from Uco Valley in Mendoza, Argentina
  • Aroma: Floral and citrus
  • Taste: Crisp honeysuckle and peach
  • Price: $15
  • My thoughts: New white grape discovery for me. As the team sampling said, “It’s the new Sauvignon Blanc.” Perfect as I’m a Sauvignon Blanc fan. This wine “captures the best of Argentina’s unique terroir.” Recuerdo Wines, which means ‘memory’ or ‘momento’ in Spanish, is an interesting partnership between Blackbird Vineyards in Napa Valley and The Vines of Mendoza in Argentina. You can order this wine and their Malbec here.

Benton-Lane 2011 Willamette Valley Pinot Gris

  • Variety: 100% Pinot Gris from Monroe, Oregon
  • Aroma: Honeysuckle and grapefruit
  • Taste: Crisp refreshing honeydew melon, peach and hints of lime
  • Price: $17
  • My thoughts: 2011 was one of the coolest growing seasons on record for Oregon but it produced perfect fruit for Benton-Lane’s Pinot Gris. They predominately make Pinot Noir, which is very nice, but I loved this Pinot Gris. Benton-Lane is family-owned, and since their first vintage in 1992, have produced estate grown fruit using sustainable farming practices. They have received more Top 100 Wines of the World than any other Oregon winery. You can order their wines here.

Next Live Wine Blogging, Reds!