Knudsen Vineyards Chardonnay

Knudsen Vineyards – Discover the Beauty of Oregon Chardonnay

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As Spring looms?heavy, like a full moon?on the horizon, we begin to crave lighter fare. And with wines like Knudsen Vineyards 2014?Chardonnay from the Dundee AVA in Oregon, it’s easy to think about how we’ll accommodate the fresh and bright foods of the coming season by accompanying them with great wine.

Knudsen Vineyards is one of the oldest vineyards in the Dundee Hills. Planted in 1974, this prestigious vineyard?site has been supplying fruit to some of Oregon’s most esteemed producers for years. In 1990, they were the first to plant the widely accepted Dijon clone Chardonnay in the state, ushering in a new era of Oregon Chardonnay. After 40 years of wine production, Knudsen Vineyards finally took?the bull by the horns, and in 2013 released their first?bottling of Chardonnay.

This wine is a prime example of why Chardonnay does so well in the Willamette Valley. Grapes are picked at the optimum time to preserve the steely acidity, and though it’s aged in 20% new French oak, the fruit flavors are the star of the show.?Crisp, clean and tingly tary, discover the layers of complexity with every sip?zippy lemon zest, quince paste, orange blossom and almond cookies that are structured by the backbone of stony minerality.

This versatile food wine will be pleasure serving with a variety of menu options. Superb?with salty soft cheese, with main courses like halibut and minted pea pur?e, chicken with rosemary, saut?ed sea scallops with herbed cream sauce, or with side dishes like chanterelles in garlic, butter and sea salt.

And with the Oregon Chardonnay Celebration coming up, you can not only learn why Chardonnay expresses itself with such beauty, but you can taste for yourself. Experience the educational seminar and Grand Tasting with more than 40 wineries on Saturday, February 27th at the Allison Inn & Spa in Newberg. For tickets or?for more information, visit


Spring is in the Air? Stoller 2015 Ros? is in Your Glass

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As you feel the number of daylight hours increasing by the minute, pink bottles start lining the shelves of your favorite wine shop. They trumpet the incoming spring, much the way the bulbs popping up in your yard do, growing in almost the same proportions. I love this time of year, life is practically bursting at the seams.?When that first bottle of the?2015 ros?s, made an appearance on my table, I wanted to throw my hands up in celebration. Are we really through our darkest hours? Is it time for pink wine already? Well, I’m here to tell you, yes and YES!

The Stoller Family Estate 2015 Dundee Hills Pinot Noir Ros? is my harbinger of spring, thank you very much. The stunning pink color gently wakes your winter weary soul while Ruby Red grapefruit, watermelon and honeysuckle tickle your senses, teasing?them with lively aromatics and playful acidity. I want to pair this wine with bouillabaisse or crudit?s, as its restraint is reminiscent of the finest classic wine from Provence, but I think it is an extremely?versatile wine and would taste simply divine with a fennel, blood orange and arugula salad topped with a?simple honey and lemon vinaigrette. Or you could do what I did and eat with pepperoni and pineapple pizza? damn that was good (don’t judge me).

Hedges 2012 Red Mountain? Your Go-To Red Blend

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2012 Hedges Family Estate Red Mountain

From the first sip to the empty bottle, flavors and aromas of this wine unfold like your favorite fable, rich with tone and texture. The story opens with pleasant pie spice and powerful cigar box aromas capturing your attention and compelling you on. Close your eyes and you may think you’re lounging somewhere in France, savoring each chapter at some luxurious chateau; the old world feel of this wine goes far beyond the label. And though that label may say 60% cabernet sauvignon, the 4% cabernet franc somehow dominates becoming not only?the main character but the hero of the story.

If you’re looking for a wine that’s interesting and structured enough to impress your wine snob friends without breaking the bank, one that develops in complexity as it opens up, and tastes as good on its own as it does with with a hearty, meaty meal, Hedges Family Estate Red Mountain 2012?sure to become your go-to wine.

Each sip washes a wave of silk and fruit over your mouth. You’ll?find yourself?charmed?by the?obvious impressions of tobacco supported by the strong and masculine backbone of smoke, and leather. Further exploration uncovers layers of spicy clove, allspice, sandalwood, succulent and tart, concentrated blueberries and lingering whispers of sweet black licorice.

Hands down, this is one of the best domestic Bordeaux style blends I’ve had the pleasure of enjoying in quite some time. And at this price point, my best advice is to buy it by the case if you can, it’ll only improve over the next decade.

60% cabernet sauvignon, 26% merlot, 8% syrah, 4% cabernet franc, 2% malbec
Red Mountain AVA – Washington
A steal at $26.99

Furioso: Furiously Good Pinot Noir

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New wineries seem to be popping up in Oregon like wildflowers; beautiful blooms that add fragrance and color to the already magnificent landscape. As if we thought it couldn?t get any better.

I am hoping to visit them all and share their stories here.

The first, in the roundup on recents is La Linea Furioso, located in Dundee Oregon. As the name is a bit of a mouthful, and I?d like to focus the mouthful on the wine, so we?ll just call them Furioso and hope they won’t mind too terribly.

Furioso, owned by Giorgio Furioso, purchased the old Crumbled Rock site to create a new winery and reclaim his Italian winemaking family?s heritage. Mission accomplished

There is a new tasting room to explore as well as?the first commercial vintage of 2014 pinot noir. I hear from winemaker Dominique Mahe, that there is chardonnay in the works and that they have just planted friulano (which is quite rare in the Willamette Valley). Though it?s a good three years before we see the fruiliano, my interest is most definitely piqued.

2014 L?Altra Linea Furioso Pinot Noir
This wine is ripe and truly authentic to the warmer vintage. It?s also rich, young and fruity with a mouthful of tart cranberry relish reminiscent of turkey dinner, sweet blackberry jam and hints of spice that’s all wrapped up in warm supple leather. The balance of sweetness, acidity and smooth tannins make this a wine that plays well with food. Let it linger long like a welcome friend.?$45

??Vermouth ? Potent Potables

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Vermouth has a long history whose origins can be traced to Turin, Italy where it was created as a medicinal tonic. The name actually comes from the German word for wormwood, Wermut, which is a primary ingredient. Originally, the herbal infusions were prescribed by the local apothecary as a daily elixir; the potent aromatics?would mask the sharp flavor of the malaria-fighting quinine it contained.?But what was once a common curative?has become a backbone to some of my favorite cocktails?Martinis, Manhattans and Negronis, oh my! (Click here for my recipe variation on the traditional Manhattan).

Comprised of fortified wine (either white or red depending on the style and where it is produced), Vermouth is wine infused with grape neutral spirits and a variety of aromatic botanicals like roots, bark, flowers, seeds herbs and spices.

Vermouth?s qualities go way beyond quinine and alcoholic concoctions. It is pure magic. Served over ice with a simple twist of citrus, it becomes either a delicious and elegant apertif or a restorative digestif (calming the digestive system). One sip and you?ll be spellbound, so don?t say I didn?t warn you. And because of the liquor component, it can keep in the refrigerator for a month or so, allowing you to slow down and savor the bottle. Nothing this good should be hurried.

A few captivating Vermouths (explore at your leisure):

Imbue Cellars:?Highly aromatic, with essences of honeyed pear, elderflower, vanilla and classic herbs de Provence that was over your mouth like a refreshing ocean wave. Slightly sweet with a pleasant hint of lingering bitterness that invigorates and satisfies.?Made from Oregon Pinot gris, infused with Clear Creek Distilled Pinot Gris Brandy and a selection of dried botanicals. 16.5% alcohol.

IMG_1605Priorat Natur Vermut:?The Spanish brown Vermouth is more like grown-up dessert: all honeyed herbs, spices, and bitter green tobacco leaves.?I first tasted this at Shift Bar in downtown Portland, where it was listed as ?Drinking Tobacco?. This wine and I? Well, let?s just say it was love at first taste. I was utterly captivated and liked it so much, I took a bottle home.

Grapes from Priorat are infused with indigenous herbs and aromatics. Bottling is done in small quantities; just 700 cases are made every year. Made from?White Carncha, ?Macabeu, Pedro Ximenez (no wonder I love it). You?ll find it hyponotically fragrant, luxuriously smooth and perfectly balanced on the palate, a bittersweet symphony with just enough honey sweetness to compliment the accompanying bitter citrus. A good match with anything salty or savory, especially with appetizers (like olives or clams).

?Hammer & Tongs: P. Andrew Taylor is a brilliant alchemist who has clearly?succumbed to the magic powers of Vermouth. Both way ahead of his time and an old soul, Taylor?has succeeded in harnessing the curative effects of the medicinal tonic used in days of yore and combining that with the restorative elements of cocktails found in the Happy Hour crowds?to produce a potable that crosses over into a whole new dimension.

The Hammer & Tongs Sac’R?sine is pure herbalicious ? The foundation of Pinot Blanc provides both floral and citrusy qualities like grapefruit, green apple, licorice and pine, while the L’Afrique is the polar opposite. Syrah based, it?s inky dark in color and sweet with cherry cola, cedar, bergamot tea and cocoa.

WillaKenzie Gamay Noir – Even Pinot Lovers Will Love

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For those who love Pinot Noir,?I give you WillaKenzie Estate Gamay Noir.

Gamay noir (primarily known as Beaujolais) is something like zinfandel, in that cheap, poorly made yet widely distributed versions have damaged our impressions of what should be a great wine. Let this wine?dispel any negative opinions you may have.

WillaKenzie 2012 Gamay Noir is notable with its bright and food friendly acidity, subtle minerality and fruity presence. Brandied sour cherries make the first impression while crushed raspberries and bacon (yes bacon!) sneak in from behind. Laced with an elegant yet subtle perfume of violets and the hypnotic aromas of cassis, the complexity is astounding.

A cross between pinot noir and gouais blanc, gamay noir is one of those varieties that is still flying under the radar, making it a more affordable alternative to its more grown up and sophisticated cousin (pinot noir). When it’s crafted like an honorable and traditional red Burgundy, the wines rich color, deep flavors and smooth tannins are elevated exactly as they should be.

WillaKenzie Aliette ? A Wine for all Seasons

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willakenzieThough red and white wines can be?perfect any time of year, there?s something to be said for drinking with the seasons. The heavy, hearty stews of fall and winter scream for big red wines; holiday season means a glass of bubbly at the ready; and summer salads and lighter fare typically call for bright whites.

And then there?s pinot noir. Its flexibility and food-friendly acidity makes it a perfect wine for all seasons, and WillaKenzie Estate 2012 Aliette (named after a beautiful woman and not to be confused with the french word “Alouette“) fills that bill and more.

Made of 100% pommard fruit, this wine is lithe, lush, silky, smooth and sexy. It?s a glass of pure romance and is exquisite when paired with the warmth of a crackling fire and someone to snuggle with. Add a mix of dinner and some enticing conversation and you’ll have yourself a night to remember.

Pay attention to the wine and you may notice flavors of red plum, ripe raspberries, soft vanilla and a dazzling spicy white pepper finish. The flavors are harmonious, the wine?s clarity is as translucent as Oregon pinot noir is known for, and for a warm vintage, you?d never know it, for the wine is perfectly balanced. Winemaker Thibaud Mandet is some kinda winemaker genius; his wines are dependable, distinctive, consistent and always, always delicious.

Pair this wine with seared duck breast and savory compote, braised short ribs with parsnip pur?e, duck confit with ratatouille, pork sugo over polenta and any salmon preparation. Enjoy with dinner or all on its own, this wine not disappoint.

Celebrate! With Kramer Vineyards Sparkling M?ller Thurgau

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kramerI’m going to let you in a little secret. Kramer Vineyard’s?Sparkling M?ller Thurgau. You can thank me later.

While?Champagne is typically a blend of pinot noir, chardonnay and pinot meuniur, other sparkling wines can be from any number of grapes. Cava is made?primarily from a grape called?macabeu, while Prosecco is made from the?Italian white variety, glera. It’s not often, however, that you find a winery producing a sparkling wine from M?ller Thurgau, and totally rocking it, but that’s exactly what winemaker Kimberly Kramer at Kramer Vinyeards is doing.

Kramer Vineyard’s Celebrate!?M?ller Thurgau is all estate-grown fruit and 100% stainless steel fermented, which allows the brightness and clarity to shine like a holiday star and lift your spirits. The tropical flavors of the grape add unexpected interest and delight and the bubbles dance gracefully across your tongue.

At just $22 (winery price, I found it for under $20 at my local market), it’s perfect for holiday parties, impressive as hostess gifts or any cause you may have to celebrate (the weekend, breaking up with a partner?who didn’t deserve you? I’m sure you can find a good excuse reason).

Beyond the bubbly goodness, you’ll be treated to a luscious, dry-style sparkler with tastes and aromas of juicy apricot, mandarin oranges, sweet persimmon and crispy asian pear. Serve?with spicy food, oysters, popcorn, brunches, light dessert (like these Persimmon Drop Cookies), or just pour a glass and enjoy it all on its own. It’s totally worthy.

Angel Vine 2012 The Hellion

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IMG_23512102 Angel Vine
The Hellion (Columbia Valley)

A super-structured wine full of?juicy, ripe blackberries, dark?plum, black cherries and pie spices. It teases your palate with baking chocolate,?leather, licorice, moist earth, black pepper?and vanilla, all of which?contribute?to the delight and the complexity of this wine. Its full body makes it fun?to pair with food; the primitivo and zinfandel make it a no-brainer with grilled meats, like lamb and beef, but the solid structure, balanced tannins and bright acidity allow it to pair?beautifully with rich recipes like?my crockpot barbecue brisket.

A big and beautiful?blend of primitivo (43%), petite sirah (28%) and zinfandel (29%). The grapes for this wine were sourced?from four vineyards in four different regions of the Columbia Valley in Washington State???Stonetree Vineyard (Wahluke Slop AVA), Alder Ridge Vineyard (Horse Heaven Hills AVA), Avery Vineyard (Columbia Valley AVA) and Les Collines Vineyard (Walla Walla Valley AVA).

Winemaker Ed Fus shows a passion for terrior-driven zinfandel and primitivo, which is clearly seen in this wine. The Angel Vine wines can be found in the market or at their Urban Portland winery and tasting room Urban Crush.

5Q Obscurity 2014 Pinot Blanc – A Total Head-Turner

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I?ll be completely honest, I?m generally not a huge fan of Pinot Blanc (except in Cremant d’Alsace, but that’s another post). Typically, I find it to be either a bit austere or just?rather bland. Don’t get me wrong, I don?t dislike it, but I don?t generally seek it out either. Really, I guess I just don’t give it much thought at all. However, when I tasted this small production wine at the SE Wine Collective in Portland (one of my favorite hangouts), I knew I had a mind-changer?on my hands.

Pinot Blanc is a full bodied white grown all over the world. In Alsace France, a 100%?Pinot Blanc?is actually quite rare, it’s often blended with other more aromatic varieties like Auxerrois. There are a number of Oregon wineries that make a 100% pure Pinot Blanc, and 5Q is one of the best I’ve encountered.

5Q Obscurity 2014 Pinot Blanc– Full of bright and clean citrus that accentuate rather than overpower the glass, and subtle notes of apricot and orange blossom. The wine is well integrated, perfectly balanced and with just the right amount of acidity to make your mouth water, it’s?heavenly with seafood, asian food (especially something with a hint of spice), cheeses, fritattas, corn on the cob and even pastas with cream sauce.

I applaud this wine as it made me stand up and take notice of a wine variety I would normally pass over. Love. Love. Love. And you will too.