2014 Underwood Pinot Noir – Oregon Value

If I was to ask you to name a Pinot Noir producing region, what comes to mind first? For most Pinot Noir fans, the most likely answer is Burgundy. And why not, its wines are considered to be among the world’s best, which however also puts them as some of the world’s most expensive wine.

Finding an inexpensive but good quality Pinot Noir from Burgundy can be quite the challenge. However, luckily for fans of the heartbreak grape, there are a number of other regions producing good quality inexpensive Pinot Noirs.

One of those regions just happens to be the Willamette Valley in Oregon and like Burgundy, the valley is almost exclusively known for its Pinot Noir production. According to the 2015 Oregon Vineyard and Winey Census report, the valley accounts for 82% of the Pinot Noir production within Oregon, with 14,417 acres planted. The next closest grape in terms of planting was Pinot Gris at 2,463 acres.

However, there are noticeable differences between the two regions, most notably is the fact that Pinot Noirs from the Willamette valley tend to be somewhat more fruit forward than their Burgundy counterparts. This is most likely due to the different soil conditions between the two regions and the differences in climate.

Now when I mentioned other regions making inexpensive Pinot Noirs, I didn’t mean to indicate that wines coming out the Willamette Valley are necessarily cheap, because they are not. A good quality Oregon Pinot Noir is most likely going to run you $35 – $50, which may seem steep to a lot of folks. However, when compared to a Grand Cru Burgundy, which can start at $50 you can see where an Oregon Pinot Noir might be considered quite the value.

Given what I know about Oregon Pinot Noir, I tend to be skeptical when I see them for less than $25/bottle. So when I first tasted the 2014 Underwood Pinot Noir, I was quite impressed by the character shown in this wine, especially at a $20 price point.

Underwood 2014 Pinot Noir
Oregon – 2014 Underwood Pinot Noir

Right off the bat, I picked some intense notes of cherry and raspberry on the nose, along with a slight floral  note in the background. In comparison to other Pinot Noirs, I found the aromas for this wine to be quite a bit more pronounced and up front. In the glass, the wine showed a clear, pale, ruby color.

Underwood 2014 Pinot Noir in a glass

I found this to have a slightly more structured body than a lot of other Pinot Noirs, there seemed to be a slightly more tannic presence along with a finish that just seemed to linger longer than usual. There was also delightful acidity to the wine that helped to give it that slight boost in the body.

On the palate flavors of black cherry and cranberry coupled with vegetable notes. Interesting note on the flavor of the wine, while writing up my tasting notes, I happened to read the back of the wine label that highlighted “cola” as one of the predominate notes of this wine. As soon as I read cola, that was all I could taste and think of.

Back of the label
2014 Notes: Cherry, Blackberry, Cola

I was very pleasantly surprised by this wine, it showed much more complexity than I was expecting especially at its $20 price point. Perhaps I shouldn’t be surprised after reading up on the history of the winery. According to the wineries website, the winemaker Ryan Harms, set out to make a Pinot Noir that was accessible but not expensive.

A good indication of this desire is shown in the wineries newest offering, their Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, Rose, and sparkling wine in a can. I’ve yet to try the Pinot Noir in a can but the word from friends and associates is that it’s pretty good and shows very similar to the Pinot in the bottle.

At the end of the day I can confidently say that if your hunting for a good quality value Pinot Noir, I don’t think you can go wrong with the Underwood Pinot Noir.



Review: Cono Sur 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon

What’s the first thing that comes to your mind when I say Cabernet Sauvignon? Most people immediately think of Napa Valley, and it’s big, bold, and brash Cab Sav’s. Some may think of Bordeaux, more specifically of its left bank wines.

Now what comes to mind when I say Chilean Cabernet Sauvignon? Would it surprise you if I said things like: soft, young, earthy, or red fruit?

I’ve been a fan of Cono Sur wine’s for a long time, I find they make a very nice and reasonably priced Pinot Noir. Recently I got the chance to try their Gewürztraminer, which was excellent. This was the first time I was trying their Cabernet Sauvignon, so I really tried to leave any expectations at the door.

CS 01
Cono Sur 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon


Cabernet Sauvignon got its start in the 17th century in France, as a blend of Cab Franc and Sauvignon Blanc grapes. Since then it has grown to become perhaps the worlds’ most famous and widely planted grape.

It’s perhaps best known as the primary grape in Bordeaux (left bank) wines, but it really came on to the international stage with the 1976 Judgement of Paris. Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon really took off from that point and has quickly grown into some of the worlds’ most expensive and best known wines.

The grape has spread to many other countries, such as Australia, New Zealand, Spain, Italy and Eastern Europe. In South America, in particular Chile, Cabernet Sauvignon became the backbone of their wine industry.

Which brings us to Cono Surs’ 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon. As I mentioned I really tried to go into this wine with an open mind. Right away I was very pleasantly surprised. In the glass it showed a very clear body with a deep purple colour and a burgundy rim.

CS 02

On the nose I immediately picked up some earthy notes along with red fruit and just a slight hint of coffee. The wine really came across as young and fresh.

The first taste showed a soft but well structured body with medium low tannins. On the tongue blackberry and green pepper really came through at first. As the wine picked up more oxygen I thought I could start to detect just a very mild hint of carmel or toffee on the tongue.

We paired this wine with Beef Barley soup and it complimented the soup very well.




  • Winery: Cono Sur
  • Vintage: 2014
  • Grape: Cabernet Sauvignon (60%), Carmener (40%)
  • Region: Vallet Central
  • Country: Chile
  • Nose: Earth Tones, Red fruit (berries), Coffee
  • Taste: Blackberry, Green Pepper, Toffee
  • Purchased: Oak & Vine
  • Price: $13.99






Belleruche, Cotes-Du-Rhone

I have a fascination with France and its culture. If you were to ask me what city I most want to visit, my immediate response is always Paris. I think it comes from some romantic notion of the French lifestyle. I have visions of sitting at a sidewalk cafe drinking coffee, enjoying a bottle of wine with a baguette and cheese under the Eiffel Tower, and fine dining by candlelight.

Until I get the chance to travel to France I have to satisfy myself with the occasional meal or bottle of French wine such as my latest treasure a bottle of 2014 M. Chapoutier Belleruche Côtes-Du-Rhône.


2014 M. Chapoutier Belleruche Côtes-Du-Rhône

The Rhone wine region is located in the southwest of France, and is situated within the Rhone valley. This region produces a number of different wines all under various AOC designations with the most significant appellation being in the Côtes-Du-Rhône AOC.

Maison M. Chapoutier is an estate vineyard that has been involved in grape growing since 1808, and prides itself in its approach to growing, harvesting, and making wine. This is reflected in its family motto “Fac Et Spera”, – do and hope. Hope is the patience that comes with working with Mother Nature, and do is what goes into the process of making wine that people will enjoy.

The 2014 Belleruche is a blend of Grenache and Syrah, which gives it the strong pepper notes of a Syrah, but the soft mouth feel of Grenache. This was very easy drinking but had enough texture to stand up to a spicy beef dish that it was paired with.

On the nose I picked up strong notes of ripe fruit such as raspberry and black plum and slight hints of oak and dark chocolate. I found the ripe fruit aroma to be quite strong, almost overpowering.

Black pepper was front and centre on the palette, but also notes of dried fruit. There was lingering flavour on the back of the tongue that I had a difficult time identifying. I can only describe the taste as smoky, almost like BBQ meat. It’s definitely something I will be on the look out for next time.

I was really taken with colour of this wine, a deep burgundy with just a slight hint of violet. Looking at the wine in the glass my immediate impression was this was going to be a rich full-bodied wine and it certainly didn’t disappoint. This is definitely a wine to be added to the cellar.




  • Winery: M. Chapoutier
  • Vintage: 2014
  • Grape: Syrah / Grenache blend
  • Region: Cotes-Du-Rhone, Rhone Valley
  • Country: France
  • Nose: Raspberry, Black Plum, Oak, Dark Choclate
  • Taste: Black Pepper, Dried Fruit
  • Purchased: Oak & Vine
  • Price: $18.99

His and Hers Tastings!

In our house the choice of what bottle of wine to drink can sometimes be quite a challenge. My wife tends to prefer white (or rose) and when given a preference I most often will choose red.

So to get around this we usually take turns. We’ll open a bottle of white and enjoy that. Then next time we’ll open a bottle of red and then a bottle of white and so on and so on.

Every once in awhile however, we tend to disagree on what to have. She wants white, I want red and we can’t seem to compromise. So we do the next best thing, we open a white for her and red for me. Literally we have his and her wines.

His and Hers!


That night I opened a 2010 Estampa Reserve Syrah Viognier blend from Chile. It was made from 80% Syrah and 20% Viognier which made for a very interesting blend. It definitely had a lot of Syrah characteristics, but had a certain crispness to it that I think came from the 20% Viognier blend.


Up front the body had some great structure to it, very clean and smooth with subtle tannins. It wasn’t overly dry but had great mouth feel to it. If you swirled it around you mouth you could feel the wine coast the inside of your cheeks, but was still light enough not cause the puckering associated with a heavily tannic wine.

On the nose were a lot of floral notes along with berry fruit such as blackberry and raspberry. I would comment that I found the aromas difficult to pick up with this wine, I found them very low key. I think the aromas with this wine would probably be very subjective depending on the person.

In terms of flavour I detected some stronger notes of oak and tobacco, along with a real strong black pepper taste. A little more subdued but also present was just a hint of black cherry.

I’m glad I gave this wine a try, it had some complexity to it but all things considered was quite good. Definitely a wine I would try again.


Meanwhile my wife had opened up a 2014 Cono Sur Gewürztraminer also from Chile. This was our first white from the winery as we’ve had their Pinot Noir on several occasions. This didn’t disappoint at all.


It was very vibrant and clean, with a young crisp easy drinking body. Not sweet at all but it did have some good acidity with just a slight tartness to it. It paired well with food but could definitely be enjoyed all by itself sitting out on a deck one summer afternoon.

I really noticed a strong aroma of fresh cut grass with this wine, along with notes of pineapple. I thought I could pick up a slight hint of vanilla on the nose but could’t be 100% sure.

On the tongue I really noted the flavour of peaches, lychee, and pineapple.  Another really great wine from Cono Sur winery.

It was fun having his and her wines but I think next time we won’t be quite so greedy and we’ll go back to sharing just one bottle.




  • Winery: Estampa Reseve
  • Vintage: 2010
  • Grape: Syrah Viognier Blend
  • Region: Palmilla, Colchagua Valley
  • Country: Chili
  • Nose: Floral, Blackberry, Raspberry
  • Taste: Oak, Tobacco, Black pepper, Black cherry
  • Purchased: Oak & Vine
  • Price: $11.00
  • Winery: Cono Sur
  • Vintage: 2014
  • Grape: Gewürztraminer
  • Region: Colchagua Valley
  • Country: Chili
  • Nose: Fresh cut grass, Pineapple, Vanilla
  • Taste: Peach, Lychee, Pineapple
  • Purchased: Oak & Vine
  • Price: $11.00

We actually wound up buying these two bottles at the same time as part of Oak & Vine’s “Two for $22” sale.

A Rosé by another name……

Last weekend I got an opportunity to host my parents for a couple of days. I say opportunity, because my folks only live a couple of hours north of me and more often then I travel to their place when it’s time for a visit. However, circumstances dictated that my folks were going to be  staying with me a change. This coupled with the absolute fantastic weather we had for a January weekend called for a bbq.

I had to run out to the store to pick up some mushrooms, because you can’t have a steak without mushroom pan fried in garlic butter. While doing my last minute shopping I just happened to remember that I didn’t have any white wine or rose in the house. Since the wife prefers white or rose, I decided to be a good husband and pick up something for her.

As I browsing through the aisles I happened to come across a Rose from Argentina, made from Cabernet Sauvignon. Now a nice Cabernet Sauvignon is a excellent choice for steak, and since it was Rose, it was perfect choice for the wife.

Cabernet Sauvignon Rose from Argentina
Obra Prima Cabernet Sauvignon Rosado 2014

I was curious so I looked up the winery online. The Cassone family has been growing and producing wine grapes in Lujan de Cuyo region of Mendoza, Argentina since 1957. Originally those grapes that were grown were sold to other wineries. However in 1998 they began to use those grapes to make their own brand of wine, know as Familia Cassone.

The winery had three vineyards in the Lujan de Cuyo region; Finca La Florencia, Finca Agrelo and Finca La Dominga. These vineyards produce three of their four product lines: Obra Prima, Cassone, and Finca La Florencia.

The vineyards produce a variety of grapes including Syrah, Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Chardonnay, and Sauvignon Blanc. They also produce a Rose made from Cabernet Sauvignon, a Sparkling Brut, and several blends.

In 2012 they purchased the Viña del Fundo vineyard in Chile. Located in the Valley of Maule, it produces Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon.

Unfortunately I’m quite a novice when it comes to wine from Argentina. All most all of my my experiences have been with Malbec, so I was quite interested to see what this wine would be like.

Right away I was blown away by the color of the wine. The only words I can use to describe the wine are strawberry and pale orange.

Wine has a pale orange color
Pale orange dominates the color palette.

On the nose I picked up rose pedal right away, but there was something else I couldn’t quite put my finger on. It took a minute or two, but I realized the other aroma was that of fresh cut flowers. Not overpowering but very fragrant.

Taste wise it was very clean with a slight crispness to it, definitely not sweet at all or with much acidity. There was a dryness to the wine that I think comes from it being made with Cabernet Sauvignon grapes. I was taken aback at first with the dryness but quickly grew to appreciate it.

Strong notes of strawberry dominated the flavour of the wine but I also noted some notes of peach and apricot as well.

In the end I was really impressed by how this wine drank. For being an impulse buy it was really quite good. It’s definitely one I would buy again.


  • Winery: Familia Cassone Obra Prima
  • Vintage: 2014
  • Grape: Cabernet Sauvignon, Rosé
  • Region: Lujan de Cuyo
  • Country: Argentina
  • Nose: Rose pedals, fresh cut flowers
  • Taste: Strawberry, Apricot, Peach
  • Purchased: Aspen Wine & Spirits
  • Price: $17.99


Crossing bridges through food & wine.

I’m on the hunt for something comfortable. I’m not complaining but after everything I’ve eaten over the last month, I’m in need of some comfort food. Something hearty, simple, and something that will just make you feel warm and comfortable.

I think a big dish of Shepard’s Pie should do the trick just nicely. It’s a great meal for a cold winter day and it gives us plenty of leftovers for the freezer.

A quick glance in the fridge confirms that I have most of the ingredients that I need, but I do need some potatoes which means a quick trip to the store. Which also means the perfect excuse for a quick visit to the local wine store next door.

The recipe I use for my Shepard’s Pie calls for 1/4 cup of Red Wine. Now I have wine at home but I figure why open an existing bottle when I can buy a new one. A quick chat with the proprietor about what I’m looking for results in a recommendation of 2014 Racine Pinot Noir.


It wasn’t till I got home and opened up the wine that it struck me. I was using a French wine in an typically English Dish. I kind of felt like I was doing my part to improve relations between the two countries.

Once I tasted it I realized this was by far one of the most interesting Pinot Noir’s I’ve ever had. What really struck me with this wine was the body. At first the body seemed to very similar to most Pinot Noir’s. It was light with some notes of ripe fruit and low sweetness. It was very clean and drank very well with low tannins.

This is what I derived from the first glass that I had while I was preparing the dish. However once the dish was done and we sat down to eat, I poured myself another glass and to my amazement the wine changed.

Once paired with food the body seemed to grow and become fuller more developed. I still picked up on the ripe fruit in the flavour but I noticed a subtle earthiness that had developed.

On the nose I picked up ripe fruit like raspberry and strawberry along with just a hint of pepper. The nose on this wine was very subtle as first but slowly came forward.

In regards to taste I noted black berry and cherry along with a slight candy taste. My first thought was almost like black liquorice. The flavour wasn’t sweet like candy but more like the mouth feel you get after eating several pieces of candy. I had to admit this candy taste still bugs me, I would be very curious to see if anyone else notes this.

The colour of the wine really intrigued me. It had a very ruby colour in the glass however if you tipped the glass and if the light shone at the right angle the depth changed. RPN_01The rim lightened considerably and became very pale and translucent.

I’ve seen this other wines but for some reason this time it stuck with me. I couldn’t place it a first but then it eventually came to me. It reminded me of the fruit juice we drank as kids specifically cherry or raspberry. That tall glass of red liquid that looked like the colour of it’s fruit namesake but that had a certain translucence to it. I can distinctly remember as a kid holding up the glass of juice and being amazed that I could see through it.

I will freely admit that this could simply have been the lights in my kitchen playing a trick on me but I found it interesting.

I really liked this wine and at $22.00 thought it was an excellent value. I definitely can see a few more bottles of this ending up in my cellar.



  • Winery: Racine
  • Vintage: 2014
  • Grape: Pinot Noir
  • Region: Languedoc
  • Country: France
  • Nose: Ripe fruit, pepper
  • Taste: Black berry, cherry, red liquorice
  • Purchased: VR Wine
  • Price: $22.00