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.



The Song of Marjolaine

About a year and half ago I began volunteering at The Cookbook Co., a local kitchen and food speciality store that also offers cooking classes and catering. I volunteered to work in their cooking classes, helping to setup the classes, help the chefs and participants, and clean-up after the class.

Included in the price of the class was a glass of wine or beer to go along with the food the participants were making. One of the perks of working the classes was that I often got to try the wine that was included. In one such class the featured wine that day was called “Le Chant De Marjolaine”.

French Red Wine
Le Chant De Marjolaine

I was so impressed with this wine that I went next-door to Metrovino, who provides the wine for the cooking classes and purchased a bottle to have at home.

Domaine Rimbert, in the Languedoc region of Southern France, produces Le Chant De Marjolaine, which translates to “The Song of Marjolaines”. This region sits almost of the most southern tip of France, just east of Côte du Rhone and Provence. 

This is the largest-wine producing region in terms of volume. One reason for this is that it experiences long hours of summer sun with little rainfall, which allows for a longer growing season. This long growing season produces red wines that tend to be full bodied while the white wines tend to be quite dry.

Domaine Rimbert has been making wine since 1996 under the guidance of winemaker Jean-Marie Rimbert, and consists of 28 hectares of old vines along with 7 hectares of young vines, which were planted in 2000. Most of the vines are planted on a steep plots referred to as “through” in mostly shale soil. The vines themselves are spread out over 40 individual plots over a 10km radius, each with its own soil diversity, exposure and varietals. Harvest of the plots is done manually over a two-week period in September/October.

The care that is put into growing the grapes and producing the wine definitely shows in its quality. I really enjoyed the wine the first time I had it, but my appreciation has grown after having it again.

Glass of red wine
Le Chant De Marjolaine aka The Song of Marjolaine

Last Friday night I was looking for a bottle to enjoy while getting ready to watch the new documentary SOMM Into the Bottle, and I thought a bottle of Le Chant De Marjolaine would make an excellent choice for the evening.

After opening the bottle and pouring a glass I really noticed a strong aroma of ripe fruit, such as blackberries and raspberries. The smell of ripe fruit was definitely the dominant aroma but I could also pick up a very faint cedar aroma as well. I decided to give the wine some time to breathe before tasting so I let it sit for about 15 min.

When I came back to the wine I noted the colour, a deep vibrant burgundy with a light ruby coloured rim. I found this interesting given the strong fruit aromas; I was expecting a lighter coloured body, similar to that of a Pinot Noir.
Red Wine

Upon first taste I picked up the fruit again, particularly black cherry and pomegranate as well as some notes of tobacco. The texture of the wine was semi-dry but still very clean tasting with a slight tannic structure.

Something that I found really interesting with this wine was when I went to pour a second glass, I noticed the structure of the wine had changed. With the second glass that fruit aroma had settled even more and that cedar/earthiness aroma was a lot more evident. The flavour profile also changed, now I was picking up strong notes of pepper, dried fruit and dark chocolate. Based on what I was experiencing I would very much like to try this wine again, but I think I will aerate it and let it breathe for several hours first.

All in all a wonderful bottle of wine and will definitely find a home in my cellar.


  • Winery: Domaine Rimbert
  • Vintage: 2013
  • Grape: Carignon (Red)
  • Region: Languedoc
  • Country: France
  • Nose: Raspberry, Blackberry, Cedar
  • Taste: Black Cherry, Dried Cherry, Pomegranate, Pepper, Dark Chocolate
  • Purchased: Metrovino
  • Price: $20.00 (approximation)





A Wine fit for a Time Lord

What to drink for a Dr. Who marathon?

I found myself in a unique situation the other night. My wife had gone out for the evening which meant I was free to indulge in the dozen or so episodes of Dr. Who I had recorded.

The only question was what to drink, what goes with freedom and Time Lords? The obvious choice is a 2013 Cabernet Franc from Vineland Estates. 



The first time I tried this wine was trip to Ontario in 2014. My wife’s cousin has very graciously offered to tour us around the Niagara region for the day and I had just finished reading an article on this particular winery.

We stopped into the winery and decided to do a tasting while we were there. The Cabernet Franc happened to be on my choices for tasting that day.

The first thing I noticed about this wine was the colour, it was a deep ruby, almost purple. On the nose right away I picked up black fruit aromas such as blackberry or cherry, with some mild notes of cedar and tobacco. Tasting the wine I noted some raspberry flavours along with a slight pepperiness.

What really stood out for me was the easy drinking nature of the wine. There was definitely enough body in the wine to stand up to food, but was light enough to enjoy on it’s own.


During our time at Vineland Estates, I also went on to taste their Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Meunier, Semi Dry Riesling, and Game Changer Rose. Each wine was excellent. The whites were crisp and vibrant with great acidity and the Pinot Meunier was also very vibrant and fresh.

The winery itself is a in beautiful building and both my wife and I were very impressed with the staff in the tasting room. During our tasting the server looking after us overhead us talking about if we purchased a case how would we get it home. She mentioned that if we wanted a case they would box it up and mail it to our door step. She even went as far as to say she would personally box up our wine and get it ready for shipment and reassured us that it would arrive safe and sound.

True to  her word a week after we returned home there a big brown box with all of our new found treasures. Since that day we have ordered from them on several other occasions and they have always delivered with great wine and great customer service.

If you get the chance I would highly recommend trying any of their wines I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.


  • Winery: Vineland Estates Winery
  • Vintage: 2013
  • Grape: Cabernet Franc
  • Region: VQA Niagara Peninsula
  • Nose: blackberry, black cherry, cedar, tobacco
  • Taste: raspberry, pepper
  • Purchased: VR Wine ($23.00)