Pairings Dinner at Willamette Valley Vineyards!

We interrupt the Thirty Oregon Grapes in Thirty Days series to bring you a special post about the Pairings Dinner that I was fortunate to attend last night at Willamette Valley Vineyards! Who doesn’t love a good wine dinner?

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I live about an hour from the Willamette Valley Vineyards Estate in Turner, so I was able to catch a gorgeous sunset on the drive down. I was a little bummed that it was dark by the time I got there at 6:30 (WINTER! Grrr), because the view from the Estate has got to be a stunner during the daytime. The space is large, cozy and inviting.

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The Pairings dinners, as I understand it, were just started this January. They continue for the month of February, Friday evenings at 6:30. Each dinner is four courses, paired with (at least last night) a combination of their Estate wines and the Griffin Creek bottlings from Southern Oregon.

Food porn will follow. Don’t say I didn’t warn ya.

The first course was Baked Willamette Valley Cheese Co. Brie with raspberries, almonds and a coriander arugula salad with citrus-raspberry gastrique. It was paired with their 2012 Estate Chardonnay. This Chard is medium-full bodied, with a nice touch of spicy oak and toast. The red fruit in the salad was an interesting offset to the citrusy qualities in the wine; texturally it worked, and the coriander was picked up by the oak ever so slightly:

Cheeeese.

Cheeeese.

The following course was Cedar Planked Rosemary Brined Steelhead Salmon (you can’t be in Oregon at a wine dinner and not have Salmon, amiright?). It was accompanied by roasted brussel sprouts with house-cured bacon and molasses lime anise syrup. To sip alongside was their 2012 Estate Pinot Noir, 93 Points rated by Wine & Spirits. My highlight from this marriage was definitely the molasses syrup, it played nicely off the carmel-y, ripe quality of the wine. Of course you can (almost) never go wrong with Salmon and Pinot, but I liked the slight richness of the molasses with this particular Pinot. A big warm vintage like 2012 can stand up to something like molasses. Cheers to that!

Don't eat the cedar plank.

Don’t eat the cedar plank.

The next course was my personal favorite: Tails & Trotters Pork Osso Bucco & Sweet Potato Hash, with Rogue Creamery smoky blue cheese & tobacco onions. This was served with the 2011 Griffin Creek Syrah from the Rogue Valley. I’ve been on a real Southern Oregon kick lately, and really liked this wine. It was layered with black cherry, blackberry liqueur, burnt coffee (sounds gross, tastes good), woodsy/earthy veins and a sweet tobacco/brown sugar finish. Some underlying smokyness in the wine played really well with the smoked pungency of the blue cheese. Great success!

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The portion sizes were well-thought out, so I actually did have room for dessert: a Chocolate-Hazelnut Beignet with Tillamook Marionberry Pie Ice Cream. Mm-hmm. For sippage, there was a 2013 Sweet Tempranillo. I’d been craving ice cream, but refused to buy any at home for fear I’d eat the whole pint in one sitting, so I was particularly glad to see the ice cream. I don’t even have next-day regret, either.

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This is definitely an awesome event space that I’ll surely return to in the Spring! I can only imagine sitting on that porch during the sunset! The Pairings dinners are $50 per person, and check out the calendar here if you’re interested in attending one. Cheers!

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Thirty Oregon Wines in Thirty Days, days 27 & 28: Field Trip to Portland!

Yesterday I field-tripped up to Portland and paid a visit to the SE Wine Collective! I mean, it WAS Wednesday after all. What better day to have an extended happy hour? Its been unbelievably foggy in the Valley all week, but as soon as I got closer to Portland, the sun was out and it an absolutely gorgeous afternoon. Happy, I was.

The SE Wine Collective was the site of a killer dinner that I went to back in December. I hadn’t been back since, and was excited to explore a few reds in particular. It was really convenient to be able to sample two Cab Francs from Southern Oregon in one place, by the glass/taste. Can any other place really say that? Not sure, but in any case- its darn awesome. Lets dive in. Its Cab Franc time, baby.

Did you know Cab Franc grows in Southern Oregon? I didn’t, before I moved here. Its sort of fun to look back on this blog project and realize that a few of my favorite finds of the month were actually from Southern Oregon. I didn’t see that coming at all, and its a really cool discovery.

Up first was the Jackalope Cabernet Franc, 2013 Applegate Valley:

Filed under: Fonts I like.

Filed under: Fonts I like.

Cabernet Franc is a fascinating grape; it can be in the “fresh, red fruit” category and it can also be in the “deep dark tannic monster” category. This one leaned towards the former; it had some nice dark fruit coursing through its veins, but the warm raspberry definitely showed through. A hint of blackberry preserves and coffee bean, and some young, green leafy business going on, along with peppercorn and bay leaves. Really a cool wine that has a lot of different elements at work, without seeming disjointed. Fun to drink. According to the website, less than 70 cases made.

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Next in Cab Franc world was actually a bottle I have seen in a few stores and really wanted to buy. I am loving the packaging on the Willful Cabernet Franc, 2012 Applegate Valley:

A touch of whimsy on the label art tickles my fancy.

A touch of whimsy on the label art tickles my fancy.

There’s a cool story here. I’ll paraphrase, as you can surely Google if you’re so inclined. Willful Wine Company was born in 2012, and produces Pinot Noir from their estate in Dundee (I also tried this- great), and small quantities of other Northwest varietals. The owner and winemaker’s name is Pam Walden, and there’s some background here involving Daedalus Cellars/Jezebel wines. I don’t feel like I can do the full story justice without sounding like an idiot, but in any case- if this is only the second year that Pam has released wine under the Willful label- the woman can make some damn wine. I’m sold. This juice is fantastic. Actually, I’ll go out on a limb and say this might be my favorite new discovery of this 30 days.

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This is a big ol’ wine, with full flavors of black cherry and raspberry jam, followed by a high “ding” of sour cherry. Its oak profile is round and integrated; its a curvy wine but incredibly balanced. The finish is long and creamy with baking spices, pepper and subtle vanilla. Theres a nice play of savory/gamey/wildness (all technical terms) but not so much as to drown out the fruit. Its fleshed out nicely, yet not in my opinion overworked. Is that enough praise? I like the wine. Go get it.

I also tried the SE Wine Collective Red Blend- a blend of Syrah, Pinot Noir, Gamay & Cab Franc- it was in keg form, so no photo- but it was a super fun wine! Buoyant, fresh, tart, pomegranate-y and a really great keg wine for all those reasons.

I did a sort of “create your own flight” deal with these wines, and just put together the three tastes individually; they were $4, $5 and $3 each, respectively. Bottles are available for purchase too, for dine-in and take home. The SE Collective also has some pre-determined flights on the menu- the couple who were seated near me were sipping on the Chenin Blanc flight- three from around the world. The place is a fun concept and reminds me a lot of Cellar on Greene, except wine is being made there, which makes it that much cooler.

Also, I ate these dates, which were ridic:

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Ridic is a good thing, by the way. These dates were stuffed with gorgonzola & hazelnuts and wrapped in prosciutto, seared, and drizzled with honey. Freakin’ delicious. You’d think I was being paid to say these things, but really I’m not. I just like the place. You should check it out.

Cheers, and thanks to the Collective for making it so easy to try two Oregon Cab Francs in one place! Score.

 

Thirty Oregon Wines in Thirty Days, day 26: Belle Oiseau! Belle Waz-what?

Behold, one of my favorite Oregon whites, the Belle Pente Belle Oiseau, 2011! 

Belle Oiseau means "Pretty Bird".

Belle Oiseau means “Pretty Bird.” Also, Belle Waz-Oh. 

As it turns out, this wine is beloved by many Oregonians. And with due reason. Winemaker Brian O’Donnell developed this wine for Portland’s Le Pigeon and its little sister restaurant, Little Bird, with the help of General Manager/Partner Andy Fortgang. Le Pigeon and Little Bird Bistro are currently taking two out of my top five spots for drool-worthy Instagram feeds here in Portland, by the way. I seriously can’t wait to go to either one. Sometimes they Instagram their staff meals, too. I might just show up sometime roughly when I suppose a staff meal would take place.

I’m sure they’d love that.

I mean, seriously. I can't even. How good would this wine be with this?!

I mean, seriously. I can’t even. How good would this wine be with this?!

In any case, this wine was developed as an ode to an Alsatian “Edelzwicker”, a blend of “Noble” varietals. Historically, the grapes would all come from the same parcel, and could even be co-fermented. The 2011 vintage is a blend of mostly Pinot Gris and Riesling, with a bit of Muscat. I’ve had it on a few occasions, but this is the first bottle I’ve purchased for just me. And let me tell you. The more time I spend with this bottle, the more enamored I am with it. On a given Tuesday, I could open a bottle, drink a glass, then say to myself- ok, later for that. But this is the kind of wine where I find myself sneaking another half a glass… then another. Its like an old friend. You can keep coming back to it, and every time you do you’re reminded how much you like it.

A very dry wine with just a touch of RS, it drinks like a lean, clean little machine. Delicate and precise, is has defined stone fruit and white floral characteristics, with soft lemon and golden apple in the background. Sharp enough to cut through something fatty (this wine was developed specifically with charcuterie in mind), yet would be great with light, fresh fare (oysters, anyone?) as well. The finish is lifted with some higher aromatics of jasmine and fresh laundry.

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Of course I’ve already declared my clear personal bias for Belle Pente, but this really is one of my favorite Oregon whites. Originally, this wine was restaurant-only, and sold in keg form. I read in one article that it sold for $8 a glass and $20 for a half-lifer carafe- which is RIDIC- in a perfect way. So well-priced. I would love to share a carafe of this wine, bistro-style, for $20. It sounds too good to be true to me. In any case, this wine in bottle form sells for $18. I purchased it at the winery, and honestly I don’t know if any retailers carry it. They very well could, I just don’t know personally. If you’re local, I of course suggest bringing yourself down to Carlton to buy some at the winery. If you’re not, you’ll have to get a plane ticket. But its cool, you’ll be happy you did.

Gah! I know I’m a day behind right now, but I’m trying my best to wrap up the Thirty Grapes project in the best way possible. Seriously, I’m TRYING. Cheers!

 

Thirty Oregon Wines in Thirty Days, day 25: Vermentino in Oregon?!

Wrapping up the last week of my Oregon grapes project, I’m kind of scrambling to try to include as many as possible! So this is a duplicate winery, but I really dug the Zinfandel I wrote about from Troon, so I returned once again. And selfishly, I can walk to this place and its a pretty chill little tasting room. So meet the Troon “Foundation ’72” Vermentino, 2013 Oregon, Applegate Valley! It was the first Vermentino in Oregon:

IMG_8098 (1)Vermentino is kind of a super star in California right now; winemakers are experimenting with different styles with great success (Matthiasson, Rhyme). These grapes come from Southern Oregon, so its not a far stretch that they can live happily in the slightly warmer Rogue Valley. These grapes were grafted in 2006 onto vines that were first planted in 1972.

This is a lean style of Vermentino, and very quaffable. Vermentino is native to Southern Italy and is a pretty accommodating grape- it likes a warm climate and ocean breezes, but in this case its maintained a sense of self despite being in Oregon. It is also a grape that can be treated in many different manners and still be delicious- the Troon is fermented in stainless steel, but it can be made in a slightly richer style as well.

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Vermentino can offer a wide range of fun aromas and tastes- from apple and fresh flowers to ripe citrus, melon and tropical fruit. It almost always has a nice degree of minerality and acid that keeps it from feeling weighty. Mr. Troon here is tart and almost spritzy, with lemon zest, grapefruit, a little bit of a flinty edge and a mouthwatering dry finish. It pulls off a fresh, mediterranean feel. This wine got 87 points from Wine Enthusiast- I consider that pretty respectable for a modest-priced wine. Sometimes if you don’t see the “9” in front of a score its easy to disregard it. Just remember, there’s a lotta numbers less than 87. Like 60 or 73. Which are not so great. Has a wine ever scored, like 40 points? Someone answer this for me. I’m curious.

I can see this wine being a really fun glass pour in a restaurant. I always like surprising glass pours. Apparently Troon will be doing a few different bottlings/styles of Vermentino for the 2014 vintage, which I believe will be released in February. I’ll be looking forward to trying them fo’ sho! So, will Vermentino blow up in Oregon and become a “thing”? Not really sure I can confidently answer that, but I sure don’t mind this one.

I tasted this wine at the Troon Vineyards Tasting Room in Carlton. The bottle is available for purchase for $18. 

Cheers!

Thirty Oregon Wines in Thirty Days, day 24: Brittan Syrah!

Today was a serendipitous day! I went to visit my friend Erin, the tasting room manager at the new Winderlea/Brittan tasting room in McMinnville. Which you should go to, by the way. Its a cool little spot, and there’s Chrysalis Coffee and the Dominio IV tasting room nearby too!

I was an early bird, getting there right at 11 after a morning spent getting new brake pads on my car (FUN.) Really, who tastes wine at 11am? Well, me. But who should arrive right as I got there but Robert Brittan! So I got to chat with him a little bit about wine, a little bit about life and a lot about his love for Syrah. I actually first met Robert at Pinot Camp in 2013, when I had no idea that anyone grew Syrah in the Willamette Valley proper. After returning home, his Syrah was one of the wines that stuck with me the most. Mostly because its good, but also because it shattered my preconceived mold of what Syrah could be in the Pacific Northwest.

The dank.

The dank.

So Robert isn’t the only one making Syrah in the Valley- Adelsheim makes a bit, a winery I am not familiar with called Biggio Hamina Cellars sources some from the Deux Vert Vineyard in Yamhill-Carlton (interestingly, that is where some of the Tempranillo that I wrote about yesterday comes from), and a handful of others. Most other Syrah that is bottled by Willamette Valley wineries is sourced from either Southern Oregon or the Columbia Valley/Walla Walla.

Robert shared many a story- most of which I can’t really do justice to attempting to re-tell. But he did share that when he first planted Syrah here in the McMinnville AVA, his wife (Ellen, who knows a thing or two about wine herself) laughed at him. It’ll never get ripe, she said. She had a nickname for the acre of Syrah that he first planted, I think it was “Hail Mary.” I could be wrong. In any case, Robert had a wild hair about Syrah, and he found the right site. And made the wine. His spot in the McMinnville AVA benefits from a bit of the Van Duzer Corridor- ie, a stream of cool wind that makes its way from the ocean through coastal range to find the grapes and cool them off at night. To maintain spice, you gotta get cool at night, so I’ve learned.

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I’m fairly certain that the Brittan Syrahs I’ve had are the darkest colored wines in Oregon. Its a little mind-boggling and awesome at the same time. The one I had today in the tasting room is the 2010 vintage, a popular vintage for hardcore Oregon nerds.

So when I said this wine was dark, I wasn’t lyin’. Incredibly deeply colored with a flavor intensity to match, this wine has an incredibly savory quality that I find fascinating. Dark fruit opens the wine; blackberry and black plum, and a deep vein of white and pink peppercorn follow. The texture is dense, and the steadfastness potency never fades. Like a good Northern Rhone, this wine tastes distinctly of meat. To steal a word from The Wine Advocate, in an almost “carnal” fashion. But here’s the kicker; after a few minutes in the glass, the wine shows off some fun and chic notes of cured olives, violet, sage, bay leaf and cassis. For a hulk of a wine, its alcohol content is shockingly low at around 13%, I believe. The picture I took conveniently cut it off, but I remember talking about it. It is worth noting that this wine got 90 Points from The Wine Advocate.

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Since I’m spoiled and lucky, I also previewed the 2013 and 2014 vintages of Robert’s Syrah. The ’13 will go to bottle soon, and its a stunner. The ’14 is still undergoing Malolactic fermentation, so it was a little unruly; but the bones are there, and it will be interesting to see how it turns out.

There's wine in those.

There’s wine in those.

Only about 2/3 of the way through writing this did I realize I left the tasting notes I wrote at the tasting room this morning. So all this was free-form, but the wine is memorable enough that I didn’t need them. Right now the Brittan-Winderlea tasting room is open Friday-Saturday-Sunday, so get on by!

This bottle is available for purchase for $40. 

Cheers!

Thirty Oregon Wines in Thirty Days, days 22 and 23: R. Stuart!

I’ve been behind this week and had lots of little real world details to take care of, so I had to postpone my wine fun until today. And fun it was! This whole “Friday afternoon at 5pm” game is still a little new to me. But what fun I had this evening- it was a cozy late afternoon at the R. Stuart Wine Bar in downtown McMinnville! Overcast, but not raining, I decompressed, sipped on a few wines and chatted with Casey, the manager (? I actually don’t know her title, but she’s rad).

Love this spot on 3rd St.

Love this spot on 3rd St.

So I went because I knew I wanted a glass of bubbly, and that it fit in with my January theme. This is only the second bubbly I’ve written about. Its made out of 100% Chardonnay, and I have sort of exceeded my Chardonnay capacity… but, I mean… its bubbles. So, yeah. Sue me.

BUBBLES. My bubbles.

BUBBLES. My bubbles.

R. Stuart has been well-known for their Rosé D’Or sparkling, a blend of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, which is rich and luscious. This bubbly, known as “Bubbly” was just released, I believe, this past Thanksgiving weekend. I had it for the first time right before Christmas and really loved it. At $28, its very competitive with other Champenoise Oregon bubblies.

How freaking good does this look?

How freaking good does this look?

I’m not 100% sure if it was just the lighting, but this wine had a slight pale pink color to it as I sipped it. A round, creamy mouthfeel, this bubbly is elevated by lovely notes of baked apples and pears and a refreshing citrusy palate. Its zingy, fun to drink, flirty and doesn’t take itself too seriously; yet is a pleasure to drink and you can tell its Champenoise. A tiny hint of sweet tarts and fresh flowers on the finish. Really lovely. Comparably, the Argyle Brut sells for a similar price and is kind of a staple and totem of Oregon sparkling. Argyle is always super clean, high acid and delicious- this wine has a bit more texture and weight, and maybe more fanciful packaging. There’s room for both. If you’re a sparkling ho like me.

Next? Been meaning to try their Big Fire Tempranillo, which I did.

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So the last Tempranillo I had was from Eola-Amity Hills, the Zenith Vineyard. A 2012 vintage, and very delicious. The R. Stuart Big Fire Tempranillo is sourced from one small vineyard in Carlton, the Deux Verts vineyard, and predominantly Southern Oregon. As I mentioned in my last post, I learned that in Willamette, Tempranillo struggles to get ripe except in unusually warm years like 2012. So this Tempranillo is a 2011 vintage, but since a lot of the fruit is from Southern Oregon where its warmer, there is plenty of ripeness to be found here.

The nose is peppery, with a background of cedar and violets, accentuated by some beautiful vanilla and leather. There’s a touch of bright red and brambly fruit.  The palate is firm and smooth, and finishes with a pleasant bite of tannin to hold it together. At $20, its a great house red and then some. Very different than the last Tempranillo I had from Zenith, but a tough contender at $20 a bottle.

I love this “House Rules” at R. Stuart Wine Bar:

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This place kind of makes me wish I lived in McMinnville- every time I go, the vibe is warm and friendly, and the staff knowledgable and personable. A perfect stop for this “Friday at 5pm” feeling that many (but not all) of us experience. I gotta say, it doesn’t suck.

Cheers! I’ll be back for more McMinnville fun tomorrow…

Oh! And if you like Oregon bubbles, you should go to the Bubbles Fest at Anne Amie on February 14th! Its gonna be. the. shit. $40 gets you four hours of unadulterated Oregon sparkling, and Anne Amie’s debut sparkling wine is included (holla!). I can’t freakin’ wait.

Thirty Oregon Wines in Thirty Days, days 20 & 21: the tale of two white blends…

Tonight? I’m all about white. I knew when I started this endeavor that it would end up being white heavy (I was okay with that), but I AM going to make an effort towards reds this weekend. But tonight, its all about white. Because I like it, first of all, and because I made some delicious spicy veggie fried rice for dinner, which both of these wines complement perfectly! Win.

So tonight we have a tale of two white blends! One that I impulse bought, and one that I’ve been wanting to try since last Summer: the Whoa Nelly! “Whoa Nelly White”, 13 Willamette Valley and the Eveshem Wood “Blanc de Puits Sec” Pinot Gris/Gewürztraminer, 13 Eola-Amity Hills.

White white and more white!

White white and more white!

So the Whoa Nelly caught my eye at Roth’s while I was picking up some adorable baby shiitake mushrooms for my fried rice. I mean really, the darn things are adorable:

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Not the first, and definitely not the last time I’ve impulsed purchased wine while grocery shopping by any means, this one caught my eye because I was seeking a white blend and I dug the label. Upon further inspection, while it says Whoa Nelly White on the front, the back says 2013 Arneis. I perked up at the sight of this, because I absolutely love Oregon Arneis. And by that I mean, I’ve had exactly one and I love it- its from Ponzi. Is there more Arneis to be found? I don’t believe I’ve come across one until today.

Whoa! Nelly.

Whoa! Nelly.

I am a tad beguiled. Is it all Arneis or is it a blend? I tend to think that because the front label says its a white, it kinda has to be a blend. I don’t think you’re allowed to put a single varietal on a bottle in Oregon unless its at least 90% of that grape. It might be 95%. It might even be 100%. It’s 8:00pm and I’m drinking wine, so my CSW seems to be failing right about now. I do know that its different for every state, and I think its relatively high in Oregon, compared to Cali. In summation, I think if it were 100% Arneis, it would say Arneis on the front. Lets move on, I’ve had enough of this.

This wine is awesome! For $13.99? Are you kidding me? I’d be curious to know exactly whats in it, but in truth? I don’t really care- the stuff is delish. Its a lean, fresh and floral style- slightly textured and aromatic. Honeysuckle, jasmine, ripe pears and a nice bite of lemon and candied orange. Super fun and will literally go with anything. Its relatively high acid, but not streaky.

The interesting thing here is that this wine label is a side project of Helioterra, a beloved member of the SE Wine Collective that has some really nice press. I’ve yet to have any of their wines, but consider it on the list of things to try. They’re also affiliated with the Guild Wines, which I absolutely LOVED back in South Carolina. The Guild Red and White blends were seriously some of the best in their price range for what they were, and where they were from. Look ’em up! Seems like they’re doing something right.

Next? A beloved winery in Eola-Amity Hills, Evesham Wood:

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We did quite well with Evesham Wood in SC- their Pinots always came in and sold out very quickly. Last year I got on their mailing list, and (albeit, a tad late) tried to order a bunch of their white wines and have them shipped to SC, as they weren’t distributed there. Unfortunately I was late, and it had gotten too hot to ship to SC, and I didn’t feel like waiting until October (okay, maybe I’m impatient). So how fortunate of me that I decided to up and move here, where I can buy their whites!

This wine is a racy blend of 85% Pinot Gris and 15% Gewürztraminer. Gewurz is fairly common in Eola-Amity and a really fun white that reminisces of a Riesling, but a bit spicier. Pinot Gris, of course, is an Oregon staple. A “Gris-ish” nose of wet stone, apricots, and sparkly minerals is very charming. Playing a nice second fiddle are some accents of white pepper, rose petal and a creamy lemon-ness. A touch of sourdough might be hiding in there, too. Evesham Wood is certified Organic, too, which is worth noting. I haven’t been there yet- I actually sent them a quick email about 2 weeks ago about coming in to taste, but I suspect that they’re closed for the winter. But I’ll be there! It’ll happen. I bought this bottle at Roth’s as well, for $15.99 I think.

I need suggestions! Anyone have an Oregon Red I just HAVE to have? Maybe a funky Southern Oregon Mourvedre that kicks serious ass?