Tag Archives: Pinot Noir

You Down With OPC? Part 2

Famous for French Burgundy, the Drouhin family found a home, and great success, in the Dundee Hills of Oregon. This has only reinforced the idea that Oregon is more like the French hillsides of Burgundy than its hotter American sister to the south, California.


At the family’s vineyard, we discussed rootstocks, trellis systems, crop yields and clone choices. Over all, we learned that the best vines for Pinot Noir and Chardonnay for Oregon’s climate and topography were those from France like Pommard and Dijon. In fact, Oregon Chardonnay is growing in popularity since many of the vineyard managers have ripped up the California clone vines (specifically clone 108) to replace them with Dijon, making for elegant, long-lived Chardonnays that are reminiscent of Chablis.

Canopy Management

Though she must have been eight months pregnant, Van Duzer’s Vineyard Manager Rebecca Sweet couldn’t stop herself from pruning the vines at Domaine Drouhin.

I found canopy management to be interesting since the vineyard managers were so passionate about the choice of each shoot for the next vintage’s crop. You didn’t want the strongest and most vigorous shoot. Instead, you wanted to trellis one that would produce a balanced amount of grapes and leaves to, in the end, make for more elegant wines.

Hunting for the Great White

Though we were there specifically to increase our knowledge of Oregon Pinot Noir, one of my favorite seminars was “Hunting for the Great White.” The three leading white varietal grapes are Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, and Riesling–in that order. Oregon’s white wines account for 27 percent of the plantings and 38 percent of case sales. I have always been a fan of Oregon Pinot Gris since it is such a food-friendly wine. It is as easy to sell as it is to drink! Ripe notes of peach and honeysuckle, followed by bright and lively acidity? How can you go wrong? Can you find the 1995 Argyle?

1995 Argyle

But one of the most eye-opening parts was to taste the 1995 Argyle Reserve Chardonnay that was still youthful! The acidity of Oregon wines is key. Mind you, I am not saying that these wines are overly acidic and need time. Instead, I am saying that these wine makers have a good grasp of balancing fruit and acidity for wines that can be consumed fresh or mature.

Multiple Personalities

The multiple personalities of the Pinot Noir seminar rounded out our educational portion. During this, we were able to taste through many different Pinot Noirs from multiple vineyard sites and vintages, to test whether there is a consistent “Oregon Pinot Noir element” to each wine. With a winemaker at each table, we were able to pick their brains and pull from each other’s experiences to come up with conclusions. The famed salmon bake at Stoller Vineyards was our final chance to commune with the people of the Oregon wine country and each other.


Choose Your Own Adventure Day

Thankfully, our “Choose your own adventure” day didn’t start until 11 a.m. Though I could have gone for a helicopter ride or gone whitewater rafting, I thought a study in food and wine pairing would suit me best. About 30 of us gathered at the R. Stuart Winery, where we were walked through the Zing program. Co-owner of R. Stuart Winery, Patricia Rodgers Ridgeway, has developed this food-science-based program to highlight the potential of wine and food pairing.


We focused on six different wine elements and eight food elements. The wine elements were acidity, viscosity, fruit, sugar, alcohol and tannin. The food elements were salt, oxalic acid or bitter; acidity; umami; fat; sugar; spice; and protein. The hardest part of all was not to account for smell. My entire career, the major component to wine tasting has been smell, but with pairing, it’s more tactile. When the food and wine elements are combined in your mouth, what is the experience? Also, what is the overriding element in the food? Yes, you may be having a salad with chicken (protein) and tomatoes (umami), but is the dressing sweet like tropical poppy seed or fatty like buttermilk ranch? This is why when I am asked what goes with a certain protein, like salmon, I always ask how it will be prepared. Only then can I make an educated pairing.

An Exhilarating Experience

My experience in Oregon was eye opening and exhilarating! The people of Oregon wine country are warm, generous and fiercely passionate about not only winemaking but also sustainable and organic farming. Though they believe the Pinot Noir from Oregon is world class, they remain humble, trying new techniques and listening to one another when problems, like phylloxera, arise. I am excited to bring in some of the over 500 wines that I was able to try during my trip.

Here are some of the standouts (Don’t worry! I won’t tease you with the ones you can’t get!):

  • Four Graces Pinot Blanc, Willamette Valley, 2011 $19.99 – Green apple, lychee and peach spring from the glass. Apple follows on the palate, with a grapefruit-like tartness to the finish.
  • Domaine Drouhin Arthur Chardonnay, 2010 $29.99 – As stated above, this French family knows its Chardonnay. The 2010 was a long, cool vintage that leads to lively acidity. The 2010 Arthur has citrus and floral notes on the nose, with a creamy mouth feel.–a real knockout!
  • Patton Valley Pinot Noir Rose, Willamette Valley, 2011 $18.99 – This rose is not only reminiscent of Provance Rose in color but also in flavor. Pink grapefruit, rose petals, and fresh strawberries–it’s dry on the finish, but the mouth-watering acidity leaves you wanting more!
  • Apolloni L Cuvee Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, 2009 $19.99 – Lovely nose of black flowers and herbs–on the palate the warmth of the 2009 vintage brings on loads of lush black fruits, with a soft, toasty vanilla finish. This wine is as pretty as Laurine Apolloni, for whom it was named!
  • Erath Estate Selection Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, 2009 $33.99 – Loads of baked cherry pie and spice on the nose, with a ripe, juicy plum and raspberry on the palate. Long, lovely finish with a terrific balance of French oak and lingering acidity. A very pretty expression of Oregon Pinot Noir.

Alfredo Apolloni and I at Stoller Vineyards

When the 2010s come in, be sure to snatch them up because they are going to be in short supply, and they are incredible! Special thanks to the Apolloni family for sponsoring me on this amazing journey!

You Down With OPC? Part 1

When I got the call from Laura Gordon of Apolloni Vineyards that they were throwing my name into the hat of potential Oregon Pinot Camp Campers, I got hopeful but tried to stay humble. Only 270 of the world’s most important retailers, restaurateurs, and geeky wine snooty pants get to go each year. Then the package came, congratulating me. I had no idea what a whirlwind I was in for!

Willamette Valley Oregon vineyards

Saturday Evening

“Camp” didn’t technically start until Sunday morning, but there was a reception at the beautiful Sokol Blosser estate Saturday evening. There, we were greeted by siblings and Co-Presidents of Sokol Blosser, Alison and Alex Sokol Blosser. This is when it really hits me how different Oregon is from California. Yes, I’ve met winemakers whose parents started their wineries and still have a hand in the winemaking. However, Oregon is so young, only about 45 years old, that the winemakers and founders I am meeting are the men and women who literally made Oregon wines what they are today.

Sunday Morning

The next morning, we boarded our bus and were off to the Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum in McMinville for breakfast and orientation. We were welcomed by second-generation winemaker and OPC President, Jesse Lange of Lange Estates, and treated to a history of Oregon Pinot Noir by David Adelshime (that’s pronounced Adels-Hime) and Maria Ponzi. The entire time we were there, the atmosphere was casual with an air of relevance–have fun, but remember why you are here.

The Down and Dirty

The real down and dirty learning started in the vineyards at Bethel Heights. They were not only picturesque but also educational, as they are among the few Willamette Valley Vineyards that have two different soil types on it: volcanic and marine sedimentary. They dug out 6-foot pits to show the structure of the soils, and we were able to walk down into them, feeling the disparity of each level. Volcanic (or basalts), marine sedimentary, and wind-blown loess are not the only types of soils found in Willamette, but they are the most predominant.

We trekked back into the winery, where we able to blind taste through six different wines from the three soil types. The volcanic soil wines were fruity and lush, with soft tannins. Marine sedimentary wines were structured and robust, with black fruit flavors and earth tones. Finally, the wind-blown loess wines had notes of exotic spices, floral character and medium acidity. Each blind tasting we attended had two different vintages of each wine to show how the weather can manipulate each soil type. We found that the soil types were consistent in each case, even in dramatically different vintages, such as 2009 (very warm) and 2010 (long and cool.)

Stay tuned for Part 2 of the OPC!

Sushi Wine

If you have been in the store lately, you may have noticed some changes.  The biggest change being the addition of our Mon Jin Lau Sushi counter.  That’s right, the quality sushi you have been experiencing in their restaurant since 1969, is now at Nino’s! And to be quite honest, I couldn’t be happier. I am a big fan of Sushi, but an even bigger fan of Mon Jin Lau’s – if you haven’t had their crispy duck, you must!

I have never been a big proponent of Sake, and I have tried a lot of it.  Though it may be the first thing that comes to mind when pairing sushi, I have been chewing through a lot of Mon Jin Lau’s tasty treats lately and have come up with some wines that I think pair great!

Great Sushi Wines

Lini NV White Lambrusco Emilia-Romagna Italy $14.99

I know, I know! Lambrusco!? Yes, Lambrusco, but this is not your Ma’s Lambrusco, all syrupy and sweet. This wine is what you get at a café on a hot summers day in Italy. Toasty on the nose like champagne, with creamy lush bubbles, and a slight hint of that ricey sake flavor on the finish.  Terrific with Spicy Tuna Roll or Firecracker Roll.

HB Picpoul De Pinet Coteaux Du Languedoc France $10.99 –

Picpoul is always one of my favorite spring wines, but it works very well with the delicate flavors of sushi.  Lime and grapefruit, fresh and clean, this wine would pair best with Shrimp Nigiri or the Rainbow Roll.

The Beach House Sauvignon Blanc Western Cape South Africa $9.99 –

Bright and refreshing, this wine would go best with rolls that feature cream cheese and avocado, with fattier fish like tuna and salmon. Loads of classic gooseberry and citrus, with 20% Semillon to give it some body.

Echelon Pinot Noir California $9.99 –

Soft and fruity, this tasty little pinot does not over power your meal, but can stand up to a hearty Godzilla Roll.  Light bodied with black cherry, plum and baking spice on the finish.

Keep in mind that there are many different types of sushi, from mild and creamy to bold and spicy! The key is to bring balance with the wine, so bright acidity for creamier rolls and a softer fruiter wine for spicy rolls.  Something like the Lini Lambrusco, soft and fruity with a dry finish will work best when sampling a variety of different rolls.

So next time you are in any of our stores, make sure to pick up some Mon Jin Lau Sushi!


– Jennifer Laurie

The Lighter Side of Red Wines

We’re in the thick of the dog days of summer – long, hot days, trips to the pool and barbequing with friends and family. In my last article I wrote about some of my favorite white wines for the summer, but sometimes a red or rosé pairs better with a meal.  Lately it’s been my goal to seek out those special warm weather reds. I think you’ll approve of what I found.

Chateau Des Annibals Coteaux Varois En Provence 2010 Rosé, $16.99 –

Okay, I don’t normally use terms like this, but this wine is sexy! The Chateau Des Annibals’ label has an elephant on it, paying homage to Hannibal’s ride through the French countryside with his war elephants. Along with the elephants came the Gypsies, singing their siren song “Suivez-moi-jeune-homme” (follow me young men) which is also featured on the label. Seductive back story aside, the color of the wine is that of flushed rosy cheeks, the nose has rose petals and strawberries, and the flavor is bright, fresh, and lovely.

New Age Rosé NV, $8.99 –

In my last blog, I wrote about how nice the New Age white is for the Summer.  Well, the Rosé is the fuchsia colored sister to that wine, and is just as pleasing as the white!  It gets its vibrant color from equal parts Merlot and Malbec.  Like the white, it has a bit of fritz to it and is abundantly fruity with notes of wild strawberries and raspberries. See this as a warning or an accolade; it has some sweetness, akin to very ripe sugar dipped strawberry.


Autumn Flight Barbera, NV 10.99 –

Barbera is a grape that is indigenous to Italy and is starting to make waves in California. The Autumn Flight is light to medium bodied, fruit forward, fresh, and food friendly! On an extra hot day, don’t be afraid to chill this down and take it to the neighborhood cookout or Barbeque.  Black stone fruits, smoke, and a touch of coffee round out the flavors, while the acidity gives the finish nice grip.

Chime California Pinot Noir 2009, 12.99 –

Chime Cellars make Riesling and Chardonnay but their main focus is on Pinot Noir.  We brought the entry level California Pinot to Nino’s about 6 months ago and it has been flying off our shelves ever since!  I believe this is because it’s fresh and fruity, with flavors of fresh baked cherry pie and a touch of toasty vanilla and nutmeg on the finish. It’s a lighter Pinot Noir in style, so whether you are having chicken kabobs on the grill or fresh fruit by the pool, it is an ideal summer red.


Ca’Bona Sangue Di Giuda, 2009 $11.99 –

It’s late, it’s hot, and the kids are at camp. You and your lovely spouse are sitting in the backyard listening to the symphony of crickets and cicadas, watching the lightning bugs float by. This is the perfect time for Ca’Bona Sangue di Giuda. This wine, served chilled, is red, fruity, bubbly, and a touch dry on the finish.  Sangue di Giuda or Blood of Judas; allegedly named by disapproving monks for its aphrodisiac like qualities, has flavors of strawberry and raspberry preserves.  If you want to add a little dessert to the mix, I recommend Just Desserts Raspberry Scones or any good quality dark chocolate.

I can’t finish this festive summer sipper article without mentioning something about Sangria.  Many of you have inquired about recipes or wines to use, so here is my Sangria breakdown.  For Peach Sangria I would recommend the Sweet Sunset Golden Peach wine ($9.99), or the Montpelier Viogner ($7.99) if you want it a little drier.  For white Sangria I like to use Terra Andina Sauvignon Blanc ($7.99) and for red Sangria I use Protocolo Spanish Red ($7.99).  Here is my Sangria recipe…

Jennifer’s Red Sangria Recipe:

1 Bottle Protocolo Red

1 Orange Sliced Thinly

1 Lemon Sliced Thinly

2 Limes Sliced Thinly

1 Nectarine Cut into Sections

1 Peach Cut into Sections

½ Cup Captain Morgan’s Spiced Rum

½ Cup Orange Juice

1 Cup Lime Perrier

Or if it’s just too darn hot to do all that work, we just got in Bethany Frankel’s Skinny Girl Sangria ($14.99). Just open and serve!

Summer is in full swing and I hope that you stop by and pick up a couple of my chillable red picks!


– Jennifer Laurie

Easter Wines

Walk into any of our stores right now and you’re hit with the abundant fragrance of our Easter Lilies.  Our Floral Departments are covering the stores with bright, beautiful, April flowers and, though there is still snow in the forecast, it reminds me that Spring is in full bloom. Easter is less than a week away and everyone is looking forward to sitting down with friends and family to enjoy the traditional Ham or Lamb. In my family we enjoy both, which makes my job a little difficult.  Do I bring a zippy light bodied Gewurztraminer for the ham? Or a fruit forward, robust, red for the Lamb?

Who am I kidding? I’ll bring both…

Here are my picks for whichever meat you choose!

Hamming it up –

I love the salty sweetness of ham; it’s the Kettlecorn of the meat world. Whether you like red or white I would stay on the fruity side when pairing this pink meat.

Alexander Valley Vineyards Gewurz Gewurztraminer California, 2010 $8.99 –

Poor Gewürztraminer, I believe this grape does not get requested as much as it should because of its tongue tying name. However, when it comes to pairing with Ham it is a must! The Gewurz has the customary lychee, pear and spice, but it’s not nearly as sweet as most others.  The fruity front palate and dry, refreshing finish makes this wine unique – and it’s so affordable!

Saint Roch Les Vignes Rosé Cotes De Provence, 2009 $14.99 –

Rose is another option if you like fruity but not too sweet.  This is a light, fruity, Provence with rose petal on the nose and strawberry and red raspberry on the palate. Refreshing and bright, it is the perfect palate cleanser.

Wild Horse Pinot Noir Central Coast California, 2008 $24.99 –

Fresh and fruity, this Pinot Noir is dense and big enough for your “red wine drinkers” but light enough to pair with ham. Black cherry, baking spices, and a hint of toasted oak round out the finish.

Jenny had a little Lamb –

When my folks prepare lamb they use fragrant and bold spices and seasonings like rosemary and garlic. When pairing lamb, I like to play up the rustic taste and texture of the meat.

Juliet Fiero Chardonnay Paso Robles California, 2009 $14.99 –

Only 224 cases of this little gem of a Chardonnay were produced. The Juliet Fiero is complex and medium bodied, with loads of ripe pear and apple.  The acidity is bracing to cut through the sometimes oily quality of lamb, but round enough with its touches of lemon curd and butterscotch, to pair well.

M. Chapoutier Les Vignes De Bila – Haut Cotes du Roussillon Villages 2008 $13.99 –

Lamb and Cotes du Rhone is a classic pair. Both have an earthy, rustic quality.  In the case of the Chapoutier, I like the notes of lilac, black cherry and plum that are elegant yet firm in structure. This wine is a blend of Grenache, Syrah, and Carignan and was one of Wine Spectators Top 100 wines of 2009.

Falesco Merlot Umbria Italy 2009 $14.99 –

Saving the best for last, Nino’s has kept the Falesco Merlot on special down from its original pricing at $18.99 because it is such a great value.  Falesco has produced a concentrated and ripe Merlot, with black plum, blueberry, and blackberry, finishing with herbs and a touch of cinnamon. This is a knock out.

So, whether you’re trying out Chef Pete’s new Crusted Red Skin Potato Bake with Ham and Cheese or having a more traditional fare, these wines will make your Easter meal complete!


– Jennifer Laurie

Thanksgiving Wine Picks

Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays, from the sweet potatoes and pumpkin pie to the turkey and wine, I am lucky enough to sit back and enjoy it all.  However, for most shoppers, it’s a hectic scramble through the aisles of Nino’s as they grab all of the appropriate turkey day complements. Well, here are my picks for the big day to help ease your wine worries.  Whether you’re on a budget or looking to splurge, Nino’s has the wine to suit your needs.

Drink on a dime – These wines are easy drinking crowd pleasers that won’t bust your budget!

Castle Rock Pinot Noir California Cuvee 2009 – Regularly $12.99 Now $8.99

What an overachiever! Even at $12.99, this is a great value.  Cooked plum, forest floor, and ripe cranberry with a nice dry finish.

PKNT Pinot Noir Itata Valley, Chile 2009 – $6.99

A very nice little Pinot Noir that’s fruity, with black cherry and spice notes.

Conde De Alicante Rosé Alicante, Spain – $6.99

Bright strawberry and raspberry fruit with a clean, dry finish.

Columbia Crest Riesling Two Vines Columbia Valley, Washington – $7.99

Sweet, with zippy acidity. Pear, honey and apricot round out this clean finishing Riesling.

For The Savvy Sipper – Good everyday values for the more sophisticated palates.


Georges Deboeuf Morgon Beaujolais, France 2009$11.99

There has been a big buzz around the 2009 Beaujolais and this little gem did not let me down! Strawberry and Bing cherry in the nose, with lovely floral notes.  Black currant and blackberry, with a chocolaty richness and supple mid-palate.  Not overly dry, but has a little tannic grip that leaves you wanting more.

Maipe Rosé of Malbec Mendoza, Argentina 2010 – $10.99

Last February I was able to go to a trade tasting in Virginia, where I tried nearly 200 wines. Out of the lot, the most memorable was this little Rosé from Argentina.  The color is bright Magenta, the nose is full of bright strawberry and pomegranate fruit, and the taste is a burst of watermelon and strawberry. There’s enough fruit to keep the White Zin drinker happy and enough complexity and acidity for everyone else.

Helfrich Pinot Gris Alsace, France 2007$11.99

Fresh and clean with cooked pear, apple, and just a touch of grapefruit. This wine is not too sweet, just lightly juicy to complement an assortment of flavorful dishes.

Valley of the Moon Pinot Blanc Sonoma County, California 2008 – $16.99

Ripe juicy pear with citrus notes. Round and fleshy. Nice acidity on the finish makes this a great palate cleanser.

Serious Snobbery – If you have guests coming over that love to lament about the do’s and don’ts of wine, here are my picks to impress the self proclaimed sommelier in your life.

Apolloni Pinot Noir Willamette Valley, Oregon 2006 – $32.99

Soft and complex, this wine integrates toasty oak with black cherry and spice. A ripe, round, and stylistically classic Oregon Pinot Noir. Aerate or open at least an hour before dinner.

Celani Family Vineyards Rosé Napa Valley, California 2009 – $17.99

Crisp and clean, the acidity in this rose will cut through the heavy potatoes and creamy dishes. Bright strawberry and pomegranate flavors.

Domaine du Vieux Télégraphe Chateauneuf-du-Pape, France 2007 – $69.99

Vieux Telegraphe is a favorite of Wine Spectator, Robert Parker, and yours truly. The 2007 is highly sought after for its ripe complexity and cellaring ability. However, with a little aeration this will make your cranberries sing and your Turkey dance! Herbs, ground pepper, and stoney in the nose, the palate is ripe with cooked cranberry, fig, currant, and a touch of licorice on the finish.

Champalou Vouvray, France 2007 – $19.99

Made from 100% Chenin Blanc grapes, this wine expresses ripe stone fruits like peaches and apricot intertwined with notes of white flowers. The creamy, fruity mid-palate will complement golden raisin in stuffing, cooked apples, and the turkey.

Now of course, we have many, many more wines to choose from and everyone’s tastes are different.  Think of this as a starting point.  If one of these wines intrigued you but you want something a little different, Nino’s wine team will be here to help find the perfect bottle for your Thanksgiving feast!


– Jennifer Laurie

Value Wines: Chardonnay & Pinot Noir

Acacia Chardonnay  2008

<PRE>Acacia Vineyard Chardonnay Carneros 07</PRE>
Those of you who chat about wine with me know that I tend to like a crisp refreshing white wine as opposed to a rich, silky, bold white.  A couple of nights ago I tried the 2008 Acacia Chardonnay and wow.  Talk about a game changer! Upon first sip I was not thrilled, the wine seemed a little too acidic and over blown.  However, as the bottle opened up, the flavors of crème Brule, ripe mango, and buttery, rich toffee unveiled themselves. Very silky in the mid-palate, the finish still had nice acidity that would complement a
rich lobster or scallop dish.
To be honest, this is not your everyday Chardonnay.  It’s the classic California style that so many in recent years have shied away from – myself included.  The Acacia, however, made me remember how very versatile chardonnay can be, and has me craving for my next butter ball chard!

Reg. $24.99
Now $21.99

Acacia Pinot Noir 2007

<PRE>Acacia Vineyard Pinot Noir Carneros 07</PRE>

I had high hopes for this bottle after I tasted the chardonnay.  Like the chardonnay, this wine changed dramatically after being allowed to breathe for a bit.  When first opened, it was nothing special.  Light cherry and strawberry fruit, good acidity.  So, hoping to coax a bit more out of it, I let the wine sit and took sips approximately every 15 minutes. Boy, did this bottle bloom!  Toasty oak and ripe strawberry jam with touches of earthy forest floor developed.  The acid became more rounded, making this wine great for grilled salmon or a hearty lamb stew.  Remember, if you want to get the most from this gem, give it about an hour to open up.  You won’t be sorry.

Reg. $32.99

Now $21.99

– Jennifer Laurie