Living life, one glass at a time

Rainy-day Oregon pinot noirs

Oh spring. You are such a tease. Last week, it was 26 degrees Celsius (let me translate that for my American readers: 79 degrees Fahrenheit), which is amazingly warm for April in Ottawa. I even biked to work for the first time this season, and it was glorious! But this morning when I woke up, it was cloudy and cold, and when I let the dog out, I kid you not it was freezing rain. Really, spring? Really?? Come ON!

Rainy Day

For the purpose of this post, let’s just pretend it’s still beautiful and sunny, like spring is not holding out on us. Based on yesterday’s Vintages release, it’s clear that the LCBO was expecting spring to be here by now too. The release has a heavy focus on rosés, which to me is a surer sign of spring than seeing way too much underbutt around town (and the fact that this now bothers me tells me that in my mid-thirties, I have officially reached cranky-old-lady status). In addition to wines from Washington, which we have explored in the past, this release also focuses on pinot noirs, particularly those from the northwestern State of Oregon.

Pinot noir

We’ve talked about this particular varietal before on Wining with Mel, for example last year, when the word “pinot” was mysteriously trending on

But here’s a little recap:

  • Pinot is a thin-skinned grape. This means a few things: a) it tends to be lighter in colour, b) it tends to have fewer tannins, since the skin is a main contributer of tannin, and c) it makes it really tricky to grow. Pinot’s thin skin makes it more susceptible to rot, disease, fungus, mildew and sun exposure, which means that grape growers need to give this sickly grape a lot of attention and TLC. As a result, pinot noir wines tend to have higher prices.
  • Pinot tends to do better in cooler climates (e.g. Burgundy, Niagara, Oregon, etc.)
  • Pinot noir tends to yield a light-bodied wine with medium-high acidity and light tannins. This makes it an incredibly versatile wine when it comes to food pairing. It is light enough to go with salmon, but can hold its own with certain meat dishes. Pinot noir’s main flavour components are cherry, mushroom and earthiness, so it also goes really nicely with mushroom dishes (grilled portobello anyone?)

Oregon’s Willamette Valley, which follows the Willamette River from Portland south to Eugene, has been enjoying a series of excellent growing seasons, starting with 2014. As a result, wines from the region have been garnering lots of attention and gaining in popularity over the past few years, and the Willamette Valley was even named Wine Enthusiast’s 2016 Region of the Year. Without further ado, here are my Oregon pinot picks from this Vintages release:

Underwood Pinot Noir 2015 ($22.95)

Underwood Pinot Noir 2015

I tried this wine during my somm class this semester. As I mentioned in the last post, the final project was to come up with a wine list to match a restaurant menu we were given. One class, we were lucky enough to taste all the dishes and experiment pairing with different wines.

20170316_200453For me, the Underwood pinot was the one that paired best with all the dishes. High acidity, really nice smokey cherry flavours, it was simply astounding. I gave it an 8 or an 8.5 with all the main dishes, which included squash gnocchi, mahi mahi, mediterranean braised chicken and roasted short rib. It goes with everything.  You know that dinner party you’re going to and you want to bring wine? This is it. No question. But stock up fast, because there were already very few bottles left when I picked mine up yesterday, i.e. the day of the release.  So, what are you waiting for? Remember that the Vintages releases are only available in limited quantities, and once they are gone, that’s it!

Cloudline Pinot Noir 2014 ($29.95)

Cloudline Pinot Noir 2014

There is a lot going on in this beautiful pinot from the Willamette Valley. The colour is light ruby red, with aromas of black cherry, vanilla and tobacco. On the palate, its medium body shows beautiful spice and cigar box notes with a cherry on top. Racy acidity make this wine super food friendly. Try it with pulled pork or just on its own. It is veeeeery drinkable. I know that the price makes it hard to justify as a weekday sipper, but can you really put a price on a wine that goes with everything? Go treat yourself. You deserve it.

Better than coupons!

After you’ve splurged on your pinots, you’ll want to balance your wine budget. What better way than with discounted wines! To that end, here some excellent limited-time offers, on right now at the LCBO:

  • White Cliff sauvignon blanc – currently $11.90 after the $3 discount, only until May 3 (act fast)! You can read my review here (spoiler alert: I was quite enamoured with it).
  • Keeping on the theme of sauvignon blanc, the Beachhouse from South Africa is currently $1 off, bringing it under the $10 mark ($9.10 to be exact). This easy-drinking, food-friendly white is one of my Nana’s go-to white wines, and since she is 90 years old and Scottish, you just know the price:quality ratio is unbeatable. I have a feeling she will be buying a case.
  • Remember ripassos? My favourite lasagna pairing, the Farina Valpolicella Ripasso, is $2 off until May 21. This is another great value wine for less than $15.


Before I leave you, don’t forget to VOTE in the 32nd Monthly Wine Writing Challenge. Obviously, I would love you forever if you voted for last week’s post Somm Reflections, but I know that I have some stiff competition this month. You have until tomorrow (Monday, May 1) to vote here: By the way, have I told you how great you are lately?

Happy wining!


  1. Juliette Giannesini (@Xiaozhuli)

    Full disclosure, when I read “Before I leave you, don’t forget to VOTE” I paused for a split second and thought: “wait… I don’t think her readers are voting in this election, are they?”

    Gah. I’m so brainwashed by politics it’s not even funny.

    And also, cold rainwater got inside my brain, I think.

    • Wining with Mel

      Haha I try not to get political on the blog. Though that could maybe be next week’s post: wines to drink to help make the French election results easier to swallow.

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