By Celia Strong
Oh, boy! Aggressive aren’t we? But, with good reason. Reason being more than another good wine this week. We are all working really hard lately at breaking down some of our own personal wine barriers and hurdles. And, we’re doing really well. Like last week’s excellent Chilean Cabernet in a three liter box. Never thought we’d see that! So, come along for our trip and our lesson, and we’ll all see what we can and can’t this week.
To begin, we are going to Oregon. Oregon came into the wine business much later than California did. The first wineries there date to the 1840’s, although commercial production didn’t begin until the 1960’s. Today there are almost 400 wineries that produce about two million cases a year. Once the first wineries were started in the nineteenth century, growers dabbled with vinifera grapes, but table fruits were more popular for a long time. In 1979, Eyrie Vineyards from Dundee, Oregon, entered a bottle of their 1975 Pinot Noir in the Wine Olympics. That bottle was rated among the top Pinot Noirs in the world. This international recognition put Oregon firmly into the wine business.
Today, Pinot Noir is still, by far, their most important variety. Pinot Gris is second, with about a quarter of the vineyard plantings of Pinot Noir, followed by Chardonnay, Merlot, Riesling, and other varieties. There are plenty of Oregon AVAs, several that even overlap into Washington. We have covered them before, but I think we can skip them this week. Only because our wine has a “generic” Oregon appellation. Weather in Oregon includes a lot of cloudy and rainy days. About nine months’ worth. The western third of the state is much wetter than the eastern. In areas like the Willamette Valley, their biggest wine AVA, winters are milder and summers are hot and relatively dry. Good grape growing conditions.
Underwood is our winery this week. Part of the Union Wine Company. In 2001, Ryan Harms moved to Oregon. He worked for some of the great Oregon wineries, but ended up not being happy with the higher prices that many Oregon wines sold for. So, he decided he could make quality wines that were more affordable. At the end of the day, wine is just a beverage. Part of a meal, often, but it becomes a great thing when it brings families and friends together. Wine buying should not be hard either. With this type of thinking, Underwood came up with a phenomenal idea. Wine in cans. Because they can! Because this way people, meaning us, can get and drink good wines without a lot of fuss. The hardest part is getting beyond the idea. But we’re beyond boxes after last week and this is the obvious next step.
Underwood is not the first company to offer cans of wines. Other United States wineries have made sparkling wines in cans. (One of them, we have sold here for many years.) Underwood is the first still wine in a can. So, here they are. Metal cans with a special spray on lining inside so that the taste of the wine is exactly the same as when it’s from a bottle. Each can is 375 milliliters, exactly half of a bottle. That means two full size glasses in each can. And for exactly half the price of the full bottle. (Underwood Pinot Noir is $11.99 a bottle. The can of the same exact wine is $5.99. So, really you save a penny by buying two cans. Plus, you get to have the fun of having the can.) At Underwood, they say the wine will age better in the cans – no light at all hits it – and the aluminum cans can be recycled more easily than the bottles. Plus, how cool is it to sip wine at the beach that looks like you’re drinking a soda? Cans are easier to carry and to dispose of. Cans are also definitely easier to open. And, yes, they can be six-packed, just like beer. And cans travel well!
So, Underwood Pinot Gris is sourced from vineyards across the state. From hillside and valley floor growers. It is clean and crisp with great acidity and lingering flavors of lemons, apples and pears. And a tiny hint of flowers. It a lighter body style white, perfect for the months of hot weather we can still expect.
The Underwood Pinot Noir also is made from grapes from across the state. By blending as many sources as they do, this wine has pieces and parts of all the great Pinot styles that come from Oregon. Including the rich juicy textures of Oregon Pinot. It has dark cherry, blackberry, cola and mild earth tones. A really spectacular wine for the price.
So, here we have two flavors of portable and very potable wine. For a ridiculously low price. (Think of it this way – what would you pay for two glasses in a restaurant?) And the fun of taking them anywhere, anytime. So, yes! I can if I want to. And so can you. Enjoy.
Celia Strong works at Bill’s Liquor & Fine Wines on Lady’s Island.