Category: BELLA Wine Buys

Erin-Grace speaks wine and more…

This month I decided to take a non-wine centric approach to what I decided to review. The turn of the colder months are a time of preparation for the indoors, for finding ways of being warm — for finding means of  comfort until sunnier times lengthen to fill our days — so I directed my efforts toward a simple but nostalgic new challenge that I somehow have yet to take up until this point: Homemade Chicken and Rice Soup.

Luckily I work in a place that allows me to take up some simple and basic recipe on Reddit and give some personality and life to it. I get to really spice things up, if you will allow me the bad pun (I’ll show myself out, thanks…).

Ahem.. Anyway… In this experiment I went back and forth between just using the egg noodles i had in my cupboard at home or trying to figure out the magic behind rice staying firm in soup without over cooking it. I figured you have to try to mess up cooking egg noodles, and also I apparently had not taken time to fully grasp how rice works, especially quality rice. Luckily, and with the influence of my work allowance to take liberty with food experimentation, I went with the later option of a good, quality rice: Lotus Foods Volcano Rice.

Of the options available to me at BELLA, I chose this mostly for the aesthetic of the beautiful coloration, grains ranging from brick red to white, and how it would look in the bowl of my finished product. Being as how I hadn’t taken the time to enjoy the privilege of this medium grain delight, I had no idea what I was in for. The aroma alone of the small batch I made prior to the soup, my baseline rice test, was something different than the normal cooked jasmine rice I’m generally accustomed to. There is an extra sense of heartiness to the general smell, not quite as exotically distinct as basmati, but rich nonetheless. The texture and bite it has, though, is as big and firm and texturally pleasing as its Pakistani/Indian cousin. It gets its name from being grown in volcanic soil, and it pulls every last ounce of minerally flavor from there as well. Honestly, I could eat a whole bowl of this rice sans seasoning or protein, it packs that much goodness.

Adding it to the soup, with far more than the recommended amount of water per cup, did not take away from this experience at all. The bite and texture and minerality were all still just as present and were absolutely complimentary to everything else added to the soup. And for the record, the aesthetic I was shooting for in the finished bowl was above and beyond what I envisioned.

Another huge part of the soup experience, in my opinion, from a mostly tasting only perspective, is seasoning. You have to add something else  to the mix besides salt, otherwise why not just crack open a can of Campbell’s and call it good. This may seem like I’m being a bit hyperbolic, because I am (it’s a hobby of mine), but in all reality, you can have all the great free range this and organic that on whatever plate, but if you don’t add the right amount and kind of spice and seasoning to a dish, is what you’re doing with that food even self care? 

Growing up just on the Oklahoma side of the Oklahoma/Arkansas border, my favorite memory of being brought up in a region close enough to the influence of true Southern culture has hands down got to be the food. Heat, of all culinary definitions, smoke, and spice were how you knew things were created and slow cooked with care and love. If you grew up in a household where your grandmother was raised in middle Tennessee, you learned that liquor wasn’t just what was in Crazy Uncle Roy’s cup at the dinner table. Chances were that there was Jack or Jim Beam in a sauce or glaze and amaretto or rum in the baked dessert. When I came across the Bourbon Smoked Citrus Pepper I knew I had to put this in the recipe I was trying to bring life to. 

When you open this 2 ounce puck of spice, you are met IMMEDIATELY with, in my case, an overly inviting fragrance of cracked pepper, warm orange peel, and mesquite bourbon barrel wood smoke. The pepper corns are quarter cracked, so the generous amount of texture you get with the abundant flavor is beyond pleasing to the tactile sensory pickups in the mouth, and everything is tied together with a familiar warm note of garlic and the balancing sweetness of onion that rounds out the makeup of this near perfect seasoning. It, added in with the Nashville seasoning from Spiceologist, and just a dash (or three) of chili powder, brought the broth alive with both spicy warmth and a familiarity that I miss from time to time when I am needing that taste of my roots to comfort me.

What else could be added to a menu of comfort food that fits this bill better than fresh baked bread? Soberdough makes a whole line of appetising just-add-beer bread dough mixes, and honestly it took more than one trip to the display to settle on my final choice of the Hatch Green Chile and Cheddar. I like the heat, what can I say? Although it does give the option of just adding soda water as a nonalcoholic alternative, I chose to stick with the “pale ale” suggestion and picked up a Pfriem Golden IPA to make the dough. The Pfriem choice was an easy one to go with because if the Hood River brewers know anything, its how to brew an exceptionally balanced beer. Knowing that this IPA, naturally hoppy by nature, was more toward the bright, almost citrusy, rather than super piney, in flavor, it wasn’t going to over influence the flavor of the bread but most likely add to the overall experience. From start to finish (open the bag, mix in the measured 12 oz of beer, put in the oven) the feeling of accomplishment that comes with smelling fresh baked bread, regardless of how much actual work went into the process, is something that can bring a smile to anyone’s face and heart.

The cheddar part of the recipe isn’t included in the bag of mix, and for this go around, I decided to forgo adding it in. I wanted to make sure my bread was going to stay true to form with its crusty outside and soft interior that would be ready to dip in and soak up the broth and flavor of the soup without any interference of the sharpness (i like my cheddar so sharp you sould cut yourself on it) of the cheese influencing the bite. I did add a touch of shredded parm on top to give a bit of salty crunch to the top crust, but nothing more. The chiles inside matched the smokiness of the citrus pepper and Nashville seasoning beautifully. I seriously considered just having a cup of broth and bread for a snack later that night.

No allowance review sheet is complete without at least one wine:

Biutiful Malbec – Mendoza 2018

A couple of severely over simplistic reasons went into choosing this wine for tasting: 1. I had roughly $24 and change left to work with, and 2. It had a picture of a chrysalis hanging from a branch on it. I figured with the year 2020 has been for the living and waking world, the destruction of the caterpillar and the formation of a butterfly in a seasonal hardened (s)hell was a perfect metaphor for the hope I wanted to see ahead. So yes, I got suckered into this bottle by label shopping (I regret nothing!!), and let me tell you, I am super glad that I did.

From the first pour, the deeeeeep, inky purple color of the wine in glass is absolutely stunning. It’s not just opaque for the sake of being opaque. Rather, it has an almost elegance to how it just pulls in and drowns the light. The nose is full of big black fruit, namely ripe berries and hints of plum at first pour that deepen as it opens up. The body is full without being too big, has a richness to it without being over decadent (or, i guess in this non-dessert wine’s case, jammy). This is a wine to not share. This is a wine that deserves your attention but gives you the space to reflect on where you’re at in life. I very much recommend having a nice cut of beef and a Neal Gaman novel close by to pair with this most definitely underpriced Argentinian vino. 

Erin-Grace speaking wine

BodegasEgo Goru Verde $ 15.95

Like the friend you roust in the middle of the night, the tannins of this purely monastrell bottle of wine are pretty up front about how they feel about you waking them. Given the amount of time it takes to brew and enjoy a proper cuppa, that first pour is ready to sit and talk with you about your day. It’s unassumingly rich and this particular beauty is in that sweet spot of being a medium body glass between friends that flirts with being a head-turning, full figured dinner date.

Deep red cherry and spiced plum in the nose with just ripe blackberries and late harvest orange in the finish that lingers just enough to remind you to keep coming back. Roast a rack of lamb or put a brisket on, low and slow, in preparation for this certified organic Spanish red. I would even dare you to come back and revisit this label when the air starts getting cold and the mulling spices are abundant to brighten up your holiday season (Goodness knows we need that).

Gifford-Hurlinger Stateline Red $17.95

I have the beautiful plight of not only living in a state that produces the best burgundy outside of burgundy, but also within a hard day’s bike ride from an area that has a ridiculously strong Bordeaux grape game that has only proven to be getting stronger with time. This meritage blend does nothing less than show this off. Now, please understand that this isn’t a wine to pull out to impress, but for under $20 a bottle this is a bottle that will not contextually underwhelm. Looking for a bottle to pour with Japanese Wagyu grab a bottle of Trust’s Stone’s Throw or Abeja Cabernet Sauvignon , BUT if you are on date night without the kids, pulling your beef base for your instagram stunt burger challenge off the grill, or just having the girls/boys/all-your-friends-in-between over for drinks around the early fall firepit in the backyard: get this bottle.

With Merlot and Cab Sauv being the backbone (legs and biceps, too) of the blend, there’s enough body in this wine to carry pretty much any load you pair it with (almost any flamekissed land animal, but especially tri-tip). The splash of Petit Verdot the winemakers put in adds enough tannins, acidity, and dark fruit notes that gives enough personality to each glass to let you know this is a grown up’s drink that isn’t afraid to guffaw with its pals.

Chop Shop Cabernet Sauvignon $ 16.95

Being as how I work in a wine shop, and to not be at least moderately versed in california reds is basically a cardinal sin (I live next to the Columbia Valley, so… you know… why?), I wanted to take a crack at our everyday drinkers – bottles under $20. At $16.95 not only is this affordable enough to be a bottle to consistently have on hand, what you pour into the glass should let you know that you SHOULD have on hand. It definitely ticks all the boxes for what you would want in a Cab that should change its name to Work Horse:decent tannins, moderate acids that don’t intrude on the palate, full, big body with a decently lengthy finish. Foodwise: Anything hearty. Anything meat. Smoke some texas style, dry rubbed ribs, or keep a glass on hand while you throw the skirt steak you’ve been marinating overnight on the fire.

When I pop open a cab, I tend to like an earthy, leathery nose and this definitely delivers on that. Accompanying the pronounced leather comes black currants, oak, and petrichor. The attack hits with and pulls deep, rich black cherry and vanilla through the palate. Balanced and bold in all the right ways that calls for a trip to the butcher, whether you’re a pit master, or a weekend warrior, this “value wine” may not have a designated region of california to list on its label, you should definitely designate a region of your (climate controlled) pantry for it.

Domaine de Montfaucon Viognier $ 19.95

This year has been the worst in ways that to describe it properly here would require language unsuitable for a PG-13 rating. Along with the, ahem, experience that has been 2020, proper summertime white wine drinking has been more medicinal than enjoyable. Which, this isn’t TOO bad if you are medicating with good wine, but still not ideal. Here we are, now, officially going into cooler, shorter days with what is being said to be a harsh winter ahead of us, I feel its a good idea to set the Vinho Verde aside for an evening and pick up this heartwarming french white.

It is a great combination of the full body feel that autumn starts calling for in a white and mellow citrus and stone fruit with bright floral notes that can easily remind you of what summer should be and (hopefully) will be again.

In the nose, honeysuckle and crisp apple, with some quieter tones of just-ripe stone fruit and gravel just after a mid summer rain. The first savory sip carries apricot, lemon and mellow citrus, and the accompanying minerality that I love to find in french whites. The body is full and beautiful and the finish covers the palate like duvet. Either get some butter melted for a hearty crustacean heavy meal, or whip up some cream by hand and find some fruit to dip into it, because in that gorgeous finish there is a slight bitterness that is only one half of an equation that will transport you to warmer thoughts in a peace of mind that is familiar and reassuring.

The Berglund Report

September 5th, TwentyTwenty Baker City, OR

Viking Blod $ 29.95 Pours a beautiful, thick golden amber, as you would expect from a honey based drink. But what I DIDN’T expect was the rush of peppery, floral notes that followed the initial honeyed sweetness. TONS of spice, with a hefty amount of molasses. Anxious to try this slightly warmed…. and really get in touch with my Scandanavian roots : )

Berglund and the Big Danish Meads

Spiceology Mesquite Peppercorn Lager Rub $ 15.95 I can see where this belongs on a brisket, but I am obsessed with coating all of my roasted veggies with this stuff. I can’t think of a protien that this doesn’t belong on either! The zing of the pink peppercorn is unique and will leave your guests asking “What’s your secret?!”

Vikingernes Dansk Mjod $ 29.95 Water, honey, hops, yeast. Such simple ingredients to assemble. Such and elegant, rich drink that has satiated countless desires over centuries. Boozy burnt sugar nose, tastes of Raw Honey. Very sweet, but somehow earthy. Hops are a little more deliberate in this one, but not overwhelming. High alcohol will leave you feeling warm from the inside out… no wonder the Vikings did so much pillaging.


Les Petit Sardines Muscadet Sur Lie $ 12.95 Let me set the scene here… it’s the beginning of July, you’re sprawled out on a blanket on the bank of your nearest body of water with the person in your life that makes you laugh the hardest. The picnic you packed includes a bowl of perfectly ripe strawberries and pineapple, an herbaceous tuna and orzo dish and a bottle of a Muscadet from a tiny cooperative of clever winemakers in the Loire. This is the way muscadet of this caliber is meant to be enjoyed. Its simplicity may be its best trait. Floral on the nose with citrus notes reminiscent of grapefruit, wrapped up with a satisfying minerality that is like a breeze over the sea salt flats of Camargue. Pairs best with a sunset and belly laughs.

CRUX 2020 (Banished) Series
All Worked Up Barrel Aged Wheat Wine Ale $ 14.95 Caramel, dark fruit and distinctive alcohol on the nose. I was pleasantly surprised at how dubdued the sweetness was, but the viscosity on the palate lets that sweetness linger… like a spoonful of honey! An elegant wheat wine that is well worth the 6 months long wait while it spent time in barrels.

Case Paolin Prosecco DOC $ 17.95 refreshing! If I were to descibe the perfect drink for a scorching hot summer evening this would be it! Summer-y aromas or fresh cut grass and granny smith apples with a fizzy and light body. A great balance of pear sweetness and lemony acidity.


Watermill Winery Chances R Red (Milton- Freewater, OR) $ 13.95 This wine was definitely my biggest surprise this month. A bold and unique blend for a truly incredible price! Normally I shy away from wine with pronounced oak, but the buttery qualities in Chances R are married with a touch of brown sugar. Notes of deep dark fruits and a smoky finish in this classic Bordeaux blend of Merlot, Petit Verdot, Cab Franc and Malbec with bits of Cabernet Sauvignon and Carmenere as well. Super interesting. Enjoyed this all by itself, which is testament to how balanced the wine is!

Sarah says….

September 5th, 2020 Baker City, OR

Spiceology PIZZA Cheese Blend $ 15.95 The kids loved it sprinkled on popcorn – great pizza flavor! Will definitely be adding a sprinkle to quesadillas-mad & cheese and anywhere ele that good tomatoey-basil-cheesy flavor can go.

Sarah, Salts and Some Fine Fleurie

Domain Haute Moliere Fleurie Beaujolais ’13 $ 17.95 Light smooth red from the Beaujolais region – 100% Gamay! Crisp, bright cherry fruit with earthiness and a slightly smoky finish. Delicate body but full of flavor. Perfect picnic wine- keep summer as long as you can and think SALAMI, CHEESE and chicken salad sandos : )

Jacobsen Black Garlic Salt $ 11.95 Oregon harvested kosher sea salt infused with black garlic. This finishing salt adds a sweet, earthy flavor to ALL the meats and vegetables. *** Fun Fact: Black garlic is the result of the Maillard reaction- that is, heating bulbs of garlic over low heat over the course of several weeks to create super- UMAMI rich black cloves.

August 1st, 2020
Dos Fincas Cabernet/Malbec 2017 $ 14.95 A classic Argentine blend with strong cherry and oak notes with unsweetened cocoa on the finish. Dark, earthy and dry – a good wine for red meats or game.


Cono Sur (organic) Bicicleta Reserva Carmenere 2017 $ 12.95 Nice value red wine for summertime and backyard drinking! Raspberry and cherry with a green chile note on the finish. Clean and soft finish- perfect during warm weather! This grape variety originated in Bordeaux, France and has become the dominant variety in Chile.

Inkarri Bonarda 2016 $10.95

Organic and biodynamique, this 100% Bonarda is tart and fruity with blueberry, black tea and cranberry notes. Would go well with a classic red sauce Italian pasta dish, or with red meats. Very food friendly, like Mencia -and would probably go anywhere a Mencia would go!

HellaHot Hot Sauce Techno Destructo Garlic Death Grip $9.95

Great garlic flavor and serious heat from habaneros, jalpenos and chipotles. Made in small batches with NO preservatives in California. Great on breakfast burritos – pizza – pasta – anything really!

WINNER – 2019 Fiery Food Challenge

Hedge Rose Calypso Beans $ 5.95

The *PLUMPEST* beans ever. I enthusiastically recommend these! Grown by Hedge Rose Farm – a small, draft horse powered, diversified farm sustainably producing vegetables, fruits and meat in Halfway, OR. BELLA stocks several varieties of beans and currently has garlic scapes from Hedge Rose Farm.

Viu Manent Reserva Malbec 2018 $ 10.95

This wine is a safe bet for a BBQ-friendly red – a crowd pleaser for sure. Berries and cherries with notes of warm raisins and chocolate. Light, refreshing acia and soft tannins.

Spiceology/Derek Wolf Jalapeno Lime Pilsner Rub $ 15.95

Rubbed this on chicken, roasted the chicken, shredded the chicken, then sprinkled on MORE of the rub. Put the spicy shredded chicken on tortillas with cilantro, onion and lime. I see lots of possiblilities with this blend. Before (as a rub) and after cooking (as a spice!)

Spiceology Greek Freak $ 13.95

confession: I am currently adding the Greek Freak to everything I make with reckless abandon. Roasted vegetables with Greek Freak. ANY meat with Greek Freak. Add it to made from scratch Ranch Dressing . I dream of putting it in teh next caramelized onion dip I made for the next BBQ I’m invited to…. just sayin’.

The Berglund Report

the brew news…

Pfriem Flanders Blonde $11.95

Pfriem shines when it comes to Flemish style ales. This beer is aged 18 months in Pinot Noir barrels which shines throught with delicate notes of French oak. Aroma-wise- it gives a unique buttery, pineapple, granny smith apple combo. Very mild sour with balanced sweetness. Super impressive

Pfriem Druif Rougem $14.95

More Pinot Noir action from Pfriem! The base of this concoction is a lambic (inspired) ale (already aged in Pinot Noir barrels) blended with Pinot Noir grapes. The grae/grain combo is something that these guys do masterfully. Pours shockingly Ruby Red with a stiff, billowy head. Big classic Bretto-funk well supported by a kiwi, melon sour. Well worth the money!!

last but certainly not least…

Deschutes The Abyss 2019 Reserve $ 19.95

Exceptional beer. Not surprised. The consistensy of The Abyss has made this beer so critically acclaimed and sought after that when my first thought as I took a sip was “Ah… that’s Abyss”, I knew they had done it once again. The bouquet is BUSY with dark malt, dried fruit and bourbon heat. Tastes smoky with roasted malt dominant with licorice and cocao. Can’t wait to write the same good review again next year.

and then we turn to the grapes…

Time Waits for No One Monastrell 2017 $ 16.95

Wow! Now I finally understand Monastrell. Very fruit forward, with lots of spice and coffee. Very bold and jammy, almost thick on the palate. This Spanish red woule be absolutely delightful with smoked red meat or wild game. Not for the faint of heart but worth the challenge.

Garage Wine co. Pais 215 BC 2018 $ 23.95

Such a nerdy wine! My first 100% Pais wine (to my knowlege!) The 215 BC name relates to the fact that the Pais grape was around 215 years BEFORE CABERNET. Very spicy and rich with hints of star anise and cardamom. Super easy to drink with a great tannin/acid balance. I think I’m in love.

If you’d like to know more about this very tiny ‘natural’ winemaker check out this link.
https://www.grapex.com/national-portfolio/garagewineco/garage-wine-co-pais-2/

Marchesi Incisa della Rocchetta ‘Futurosa’ Rosato 2017 $ 16.95

This rose’ was exactly what I wanted on a warm summer evening. Refreshing with a red berry crispness. Equal parts Barbera and Merlot, with a 24 hour period of skin contact for richer color than many rose’ wines gives this wine fine, intense notes of strawberries. This wine went wonderfully with my earthy garlic scape pesto pasta.

Terrapin Cellars Pinot Noir 2017 $ 16.95

Incredible value for Oregon Pinot Noir! I picked up a lot of spice notes… black pepper, cinnamon, maybe even white pepper. Heavy cherry and black currant flavors with a light lavender florality! Lots of subtle layers, it really kept me thinking! Pair this Pinot Noir with freshly caught Pacific NW fish fro a match made in heaven.

Holly’s Weeknight Nashville Chicken

Nashville Spiceology Whole Roasted Chicken – coooked in Cuisinart Presser Cooker.
This is a staple at my house, not only does it only take 25 minutes to prepare, it costs about $5!

It’s super easy- turn your pressure cooker to SAUTÉ, and while that’s warming up, I grab my seasoning of choice. Lately it has been Spiceology Nashville Hot Chicken. The chili powder, smoked paprika, cayenne pepper, and garlic really kicks a boring bird up a notch, it’s a must try! Rub the chicken inside and out, don’t be shy if you really want to feel the heat.

Add a little oil to your pressure cooker, then place chicken breast side down for about 5-8 minutes just long enough to brown the skin on the chicken.

Remove the chicken and place on a trivet or roasting rack ( I use a Norpro round silicone roasting rack – which you can purchase at either BELLA location!) Place chicken back in your Cuisinart pressure cooker, lock the lid and set on high pressure for 25 MINUTES! (That’s the average time for a 5 lb chicken!) While that’s cooking I prep my sides (and of course am drinking some type of wine).

When time is up, just let the cooker naturally release pressure. Now just cut & serve!

I can not express how much I love my Cuisinart Pressure Cooker, the speed and convenience is unmatched! I use it several times a week to cook all my soups, low carb desserts, meatloaf and of course my (all time favorite)Pozole!

Yours truly- Holly B

Mother Earth “Sin Tax” Imperial Stout


Mother Earth Brew Co. consistently produces unique, quality beer at a reasonable price and the “Sin Tax” is no exception. Pours the color of deep molasses with a stiff, meringue head. The aroma of barley malt and cola is the first thing that hits you, followed by a teasing hint of peanut butter. This beer is ROBUST, with notes of peanut brittle and toffee with moderate bitterness on the finish. Note the velvety mouthfeel! I didn’t pick up as much peanut butter as I had expected, but that may not be a bad thing! Coming in at under $9, it’s a truly incredible value.

PESTO Bitchin’ Sauce

Pesto Bitchin’ Sauce

Meet your new favorite dip.The Pesto variety of Bitchin’ Sauce boasts an herby basil flavor that can go anywhere the Original Bitchin’ Sauce has gone. Great to scoop up with crackers or tortilla chips. Solid as a fresh veg dip. Definitely put a spoonful on your sandwich or salad. Like hummus, but with creamy almonds instead of garbanzos and nutty nutritional yeast and ultra savory Bragg liquid aminos instead of tahini. Dairy-free & Vegan. Find it in the refrigerated grocery section at BELLA.

Review by Sarah Fry