Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Rhone Reds and Blends with Neapolitan Pork Chops

I continue my celebration of red wines crafted from the Rhone varieties Syrah, Grenache, Mourvedre, Cinsault and others. In the Pacific Northwest, our mild summer has yielded to a cool fall, enticing wine lovers to reach for hearty reds that accompany the meaty, flavorful meals of the season. I begin with some southern Rhone blend selections and move to northern Rhone (Syrah) wines at the end of the column.

Southern Rhone Blends

Columbia Winery 2016 Vision Red Blend, Horse Heaven Hills – $45

This is actually more of a Northern Rhone blend with a larger percentage of Syrah than the other varieties. (64% Syrah, 25% Mourvedre, 11% Grenache) My tasters found it the most complex and interesting wine in the flight showing ripe plum, cranberry and cherry fruit with spice and soft tannins. Columbiawinery.com

Rocky Pond Winery 2017 Stratastone GSM Blend, Columbia Valley - $35

This unique blend comes from Rocky Pond Winery’s estate vineyards near Lake Chelan in Washington’s Columbia Valley appellation. The wine offers cherry and plum aromas and flavors and expands upon aeration to include notes of floral, mineral and smoky meat notes – very tasty with meats from the grill. Rockypondwinery.com

Andrew Januik 2016 Los Molinos, Columbia Valley - $60

The son of a world-renowned winemaker (Mike Januik), Andrew Januik was born with winemaking in his blood and the proof is in the pressing. Every single one of the wines that Andrew has made since starting his eponymous label in 2011 have all been rated above 90 points. His Los Molinos (the olive mill) GSM blend shows somewhat of the influence of his father with layers of complex fruit and distinct notes of spicy oak and caramel. Noveltyhilljanuik.com

Kendall Jackson 2016 GSM, Grand Reserve, Santa Barbara County - $35

It’s nice to see more California wineries adding Rhone blends to their offerings. This flavorful Grand Reserve offers red currant and mixed wild cherry flavors with background notes of chocolate and cedar box. Aging in French oak and pre-fermentation cold-soak adds layers of complexity adds complexity and hints of vanilla and caramel.

Andre Brunel 2016 Cotes du Rhone, France - $14

This tasty Rhone blend features 70% Grenache with 20% Cinsault and 10% Syrah. The grapes are harvested from properties on different sides of the Rhone River – each offering different terroir and contributing different styles to the wine. Look for aromas and flavors of dark plum and earthy mineral with notes of violets and spice.

Syrah and Shiraz

‘The Jack 2017 Syrah, Columbia Valley - $18

Rich Funk of Saviah Cellars says of The Jack series of wines, “they are the best bet for high value and exceptional quality. My tasters agree! Saviah has offered several varieties of The Jack for almost a decade and they are among the very best Northwest wines for the money. Look for aromatic cherry and raspberry with notes of floral perfume, toasty oak and mineral – great with rich meats and hearty sauces.Saviahcellars.com

Penfold’s 2016 Kalimna Bin 28 Shiraz, South Australia - $30

“Bin 28 offers a showcase of warm climate Australian Shiraz – ripe, robust and generously flavoured.” I have been a fan of this bottling for years, enjoying it with hearty meat dishes and as a pairing to dark chocolate when the occasion arises. Aromas of ripe blackberry dance among olives, tobacco and mineral leading to rich flavors of dark fruits, tar and caramel-vanilla. Penfolds.com

L’Ecole No 41 2016 Syrah, Seven Hills Vineyard - $37

This special wine from the Walla Walla Valley comes from the most widely esteemed vineyard in the AVA and demonstrates why Seven Hills has gained its reputation. I joined other Seattle wine writers with the vineyard owners in the mid-1980s for a show-and-tell of the vineyard’s attributes at the first harvest. My tasters enjoyed the classic Syrah character of mineral, smoky game and earthy tar over layers of blueberry, plum and hints of floral perfume. Lecole.com

Three Rivers Winery 2016 Syrah, Walla Walla Valley - $42

Winemaker Holly Turner crafted this rich and rustic Syrah from grapes grown in the Walla Walla Valley, mostly at Minnick Hills Vineyard north Walla Walla. Aging in French oak – 50% new – added character and toasty nuances with hints of caramel and vanilla.  Aromas and flavors of dark fruits, smoked meats and dusty herbs create a perfect wine to pair with your fall meats from the grill. Threeriverswinery.com

Copain Winery 2016 Syrah, Tous Ensemble, Mendocino - $24

Iconic Copain Winery overlooks the bucolic Russian River Valley in California, crafting Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Syrah.  Their Tous Ensemble (all together) wines are approachable, casual and ready to drink. The Syrah from select cool climate vineyards in Mendocino County offers raspberry, blackberry and spice with notes of pencil lead, toast and soft tannins.

DeLille Cellars 2016 Signature Syrah, Yakima Valley - $44

This wine came from the much-heralded Boushey Vineyard in Washington’s Yakima Valley.
This site is known for world-class Syrah that brings fame to the region. My tasters noted deep aromas and flavors of dark fruits, spicy pepper, violets and smoked meats.  Additional complexity includes cigar wrapper, savory olive and balancing acidity. Delillecellars.com


Prima Pink 2018 Rosé, Washington

Greg Osenbach of Whidbey Island Winery crafts this savory rosé for his friend Sieb Jurriaans for his Prima Bistro in nearby downtown Langley.  The wine is a natural for the French-inspired Northwest bistro fare at this popular local restaurant. The pale orange-pink color leads to aromas and flavors of melon, light strawberry, savory herbs and refreshing citrus and mineral.

Warr-King Wines 2018 Rosé, Marie Noelle - $19

Winemaker Lisa Packer named this beautiful and tasty wine for her French friend Marie Noelle.  The deep salmon pink color leads to aromas and flavors of pomegranate, lavender, red raspberry and melon with hints of rose petals and strawberry.

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Petite Sirah with Beef from the Grill

Petite Sirah with Churrasco Steak

To begin this column, let’s clarify that Syrah and Petite Sirah are closely related varietals.  Long a source of confusion, Petite Sirah was originally identified as the French variety Durif.  It was not until 1996, however, that Dr. Carole Meredith at UC Davis – using advanced DNA techniques – showed that Durif was a genetic cross between Syrah and the minor French variety Peloursin.  That established, one can see that the two varieties might share similar characteristics in aroma and flavor, and indeed do on many occasions. 

These rich and fruity wines paired nicely with spicy churrasco steak from the grill with chimichurri sauce on the side.  A note: these rich, young wines are – for the most part - reluctant to give up bold, forward aromas when first poured.  Breathing time helps the wines open up.

For your fall wine touring information, look to www.winesnw.com for maps, operating hours, and a host of other useful information.

Three of Cups 2015 Petite Sirah Le Croyant, Red Mountain - $32

This is the first of two wines in this week’s reviews that comes from Red Mountain – specifically from Kiona Vineyards properties farmed by Scott Williams and his family and crew.  This Petite Sirah from Kiona Heart of the Hill vineyard is a grand testament to winemakers Mike Metheny and Lisa Swei. Rich and complex in an Old World style, aromas of plum, dark cherry, spice and herbs lead to supple flavors of dark fruits, black pepper and vanilla. threeofcups.com

Stags’ Leap Winery 2015 Petite Sirah, Ne Cede Malis, Estate - $125

This intense wine comes from a small block of the Stags’ Leap estate vineyard that was planted in 1929. While mostly Petite Sirah, other varietal vines are interplanted in the style known at the time as “mixed blacks.” Some of these varieties are older Italian vines and all add to the depth and complexity. Blackberry, blueberry and baking spices form the base for this iconic selection. Add vanilla bean, earthy coconut and smoky caramel to round out a memorable tasting experience. stagsleap.com

Hard Row to Hoe 2016 Petite Sirah, Kiona Vineyard, Red Mountain - $40

Don and Judy Phelps founded their Lake Chelan winery after careers in more staid disciplines and added to the excitement by reviving the legend of a mining town brothel serviced by a rowboat taxi enterprise.  Many of the wines offer tongue-in-cheek reference to bawdy matters through name and illustration.  Judy’s serious Petite Sirah also came from Kiona on Red Mountain and offers aromas and flavors of dark plum, dense blackberry and chocolate with notes of black tea, toasty oak, vanilla and caramel. Hardrow.com

Orin Swift 2017 Machete, Petite Sirah, California - $50

If British singer/composer Robert Palmer (Simply Irresistible) had lived to see the second decade of the new millennium, he might have been tempted to make a video of images and music named Machete.  Instead winemaker David Swift Phinney crafted Machete, a big, provocative Petite Sirah blend offering plum compote, ripe blackberry, roasted Moroccan lamb, peanut caramel, dark cherry, marbled leather and the “scent of a woman” posing next to a classic luxury car. orinswift.com

Madrigal Family Winery 2016 Petite Sirah, Napa Valley - $35

The Madrigal family has grown wine grapes in the Napa Valley since the 1930s.  Third generation family member Chris Madrigal is in charge now and works with consulting winemaker Ed Sbragia to craft the special Madrigal Family bottlings. My tasters loved this dark and spicy wine with earthy notes of tar and leather with a core of sweet, dark plum and blackberry. madrigalfamilywinery.com

Stag’s Leap Winery 2016 Petite Sirah, Napa Valley - $47

The same year that Mr. Ferris was revealing his wheel at Chicago’s World Columbian Exposition in 1893, workers were blasting the wine caves and crafting the first vintage of Stags’s Leap in the Napa Valley. Today you can enjoy Stag’s Leap Petite Sirah for it’s rich and spicy berry, cherry and earthy mineral character.

Sbragia 2015 Petite Sirah, Teldeschi Vineyard, Sonoma - $45

The famed Teldeschi Vineyard is in California’s Dry Creek Valley in Sonoma County. The property dates back to 1929 with some of the vines now 90 years old. From some of the old Petite Sirah vines Ed Sbragia and his son Adam craft this special wine. Look for a cocoon of toasty oak around a core of dried plum, caramel, smoked meat, violets and spice. Sbragia.com

Daven Lore 2015 Durif, Horse Heaven Hills - $32

My tasters were amazed and delighted with this special Petite Sirah wine. DavenLore Durif offers the rustic-and-rough Petite Sirah model with complex aromas and flavors of blackberry, plum, eucalyptus, earthy mineral, tar and a toasty finish to pair with your finest meats. Davenlore.com

Animale 2015 Petite Sirah Reserve, Yakima Valley - $28

Winemaker Matt Gubitosa operates his small Washington winery with the goal of crafting small quantities of intense, full-flavored red wines made from grapes from family-farmed vineyards in the Yakima, Columbia and Willamette Valleys.  His 2015 Petite Sirah Reserve was sourced from the Yakima Valley.  The wine offers intense aromas of dark berries, pepper and dark chocolate with floral notes.  The palate shows flavors of blackberry, plum and cocoa with food-friendly acidity.  Matt suggests enjoying Animale wines at Delancey Pizza, not far from the winery’s Ballard, Washington production facility. Animalewine.com

Spellbound 2016 Petite Sirah, California - $15

The Spellbound name of this wine celebrates the motto: “nurtured by the sun, balanced by the moon.” The wine comes from winegrowing regions throughout California and offers good value for a fruity wine with aromas and flavors of blackberry candy, cocoa, cigar box and leather. Spellboundwines.com

Monday, September 2, 2019

Red Rhone Varieties for Summer

Red Wines with Meats from the Grill

I start off my late summer red-wine-and-meat fest with delectable Grenache and blends – better known to wine lovers as Southern Rhone blends. These wines feature mostly Grenache, Mourvedre, Syrah and Cinsault in the mix and are fragrant, medium bodied and lip-smacking slurps to serve with your pork, lamb or beef. They can be elegant wines for indoor white tablecloth dining as well.

If you are looking for some late summer wine touring information, tune your browser to WinesNorthwest.com for maps, features and much more.

 Southern Rhone Blends

Rotie Cellars 2017 Southern Blend - $48

This wine was the runaway winner of my first tasting featuring plum and berry fruit with complex baking spice, earthy mineral and hints of floral perfume. Sean Boyd makes his wines in the Old World style and has a lot to teach wine drinkers who look for uber intense, oak heavy wines. Sean’s wines are the best in Washington for paying homage to the Rhone model. Look for Rotie Cellars at the Walla Walla winery, their tasting room in SODO or at the website: rotiecellars.com

Delille Cellars 2015 Metier, Columbia Valley - $38

The founders of DeLille Cellars held French wines as a model to follow for their complexity, pure fruit and food friendliness. Metier is a French term for person’s profession or a calling for which they are well suited. This Southern Rhone blend of Grenache (39%), Mourvedre (39%), Syrah (19%) and Cinsault (3%). This delicious medium-bodied red celebrates raspberry, cherry and herbs with veins of minerals, smoky meats and dried fruits. Delillecellars.com

L’Ecole No 41 2017 GSM, Walla Walla Valley – $36

This wine hails from Walla Walla’s Seven Hills Vineyard, an estate property for L’Ecole No 41 that was originally planted in 1980. The wine is a blend of one third each of Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre and was aged in small oak barrels, mostly two years and older. Look for aromas and flavors of blackberry and dark fruits with notes of lavender, graphite and spicy pepper. Lecole.com

Domaine Ogier 2017 Cotes du Rhone Villages, Plan de Dieu - $17

This winery has been based in Chateauneuf-du-Pape for over 150 years and this southern Rhone blend is just one of their wines from the regional appellation. My tasters found dried cherry and raspberry with notes of black olive, eucalyptus and mineral. Tripadvisor also laudes the property as an excellent place to visit if your travels take you to the Southern Rhone. Ogier.fr/en

Three of Cups 2015 GSM Le Jugement, Yakima Valley - $25

Mike Metheny and Lisa Swei established their Three of Cups Winery with solid winemaking, a good business plan and a friendly approach to their wine tasting fans. The new vintage of their GSM blend is full of juicy, dried berry and black fruits with hints of caramel, vanilla, spicy oak with a finish of juicy plum.  Visit their winery in Woodinville on weekends or visit the website at Threeofcups.com

Tablas Creek Vineyards 2017 Cotes de Tablas - $35

Robert Haas, the late American wine luminary gained fame for his pioneering import company Vineyard Brands and his partnership with the Perrin family of Chateau de Beaucastel in the Rhone that led to the founding of Tablas Creek Vineyard near Paso Robles in the Adelaida District. His youngest son Jason Haas is general manager for Tablas Creek and crafts the wines. The medium-bodied Cotes de Tablas offers notes of blackcurrant, cherry and strawberry with notes of celery salt, anise and mineral. Tablascreek.com

Tablas Creek Vineyard 2018 Dianthus Rosé, Paso Robles - $30

As many gardeners know, the flower genus Dianthus is better known as carnations or “pinks.” Evocative of bright pink color and a spicy aroma, this name was chosen for Tablas Creek’s rosé wine. A blend of Mourvedre, Grenache and Counoise, it leads with a brilliant rose pink hue then impresses with aromas and flavors of watermelon, strawberry, herbs and spice – refreshing and classic.

Varietal Grenache

Sometimes the Grenache variety takes quite a beating from winemakers who mistake it for Cabernet Sauvignon or Zinfandel. This rather delicate grape wants to be a fragrant, complex wine, not one that is harvested extra ripe and further insulted by extended barrel aging, often with ample new oak.

Abacela 2016 Grenache, Umpqua Valley - $30

This Southern Oregon winery was conceived with the production of Spanish varietals in mind, follows the Iberian model of the Grenache variety – bright, fruity and refreshing. This wine is a favorite every year with bright aromas and flavors of strawberry and melon and complex notes of flinty mineral, cranberry and spice. Abacela.com

Whidbey Island Winery 2016 Grenache, Horse Heaven Hills - $25

Winemaker Greg Osenbach is using Horse Heaven Hills fruit for some of his wines these days, specifically Alder Ridge Vineyard (for this wine) and Coyote Canyon Vineyard (for Primitivo and others). Look for red cherry, blueberry and baking spice with ample toasty oak and earthy mineral. Whidbeyislandwinery.com

Novelty Hill 2016 Grenache, Washington State - $28

This wine hails from Novelty Hill’s estate Stillwater Creek Vineyard located on the Royal Slope in Washington State. Winemaker Mike Januik aged the wine in French oak (40% new) yet retained the rich, fruity character of the Grenache variety showing strawberry, cherry and spice with hints of vanilla and toast. Noveltyhilljanuik.com

Griffin Creek 2015 Grenache, Rogue Valley - $45

The Griffin Creek brand from Willamette Valley Vineyards offers wines from Southern Oregon fruit including Tempranillo, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Syrah, Viognier and a blend named Griffin. This Grenache shows the robust treatment of the variety with dark cherry, cranberry and baking spice with notes of toasty oak and hints of lavender and cherry candy. WVV.com

Season Cellars 2015 Grenache, Southern Oregon - $38

This appealing Grenache bottling is part of a Limited Edition Series from Scott IV and Jennifer Henry. It offers the raspberry candy side of the variety, showing aromas and flavors of cherry drops, marshmallow, mocha and cherry cola. A hit of Syrah in the blend adds backbone and extends the food pairing options to include smoked meats and hearty red sauces. Seasoncellars.com

Canoe Ridge Vineyard 2014 Grenache, Horse Heaven Hills - $38

This limited edition Grenache came from select vineyards in the Horse Heaven Hills AVA including Alder Ridge, Canoe Ridge and Wallula. Aged in French oak (33% new), the wine leads with aromas of strawberry, blackberry and citrus and fills with flavors of lighter fruits, brambly spicy oak and hints of lavender and violets.  Canoeridgevineyard.com

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