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Chuck Hill, wine reviewer and columnist

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Wines of the Week Archive
Archived February 23, 2018
Originally Published February 7, 2018

Wines from Italian Varieties
Part 2 of a 4-Part Series  (Part 1)  (Part 3) (Part 4)
By Chuck Hill 

My tasters look forward to judging the Italian varieties every year – and every year they seem to be better and better with a wide selection of foods. Sangiovese, Nebbiolo and blends now express the delicate nature of the grapes, while Pinot Gris/Grigio wines are food friendly with crisp citrus on the palate and complex aromas and flavors.

2014 Maddalena Nebbiolo, Red Willow Vineyard
Yakima Valley AVA

Peter Dow first made his Maddalena Nebbiolo way back in the late 1980s as a cooperative experiment with grower Mike Sauer of Red Willow Vineyard. This wine still comes from those same early plantings and is made to accompany a fine Italian meal. Aromas of cherry, berry and violets lead to flavors of spicy plum and notes of anise, clove and rose petal. 

Leonetti Cellar
2014 Sangiovese (5% Aglianico)
Walla Walla Valley AVA

Leonetti Cellar produces some of the Northwest’s most popular wines – high quality, rare and expensive. The price of the wine goes up from the winery list price if you seek a bottle out at a shop or restaurant. Chris Figgins blended the Sangiovese with a touch of the ancient grape Aglianico to create an elegant wine showing cherry and strawberry with mineral, toasty oak, vanilla and hints of floral perfume. 

Casa Smith
2016 Sangiovese, Cinghiale
Wahluke Slope AVA

Celebriity winemaker Charles Smith crafts wines for his eponymous label from grapes grown at some of Washington’s most respected vineyards. This Wahluke Slope Sangiovese is named Cinghiale – Italian for wild boar – presumably a suggested pairing for the wine as available! Look for a well balanced, food friendly red showing dried cherry, berry and notes of barrel spice, herbs and mineral. 

Eight Bells Winery
2014 Old Salt, Sangiovese blend
Yakima Valley AVA

The proprietors of Eight Bells Winery sourced grapes from Red Willow Vineyard to craft their flavorful blend of Sangiovese with Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc. This Super Tuscan style offers ripe fruit of cherry and plum with notes of leather, cassis and a wrapping of toasty oak that pairs well with meats from the grill. 

Reininger Winery
2011 CIMA, Sangiovese blend
Walla Walla Valley AVA

Chuck Reininger’s complex Super Tuscan blends Sangiovese with Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot and Merlot. The Sangiovese shines through with dried cherry presented in a bouquet of violet and rose that leads to flavors of dark fruits and finishes with mature leather, spicy oak and earthy mineral. 

Pinot Gris/GrigioElk Cove Vineyards 2016 Pinot Gris

Elk Cove Vineyards
2016 Pinot Gris
Willamette Valley AVA

We’ll start our Pinot Gris reviews with two of Oregon’s pioneer wineries who blazed the Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris trail for many others to follow. Elk Cove is located in the foothills of the Oregon Coast Range and has picturesque estate vineyards surrounding the winery. Their Pinot Gris is an Oregon classic featuring apple, pear and stone fruits with floral scents and hints of spice.  

Ponzi Vineyards
2016 Pinot Gris
Willamette Valley AVA

Ponzi Vineyards began in the 1970s in Beaverton, Oregon, just outside of Portland. Over the years, they have planted vineyards at other locations and now have moved the winery and expansive visitor center to the Chehalem Mountain location of their Avellana Vineyard. I have featured Ponzi Pinot Gris in many tastings over the past decades, and none were more enjoyable than the current vintage offering pear and peach with tropical fruits, baking spice and citrus. 

Lange Winery
2016 Pinot Gris, Reserve
Willamette Valley AVA

Don and Wendy Lange started their winery in Oregon’s Dundee Hills in the late 1980s, and are celebrating their 30th anniversary by welcoming visitors to their new Grand Tasting Hall at the winery. The Reserve Pinot Gris opens with spicy pear, mineral and melon leading to a creamy palate of tropical delights with mango, lemon, orchard blossom and vanilla. 

King Estate
2016 Pinot Gris
Willamette Valley AVA

This popular bottling of Pinot Gris is widely distributed throughout the U.S. and is a great representative of Northwest wine. The wine offers ripe aromas and flavors of lemon, pear, pineapple and other tropical fruits, with a clean acid finish to accompany seafood or lighter meals of fowl or pork.  

Wine by Joe
2016 Pinot Gris
Willamette Valley AVA

Wine by Joe is the entry-level tier for wines made by longtime Oregon winemaker Joe Dobbes, proprietor of Dobbes Family Estate in Dundee, Oregon. Wine by Joe Pinot Gris offers classic aromas and flavors of white peach, pear, apple and lemon with hints of floral perfume and wet stone. Also look for refreshing Joe to Go Pinot Gris in cans for taking on your next picnic - $7.00. 

Oak Knoll Winery
2015 Pinot Gris
Willamette Valley AVA

The Oak Knoll Winery in Hillsboro, Oregon, was founded in 1970 by Ron and Marj Vuylsteke. This was the first winery in Washington County and among the handful then open in Oregon. Now, almost 50 years later, the winery is still going strong with the second generation stepping in to keep things going. My tasters enjoyed this Pinot Gris for bright green apple, pear and citrus flavors with acidity to accompany light meals and appetizers.

Wines from other areas:

2012 Chianti Classico Riserva

The Chianti Classico district of Tuscany is just part of the large Chianti region and accounts for just a small portion of Tuscany’s red wine production. Over the last 30 years, changes have taken place that determine what grapes [in addition to Sangiovese] are allowed in a Chianti blend, with Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot allowed just since 1996. My tasters enjoyed the classic Chianti aromas and flavors of cherry, herbs, earthy mineral and toasty oak. 

Villa Borghetti
2011 Amarone della Valpollicella
Verona, Italy

Amarone wines are made by picking grapes – Corvina and Rondinella - and letting them dry in the sun on straw mats for up to 120 days. The Amarone from the Villa Borghetti offers Port-like aromas and flavors of currants, blackberries and sweet almonds. It is an excellent aperitif or accompaniment to rich meat dishes. 

Sartori di Verona
2016 Pinot Grigio, IGT
Delle Venezie

This bright and flavorful white wine offers delicate fruit and citrus aromas, and a pleasantly crisp palate of lemon, herbs and mineral. By the way, IGT means Indicazione geografica tipica, an Italian classification created to recognize the high quality of Super Tuscan wines when the wines didn’t meet the stricter requirements of content for DOC or DOCG classifications. Enjoy this Pinot Grigio with lighter entrees or as an aperitif. 

Renato Ratti
2015 Nebbiolo d’Alba
Orchetti, Italy

In Piedmont, the Renato Ratti Winery’s Marcenasco Vineyard overlooks the Barolo Valley right below the Abbey of L’Annunziata.  Originally planted to grow grapes for Barolo, the vineyard and winery now produce other varieties as well. This tasty Nebbiolo – one taster described it as “overtly fruity” – offers ripe strawberry fruit in the nose and complex red fruit and herb flavors on the palate. It is a delicious accompaniment to lighter meats and pastas. 

Coppo – Campo du Rouss
2014 Barbera d’Asti

The original caretaker for this Piedmontese vineyard has a very pronounced head of red hair, or in Piedmontese, “camp du rouss.” Grown near Canelli and local villages, the grapes make a delicious Barbera. showing crushed cherry and berry jam with spicy notes of leather, herbs and a hint of smoke.

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To find contact information for most of the wineries in the above text,
visit our alphabetical lists for Northwest States.



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All rights reserved.  Last revised: 03/10/2018