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Chuck Hill, wine reviewer and columnist

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Wines of the Week Archive
Archived March 4, 2017
Originally Published February 7, 2017

Italy Comes to America – Part 2
Part 2 of a 4-Part Series  (Part 1)  (Part 3)  (Part 4)
By Chuck Hill

Facing the reality of a cold Seattle winter is made a little easier with thoughts of sunny Italy.  While wind and wet lurk just beyond the front door, the miracle of central heating allows dreams of warm Tuscan afternoons and colorful waterfront cafes on the southern Italian coast.  Add to these daydreams the reality of flavorful wines from Italian varieties and tasty foods based on regional food specialties from Italy’s north and south.  I’ve been tasting pastas with rich meaty sauces and lighter dishes featuring fish, shellfish and chicken to find the best wines for you to enjoy on your imaginary Italian holiday. 

This week’s red-wine offerings originate in northwest Italy in the Piedmont region.  Barbera, Dolcetto and Nebbiolo have been grown in this famous region for hundreds of years, and the grapes have translated well into the wine regions of America. 

Barbera

Woodward Canyon
2014 Barbera
Walla Walla Valley AVA
$29.00

Rick Small grows Barbera at his estate vineyard on the hillside northwest of Lowden.  He has experimented with two different clones, fermentation strategies and oak-aging techniques for more than a decade.  The balance of the sweeter (I call “cherry candy”) clone with the heartier, darker clone make for a balanced, enjoyable wine featuring ripe cherry and plum with notes of spice, vanilla and earthy mineral – very nice with hearty meats and pastas. 

Hard Row to Hoe
2014 Barbera
Washington State
$35
.00

The grapes for this tasty wine came from Veranda Beach Vineyard in Oroville, Washington near the Canadian border.  The vineyard is one of the northernmost in the state and enjoys a microclimate by being next to Lake Ososyoos and surrounded by steep mountains.  Winemaker Judy Phelps used a whole-berry fermentation to give the wine lots of juicy berry and currant aromas and flavors, and aged the wine in neutral oak allowing for food-friendly flavors and a balanced finish.  

Maryhill Winery
2013 Barbera
Columbia Valley
AVA
$26
.00

Winter’s snow and ice are still plaguing the Columbia Gorge and neighboring communities, but you can enjoy the warmth of Maryhill's large fireplace while you look forward to warm summer months on the terrace at the winery.  Maryhill just announced their first summer concert date: Santana is coming on Sunday, June 25!  Meanwhile, enjoy a sip of Maryhill’s earthy and fruity Barbera – just right to accompany a winter-to-spring Italian inspired menu! 
 

Dolcetto


Ponzi Vineyards
2013 Dolcetto
Chehalem Mountains
AVA
$30
.00

The Ponzi family celebrates their Italian heritage with their second varietal from the Old Country (their first was Arneis).  Dolcetto grapes are grown at their Aurora Vineyard in Chehalem Mountain AVA where they were first planted in 1992.  Enjoy complex aromatics of floral perfume, spice and cocoa leading to a rich and fruity palate of cherry and plum with a clean finish of chalky mineral. 
 

Abacela
2013 Dolcetto
Umpqua Valley
AVA
$24
.00

This wine is produced from Abacela’s estate Fault Line Vineyards in the warm Umpqua Valley of southern Oregon.  As the Dolcetto name implies – sweet, little one, you’ll find bright raspberry and cherry on the nose mingling with spice.  The balanced palate offers cherry and berry flavors with tempting notes of cocoa and mineral and velvety tannins. 

Whidbey island Winery
2014 Dolcetto
Yakima Valley
AVA
$22
.00

Winemaker Greg Osenbach advises that this wine will be released for sale in February of 2017 – make a note and be sure to track it down.  Fruit was sourced from Yakima Valley vineyards – Elephant Mountain and Crawford – and gave the wine its aromas and flavors of ripe red currant and cherry with dusty spice and mineral on the finish – great with Italian cuisine of all types. 

Nebbiolo

Cavatappi Winery
2013 Maddalena Nebbiolo
Red Willow & Alder Ridge Vineyards
$30
.00

Peter Dow began making his Maddalena Nebbiolo when he was still the owner of Café Juanita in Kirkland, Washington.  I was there decades ago when he proudly fermented the wine in the restaurant’s basement – a fond memory.  Today, Precept Brands continues the Cavatappi tradition with counsel from Pietro.  Look for ripe dark cherry and raspberry with notes of earthy spice and tobacco – serve with spicy Italian meats from the grill. 

Pinot Grigio/Gris

King Estate
2015 Pinot Gris
Willamette Valley AVA
 
$19
.00

It seems like just yesterday that the King family established the landmark King Estate Winery south of Eugene, Oregon, but in fact, it was 25 years ago!  Wow!  Many great wines have come from this operation, including this latest version of their Pinot Gris.  Look for aromas and flavors of mineral, melon, and mango; a well-balanced wine with flavors a bit toward the rounder side of the spectrum. 

Ponzi Vineyards
2015 Pinot Gris
Willamette Valley
AVA
$19.00

This wine topped the list in a prestigious flight of highly regarded Pinot Gris/Grigio.  This variety has evolved to stellar status, and winemaker Luisa Ponzi continues her string of superb wines.  Racy and savory, with crisp acidity, but body and complexity to match.  Layered flavors of citrus, mineral, and baking spice. 

Elk Cove Vineyards
2015 Pinot Gris
Willamette Valley
AVA
$18
.00

Speaking of long-established wineries with a reputation for crafting the best in the state, Elk Cove Vineyards was founded in 1974 – now 42 years young! Winemaker Adam Campbell has always had a deft touch with Pinot Gris and this vintage was a favorite as well.  You’ll enjoy pear, mineral , and citrus flavors that work well with food or as a sipper on its own.   



Wines from other areas


Attems
2015 Pinot Grigio
Venezia – Giulia, Italy
$16
.00

We’ve been enjoying Attems Pinot Grigio for a number of years, and each vintage impresses the tasters more and more.  The old days of light and insipid Italian Pinot Grigio are gone as this excellent wine illustrates.  Look for delicate, mineral and cream, with flint and a hint of gooseberry.   

 

Peter Zemmer
2015 Pinot Grigio
Alto Adige Sudtirol, Italy
$16
.00

Here is another wine that is the antithesis of bland Italian Pinot Grigio.  Deliciously complex with grapefruit, gooseberry, melon, and tropical fruit, the wine is very slightly phenolic, adding to its appeal for pairing with richly flavored light meals. 

Sartori di Verona
2012 Valpolicella
DOCG, Italy
$15
.00

This wine knocked the socks off my tasters for its quality and complexity. Valpolicella is from the northeast of Italy and is crafted from Corvina, Rondinella and Croatina grapes.  This fruit-forward style is just one of the variations that the region is famous for, but why look further?  Great price and juicy black cherry, berry and earthy mineral – also great with food. 

Coppo L’Avvocata
2014 Barbera d’Asti
DOCG, Italy
$15
.00

The more elder tasters in my group (like me!) appreciate the Old World versions of Italian varieties for their bright fruit, racy palate and lingering complexity.  This version offers ripe cherry and strawberry with notes of spice and hints of cola – a perfect accompaniment to pasta Bolognese. 

Jacuzzi Family Vineyards
2014 Barbera
Mendocino County
$28
.00

As we move to the New World, we find Italian varieties catering to the American palate – preferring more ripeness (and attendant higher alcohol) and some toasty oak for added complexity.  It is a different style, but one worth enjoying with hearty meats from the grill and other smoky delights.

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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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Copyright © March, 2017 Chuck Hill
All rights reserved.  Last revised: 03/25/2017