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By Chuck Hill

Chuck Hill, wine reviewer and columnist

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Chuck's Wine Reviews
of Northwest Wines

Organized by varietal



Wines of the Week Archive
Archived March 28, 2012
Originally Published March 12, 2012

Syrah and Petite Sirah – Wines for Meats and Rich Sauces
Part 3 of a 3-Part Series (See Part 1) (See Part 2)
By Chuck Hill

Continuing our tastings of Syrah, Petit Sirah and blends, we find that many of the wines are excellent pairings with the rich and smoky character of meats from the grill.  Whether it’s a well-marbled Porterhouse steak or a Hebrew National All-Beef Hot Dog, the browning and smoky flavors from grilling really bring out the best in most wines.  As an aside, we have been sampling wines from multiple vintages – some from as far back as 2006 and many from 2007, 2008 and 2009.  Almost all of the wines have held up superbly over years of bottle aging. 

By the way, Taste Washington takes place at the end of March.  Check out for information and tickets.

2009 Petite Sirah
Yakima Valley

I visited Matt Gubitosa – owner/winemaker of Animale – at his winery the other day and had a chance to taste through his lineup of red wines.  All have the common denominator of ripe and luscious fruit and a backbone of bright acidity.  Matt selects fruit from several vineyards in the Yakima and Columbia Valleys with the grapes for this wine coming from the McIntire Vineyard in Sunnyside.  Look for aromas and flavors of ripe blackberry, plum, cocoa and hints of menthol and pepper – a very enjoyable food wine for those that like intense fruit. 

Bergevin Lane
2008 Oui Deux Syrah
Wahluke Slope

Winemaker Steffan Jorgensen used grapes from Stone Tree Vineyard of the warm Wahluke Slope for this wine and aging the wine in oak barriques with 87% new oak added spice and smoky nuances to the wine.  Oui Deux shows the complex side of Syrah with aromas and flavors of lavender, smoky bacon and citrus dancing over the base of blackberry and dark fruits.  New winemaker Dave Harvey recently took over for Jorgensen who has relocated to Chile to start his own wine venture.

2009 Aix, Red Blend
Yakima Valley

Aix marks the spot for winemaker Chris Upchurch as he offers his traditional blend of Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon and Mourvedre as found in Aix-en-Provence.  Sourced from primarily Red Mountain vineyards, the wine is deep in color revealing a hint to the wine’s power and intensity.  The Syrah brings raspberry, floral and white pepper to the party with cassis, anise and cocoa arriving mid-palate to announce that Cabernet is making a statement.  This exciting blend is a direction that shows great promise for Washington red wine.

Amavi Cellars
2009 Syrah
Walla Walla Valley

Amavi Cellars Syrah is sourced from three of Walla Walla’s great vineyards: Les Collines, Seven Hills and Pepper Bridge.  Winemaker Jean-Francois Pellet aged the wine in French oak – 16% new – to yield a rich wine with berry and dried fruit flavors complemented by notes of mineral, citrus and floral perfume.  Very well balanced on the palate with smoky notes pairing well with meats from the grill.

Cliff Creek
2006 Syrah, Estate
Southern Oregon

The Garvin family has farmed near Gold Hill, Oregon for many years, and their Sam’s Valley Vineyard was planted over a decade ago.  Cliff Creek wines are available at the winery tasting room up north in Carlton, Oregon.  The 2006 Syrah offers rich aromas and flavors of black fruits with a basket of complementary flavors including smoky bacon, chocolate, nuts and espresso – nice with flavorful meats or hearty sauces.

Otis Kenyon Winery
2008 Syrah
Walla Walla Valley

The 100-year-plus history of the Kenyon family in the Walla Walla area is a compelling story (see the winery website at and leads to the founding of the eponymous winery in the recent winegrowing boom of Walla Walla in the 1990s.  The winery has two vineyard sites near Milton-Freewater, Oregon (in the Walla Walla AVA) and produces wine from Bordeaux and Rhone varietals.  The 2008 Syrah offers ripe fig, cassis, toasty oak and caramel.   

Mercer Wines
2009 Syrah, McKinley Springs Vineyard
Horse Heaven Hills

Not many wineries can count Yakima Valley family connections going back over 100 years including two of the most influential names in Washington viticulture – Mercer and Hogue.  The agricultural background of both families began well before the wine boom of the 1970s, when wine grapes were planted in the Horse Heaven Hills and the bench north of Prosser, Washington.  This tasty Syrah features ripe aromas and flavors of black cherry with notes of blackberry, vanilla and toasty oak.

Coeur d’Alene Cellars
2007 Syrah, Alder Ridge Vineyard
Horse Heaven Hills

One of Idaho’s most noted producers of Rhone varietals, CdA Cellars, uses mostly Washington fruit to craft its fine wines.  This distinctive Alder Ridge Vineyard Syrah offers rich berry and fig character with notes of baking spice, vanilla and citrus. 

Walla Walla Vintners
2009 Syrah, Morrison Lane Vineyard
Walla Walla Valley

Walla Walla Vintners makes only a small amount of this Syrah which comes from one of Walla Walla’s most acclaimed growers, Morrison Lane.  The Morrison Farm was founded in 1918 south of Walla Walla (in the same area as Les Collines, Pepper Bridge and Seven Hills), and the first vineyards were planted in the late 1990s.  Morrison Lane Syrah fruit gives this wine a rich nose of berry and spice with flavors of black cherry, toasty oak and vanilla on the finish.

2009 Syrah, Les Collines Vineyard
Walla Walla Valley

The NXNW red wine program features two Syrah wines, a blend of Walla Walla and Columbia Valley fruit and this pure expression of Walla Walla sourced from the Les Collines Vineyard.  Les Collines is a 240-acre site near the Washington-Oregon border planted to mostly red varietals.  This wine offers aromas and flavors of red cherry, blackberry, caramel and toasty oak.

Wines from other areas:

2009 Syrah
Paso Robles

The Middleton family’s Paso Robles vineyard, Red Cedar, has superb soils for growing Syrah, and this wine is a prime example of vineyard-to-bottle success.  Classic aromas and flavors of blackberry and plum are complemented by notes of the winemaker’s craft with caramel, spice and toast from barrel aging.  The addition of 21% Petite Sirah adds to the complexity, body and dark fruit flavors. 

2010 Bin 50 Shiraz

Dr. Henry J. Lindeman ran a successful medical practice in Australia in the early 1840s.  He turned to winemaking and first planted grapes in 1843 in the Hunter Valley, New South Wales.  His dedication to creating wines for everyday enjoyment proved very successful, and today, Lindemans is the oldest continuously operating winery in Australia.  This value-priced Shiraz opens with aromas of cassis and plum with notes of spicy cedar and vanilla.  The palate is juicy with plum flavors and finishes with notes of cocoa and creamy berry.

Rosemount Estate
2010 Diamond Shiraz
SE Australia

Rosemount’s Diamond Label wines are recognized around the world for quality and value and are made in a fruit-forward style for easy drinking with meals of all types.  Aromas and flavors of black cherry, plum, coffee, anise and notes of vanilla and toasty oak pair well with hearty meats and sauces.

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