By Chuck Hill
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Wines of the Week Archive
There are many red wines that have been mostly overlooked by wine consumers because of unfamiliarity with them as standalone varietals. Yet these same varietals are often components of wine blends from famous regions - Bordeaux, the Rhone Valley, Rioja, and they are now being evaluated in New World wine regions. We too are finding that many of them are highly companionable one with the other in blends, as did the French hundreds of years ago.
As for the particular varietals, Grenache is a primary blending grape of the Rhone Valley and Chateauneuf du Pape in France, often blended with Syrah, Mourvedre and Counoise; in Spain, Garnacha (Grenache) is blended with Tempranillo. Adding to our tastings of Up and Coming Bordeaux blending varieties (see Part 1 and Part 2 of this series), we feature here Petit Verdot and the "lost" grape of Bordeaux, Carmenere.
Chateau Ste. Michelle
Limited Release wines from Chateau Ste. Michelle are generally only available at the winery tasting room. We mature wine aficionados have enjoyed Grenache wines from Chateau Ste. Michelle for many years - I won't say how many, but it is more than 20. Winemaker Joshua Maloney blended in 18% Syrah with mostly Stone Tree Vineyard Grenache fruit to create a wine offering aromas and flavors of raspberry, lavender, caramel, herbs and toasty oak.
Pat and Loree Spangler continue to produce outstanding wines featuring a wide selection of varietals. This Southern Oregon Grenache was a favorite with our tasting panel for aromas and flavors of spicy cherry, raspberry and berry candy with notes of light vanilla and floral perfume. The palate offers moderate tannins to accompany a wide range of cuisine.
Jonathan and Bonnie Oberlander dreamed the dream of owning their own winery for a decade while pursuing education and careers in the sciences in California. Once the bug had firmly bitten, they headed to the land of wine dreamers - Oregon - and founded J. Scott Cellars. This 2009 Grenache from Rogue Valley fruit is ripe and delicious offering spicy plum, vanilla, smoky cherry, thyme, dried cherries and a finish of baking spice. Serve with your Thanksgiving turkey. Mmmmm.
Agate Ridge Vineyard
Here's another choice for your holiday table from the Agate Ridge Vineyard near Eagle Point in Oregon's Rogue Valley. The Kinderman family established their vineyard in 2001 and have proceeded to craft some of Southern Oregon's finest wines from estate fruit. Look for aromas and flavors of strawberry, bright candied cherry, spicy herbs, plum, vanilla, caramel and toasted oak. It is nicely balanced on the palate and will accompany a wide variety of entrees.
Note Bene Cellars
"One Night" the owners/winemakers of Nota Bene were listening to music and sipping a Southern Rhone blend, when they knew just the right balance for their new wine was Grenache and Syrah (oh, and how about some Mourvedre!). Grenache from Stone Tree Vineyard, blended with the other varietals, yielded this tempting wine showing spicy plum, juicy cherry, herbs, light tar, caramel and vanilla. Serve with meat from the grill to accommodate the firm tannins.
Brian Carter Cellars
Upon tasting this wine from the master of blenders, I gave it three out of three stars and poured another serving. Using the varietal composition of Chateauneuf-du-Pape, Brian Carter crafted this succulent wine from Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre, Counoise and Cinsault. Rich aromas of cherry and raspberry mingle with darker notes of Syrah and the exotic peppery hints from Mourvedre, Counoise and Cinsault. The palate is complex and jammy with myriad spices, herbs and exotic fruits.
Oregon's Rogue Valley seems to be a nearly perfect place to grow Grenache. This bottling offers the bright and fruity character that one expects from Grenache, showing aromas and flavors of strawberry, cherry, lavender and candied violets. A light touch on the tannin concentration makes this a wine to accompany lighter fare such as poultry or lighter pasta preparations.
The inimitable Dr. Wolfe says "Ole!" to the blending bench and nods to Northern Spain with his blend of 43% Grenache, 43% Tempranillo and 14% Syrah. Aromas of ripe cherry and blackberry mingle with notes of vanilla, coconut and smoky cedar. The palate is rich and tangy with ripe fruit, finishing with notes of vanilla and toasty oak.
For the convenience of its many fans, Milbrandt Vineyards now has a tasting room open on Cabernet Court in Prosser's west end winery area. Stop by and try a wine or two on your next Yakima Valley wine jaunt. Winemaker Gordie Hill crafted this Grenache with 13% Mourvedre and 8% Syrah - in the style of wines made in Chateauneuf-du-Pape. Aromas and flavors of ripe plum, raspberry, tobacco, chocolate and vanilla make for a tasty sip - great with chicken from the grill.
Whether you're talking about Generalissimo Franco, or your boss at the local hardware store, this wine speaks volumes on its own. It is a blend of Syrah, Grenache, Mourvedre and Petite Sirah. The Port Angeles, Washington winery's elegant description says it all: "Bold, yet integrated tannins escort one's palate towards the explosion of abundant fruit and earthen tones that Grenache has to offer. And Syrah, ever the seductress, deems one powerless in its caramelized web of velvet. Pairs nicely with grilled lamb chops or a cold shower."Maryhill Winery
2008 Grenache, Proprietor's Reserve
Maryhill has wrapped up their summer concert series, but don't miss their harvest celebration on October 8/9 and October 15/16. They will be having a grape stomp, live music, food for sale and... wine tasting! If you get a chance to taste this Reserve Grenache, look for aromas and flavors of raspberry, toasty cedar, lavender, tobacco and a vanilla cherry finish.
Brian Carter Cellars
The name of this wine - "of thirty years" in French - celebrates winemaker Brian Carter's 30 years of winemaking in Washington State. Highlighting the poor cousin of Bordeaux varietals, Petit Verdot, the wine exhibits the style that Carter believes is imbued in the grape as it is grown in Washington. The blend also includes Merlot, Malbec, Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon. Aromas of blackberry, smoky meat, violets and cedar lead to a rich palate with flavors of berry, earth and toasty oak. Aerate an hour before serving.
Here is another celebration of Petit Verdot, but this time grown in Southern Oregon. Perfect for meats from the grill, this dark and concentrated wine offers aromas of black cherry, earthy herbs, toast and vanilla. The palate shows flavors of sweet blackberry, ripe plum, cassis, caramel and spicy oak. Needs breathing time and will improve with further bottle age.
Hard Row to Hoe Vineyards
This wine is under the Burning Desire label - Hard Row's ultra premium marquee - depicting the demise of the brothel at Point Lovely at the hands of miners' wives...see the website for the whole story at http://www.hardrow.com. Look for Cabernet-like aromas and flavors of cassis, cherry, mint and anise with notes of caramel and dark chocolate on the finish. Needs some additional bottle age to show its potential, but a flavorful, muscular red in its youth.
Alexandria Nicole Cellars
It's a bird, it's a plane, it's Super Wine! Not often does a just-opened wine smack you in the nose (in a good way) and promise you a truly remarkable wine tasting experience. This is a varietal Counoise - a blending grape from the Southern Rhone - that begs the question "why don't more Washington wineries craft this varietal into a standalone wine?". Look for ripe blackberry, spicy black pepper, earthy cassis, Bordeaux-like complexity, and an elegant finish of spicy oak, vanilla and plum.
Though this wine is near the bottom of this week's column (organized by varietal) it scored the top rating in our tasting. Carmenere is thought to be a relative of Cabernet Sauvignon that was once a blending grape in Bordeaux. For some reason it all but disappeared from France over 100 years ago, and today, the most extensive plantings are in Chile, South America. There has been a revived interest in the varietal and it is now planted in several locations in Washington. Our tasters were very impressed with the Bordeaux-like qualities of this wine with complex aromas of cassis, vanilla, earthy vegetative notes, leather and black pepper. The palate offers spicy oak and earthy herbs wrapped around a core of blackberry, spicy plum and vanilla flavors. Great with roasted meat and hearty sauces.
Wines from other areas:
Wild Horse Winery
This is indeed the varietal known in Washington State as Lemberger, and I was surprised to find it is grown in Paso Robles. For those who hanker after Merlot, this wine will please with its soft character and velvety mouthfeel showcasing aromas and flavors of blueberry, dark cherry, spicy pepper and vanilla.
Please see the story of Carmenere in the Tertulia review above. We now have arrived in the Maipo Valley winegrowing region of Chile where this complex little wine astounds with flavor and value. Like a cru bourgeois from Bordeaux, it shows bright aromas of herbs and spice and berries and veggie notes (the latter reminiscent of Cabernet Franc). The palate is rich but medium bodied, with cherry, cassis and spicy herb flavors. Imported by Ste. Michelle Wine Estates, parent of Chateau Ste. Michelle winery in Washington.