By Chuck Hill
Wines of the Week Archive
We continue to evaluate Rhone white varietals, both those vinted as separate varietal wines – Roussanne, Viognier, Marsanne, etc. – and those using blended Rhone white varietals exclusively or combining them with other white varietals.
Visitors to the Stillwater Creek Vineyard on Washington’s Royal Slope often remark on the similarity of the rocky soil to that of France’s Rhone region. Rhone varietals thrive at this location, including Roussanne. Winemaker Mike Januik fermented this wine in neutral French oak barrels and aged it sur lie for seven months. Look for refreshing aromas of melon, herbs and tropical citrus with complex flavors of tropical fruits and tangy lime to complement Asian flavors and heat.
Doyenne Roussanne from Red Mountain has become so popular that it is hard to catch up with a bottle to enjoy. The winery is currently sold out of this vintage, though it might be found at select wine retailers. Aromas of tropical fruits, orange blossom and mineral lead to a rich palate showing flavors of stone fruits, melon and flinty mineral.
This is a subtle Viognier showing delicate and balanced character on both nose and palate. Aromas of melon, tangerine and hints of herbs and mineral invite a sip revealing flavors of apricot, tropical fruits, spice and mineral. It is not a blockbuster experience, but rather showcases structure and balance that make it a superb food wine.
Master blender Brian Carter has been fine tuning his Oriana blend (Latin for golden lady) for a number of years and now offers his mostly-Rhone blend of Viognier Roussanne and Riesling to accompany your spicy Asian cuisine or any other light and flavorful fare. Each varietal adds notes to the blend in aroma and palate: apricot and honey from the Viognier; peach and mineral from the Roussanne; pear/apple from the Riesling. Crisp acidity and excellent balance match well with foods of all types.
Working with Boushey Vineyard in the central Yakima Valley, winemaker Jon Martinez sources Syrah, Grenache and Marsanne for his Rhone-varietal efforts. This Marsanne was barrel fermented in French oak (30% new) and remained in the barrel sur lie for nine months. Look for ripe tropical citrus with apricot, vanilla and exotic floral spice. The palate is rich and unctuous with buttery stone-fruit flavors and complex notes of toasted vanilla, hazelnuts and mineral.
Hard Row to Hoe Vineyards
Sourced from the same vineyard in the same vintage as the wine above, winemaker Judy Phelps fermented her Marsanne in stainless steel with sur lie aging for eight months. The resulting wine offers clean and complex flavors of citrus and mineral with nuances of almond and orange. It is a very tasty accompaniment to Thai food…and many other lighter meals.
The hits just keep on coming from Boushey Vineyard! Doug McCrea crafted this tasty Marsanne from the 2009 vintage. Doug let us know that the Boushey Marsanne was planted in 2004 with cuttings received from Tablas Creek Vineyard whose vines originated at Chateau de Beaucastel in France. The wine was barrel fermented in neutral oak and offers ripe aromas of melon, peach and mineral. The palate adds tropical citrus flavors and a flinty mineral finish.
The time is right to make your trip to the Columbia Gorge for fun in the sun and a tour of local wineries. Be sure you leave extra time to enjoy Maryhill Winery and the delightful views, grounds and tasty wines. Viognier has been the winery’s best-selling white for nine years and offers ripe pear, honeysuckle, vanilla and citrus – a flavorful accompaniment to spicy Asian cuisine.
Wines from other areas
This brand is produced by Cline Cellars and is described by the winery as, “crisp, flavorful, adventurous and enjoyable.” Our tasters thought so and ranked it quite high in the flight. The blend includes Palomino, Sauvignon Blanc, Malvasia Bianca and Viognier, so one could argue that it doesn’t really qualify to be in this tasting. However, in these days of unconventional blends, we applaud quality and value. Look for earthy citrus and peach with a crisp citrus palate and good acidity to accompany food.
The coastal valleys of California are proving to be an excellent location for growing Northern Rhone varietals. This wine hails from the Sonoma Coast AVA with the Marsanne component coming from Cline’s Carneros vineyard (also in the Sonoma Coast AVA). Also ranked high by our tasters, the wine offers aromas of ripe grapefruit, mineral, honey and tropical fruits. The palate is bright with acidity and finishes with complex notes of flinty mineral, pineapple and spice.
Katin wines are produced by JK Wine Company, a family-owned operation in Paso Robles. Winemaker Justin Kahler crafts Rhone varietals under the KATIN label and Albarino, Cabernet Sauvignon and two blends under the ARADA label. This Viognier was produced from a vineyard located in the Templeton Gap, a depression in the Santa Lucia Mountain Range. Look for aromas of stone fruits, mineral and orange zest leading to a ripe palate of honey, apricot and mineral – a refreshing sip with spicy Asian cuisine.
Tablas Creek Vineyard
This blend of 60% Roussanne, 35% Grenache Blanc and 5% Picpoul Blanc is one of Tablas Creek’s signature wines. Showcasing the ripe fruit character of Rhone whites grown in the Paso Robles AVA, the wine balances the honey, peach and tropical fruit with mineral and citrus, yielding a bottling that pairs well with food and also makes an appealing aperitif.
Tablas Creek Vineyard
Because Roussanne is the largest portion of Tablas Creek's Esprit de
Beaucastel, it is often in short supply for bottling as a varietal.
The pure varietal character of the grape as grown in the Tablas
vineyards is unmistakable in this 2010 bottling. Aromas of
beeswax, orchard blossom and tropical citrus lead to the palate showing
flavors of white peach, apricot and honey with a crisp mineral finish.
© 2012 Chuck Hill
© 2012 Chuck Hill