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Chuck Hill, wine reviewer and columnist

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Wines of the Week Archive
Archived December 8, 2016
Published November 14, 2016

Merlot and Sausage – Part Three
…and Thanksgiving wines!
Part 3 of a 3-Part Series  (Part 1)  (Part 2)
By Chuck Hill

Each year when I enjoy the fall pairing of sausages, spaetzle and juicy red wines, I marvel at the delicious simplicity of the matchup.  Indeed, you can create restaurant-quality fare with a few store-bought ingredients (use pasta if you don’t want to make spaetzle), and enjoy a flavorful wine and food experience.

Columbia Winery
2014 Merlot
Columbia Valley AVA

Winemaker Sean Hails blended 11% Syrah and 2% Malbec to his Columbia Valley Merlot to add complexity and body.  My tasters enjoyed ripe cherry and plum on the nose and palate with hints of violets and notes of smoky cedar and dark chocolate.

Rolling Bay Winery
2013 Merlot, Upland Vineyard
Snipes Mountain AVA

Winemaker Alphonse de Klerk crafts all his wines from one of Washington’s original vineyards – Upland Vineyard in the Snipes Mountain AVA in the Yakima Valley.  His Merlot is aged for 22 months in 3-year-old French oak barrels.  Look for ripe blackberry and dark cherry with dried herbs and hints of tobacco.

Three Rivers Winery
2013 Merlot
Columbia Valley AVA

Winemaker Holly Turner selected grapes from four different Washington vineyards to craft her delicious 2013 Merlot.  A blend of 89% Merlot with 5% Malbec, 4% Syrah and 2% Cabernet Franc created a complex wine with flavors of blueberry, cherry and spice and toasty notes from aging in 30% new oak.


Whidbey Island Winery
2014 Merlot
Yakima Valley AVA

Greg and Elizabeth Osenbach have welcomed visitors to their cheery winery near Langley on Washington’s Whidbey Island since 1992.  Producing 3,500 cases per year, the winery is well respected for high quality and consistency.  Greg’s bright and racy Merlot offers aromas and flavors of cherry, raspberry, blueberry and notes of cocoa.



Desert Wind Winery
2014 Merlot
Wahluke Slope AVA

This jammy Merlot from Desert Wind’s Wahluke Slope vineyard is great as a red-wine-lover’s aperitif and a great accompaniment to sausages and spaetzle or your favorite holiday meal.  Look for blackberry, dried herbs and toasty oak.

Arbor Crest Wine Cellars
2014 Merlot, Four Vineyards
Columbia Valley AVA

This wine comes from four select vineyards in the Columbia Valley AVA: Bacchus, Dionysus, Conner Lee and Klipsun.  Winemaker Kristina Mielke-van Loben Sels aged this warm-vintage blend for 20 months in French oak to create a ripe and juicy wine offering blueberry, raspberry and vanilla.  Visit the Arbor Crest Cliff House during the holidays for a spectacular view.

Jacob Williams Winery
2012 Merlot
Columbia Gorge AVA

Jacob Williams Winery is a family-owned boutique winery in the beautiful Columbia Gorge where owner Brad Gearhart and 40-year NW winemaking veteran John Haw are dedicated to producing high-quality wines from the region’s finest vineyards.  The 2012 offers berry and cherry with notes of smoky cedar and dark chocolate.

San Juan Vineyards
2012 Merlot
Horse Heaven Hills AVA

Yvonne Swanberg purchased the property and founded San Juan Vineyards winery in 1996.  As you drive west from Friday Harbor you come across the winery and its picturesque schoolhouse tasting room after just a few minutes.  The 2012 Merlot was sourced from Destiny Ridge Vineyard and offers ripe cherry and blueberry with notes of baking spice, herbs and toasty oak.

Cathedral Ridge Winery
2013 Merlot
Columbia Valley AVA

This wine comes from the Reid Vineyard in the Washington’s Columbia Valley.  Produced in a bold style, the wine offers black cherry, barrel spice and tobacco with a finish of caramel, toasty cedar and vanilla.

Wines for Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is a great opportunity to try wine pairings with a wide variety of foods.  I try to include an off-dry Germanic white like Gewürztraminer or Riesling, a dry white like Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Gris, and a choice of a red – either Pinot Noir or Cabernet Sauvignon.  A sparkling wine is always festive as an aperitif.

Evolution by Sokol Blosser
NV Sparkling Brut

This wine  was crafted by the methode champenoise and offers a bright aroma of white fruits, a fine bead of bubbles and a crisp brut flavor.  The grapes used are a laundry list of Oregon favorites, but the result is a classic for your pre-Thanksgiving toast – and enjoy with dinner, too!

Montinore Estate
2014 Gewürztraminer
Willamette Valley AVA

I’ve been a sucker for Gewürztraminer since my very earliest days of wine tasting in the 1970s.  Montinore Estate’s version offers complex aromas of rose petal, lychee, ginger and lime zest.  The palate is crisp and citrusy with floral notes and just a kiss of residual sugar.

A to Z Wineworks
2015 Riesling

Buy it for the bottle, enjoy it for the flavor!  This classy package will enhance your Thanksgiving table-scape with its appearance of hand-painted flowers.  The wine within is bright, forward Riesling with pear and apple holding a garland of floral, spice and citrus.  The wine finishes with crisp acidity and balancing fruitiness.

Chateau Ste. Michelle
2015 Sauvignon Blanc
Columbia Valley AVA

This value bottling offers the dry wine drinker a crisp delight to refresh every course of Thanksgiving dinner.  Complex aromas and flavors of melons, herbs and citrus are delicate and food friendly.

Elk Cove Vineyards
2015 Pinot Gris
Willamette Valley AVA

From one of Oregon’s pioneer wineries, this classic Pinot Gris is whole-cluster pressed and fermented in stainless steel at cool temperatures to preserve freshness and character.  Aromas and flavors of apple and pear blossom in your glass to reveal complex nuances of lemon and grapefruit, herbs and spices.

Evolution by Sokol Blosser
2014 Pinot Noir
Willamette Valley AVA

There is a reason so many red wine lovers prefer Pinot Noir: it is a fruity delight with food friendly acidity and a savory-but-fruity finish.  This classic offering shows cherry and pomegranate with baking spice, hints of toast and cocoa.  In addition to the dinner table, it also makes a great red wine aperitif.

Columbia Crest H3
2014 Cabernet Sauvignon
Horse Heaven Hills AVA

How can Columbia Crest offer this great wine for just $15?  Sure, you can spend lots more on fancy Cabernets, but in the chaos of Thanksgiving dinner, here is a wine you can sniff and sip while you laugh and enjoy the party!  Look for blackberry and cherry with toasty oak, vanilla and earthy mineral notes. Save some in your glass for the postprandial cheese course.

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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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