By Chuck Hill
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REVIEWS BY VARIETAL
Organized by varietal
Wines of the Week Archive
We continue to explore the red varieties made famous in the Rhone Valley of France. Many New World wineries first experimented with Syrah – the focus of Northern Rhone bottlings – but have now embraced blends with larger amounts of Grenache and Mourvedre, as found in the Southern Rhone. This week’s reviews also include a selection of RosÚs for summer sipping.
Tamarack Cellars owner Ron Coleman has a good relationship with Ciel du Cheval Vineyard on Red Mountain and crafts several wines that feature their superb fruit. This example of the lesser-known variety Counoise offers bright strawberry and cherry aromas leading to spicy flavors of cranberry, cherry, baking spice and white pepper.
The Hogue Cellars
For a long time the Hogue Cellars stuck with straight varietal bottlings of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Riesling and Chardonnay. In recent years they have added more varieties and blends that correspond to current trends. This Grenache-Syrah-Mourvedre (GSM) offers bright strawberry and cherry on the nose with touches of vanilla and cream. The palate adds earthy mineral and flavors of plum, spice and pepper.
As the summer season gets ready to burst into bloom in the Pacific Northwest, Maryhill Winery in the Columbia Gorge prepares for the thousands of visitors that come for the view, the fun and the wine! Their special reserve Grenache is aged in French oak (26% new), placing a toasty ribbon around the package of dark cherry, spice and strawberry jam.
Abacela’s Garnacha (the Spanish spelling of Grenache) is aged in 100% French oak that is considered neutral (used barrels) so as not to impart strong oak character to the wine. The ripe fruit from the winery’s estate Fault Line Vineyard created a wine with layers of cherry, plum and berry with floral notes of orchard blossom, and dried herbs on the finish.
Palencia Wine Co.
Victor Palencia continues to craft flavorful wines from the Yakima Valley where he grew up in the vineyards working alongside his family. Look for raspberry and cherry fruit with dried herbs along with ample toasty oak, vanilla and hints of coconut on the finish.
DLD Le Rose
As summer approaches, we look for lighter wines that deliver some of the fruitiness of red wine without the weight and tannin finish. My tasters enjoyed Hedges Le RosÚ for its full-bodied aroma and flavor, offering bright cherry, peach, cream and a bit of dried herb. Well-balanced acidity with some New World assertiveness makes it a versatile food wine. (66% Syrah, 34% Grenache)
This delicately tinted RosÚ offers mineral and citrus flavors with light body and bright acidity. My tasters suggest pairing it with lighter meals or serving it as a summer sipper.
Tim and Kelly Hightower produce this popular label for several wines created to augment their front line Hightower Cellars wines. The full-bodied Murray RosÚ is rich with flavors of stone fruits and earthy mineral. Some grip on the finishing palate suggests serving with pork or chicken dishes on your warm weather buffet.
Wines from other areas
Tablas Creek Vineyard
This blend of Mourvedre, Grenache and Counoise is a favorite with my tasting panel each year. It is deeply hued for a rosÚ and offers ripe aromas and flavors of red cherry and blackberry. The savory palate is well balanced with acidity and the lingering delicious finish makes one want to savor it alone, though it is a superb food wine.
Fleur de Mer
This delicate rosÚ brings to mind the lavender fields of Provence, and the name Fleur de Mer means “flower of the sea” further extends the Mediterranean metaphor! Look for strawberry and light watermelon with hints of citrus and mineral and crisp acidity.
Those who have learned to recognize and appreciate the wines of the Old World can usually identify French, Italian and Spanish wines from those made in the U.S. Nuance, complexity, “earthiness,” are all words that partially describe the difference. Those who can identify the character like it. This blend of Syrah, Grenache, Mourvedre and Carignan offers blackberry, spice, earthy smoke and other subtle flavors that perfectly accompany meat from the grill and other dishes.
Orin Swift Cellars
David Swift Phinney was infected with the wine bug on a semester trip to Italy in 1995. He was so affected that he came home to California and studied winemaking to pursue a life’s work. After making wine for others for many years, he now offers unique enological creations under a label named for his father and mother. Abstract is a big, heavy bottle of powerful wine featuring spicy tar, blackberry, plum, coffee, chocolate and lots of sweet oak. Grenache, Syrah and Petite Sirah.
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