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By Chuck Hill

Chuck Hill, wine reviewer and columnist

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(In the order of their
publication dates)

Merlot Sausage Challenge
A 3-Part Series
Published Oct & Nov 2017

Bordeaux Buddies
A 3-Part Series
Published Sep & Oct 2017

White Wines for Seafoods
A 4-Part Series
Published Aug & Sep 2017

Pinot Noir and
Copper River Salmon

A 4-Part Series
Published Jun & Jul 2017

Red Rhone Varietals
and Blends

A 3-Part Series
Published May & Jun, 2017

Versatile Chardonnay
A 4-Part Series
Published Mar & Apr, 2017


Wines of the Week
...Index to Archive


Archived Selection
of Wine Reviews

Organized by varietal




Wines of the Week

Published February 14, 2018

Italian Varieties in America
Part 3 of a 4-Part Series  (Part 1)  (Part 2)
By Chuck Hill 

Food tastes better with wines made from Italian grape varieties. Of course, such a statement is a gross oversimplification, but well-made Sangiovese, Barbera, Dolcetto and other wines seem to bring out the best in hearty cuisine of the Mediterranean style. Chef Ted crafted a favorite of mine to pair with the red wines below – Neapolitan Pork Chops. This slow cooked dish features pork chops nestled in with bell peppers, mushrooms, onions and canned tomatoes with juice. Italian seasonings and garlic or shallot make it a tasty dinner over fettuccine. 

Ponzi Vineyards
2014 Dolcetto
Chehalem Mountains AVA

Winemaker Luisa Ponzi crafted this delicious wine from grapes grown at their Aurora Vineyard in Oregon’s Chehalem Mountains AVA. Ripe Bing cherry and blackberry come forward in the nose and continue flavoring the palate with accompanying notes of leather, tobacco and spicy pepper. The wine has layers of tannins throughout, creating a perfect pairing for meats and rich sauces. 

2014 Dolcetto, Barrel Select, Estate
Umpqua Valley AVA

Abacela Dolcetto is a perennial favorite with my tasters. This variety from Italy’s Piedmont region has found a perfect home in the Abacela estate Fault Line Vineyard southwest of Roseburg, Oregon. At first the nose is shy, but the bright flavors of ripe cherry and raspberry kick start the olfactory to reveal red and black fruits with earthy mineral, toasty cedar and baking spices. 


Whidbey Island Winery
2014 Dolcetto
Yakima Valley AVA

We tasted this wine last year, and winemaker Greg Osenbach sent it to me again to demonstrate how the Dolcetto variety benefits from a little age in the bottle! His prediction was right on, with the wine showing more fruit and enhanced complexity on the palate. Mineral and earth are the core of both nose and palate, wrapped with cozy cherry, anise and berry flavors, finishing with mellow tannins. 


Wind Rose Cellars
2014 Dolcetto
Yakima Valley AVA

David Volmut and Jennifer States welcome you to their winery and bistro on Washington’s Olympic Peninsula. They produce mostly Italian varieties, including this hearty Dolcetto offering aromas of red berries, anise and herbs leading to a juicy palate with contrasting flavors of tangy mulberry, cranberry and plum.  

Wind Rose Cellars
2014 Barbera Omaggio
Red Mountain AVA

Then name of this wine comes from the Italian for “gift” or “offering.” My tasters were pleased with the gift of cherry and spice notes leading to flavors of  Bing cherry, dried fruits and herbs. The wine was aged in French oak, 50% new, which added nuances of caramel, barrel spice and mocha. 

DiStefano Winery
2011 Sangiovese
Columbia Valley AVA

The Italian heritage of the DiStefano Winery family influences the varieties selection, blends and naming of the wines. This Sangiovese from the cool 2011 vintage has been quietly aging in the bottle at the winery and improving all the while. Even with the added bottle age, look for a wine of rustic intensity, showing dark fruits with complex black olive, truffle, tar and vanilla with high notes of cherries and violets. 

Airfields Estates
2015 Spitfire
Yakima Valley AVA

The Miller family today operates Airport Ranch, their farming operation in the central Yakima Valley near Sunnyside. The name came from property leased to the government for a WWII flight-training school which closed in 1944. This Airfield Estates Super Tuscan style blend (roughly 1/3 Cabernet Sauvignon. 2/3 Sangiovese) offers aromas of spicy berry and raspberry with lingering dark cherry flavors and toasty vanilla on the finish.  

Seasons Cellars
2013 Phoenix
Southern Oregon AVA

This new winery calls on nearly 60 years of experience in the Southern Oregon wine industry. Season Cellars is operated by Scott Henry IV and Jennifer Henry with the goal of creating distinctive wines from grapes acquired from the areas best growers. The 2013 Phoenix is a blend of Sangiovese and the Bordeaux variety Carmenere. Look for aromas and flavors of dark cherry, spice, dried herbs, citrus zest and vanilla. 

Domaine Trouvere
2013 Bricolage Rouge

Lange Winery winemaker Jesse Lange crafted this unique blend from Tempranillo, Syrah, Sangiovese and Pinot Noir. The wine shows blackberry, cherry and plum with oodles of toasty oak throughout and is a good accompaniment to meats from the grill or pastas with hearty sauces. 

Pinot Gris/Grigio

Nine Hats
2016 Pinot Gris
Horse Heaven Hills AVA

“The inspiration for Nine Hats came from the nine internationally acclaimed winemakers who contribute their time and talents to develop the wines of Long Shadows Vintners.” In house Director of Winemaking Gilles Nicault worked with his team of winemakers to craft this Pinot Gris featuring floral and citrus aromas leading to bright flavors of pear, melon and grapefruit. 

Willamette Valley Vineyards
2016 Pinot Gris
Willamette Valley AVA

The mission of Willamette Valley Vineyards is “to grow cool climate varieties to create elegant, classic Oregon wines from the Willamette Valley Appellation.” Founder Jim Bernau has been a leader in the Oregon wine industry, championing the environment and sustainable practices in winegrowing. The 2016 Pinot Gris offers rich and complex aromas and flavors including peach, pineapple and honeysuckle with highlights of tangy grapefruit and baking spices. 

King Estate Winery
2014 Pinot Gris, Domaine
Willamette Valley AVA

King Estate Domaine Pinot Gris is the preeminent selection from King Estate Winery, made exclusively from certified organic and Biodynamic grapes from their Estate Vineyard in the Southern Willamette Valley. While fermented entirely in stainless steel, the wine benefited from 5 months of sur lie aging prior to bottling. The wine’s complex aroma offers elegant floral notes, pear and orange leading to a cornucopia of fruit flavors and complex nuances of honey and mineral. 

A to Z Wineworks
2016 Pinot Gris

A to Z Wineworks is known for wines of superb value, often compared with wines of double the price or more. Varietal wines are clean and true showing aromas and flavors that enhance both sipping and food pairing. The 2016 Pinot Gris bursts with floral aromas, nectarine, lemon and lime zest. The palate offers pear, tropical fruits and balancing acidity.

Wines from other areas

2011 Vino Nobile di Montepulciano

Carrara Vino Nobile is the most prestigious wine produced in Montepulciano and one of the most ancient in Italy. The Prugnolo Gentile grape is a clone of Sangiovese that produces one of the best expressions of Tuscan wines. The wine is at once both rich and powerful, and elegant and sophisticated. Look for strawberry and blackberry with notes of smoky tar, dried herbs and earthy mineral. The complex finish adds hints of black olive, mocha and truffle. 

Shooting Star
2013 Barbera
Lake County

Barbera is one of the main grapes of the Piedmont region in Italy and has a history spanning more than 100 years in California. Winemaker Jed Steele crafts this Barbera as part of his Shooting Star brand from grapes grown at two prime vineyards in Lake Country. Look for ripe fruit flavors of cherry and blackberry with hints of caramel and vanilla. The wine finishes with ample tannins and notes of toasty oak. 

2016 Pinot Grigio, delle Venezie IGT

This wine comes from a group of local winegrowers whose collaboration dates back to 1948 and today, supports 1,300 families. They are farmers first and take great pride in the land and vineyards behind Gio. The wine is bright with citrus and floral notes on the nose with flavors of melon, zesty citrus and mineral finishing with zippy acidity. 

Coppo LaRocca
2015 Gavi, DOCG
Piedmont, Italy

This classic Italian variety comes from the southeast corner of the Piedmont region in the Monterontondo di Gavi. Made from 100% Cortese grape, it is cool fermented in stainless steel and gently handled to preserve Gavi’s textbook freshness and fruitiness. Fresh aromas and flavors of citrus and melon make this a perfect wine for sipping or serving with salads, antipasti, seafoods or white meats. 

Principessa Gavia
2014 Gavi
Piedmont, Italy

The romantic story of Principessa Gavia tells of a girl defying her father, the king, to elope with her chosen beau. They fled to this corner of the Piedmont but were found by the king. Realizing how happy the couple was, the king relented and named the region and its local wine in her honor. Ahhh, love. Share a bottle of this spritely and refreshing wine with your love to enjoy aromas and flavors of lemon zest, flinty mineral and green apple.

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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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©  February, 2018  Chuck Hill
All rights reserved.  Last revised: 02/14/2018