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By Chuck Hill

Chuck Hill, wine reviewer and columnist

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(In the order of their
publication dates)

Pinot Noir & Salmon
A 4-Part Series

White Rhone Varietals
A 3-Part Series

Versatile Chardonnays
A 3-Part Series

Italian Varietals in America
A 3-Part Series

Cabernet Sauvignon
and Blends

A 3-Part Series

Merlot and Malbec
A 3-Part Series

White Wines for
Oysters & Mussels
A 4-Part Series


Wines of the Week
...Earlier Columns


Chuck's Wine Reviews
of other Northwest Wines

Organized by varietal













































Wines of the Week
Published July 22, 2014

Red Rhone Varietals with Meat
Part 2 of a 4-Part Series  (See Part 1)
by Chuck Hill 

While many wine lovers prefer the blended Rhone wines, there are an equal or greater number who enjoy the wines made from a single varietal.  Grenache, Mourvedre and Syrah make interesting wines on their own, and some winemakers take this single-varietal path to express their love of the Rhone region’s offerings. 

Rhone Varietals  


Coeur d’Alene Cellars
2011 Grenache

Coeur d’ Alene Cellars has focused on Rhone varietals and blends for many years, crafting Syrah and other wines from some of the Columbia Valley’s finest vineyards.  The Grenache for this wine (77% of the total) came from Lonesome Springs Vineyard in the Yakima Valley.  The favorite with my tasters, the wine offers aromas and flavors of spicy cherry, rose petal, caramel and dried herbs. 

Maison Bleue
2011 Grenache, Upland Vineyard
Snipes Mountain AVA

Jon Meuret’s Upland Vineyard Grenache is a complex wine that shows the winemaker’s restrained use of oak and attention to fruit ripeness from the vineyard.  Bright aromas of cherry, plum and lavender lead to a juicy palate featuring flavors of red cherry, cassis, vanilla and floral notes. 

Coyote Canyon Winery
2011 Grenache
Horse Heaven Hills AVA

The Andrews family farms their 1,100-acre Coyote Canyon Vineyard in Washington’s Horse Heaven Hills AVA.  Low rainfall dictates irrigation of the vineyard, giving the opportunity to control vine vigor and crop yield.  Coyote Canyon’s Grenache delivers on the varietal’s reputation for a juicy, flavor-packed palate with cherry and plum mingling with vanilla and notes of toasty oak. 




Maryhill Winery
2011 Grenache, Proprietor’s Reserve
Columbia Valley

The 2014 San Francisco International Wine Competition found a lot to like about Maryhill Winery, awarding them “Winery of the Year,” two “Best of Show” honors and multiple other medals.  Their best-of-show Grenache is a rich and powerful wine, showing a framework of oak flavors enclosing ripe cherry and plum fruit with notes of mineral and dried herbs.  It is a very flavorful sip with your favorite meats from the grill. 



Seven of Hearts – Chatte de Avignon
2012 Grenache
Columbia Valley

Byron Dooley’s Seven of Hearts Winery seems to be feline centric with cats featured on nearly all of their labels.  Byron and his wife Dana named the winery after their feline family member “Seven.”  Rhone varietal wines are designated “Chatte de Avignon” recognizing the center of Rhone Valley culture and commerce.  This Grenache is the cat’s meow for those seeking a more elegant and complex Grenache showing red fruits and flowers with flavors of strawberry, raspberry and fresh herbs. 


Murray by Hightower
2011 Syrah
Red Mountain AVA -

Tim and Kelly Hightower believe “dogs to be integral to their winemaking operation,” although they say they aren’t sure where the expression “work like a dog” came from.  Murray is their original winery dog – now joined by Riley – and he is pictured on the label of this tasty Syrah.  My tasters ranked it number one in its flight for aromas and flavors of cherry and cassis, spicy barrel toast, and hints of vanilla and dried herbs – delicious with meats from the grill. 

Sawtooth Winery
2011 Syrah
Snake River Valley AVA, Idaho

It is lovely to see the Idaho wine industry growing, and the winemakers crafting flavorful wines from the Snake River Valley AVA.  Founded by the Pintler family – longtime Idaho agriculturists – it became part of Corus Estates (now Precept Brands) in 1998.  Expansion of the estate vineyards followed.  You can visit the winery near Nampa, Idaho and perhaps join in their Farm to Fork celebration on August 22.  This value-priced Syrah is a great pairing with grilled meats showing aromas and flavors of dark cherry and plum, toasty cedar and earthy mineral. 

Dobbes Family Estate
 2010 Syrah, Fortmiller Vineyard
Rogue Valley AVA

It must be difficult to be winemaker Joe Dobbes.  Like the old saying “which of your children do you like best?” Dobbes is faced with raising each of his wine “children” to be the best they can be.  Whether it is Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, Grenache Blanc or Syrah, each requires commitment and insight in its creation.  This powerful Syrah was crafted from grapes grown at Don and Traute Moore’s Fortmiller Vineyard in the Rogue Valley.  Ripe fruit and lots of toasty oak define this blockbuster, offering plum and cassis fruit with complex vanilla, coconut, dark chocolate and caramel in the mix. 

Tamarack Cellars
2009 Syrah, Ciel du Cheval Vineyard
Red Mountain AVA

Ron Coleman sourced fruit from the lower slopes of Red Mountain to craft his reserve-style Syrah.  This wine blends two Syrah clones – clone 174 and the Tablas Creek clone – from the Ciel du Cheval Vineyard, the first vineyard planted on Red Mountain.  Look for aromas of blackberry and cassis with notes of mineral and smoky cedar, leading to rich flavors of black fruits, caramel and spicy oak. 

H/H Estates
2011 H/H Buck Syrah
Horse Heaven Hills AVA

Coyote Canyon winemaker John Gabriel crafted this reserve bottling for the winery’s premium H/H Estates label using 90% estate Syrah and small amounts of estate Grenache and Mourvedre.  It is a rich and powerful wine with layers of fruit and barrel character that reveal cassis and blackberry, licorice, leather, dark spices and cocoa.  Serve this wine with lamb or beef that has been marinated and grilled. 

Serra Vineyards
2011 Syrah
Applegate Valley AVA

Scott and Krissa Fernandes are the owners of Serra Vineyards in Oregon’s Applegate Valley, site of the former Applegate Red Winery.  A grand new tasting room was completed in 2013 to welcome visitors and offer hospitality with a view of the 45-acre vineyard.  The 2011 Syrah is a medium-bodied wine showing dark cherry and currant fruit with spicy notes from barrel aging and ample acidity to accompany your meats from the grill. 

Ross Andrew Winery
2009 Syrah, Boushey Vineyard
Yakima Valley AVA

Ross Andrew Mickel and his family started Ross Andrew Winery in 1999 – now celebrating 15 years as a producer of Washington wines.  Over the years, Ross has established relationships with prominent Washington vineyards including Boushey Vineyards in the Yakima Valley.  This Syrah hails from the vineyard block that Dick Boushey calls “Goldenview.”  Look for aromas and flavors of blueberry, black fruits, smoky meats and vanilla. 

Cinder Wines
2012 Syrah
Snake River Valley AVA, Idaho

Cinder Wines continues to impress with tasty varietals crafted from grapes grown in Idaho’s Snake River Valley.  Grapes come from three vineyards on the slope south of Nampa/Caldwell in southwest Idaho.  Barrel aging for 16 months in 30% new barrels yields a wine rich in black fruits, mineral and earthy/meaty character – great with grilled meats. 

Zerba Cellars
2011 Syrah, Estate
Walla Walla Valley

This wine hails from Zerba Cellars estate Cockburn, Winesap and Dad’s Vineyards in the Walla Walla Valley AVA.  It is a smoky, plummy mouthful of Syrah with notes of black fruits, vanilla, toasty cedar and hints of white pepper and smoked meats.  It was aged in American oak which lends additional character of coconut and baking spices to the flavor. 

2009 Syrah
Yakima Valley

Tony and Linda Haralson crafted this earthy/toasty Syrah from grapes grown at the Elephant Mountain Vineyard in the Rattlesnake Hills AVA in the western Yakima Valley.  Pair your grilled meats with flavors of ripe plum and black fruits with notes of leather and smoky meats, finishing with vanilla and spice. 

Wines from other areas: 

2010 Shiraz, Bin 28 Kalimna
South Australia

Penfolds Bin 28 Shiraz was first made in 1959 and was named after the famous Barossa Vineyard purchased by Penfolds in 1945.  Today, Bin 28 is a multi-region, multi-vineyard blend with the Barossa Valley always well represented.  The aroma speaks Shiraz with notes of coffee and chocolate leading to aromas of cassis, anise and black fruits.  One notices on the palate that there is no evidence of new oak – the winery says that is “not part of the Bin 28 mindset” – how refreshing!  Flavors of blackcurrants, dried plum and spice make one salivate for a tasty hunk of meat from the grill. 

Santa Cruz de Artazu
2008 Garnacha
Navarra, Spain

Winemaker Juan Carlos Lopez de Lacalle came upon the town of Artazu in the Navarra region of Spain and discovered a century-old vineyard that had produced heralded Garnacha wines for generations.  His dedication to working with this site resulted in this special, old-vine Garnacha featuring complex aromas of plum, cassis, cocoa, spicy cedar and vanilla.  The palate is rich and round with dark cherry and currant flavors and hints of earthy mineral. 

2012 Garnacha, Old Vines
Catalunya, Spain

The name of this wine is the Catalan word for “echo.”  “The wine resonates the terroir of the Mediterranean coast.”  The wine is a blend of 90% Garnacha with 10% Tempranillo grown at vineyards up to 20 years old in the Terra Alta region of the Catalunya DO.  Look for ripe cherry and plum with hints of floral perfume and mineral – good value. 

2012 Garnacha
La Tierra de Castilia, Spain

Grapes from 40-year-old vines bring superb character to this deep-colored, lip-smacking Garnacha from Spain.  Ripe and juicy aromas and flavors of blackberry and cherry are complemented by notes of licorice and flinty mineral – great for summer sipping or pairing with a grilled steak or burger. 

Greg Norman Estates
2011 Shark Red
Central Coast, California

Australian golf legend Greg Norman crafts wines from both down under and up north in California.  His trademark shark is the name of this wine, sourced from the Paso Robles area of the Central Coast.  A blend of Syrah, Petite Sirah, Mourvedre, Grenache, Merlot and Malbec, it offers aromas and flavors of blueberry and blackberry with notes of plum, vanilla and toasty cedar – tasty with Chef Ted’s grilled pork chops, bulgogi style. 

McManis Family Vineyards
2012 Syrah

Ron and Jamie McManis have owned and operated McManis Family Vineyards since 1990, sustainably farming over 2,600 acres of premium wine grapes located throughout the northern interior of California.  McManis’ well-priced Syrah offers an enticing nose of cherry, berry and toasty oak with ripe fruit flavors on the palate complemented by caramel, vanilla and smoky cedar.

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©  July, 2014  Chuck Hill
All rights reserved.  Last revised: 07/22/2014