Wine Reviews of Northwest Wines - Red Wines Page

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Updated 01/07/2014

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Reviews of Pacific Northwest Red Wines

Syrah

Coeur d'Alene Cellars
2006 Syrah, Stillwater Creek Vineyard
$36.00

This wine was the favorite of our tasting and coincidentally helps to illustrate several points I made in the introduction.  It was co-fermented with five percent Viognier which adds the floral notes and complexity on the palate described above - delicious!  Round aromas of ripe blackberry and blueberry are nudged by notes of earthy floral spice and toasty oak.  Mouth-filling black fruit flavors mingle with floral and spice notes on the palate.   

Spangler Vineyard
2008 Petite Sirah, The Terraces
Southern Oregon
$28.00

Pat Spangler continues his string of successes with Petite Sirah from The Terraces vineyard in Southern Oregon.  Just when I said you needed to co-ferment with Viognier to get floral character in your Syrah/Petite Sirah, along comes Spangler Petite (100%) with oodles of floral and berry aromas dancing brightly in your glass and leading you to a juicy palate of black cherry, plum and spicy pepper.  Not as big as the 2007, but very food friendly with bright acidity on the finish.

Doyenne
2007 Syrah, Grand Ciel Vineyard
Red Mountain
$75.00

This 100% Syrah is sourced from Delille Cellars' vineyard on Red Mountain.  With no added Viognier, there is plenty of Syrah's own floral character present in the wine, along with herbs, lavender and mineral, all overlaying a rich background of  black cherry and plum in both aroma and flavor.  This shows the terroir influence on varietal expression. 

Hightower Cellars
2008 Murray Syrah
Red Mountain
$20.00

Tim and Kelly Hightower have their estate vineyard and winery on the upper, western slope of Red Mountain.  Together with their faithful winery dog Murray, they produce excellent wines with the motto "hand picked, hand sorted, hand made."  Murray suggested that they co-ferment five percent Viognier with the two clones of Syrah, and behold, a juicy and approachable Syrah featuring black cherry, plum and earthy herb aromas and flavors - and just a hint of floral character. 

Adamant Cellars
2008 Syrah
Walla Walla Valley
$25.00

Devin and Debra Stinger founded Adamant Cellars in 2006 at the Walla Walla Airport winery incubator area (small buildings that are leased to fledgling wineries to help them get started).  Devin has succeeded in crafting many fine wines, and the winery is now looking for larger, more permanent quarters.  Their 2008 Syrah is sourced from some of Walla Walla's most notable vineyards and offers aromas of ripe cherry and blackberry wrapped in earthy spice.  Juicy berry flavors are swathed in toasty oak which lingers on the finish with a hint of vanilla.

Rasa Vineyards
2007 QED
Walla Walla Valley
$50.00

Brothers Pinto and Billo Naravane are long time wine enthusiasts who have left the academic and commercial confines of the technology world to stake their fortunes on Washington Syrah.  They speak confidently about producing world class, terroir specific  Syrah wines.  The scientific cognoscenti will recognize the name of this wine as the abbreviation of the Latin phrase for "and so it is proved" written at the end of a mathematical proof.  (So this is why I took those calculus classes 40 years ago.)  The proof of QED is the purity of Walla Walla Syrah showing earthy dark fruits, floral perfume, caramel and spice.  94% Syrah, 3% Mourvedre, 3% Grenache.

Purple Star
2008 Syrah
Columbia Valley
$17.00

This newcomer label is from the winemaker of the former Olsen Estates Winery (see below).  Kyle Johnson is marking time as the Olsen operation winds down - he was previously a winemaker at Chateau Ste. Michelle's Canoe Ridge Estates winery for four years.  This is a fun, carnival ride of a Syrah showing bright berry aromas, with notes of vanilla and caramel.  The juicy palate offers flavors of blueberry, caramel, spice and coconut vanilla on the finish.  Fifteen percent of the proceeds from Purple Star Wines will benefit the uncompensated care fun at Children's Hospital in Seattle.

Olsen Estates
2008 Red Wine
$38.00

This tasty bottling is part of the legacy of Olsen Estates Winery, which is now for sale.  Bottled as red wine, the blend is actually 70% Syrah, 12% Cinsault, 12% Mourvedre, and smaller amounts of Grenache and Counoise.  This is full tilt red wine, a ripper.  Lots of new oak, lots of extract.  The nose features ripe blackberry and blueberry fruit with nuances of toasty oak, vanilla, floral perfume and field herbs.  The palate is a powerhouse of ripe berry, spicy oak and caramel.

Milbrandt Vineyards
2006 Syrah, The Estates
Wahluke Slope
$25.00

From the warm Wahluke Slope vineyards of the Milbrandt brothers comes their Estates Syrah.  Wrapped in notes of toasty American oak, the aroma dances between ripe black cherry, olive/herb, and caramel.  The palate is firm with medium tannins and shows flavors of plum, blueberry, caramel and spice. 

Penner-Ash
2007 Syrah
Oregon
$32.00

Lynn Penner-Ash is famous for her superb vineyard-designated Pinot Noirs and other top quality wines.  A few years ago she began making a Syrah from grapes grown in Southern Oregon, and this year she added a 15% portion from Wahluke Slope vineyards.  Look for aromas of blackberry, baking spice and cedar, leading to a palate of berry, dark chocolate and sweet vanilla cocooned in toasty oak. 

Tranche Cellars
2007 Slice of Pape
Columbia Valley
$35.00

Tranche Cellars is the newest winegrowing estate of Michael and Lauri Corliss whose Corliss Estates wines have gained fame and garnered high prices.  One can suppose that the name of this wine comes as a contraction of Chateauneuf du Pape, the Rhone wine of great repute, but slicing the Pope?  Hmmm.  Anyway - it is a blend of Syrah, Grenache, Mourvedre, Cinsault and Roussanne.  Earthy aromas and flavors include floral perfume and notes of berry, tar and cedar.

Coeur d'Alene Cellars
2006 Syrah, Boushey Vineyard
Yakima Valley
$36.00
 

 

CdA Cellars is near the Idaho border with Washington, and the winery uses mostly Washington fruit to craft a bevy of tasty Syrahs.  This vineyard-designated wine uses fruit from Dick Boushey's Rattlesnake Ridge vineyard north of Grandview.  Showing a classic nose of Washington Syrah, one finds ripe black cherry, toasty earth, cookie dough and baking spice.  The palate is rich and generous with flavors of cherry cola, plum, and toasty vanilla.

K Vintners
MCK - Motor City Kitty
2008 K Syrah
Washington State
$35.00

Winemaker/owner Charles Smith's bold and expressive graphics grab the attention of wine lovers just as the unique, provocative names put a smile on everyone's face; the equally bold, expressive wine inside the bottle follows suit.  Rich blueberry, smoky vanilla, earth, bacon and tangy plum will stimulate your nose and palate.  Creativity and quality - what could be a better pairing?

Substance
2009 Syrah
Columbia Valley
$20.00

Based out of Walla Walla, Wines of Substance uses superb fruit from many of the best Washington growing areas to craft wines that are delicious and affordable.  Quality winemaking and attention to detail create wines that taste like they were much more expensive.  Substance Syrah features the quintessential Washington Syrah nose of blackberry, blueberry, earth and smoky vanilla.  The palate adds notes of smoked tea leaf and mint to the lip-smacking fruit bowl.

Snoqualmie Vineyards
2007 Syrah
Columbia Valley
$10.00
 

On the slightly lighter side of Syrah, this wine offers aromas of earthy blackberry and vanilla, following with juicy flavors of spicy cassis, grape juice, vanilla and barrel toast.  Ample acidity and firm tannins make it an excellent food wine at a good price.

Robert Karl Cellars
2008 Syrah McKinley Springs Vineyard
Horse Heaven Hills
$26.00

Joe and Rebecca Gunselman are committed to using fruit from the Horse Heaven Hills and are very fond of the fruit they get from McKinley Springs Vineyard.  This Syrah was co-fermented with 8% Viognier in the style of France's Cote Rotie.  Aromas of dusty blackberry, smoky bacon and hints of floral perfume lead to flavors of blueberry, earthy chocolate and spicy herbs.  No new oak was used in aging this wine, allowing the fruit its maximum expression of terroir.  Nice with the barbecue. 

Cathedral Ridge
2007 Syrah
Columbia Valley
$32.00
 

This Columbia Valley Syrah showed the most forward aromas of any tasted so far.  Complex notes of blackberry, clove, olive and sweet herb lead to flavors of tangy berry, baking spice, cherry candy and barrel spice.  Firm tannins stand up to rich food flavors of barbecue and meats from the grill.

Chateau Ste. Michelle
2007 Syrah
Columbia Valley
$13.00

The 2007 vintage was the first where Chateau Ste. Michelle co-fermented Viognier with Syrah in the style of Cote Rotie.  Various extraction techniques were used including pumpover, punchdown and fermentation in roto-tanks allowing control over how much tannin is extracted and leading to a richly colored, more accessible and fruit forward Syrah.  The wine offers ripe blueberry, hers and vanilla on the nose with flavors of herbs, red currants and toasty spice.  Moderate tannins and a juicy mouthfeel make this a very food-friendly selection.

Amavi Cellars
2008 Syrah
Walla Walla Valley
$29.00
 

Amavi Cellars (Amavi is derived from the Latin root words "am," love and "vi," life) is located in the prime vineyard area of the Walla Walla Valley AVA, just south of the city of Walla Walla.  Their satellite tasting room is in Woodinville, Washington, about 40 minutes from Seattle.    The 2008 Syrah opens with floral notes of violets and expands with blackberry, earth and herbs.  The palate offers similar flavors with notes of toasty oak and vanilla on the finish. 

Cougar Crest
2006 Syrah, Estate
Walla Walla Valley
$32.00

Cougar Crest Winery is a homegrown Washington story with owners/winemakers Deborah and David Hansen being native Washingtonians and longtime Walla Walla residents.  The winery's estate vineyards are located near the original Seven Hills Vineyard south of Walla Walla.  Their Estate Syrah offers the hallmark blueberry aromas and flavors of Walla Walla Valley Syrah with notes of earthy herbs, floral perfume and a tangy berry finish that is just right to accompany your barbecue.

Airfield Estates
2009 Syrah, Reserve
Yakima Valley
$35.00

The Mike Miller Family has been growing grapes in the Yakima Valley for over 40 years, and their winery operation celebrated the grand opening in 2007.  Son Marcus Miller is the winemaker and daughter Lori is in charge of marketing.  A new satellite tasting room is open in Woodinville.  Look for aromas and flavors of ripe blueberry jam and toasty vanilla, juicy on the palate and great with barbecue.

Zinfandel

Angel Vine
2009 Zinfandel, Les Collines Vineyard
Walla Walla Valley
$23.00

Les Collines (the foothills) is located on the border between Washington and Oregon in the foothills of the Blue Mountains.  With an upper elevation of 1,380 feet, it is one of the higher vineyards in the Walla Walla Valley AVA.  Winemaker Ed Fus consistently makes his most-awarded Zin from fruit grown at Les Collines.  This vintage ranked number one in this year's zinfandel tasting.  Look for aromas and flavors of black pepper, boysenberry, black cherry, vanilla, leather and toasty cedar.  Great with hot dogs and even better with classier fare. 

Maryhill Winery
2009 Zinfandel, Proprietor's Reserve
Columbia Valley
$36.00

Have you planned your harvest visit to the Columbia Gorge yet?  It’s a beautiful time of year to see the Gorge and all the local wineries will soon be harvesting and crushing grapes.  Maryhill Winery is one of just a few Washington wineries producing Zinfandel and their Proprietor’s Reserve bottling features ripe and toasty character that pairs well with foods from the grill.  Look for aromas and flavors of blackberry, vanilla, smoky cedar, caramel, tobacco and mocha.

Angel Vine
2010 Zinfandel, Alder Ridge Vineyard
Columbia Valley
$22.00

This wine is the lighter brother to the Angel Vines Les Collines bottling described above.  Aromas and flavors of blackberry, floral perfume, dried herbs tingle the senses with a light-bodied palate and food affinity for a wide range of savory fare. 

Other Reds and Red Blends     

Pendulum
2010 Red Wine
Columbia Valley
$20.00

This blend of Bordeaux and Rhone varieties – Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Grenache, Mourvedre and Malbec – offers interest and diversity to wine lovers.  Showing aromas of spicy cherry candy and raspberry, the palate adds flavors of plum, cocoa and toasty barrel spice.  

Spangler Vineyards
2009 Claret
Southern Oregon
$25.00

In winemaker Pat Spangler’s lean style, this blend is very appealing as a Cabernet-based wine to accompany a meal.  Showcasing cherry and berry fruit, it offers notes of spice, plum, smoky oak and hints of chocolate and olive – a nice pairing with our lamb and beef mixed grill. 

L’Ecole No 41
2009 Apogee, Pepper Bridge Vineyard
Walla Walla Valley
$50.00

Before we go too far, bookmark www.lecole.com/walla-walla-valley and read the sections on vineyard sources for these first two wines.  Winemaker Marty Clubb has crafted Apogee and Perigee since 2002 and each vintage offers new insights into Walla Walla Valley fruit... and L’Ecole winemaking.  Marty strives to offer Old World character in his wines.  Look for cassis and black cherry with ample toasty spice, tobacco, coffee, vanilla and herbs – very good with lamb and beef. 

L’Ecole No 41
2009 Perigee, Seven Hills Vineyard
Walla Walla Valley
$50.00

L’Ecole No 41 is partners with Leonetti Cellar and Pepper Bridge Winery in the Seven Hills Vineyard near the Oregon/Washington border, planted in 1981.  The wines from this mature plot are elegant, earthy and seductive, lending themselves to Old World treatment and restraint.  Earthy mineral marries with rich black cherry and plum on the nose and with notes of blueberry, toasty cedar and herbs on the palate.

DeLille Cellars
2009 Chaleur Estate
Red Mountain
$70.00

From his years as a semi-pro winemaker and sommelier, Chris Upchurch now presides over a stable of wines that offer challenges with each vintage and a chance to meld his Francophile Old World tendencies with the powerful fruit of Washington’s Red Mountain.  As Upchurch says, “a winemaker cannot make great wines without first defining in his or her own mind and palate what a great wine tastes like.”  Chaleur Estate offers aromas of red and black fruits with highlights of barrel spices and floral/citrus notes.  A palate of mixed berry, cedar and vanilla define this tempting, elegant wine from a powerful vintage. Blend: 68% Cabernet Sauvignon | 23% Merlot | 7% Cabernet Franc | 2% Petit Verdot

Rolling Bay Winery
2009 Cuvee Aldaro, Upland Vineyards
Yakima Valley
$26.00

Alphonse de Klerk is the owner/winemaker at Rolling Bay Winery on Bainbridge Island in Washington’s Puget Sound.  He sources grapes from the Columbia Valley including this blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot from the Upland Vineyard in the Yakima Valley.  Aromas of black cherry and plum mingle with earthy notes of herbs and smoky cedar.  The palate is soft but rich with dark fruit flavors. 

Thurston Wolfe
2008 The Geologist
Columbia Valley
$50.00

This is probably Wade Wolfe’s finest Bordeaux-style blend to date.  It is a blend of 40% Cabernet Sauvignon and 20% each of Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Merlot.  It is not heavily oaked and lets the varietal character show through with complexity and finesse.  Tasted next to the $200 Joseph Phelps Insignia, it showed very well in comparison.  Look for aromas and flavors of dark cherry, cassis, floral perfume, smoky cedar and a soft finish of berry and vanilla. 

DeLille Cellars
2009 Harrison Hill
Snipes Mountain AVA
$75.00

The Harrison Hill Vineyard in the Snipes Mountain AVA is considered by many to be the second-oldest Cabernet Sauvignon vineyard in Washington State, planted in 1962.  The vineyard is comprised of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot vines, which comprise the blend of this vintage (with 1% Petit Verdot added from Red Mountain’s Ciel du Cheval).  Winemaker Chris Upchurch used a deft touch with the oak, adding layers of spice and leather over a base of bright cherry and cassis with notes of blackberry, pepper and coconut.  Sold out at the winery, check your quality wine merchant for possible availability. 

DeLille Cellars
2009 Grand Ciel
Red Mountain
$150.00

This impressive wine (the finest Grand Ciel released so far) is crafted from 100% Cabernet Sauvignon grown in DeLille’s Red Mountain Estate Vineyard of the same name.  Like all of the finest Cabernet Sauvignon wines, its strength is in structure and balance, but intense and complex fruit tantalize the nose before the wine hits the palate.  One first notices black currant, blueberry and spicy pepper.  These yield to a panoply of aromas and flavors including blackberry, olive, vanilla, citrus, chocolate and spicy cedar.  It is intense with superb mouthfeel and balance that carry on to the final sip – a wine to savor. 

 

 

 

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