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By Chuck Hill

Chuck Hill, wine reviewer and columnist

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Wines of the Week Archive
Archived June 3, 2016
Published May 12, 2016

Red Rhone Varietals and Blends
Part 1 of a 4-Part Series  (Part 2)  (Part 3)  (Part 4)
By Chuck Hill

The past 20 years has seen rapid expansion in the offerings of locally grown Syrah and other red Rhone varietal wines in the Pacific Northwest and in California.  Both grape growers and winemakers have struggled with decisions on how best to farm the fruit and craft the wines to best please consumers and their own stylistic tendencies.  Wines from southeast France stand as the best examples to follow, offering complex aromas and flavors, balanced with ample acidity to accompany a wide variety of foods. 

These wines offer rich aromas and flavors of juicy berry, dried herbs, earthy mineral and floral components.  Good structure and acidity help the wines pair with our chosen food pairing of meats from the grill, artisan bread and flavorful veggies. 

2013 Signature Syrah
Yakima Valley AVA

DeLille Cellars’ Doyenne wines celebrate the great wines of southern France and the Rhone. Visit the winery’s indoor/outdoor tasting room – the Carriage House – on Woodinville-Redmond Road north of Hollywood Corner.  The superb Signature Syrah shows complex dark fruits, floral spice, notes of coffee/mocha and a lingering finish of blackberry/black boysenberry.  Excellent structure and acid balance for pairing with your favorite meats from the grill. 

Novelty Hill Winery
2013 Syrah
Columbia Valley AVA

Winemaker Mike Januik has been at work in Washington for more than 30 years . He now crafts the wines for Novelty Hill Winery and his own Januik brand at the shared facility in Woodinville.  Novelty Hill 2013 Syrah combines rich and fruity character from a great vintage with oak aging that highlights spice and floral components of the Syrah fruit over a background of dark cherry, dried herbs and plum. 

Walla Walla Vintners
2013 Syrah, Estate
Walla Walla Valley AVA

Visit this second-wave pioneering winery and tasting room east of Walla Walla on Mill Creek Road in the shadow of the Blue Mountains (open Fridays and Saturdays).  Walla Walla Vintners estate Syrah offers aromas and flavors of spicy cherry, mocha and notes of tobacco and warm spices on the finish – great with your grilled favorites. 


Burnt Bridge Cellars
2013 Syrah
Walla Walla Valley AVA

This fast-growing winery from my home town of Vancouver, Washington, offers two lines of wines – a selection of Rhone varietals and another of Bordeaux reds and blends.  The 2013 Syrah hails from Les Collines Vineyard in the Walla Walla Valley, and offers spicy cherry and plum with complex floral and spicy notes, finishing with hints of anise and earthy mineral. 

Maryhill Winery
2012 Syrah, Northridge Vineyard
Wahluke Slope AVA

Maryhill Winery is the go-to spot for wine touring in the summer.  Each Sunday, you can enjoy Terrace Music with live performers.  The amphitheater concert series features Jeff Beck and Buddy Guy in August and other performers as well.  This wine-club-only Syrah - part of Maryhill's Vineyard Series - features ripe berry aromas and flavors wrapped in notes of toasty cedar, cocoa and spice. 

Coeur d’Alene Cellars
2013 Scarlet Lake Syrah

CdA Cellars is located right in the heart of Coeur d’Alene, just west of I-90 and Kathleen Avenue.  The winery offers food choices to accompany wine tasting, and special events from live music to art classes! Scarlet Lake is anchored by Syrah from Stillwater Creek Vineyard and offers dark cherry and blueberry with notes of cherry tobacco, chocolate cake and earthy spice. 

Hightower Cellars
2013 Murray Syrah
Red Mountain AVA

Tim and Kelly Hightower grabbed their piece of Red Mountain in 2002 and planted their vineyard by 2005. They are near the top of the hill, on the west side.  The Syrah block of their vineyard is owned by Tim’s mother, and the grapes go into their estate bottling.  This second label is named for winery dog Murray.  Look for ripe blackberry and boysenberry with dried herbs, and hints of vanilla and spice.  The winery is open Thursday through Sunday, 11am to 5pm. 

Columbia Crest
2014 Syrah, Grand Estates
Columbia Valley AVA

The spectacular Columbia Crest winery opened in 1983 and continues to be Washington’s largest wine production facility.  If you’re on the wine touring trail, it is well worth the detour south of Prosser to enjoy this winery experience.  Juan Muñoz Oca – head winemaker since 2011 – oversees production of millions of cases of wine including this elegant Syrah, featuring rich currant and berry notes with smoky cedar, herbs and hints of pepper. 


The pink wines of Tavel and Bandol from southern France are hallmarks of this sunny region, and rosés from our shores serve to make a French connection of their own.  Because our local pink wines are so popular (read: quick to sell out), I have had to expand the varietal mix beyond the Rhone to assemble a worthy group for your consideration.  

Browne Family Vineyards
2015 Grenache Rosé
Columbia Valley AVA

Winemaker John Freeman blends 21% Counoise with Grenache to create this flavorful rosé, redolent of strawberry and spice with hints of rhubarb and guava.  Bright acidity on the palate connects the pairing to your favorite summer foods. Visit Browne Family Vineyards’ tasting room in historic downtown Walla Walla. 

2015 Grenache Rose, Estate
Umpqua Valley AVA

Earl and Hilda Jones have been celebrating the grapes of Spain in Roseburg, Oregon since founding their Abacela winery in 1995.  Their crisp and flavorful Grenache (Garnacha) Rosé has been a perennial favorite, offering aromas and flavors of grapefruit, melon, strawberry and spice – perfect with tapas or light entrees. 

2015 Rosé
Columbia Valley AVA

This rosé from Ste. Michelle Wine Estates is a food-friendly dry style, offering aromas and flavors of strawberry, watermelon and floral perfume – a great value for summer sipping and picnics. 

DaMa Wines
2015 Rosé of Cabernet Franc
Walla Walla Valley AVA

Mary Tuuri Derby celebrates the inspiration of feminine mystique with each of her “dangerously" beautiful wines at DaMa Wines in Walla Walla.  This year’s Rosé of Cabernet Franc tempts the shopper with an avant-garde image of a bikini-clad surfer girl.  Enjoy fresh berry and herb with hints of olive and pepper. 

Domaine Serene
R Dry Rosé
Willamette Valley AVA

Domaine Serene winery in Oregon has made a commitment to natural cork finishing their wines by instituting a rigorous inspection and grading process to eliminate TCA taint in their wines.  The first entry in this program is a flavorful reserve-tier Rosé crafted from a proprietary blend of grapes that offers aromas and flavors of melon and citrus with notes of rose petal and baking spices. 

Wines from other areas:

Tablas Creek Winery
2015 Dianthus Rosé
Paso Robles

Jason Haas oversees the operation of Tablas Creek Winery, founded by his father Robert in partnership with the French owners of Chateau de Beaucastel in the southern Rhone.  His 2015 bottling of rosé is a blend of Mourvedre, Grenache and Counoise produced in the saignée style of bleeding juice from red wine fermentations.  This orange-pink charmer offers orange peel, watermelon, strawberry and spice to pair with your warm-weather dining. 

Guglielmo Vineyards
2012 Petite Sirah
Santa Clara Valley AVA

When it comes to Petite Sirah, I’m a sucker for black pepper and spice.  This wine delivers exactly that, along with cherry, leather and sweet oak – the perfect match for a juicy steak from the grill.  Visit this historic winery in California’s Santa Clara Valley, dating to its founding in 1925 by patriarch Emilio Guglielmo. 

Vinum Cellars
2014 Petite Sirah
Clarksburg, CA

The Clarksburg AVA in the Sacramento River Delta comprises almost 60,000 acres of rich farmland.  Winemakers Chris Condo and Richard Bruno crafted their 15th vintage of Petite Sirah to complement your meaty efforts from the grill, offering ripe cherry and blackberry with chewy leather and spice.  Aerate the wine for two hours to breathe up the complexity. 

Emiliana Vineyards
2012 Coyam
Colchagua Valley, Chile

Emiliana Vineyards was founded in 1986 by Chile’s Guilisasti family dedicated to producing organically grown wines and selections of biodynamic wines, including this Coyam bottling.  A blend of Syrah, Carmenere, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Mourvedre and Malbec, the wine offers aromas of red currant, strawberry and dark berries with fruity flavors and notes of vanilla, dried herbs and toasty oak – great value! 

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