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Chuck Hill, wine reviewer and columnist

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Wines of the Week Archive
Archived June 21, 2017
Published May 22, 2017

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

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
2015 Counoise
Red Mountain AVA

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
2014 GSM, Terroir Series
Columbia Valley AVA

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. 

Maryhill Winery
2013 Grenache, Proprietor’s Reserve
Columbia Valley AVA

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.  

2014 Garnacha, Barrel Select
Umpqua Valley AVA

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.
2014 Grenache
Yakima Valley AVA

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. 

Hedges DLD Le Rose
2016 RosÚ

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)

Tamarack Cellars
2016 RosÚ of Mourvedre
Wahluke Slope AVA

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. 

2016 RosÚ (Syrah Rose)
Red Mountain AVA

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
2016 Dianthus RosÚ
Paso Robles

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
2016 RosÚ
Cotes de Provence

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. 

Blason d’Aussieres
2014 Corbieres

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
2015 Abstract
Napa Valley AVA

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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To find contact information for most of the wineries in the above text,
visit our alphabetical lists for Northwest States.



©  July, 2017  Chuck Hill
All rights reserved.  Last revised: 07/01/2017