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Chuck Hill, wine reviewer and columnist

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Wines of the Week Archive
Archived July 1, 2017
Published June 7, 2017

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

The Syrah grape variety has become quite popular, showing up in wines as varied as varietal rosÚs, south-of-France blends with Cabernet, north and southern Rhone-style blends with Grenache, Mourvedre, Cinsault and Counoise, and finally, as a standalone varietal wine. When grown with care and conservatively vinified, the variety shows through with blackberry, pepper, herbs and hints of leather and tar. Modern consumers in the U.S. enjoy oak-aged versions, adding layers of cedar, barrel toast, caramel, vanilla and smoky meats to the profile. 

Amavi Cellars
2014 Syrah, Les Collines
Walla Walla Valley AVA

Amavi Cellars was created as a sister winery to Pepper Bridge, initially highlighting Syrah and Semillon. Though varietal offerings have expanded, the Syrah wines are among the best we have tasted. Les Collines Vineyard near Walla Walla seems to be a perfect match for the variety, creating a wine with aromas of currant, blackberry, black pepper and bacon. The palate expands with dark cherry, blueberry, olive and dried herbs. 

Murray by Hightower Cellars
2014 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 of the AVA. The Syrah block of their vineyard is owned by Tim’s mother, and the grapes go into their estate bottling with this second label named for winery dog Murray. Look for ripe blackberry and boysenberry with dried herbs, and hints of vanilla and spice.  

Rolling Bay
2014 Syrah, Upland Vineyard
Snipes Mountain AVA

Winemaker Alphonse de Klerk has been working with the Newhouse family of Upland Vineyard in the Yakima Valley for 24 years. (Upland Vineyard and the Snipes Mountain AVA lie entirely within the Yakima Valley AVA.) Grapes were hand picked from the south slopes of the vineyard to produce just 98 cases of this wine from the warm 2014 vintage. Look for complex aromas of blackberry and earthy mineral with flavors of cherry and dried plum on the palate. 


Snoqualmie Winery
2014 Syrah
Columbia Valley AVA

This soft and approachable Syrah combines the variety's feminine attributes of floral, blueberry and plum with notes from oak aging like vanilla, barrel spice and hints of milk chocolate. Very sip-able with hearty hors d’oeuvres, mildly seasoned meats from the grill or even a chocolate dessert! 

Domaine Trouvere
2014 Syrah
Umpqua Valley AVA

Musician-turned-winemaker Don Lange conceived the Domaine Trouvere brand to focus on very small lots of vineyard-specific, terroir-driven wines. The “Trouvere” or ‘troubadour’ on the label honors the musician who brought the news of the day in the form of song. In this melodious Syrah, look for blueberry and plum harmonizing with tobacco leaf, white pepper and earthy mineral. 

DeLille Cellars
2014 Syrah, Signature
Yakima Valley AVA

DeLille Cellars now offers its Rhone varietals under the flagship label, using Doyenne for their wine formerly name Aix. The spicy Signature Syrah from the 2014 vintage shows complex blueberry and plum, floral spice and hints of cocoa and vanilla. Visit the winery’s indoor/outdoor tasting room – the Carriage House – on Woodinville-Redmond Road south of Hollywood Corner. 

Columbia Crest
2015 Syrah, Grand Estate
Columbia Valley AVA

Winemaker Juan Muñoz Oca and his staff at Columbia Crest create a huge volume of very high quality wine that can be found in countries around the world, spreading the word about the excellence of Washington. This tasty Syrah saw enough oak contact to add layers of caramel and vanilla to blackberry and plum fruit – nice with meats from the grill! 

Hogue Genesis
2015 Syrah
Columbia Valley AVA

Hogue Cellars is one of the wine pioneers of the Yakima Valley. This fresh and tasty Syrah offers aromas and flavors of cherry, raspberry candy and hints of spice and mineral. The screw cap closure suggests taking some along for a picnic! 

North by Northwest
2013 Syrah
Walla Walla Valley AVA

The winery describes this Syrah as “a powerhouse of complex aromas and bold flavors.”  My tasters agree, easily identifying the Walla Walla Syrah style of blueberry, dark fruits, dark chocolate and toasty oak (31% new French). Rich meats from the grill are the perfect pairing. 

Mercer Estates
2013 Mourvedre
Horse Heaven Hills AVA

This complex wine comes from Mercer Estates’ Spice Cabinet Vineyard in Washington’s Horse Heaven Hills AVA overlooking the Columbia River. Partial whole-berry fermentation and blending with 12% Syrah yielded a wine with red currant and cranberry fruit complemented by baking spice and earthy mineral. 

2014 Tannat
Umpqua Valley AVA

This variety is unusual for the Pacific Northwest. It is popular in southwest France and in Uruguay in South America. The variety thrives in the Fault Line Vineyards of Abacela in Oregon’s Umpqua Valley. Look for dark fruits, cracked pepper and notes of cola and spicy tobacco.

Wines from other areas

Vinum Cellars
2014 Petite Sirah
Clarksburg AVA

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. 

2014 Bin 138 SGM Barossa Valley
S. Australia

This inviting blend of Shiraz, Grenache and Mataro (Mourvedre) comes from old Barossa vines (some more than 100 years old). The wine is aged for 12 to 15 months in seasoned oak to allow each variety to give voice in the final blend. Look for bright aromas of cherry, strawberry and floral notes leading to a rich and spicy palate with flavors of berry, vanilla and a hit of tarry oak. 

2014 Garnacha
La Rioja Alta, Spain

This winery in Spain’s La Rioja has been in business for four generations and specializes in Spanish varieties Tempranillo, Garnacha, Viura and Malvasia. This intense red wine offers aromas of red and black fruits with a complex palate showing hints of wood from the 18 months barrel aging. Enjoy with meats from the grill and richly sauced meat dishes.

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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