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By Chuck Hill

Chuck Hill, wine reviewer and columnist

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Cabernet Sauvignon
& Blends

A 4-Part Series
Published Nov & Dec 2014

Merlot and Malbec
A 3-Part Series
Published Oct & Nov 2014

Oyster and Mussel Wines
A 4-Part Series
Published Sept & Oct 2014

Red Rhone Varietals
and Blends

A 4-Part Series
Published July & Aug 2014

Pinot Noir & Copper
River Salmon

A 4-Part Series

White Rhone Varietals
A 3-Part Series

Versatile Chardonnays
A 3-Part Series


Index to Archived
Wines of the Week
...Earlier Columns


Chuck's Wine Reviews
of other Northwest Wines

Organized by varietal


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Last Week's Reviews
Published February 19, 2015

Italian Varietals Three – Zinfandel, Primitivo and More!
Part 3 of a 4-Part Series  (See Part 1)  (See Part 2)  (See Part 4)
By Chuck Hill

There are now many wineries producing Primitivo – the Italian name for the same grape called Zinfandel in this country.  Both Primitivo and Zinfandel are genetically equivalent to the Croatian grape Crijenak Kastelanski.  Extensive research during the 1990s revealed that Primitivo and Zinfandel are clones of the same grape and one parent of the modern Croatian variety Plavac Mali.  Whatever the esoteric history, both wines are now quite popular in the United States with Primitivo finding fans in just the last 10 years. 

Maryhill Winery
2011 Zinfandel, Proprietor’s Reserve
Columbia Valley AVA

The winemakers at Maryhill used 60% new oak to age this powerful reserve Zinfandel, imparting rich flavors of caramel and toasty cedar over a ripe fruit core of dried plum, dusty cherry and rich berry components. As spring approaches, the Maryhill Winery welcomes ever-increasing numbers of visitors to the scenic Columbia Gorge. Check their website for special events to be sure you don’t miss out. 

Whidbey Island Winery
2012 Primitivo
Horse Heaven Hills AVA

Greg Osenbach crafted this standout Primitivo from grapes grown at the Coyote Canyon Vineyard.  With each vintage, Greg creates better and better wines from Italian varietals and this Primitivo may be his best effort yet.  Aromas of cassis and dark cherry mingle with earthy mineral and anise.  The flavors on the palate add intriguing notes of tar and blackberry with dried herbs and hints of citrus zest – a classic! 

Angel Vine
2011 Zinfandel, Alder Ridge Vineyard
Horse Heaven Hills AVA

Angel Vine owner and winemaker Ed Fus crafts Zinfandels from several different Washington State vineyards including this plummy version from the Alder Ridge location above the Columbia River near Alderdale in the Horse Heaven Hills AVA.  Aged in mostly used oak, the wine shows the Old World complexity of plum and cherry with notes of anise, herb and spicy mineral. 

Angel Vine
2011 The Hellion
Columbia Valley AVA

This blend of Primitivo, Petite Sirah and Zinfandel is a favorite of winemaker Ed Fus who sources the grapes from both the Wahluke Slope and Horse Heaven Hills.  The wine shows the spicy/earthy side of Petite Sirah and the berry and bramble fruit from the Zinfandel and Primitivo.  It is a great pairing with steaks from the grill. 


Michael Florentino
2011 Primitivo
Columbia Valley AVA

Michael Florentino wines are made by Brad Sherman at the winery in the Woodinville Wine Warehouse District.  The small artisan winery strives to produce “balanced, fruit-forward wines with a lightly spiced mid palate and enough tannins to make a nice smooth finish.”  My tasters enjoyed his Primitivo for its ripe cherry and blackberry aromas and flavors with lingering fruit and toasty nuances on the finish. 

Locati Cellars
2012 Primitivo
Walla Walla Valley  AVA

Locati Cellars winery is located in Milton Freewater, Oregon, but their tasting room is open in downtown Walla Walla inside the lobby of the Marcus Whitman Hotel.  The Italian heritage of the family inspires the varietal selection including their inaugural 2012 Primitivo, crafted from grapes grown at the renowned Les Collines Vineyard.  It was a favorite with my tasters offering blackberry and spicy mineral along with balanced acidity and depth of flavor. 

Pend d’Oreille Winery
2012 Primitivo, Coyote Canyon Vineyard
Horse Heaven Hills  AVA

Steve and Julie Meyer are celebrating the 19th anniversary of their winery located in Sandpoint, Idaho – just across the state line from Washington’s northeast corner.  You can visit the winery’s Bistro Rouge Café to enjoy their wines with flavorful cuisine.  Look for plum and cherry mingling with toasty cedar, coconut and earthy vanilla. 


2013 Sangiovese Rosé
Columbia Valley AVA

Waterbrook winemaker John Freeman selects grapes from Oasis Farms, Wallula and Canyon Vineyard Ranch in the heart of the Columbia Valley for this refreshing rosato style that was a favorite with my tasters.  A delicate pink hue invites a sip revealing aromas and flavors of strawberry, ruby grapefruit and hints of herbs and cherry.  It is a superb accompaniment to lighter meals and appetizers. 

Kitzke Cellars
2013 Rosé of Nebbiolo
Red Mountain AVA

Paul and Vickie Kitzke craft a wide variety of red wines at their winery near Candy Mountain in Richland, Washington.  Veteran winemaker Charlie Hoppes crafts their wines including this excellent Rosé of Nebbiolo.  Look for a spicy aroma of red fruits and mineral, leading to a nicely balanced palate with flavors of strawberry and pear – good food wine! 

Coyote Canyon Winery
2013 Rosé of Barbera, Life is a Rose

The Barbera grapes for this wine were harvested about two weeks earlier than the grapes harvested to craft Coyote Canyon’s red Barbera wine.  It has correspondingly higher acidity which is balanced by a dollop of residual sugar.  Bright red-pink in color, the wine offers cherries and cream with notes of citrus and rhubarb – a good sipper or a nice match for spicy foods. 

Ginkgo Forest Winery
2012 Rosé of Sangiovese
Wahluke Slope AVA

Mike Thiede crafts his Ginkgo Forest wines from grapes grown at his vineyards on the Wahluke Slope of Washington State.  His Rosé of Sangiovese is bright salmon pink in hue and offers aromas and flavors of cherry candy, rhubarb and caramel with a sweet palate that is just perfect for sipping.  

Pinot Gris


14 Hands Winery
2013 Pinot Grigio
Washington State

This wine exhibits the characteristics prized by wine lovers seeking a Pinot Grigio.  It is light and refreshing with enough aroma and flavor to evoke interest, but not so much as to become ponderous on the palate.  It is a great value, offering light aromas of white peach, pear and floral perfume, and flavors of nectarine and melon with a hint of citrus on the finish.  Enjoy this wine with seafood and lighter meats from the grill, or seafood pasta dishes.  


Firesteed Cellars
2013 Pinot Gris

Firesteed Cellars reached its 20th birthday in 2013, and the wines enjoy continued popularity for their quality and value.  The winery recently acquired the 202-acre Erratic Oaks Vineyard to augment fruit grown at the original Firesteed Vineyard, and owner Howard Rossbach reports that the fruit from this new source is impacting each of their new releases.  The 2013 Pinot Gris offers delightful aromas of ripe pear and tropical fruits with notes of orchard blossom leading to flavors of honeydew melon and pear with crisp citrus on the finish.  

A to Z Wineworks
2013 Pinot Gris

Experience makes the difference with Oregon Pinot Gris and the folks at A to Z Wineworks have learned how to walk the tightrope, balancing ripe fruit with crisp acidity and minerality.  This wine is right on the mark with the additional bonus of complexity. Upon tasting, the wine is a moving target, dancing between ripe pear, chalky mineral and tangy citrus and green apple – a pleasure to contemplate with lighter meals or appetizers. 

Duck Pond Cellars
2014 Pinot Gris
Willamette Valley AVA

The Fries family celebrated the 20th anniversary of Duck Pond Cellars in 2014 and continue to pursue winemaking excellence in both the Willamette Valley and in Washington State’s Wahluke Slope AVA. This bright and aromatic Pinot Gris offers floral and pear notes with a refreshing palate and clean, lingering finish. 

Shameless Hussy
2013 Pinot Grigio
Lake Chelan AVA

This wine is crafted by Judy Phelps at Hard Row to Hoe Vineyards in the Lake Chelan AVA of central Washington State.  Before I get into the wine, I urge the reader to visit the winery website and take in the romantic ambiance of the 19th century history of the winery environs:  With this vintage, the winery decided to “shake up” Pinot Gris’ identity by letting the must rest on the skins for 16 hours to acquire a distinct copper color.  Aromas of grapefruit, earthy mineral and berry lead to a full-bodied palate with hearty tannins suited to a wide range a full-flavored, lighter fare. 

Wines from other areas:

Dry Creek Vineyard
2012 Zinfandel, Old Vine – 90 years
Dry Creek Valley

The term “Old Vine” was first coined by Dry Creek Vineyard founder David Stare in 1986.  This pioneer winery of the Dry Creek Valley has been producing classic Zinfandels for almost 40 years, with their definition of “Old Vine” being vines of 50 years or older.  For this special wine, vines averaged 90 years in age with some being as old as 110 years.  A favorite with my tasters, they raved about rich boysenberry and black pepper aromas with cherry and berry flavors on the palate finishing with spicy tobacco and toasty cedar. 


2012 Primitivo
IGT, Puglia, Italy

Tormaresca was founded in 1998 with the investment and vision of the Antinori family in Italy’s Puglia region – the heel of the boot, straddled by the Ionian and Adriatic Seas.  Grapes for this wine came from the Masseria Maime Vineyard in the Salento region. This Old World style wine offers bright cherry and plum fruit with spicy notes leading into the palate where flavors of red fruits dance with black pepper and toasted hazelnut. 

Testa Wines
2012 Montepulciano d’Abruzzo

I don’t know of any Montepulciano grapes being grown in the Northwest, but wines from this varietal are certainly ubiquitous in the marketplace and are a quite enjoyable pairing with rustic fare.  The Abruzzo region is on Italy’s Adriatic coast east of Rome with quality growing regions scattered throughout.  Look for aromas and flavors of plums, dark cherry and spicy herbs with a lingering, fruity finish. 

2013 Dry Rosé of Zinfandel
Sonoma County

Pedroncelli Winery has been producing their rosé since the 1954 vintage.  They changed the name in 2007 to help distinguish this wine from the sweeter White Zinfandel.  The deep pink hue attracts the eye as it sparkles in the glass tempting the taster to appreciate the aromas and flavors of cherry and berry with hints of caramel.  It is a nice match for lighter foods or serves quite well as an aperitif. 

Santa Cristina
2013 Rosato Cipresseto

This Tuscan wine is crafted from 85% Sangiovese with a cold soak after crushing to extract the delicate pink color.  The wine is fermented and aged in stainless steel tanks to preserve its flavor and aromatic character.  Crisp, lean and restrained, it offers aromas and flavors of raspberry and jasmine with notes of citrus and mineral.  Nice food wine, especially well suited to shrimp and other seafoods.

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©  February, 2015  Chuck Hill
All rights reserved.  Last revised: 02/27/2015