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By Chuck Hill

Chuck Hill, wine reviewer and columnist

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(In the order of their
publication dates)

50 Shades of Chardonnay
A 4-Part Series
Published Mar & Apr 2015

Italian Varietals Come
to America

A 4-Part Series
Published Jan & Feb 2015

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

Pinot Noir & Salmon
A 4-Part Series
Published June & July 2014

White Rhone Varietals
A 3-Part Series
Published Apr & May 2014


Wines of the Week
...Earlier Columns


Chuck's Wine Reviews
of other Northwest Wines

Organized by varietal


































Wines of the Week
Published May 21, 2015

Red Rhone Varietals – Part Three
Part 3 of a 4-Part Series (See Part 1)  (See Part 2)
By Chuck Hill

I continue to be impressed by the evolution of Rhone varietal red wines in the Northwest and around the world.  The juicy, flavorful GSM-style blends are wildly popular with my tasters, and the unique and intriguing flavors of varietal Grenache, Mourvèdre, Syrah and others makes for great pairing with meats from the grill.  Seek out these selections for enjoyment with your warm weather efforts from the barbecue. 

Red Rhone Varietals Blends

Quady North
2012 GSM
Rogue Valley AVA

Herb Quady’s juicy southern Rhone blend was the favorite with my tasters and me, offering oodles of cherry and berry with complex notes of peppery spice, herbs and mineral.  Herb decided to lighten the normal Syrah-heavy blend by having Grenache be the blend leader.  Savvy tasters will recall the Quady name from Herb’s parents Andrew and Laurel who create memorable dessert wines at Quady Winery north of Fresno, CA. 

2013 Metier, MGSC
Columbia Valley AVA

Doyenne wines from DeLille Cellars include classic varietals and blends from the Rhone and southern France.  My tasters really enjoyed the southern Rhone-style blend of Mourvèdre, Grenache, Syrah and Cinsault for its lip-smacking raspberry and cherry highlights with complex notes of wild herbs, cocoa and pepper. It is a great pairing with Chef Ted’s churrasco with chimichurri sauce. 


Harbinger Winery
2010 El Jefe
Rattlesnake Hills AVA

Energetic winemaker/owner Sara Gagnon continues to produce excellent wines at Harbinger Winery on Highway 101 in Port Angeles, Washington.  Grapes for this blend of Syrah, Mourvèdre and Grenache were sourced from Elephant Mountain Vineyard in the Yakima Valley.  Look for rich aromas and flavors of blueberry and pomegranate with earthy mineral and spicy notes of pepper and herbs. Stop by the winery on your summer tours of the Olympic Peninsula! 




Chatte de Avignon
2013 Mourvèdre
Columbia Valley AVA

Byron Dooley crafts several Rhone red varietal wines including this flavorful Mourvèdre from grapes grown in Washington’s Columbia Valley.  The wine offers complex aromas of strawberry and black pepper with notes of citrus and mineral.  The palate is soft and somewhat light with strawberry and tropical fruit flavors – a nice sipping wine that pairs well with lighter cuisine. 

Spangler Vineyards
2012 Mourvèdre
El Dorado AVA, CA

Roseburg-area winemaker Pat Spangler sourced his Mourvèdre from California’s El Dorado AVA and found ripe and hearty fruit for this rich and toasty wine.  Aromas of dark berries and cherry mingle with spicy oak and smoky mineral.  The palate offers juicy berry, cherry candy, vanilla and caramel with complex finishing notes of smoky cedar and pepper. 


Rotie Cellars
2012 Northern Blend, Syrah
Walla Walla Valley AVA

Sean Boyd crafts some of the finest Rhone-style wines in Washington.  This intense and complex wine was selected by the Washington Wine Commission to be poured in their pavilion at the U.S. Open golf tournament held this June at Chambers Bay near Tacoma.  Well done, Sean!  The wine is crafted from Syrah, co-fermented with just a small percentage of Viognier.  Look for dark cherry and blueberry with notes of tar, violets and spicy black pepper.  Enjoy a glass with your steak while you watch the U.S. Open on TV! 

14 Hands
2012 Syrah, The Reserve
Horse Heaven Hills AVA

14 Hands winemaker Keith Kenison crafted this reserve-style Syrah from grapes grown mostly in the warmest sites of the Horse Heaven Hills AVA in southern Washington State.  Ripe Syrah grapes were fermented in tank with twice-daily pumpovers and then placed in French and American oak barrels (34% new) for 23 months aging.  The finished wine offers aromas and flavors of rich blackberry and boysenberry with smoky oak, caramel and vanilla, finishing with velvety tannins and notes of fruit and oak. 

Patterson Cellars
2012 Sirah Syrah
Columbia Valley AVA

This blend of 38% Petite Sirah and 62% Syrah is crafted by John Patterson, the talented owner/winemaker at Patterson Cellars in Woodinville, Washington.  Describing the wine, John says, “Syrah and Petite Sirah are two varietals that complement one another with flare.”  The wine  is rich and complex with aromas of blueberry, violets and earthy pepper.  The palate offers cranberry, rhubarb and dried plum with notes of vanilla and toasty oak.  The wine is a superb accompaniment to rich meats from the grill. 

Alexandria Nicole Cellars
2013 Syrah, Jet Black
Horse Heaven Hills AVA

The fame of the Horse Heaven Hills AVA is growing throughout the world.  One of the first to recognize its potential was Jarrod Boyle who planted his Destiny Ridge Vineyard in this warm growing area.  As the vineyard matures, each of his varietals gains more character and Boyle must evaluate each vintage to craft his wines.  The Jet Black Syrah from 2013 offers aromas and flavors of dark cherry and boysenberry with forward vanilla and toasty oak character.  Finishing notes of caramel, floral perfume and baking spice give the wine a bridge to many rich cuisines. 

McKinley Springs
2011 Syrah
Horse Heaven Hills AVA

McKinley Springs Vineyard is a vast 2,000-acre property in the Horse Heaven Hills where Rob Andrews and Doug and Sandy Rowell farm 20 varietals and make 10 varietal and blended wines.  Grapes are also sold to 25 area wineries.  The 2011 Syrah was co-fermented with 4% Viognier.  Look for ripe aromas of blueberry, barrel toast and hints of grapefruit, leading to a palate with rich dark fruits and firm tannins that will stand up to your finest meats from the grill. 

H3 by Columbia Crest
2012 Red Blend, Les Chevaux
Horse Heaven Hills AVA

As part of Columbia Crest Winery’s new H3 releases, winemaker Juan Muñoz Oca blended 60% Syrah with 27% Merlot and small amounts of other Bordeaux varietals to create a unique red blend that is reminiscent of Provencal reds.  Les Chevaux (the horses) offers intense aromas and flavors to pair with rich and complex meats from the grill.  Look for aromas of dark fruits, floral perfume, spice and a hint of tar leading to flavors of ripe dark cherry, caramel, oil-cured olive and balsamic perfume. 

2012 Syrah
Yakima Valley AVA

At Matt Gubitosa’s micro winery in Seattle, the wines are created in small lots allowing Matt to select grapes from family-farmed vineyards in the Yakima, Columbia and Willamette Valleys.  His wines are never fined or filtered, nor subjected to other industrial processes.  Animale Syrah from the 2012 vintage is a youngish brute showing ripe dark fruits and a core minerality that reveals notes of dried herbs, tobacco, and occasional wafts of floral perfume.  Pair with intense foods with hearty sauces – meats from the grill work well. 


CDA Cellars
2013 Rosé de Saignée

CDA Cellars in Coeur d’Alene crafts this superb Rosé each year using the “saignée” method – that is, bleeding off portions of tinted juice from early red wine fermentations.  This vintage included Mourvèdre, Syrah and Grenache as well as a host of Bordeaux varieties and some Viognier.  This blend provides the typical Rhone rosé character of strawberry and watermelon but adds notes of bell pepper and herbs with a lovely mineral kick and good acidity for food pairing. 

2014 Rosé
Yakima Valley AVA

This annual offering from DeLille Cellar’s Doyenne label is crafted from a blend of Rhone varietals, this year dominated by Grenache.  The color leans to a lightened hue of sockeye salmon with pink and orange shimmering in the glass.  Aromas of strawberries and earthy mineral lead to a complex palate that adds fresh tarragon, melon, cucumber and berry flavors.  Pair with any lighter meals or offer as a complex and contemplative sipper. 

2014 Rosé
Columbia Valley AVA

This tasty new rosé comes from Chateau Ste. Michelle’s newest brand – ANEW – that recently rolled out two bottlings from Washington State.  Presented in a sleek, custom-molded bottle with a stylized floral label, the two wines are a Pinot Grigio and a rosé crafted from a blend of 83% Syrah and 17% Sangiovese.  The rosé is a food-friendly dry style offering aromas and flavors of strawberry, watermelon and floral perfume – a great value for summer sipping and picnics. 

Wines from other areas

2012 Priorat, Torres, Carignan-Garnacha-Syrah

This rocky growing region southwest of Barcelona is home to some of Spain’s finest red wines produced in very small quantities.  In 1996, the Torres family planted vineyards in the area where Carthusian monks grew vines beginning in 1095.  This wine was highly rated in my tastings, offering both ripe jammy character of cherry and plum and a firm, complex palate with pepper, spice, herbs and elegant tannins on the finish. 

Tablas Creek Vineyards
2013 Cotes de Tablas
Paso Robles AVA

Cotes de Tablas is a blend of estate-grown Rhone varietals: Grenache, Syrah, Counoise and Mourvèdre from the certified-organic Tablas Creek vineyard.  The wine offers forward aromas of dark berries, toast and pepper following into the palate with flavors of plum, earthy forest floor and anise. 

2009 Petite Sirah, Reserve
Napa Valley AVA

This Napa Valley Petite Sirah offers more character and complexity than wines grown in warmer and more unforgiving climates.  Cool nights in the valley’s higher-elevation vineyards provide for balance in the wine, and also add complexity.  On the nose, dark fruits dance with pepper and olive and spice.  On the palate, black raspberry flavors mingle with cherry candy, dried herbs and highlights of citrus and violets. This is a perfect selection for elegant grilled steaks at a summer dinner party. 

Santa Barbara Winery
2012 Syrah
Santa Ynez Valley

Santa Barbara Winery traces its roots to 1962 when Pierre Lafond opened the first winery in Santa Barbara County since prohibition; more than 100 wineries are now located in Santa Barbara County. Winemaker Bruce McGuire crafted this Syrah from grapes grown in the Santa Rita Hills AVA and a smaller percentage from the warmer Joughin Vineyard near Los Olivos.  Look for aromas and flavors of jammy blackberry and blueberry with notes of white pepper, lavender and hints of citrus and violets. 

Le Charmel
2014 Rosé
Cotes de Provence

This charming rosé is produced near Bandol along the Mediterranean coast.  It is a blend of Syrah, Cinsault, Mourvèdre, Grenache and Rolle.  Aromas of raspberries and wild flowers lead to a fresh palate of strawberry and watermelon with hints of mineral and pear on the finish.

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©  May, 2015  Chuck Hill
All rights reserved.  Last revised: 05/21/2015