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By Chuck Hill

Chuck Hill, wine reviewer and columnist

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(In the order of their
publication dates)

Wines for Oysters
and Mussels

Published July & Aug 2015

Pinot Noir & Salmon
A 4-Part Series
Published June & July 2015

Red Rhone Varietals
A 4-Part Series
Published Apr & May 2015

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


Wines of the Week
...Earlier Columns


Chuck's Wine Reviews
of other Northwest Wines

Organized by varietal


































Wines of the Week
Published October 4, 2015

Bordeaux Buddies – Part 4:
Petit Verdot
Part 4 of a 4-Part Series  (See Part 1(See Part 2)  (See Part 3)
By Chuck Hill

With each of these articles examining the lesser-known Bordeaux grape varietals, we have discovered bits of history, bits of science and insights into the smells and flavors produced by each cultivar.  The final subject of scrutiny is Petit Verdot, a late-ripening, inky dark grape whose origins are cloudy, but it probably came north to France with the Romans. 

When fully ripened (which doesn’t happen every year in Bordeaux,) it makes a deeply colored, tannic red wine that is often added to Bordeaux blends for color and to stiffen the mid palate.  My tastings seem to indicate that the growing location can play a big part in elevating the character of the finished wine.  It tends to be a magnet for oak-based aromas and flavors when aged in new barrels. 

It is a suitable foil for beef and other red meats, cooked on the grill.  Ample aeration is recommended. 

Columbia Winery
2012 Petit Verdot Oasis Vineyard
Yakima Valley AVA

Columbia winemaker Sean Hails crafted his superb Petit Verdot from grapes grown at Oasis Vineyard in the lower Yakima Valley near Benton City.  The wine is exclusive to the Columbia wine club and is blended with 14% Merlot.  Look for aromas of black currant and blueberry with notes of anise, caramel and spicy oak.  On the palate, berry flavors meld with notes of tobacco and citrus with a firm tannic finish. 

Spangler Vineyard
2012 Petit Verdot
Southern Oregon AVA

Pat and Loree Spangler moved to Oregon in 2004, purchasing a winery and vineyard that was among the oldest in Oregon, with grape plantings dating as far back as 1968.  Pat has rapidly demonstrated his skill as a winemaker, focusing on reserve-quality Bordeaux varietals.  His Petit Verdot is ripe and complex, offering aromas of plum, vanilla and baking spice with generous flavors of dark fruits, violets and hints of chocolate and oak. 


2012 Petit Verdot
Columbia Valley AVA

Winemaker David “Merf” Merfeld always creates a well-balanced wine with complex aromas and flavors, while retaining appropriate varietal components.  His Petit Verdot was lauded by my tasters for these characteristics, indicated by aromas of ripe blackberry, sweet tobacco and smoky cedar, and flavors of cassis with vanilla and caramel on the finish. 



McKinley Springs Vineyard
2011 Petit Verdot
Horse Heaven Hills AVA

McKinley Springs grows more than 20 varietals on its 2000-acre estate vineyard in the southern part of Washington’s Horse Heaven Hills.  The region’s arid climate, high winds and low-density vineyards provide ideal growing conditions.  McKinley Springs’ 2011 Petit Verdot came from a cooler growing season, which gives the wine brighter aromatics of strawberry and sweet herbs.  On the palate look for flavors of red berries, violets and citrus with a rich tannic finish. 

Ginkgo Forest Winery
2009 Petit Verdot
Wahluke Slope AVA

This wine comes from a warm vintage, which preceded two cooler vintages in Washington State.  The 2009 season experienced a late bloom period followed by an extremely hot summer which compressed the harvest into a few short weeks.  Added age benefited this wine by giving greater complexity and mature aromas and flavors.  On the nose: earthy, ripe plum and sweet oak spice; on the palate: deep inky cassis with spice, pencil shavings and a complex finish. 

Alexandria Nicole Cellars
2012 Petit Verdot, Destiny Ridge
Horse Heaven Hills AVA

This is the fourth bottling of Petit Verdot from Alexandria Nicole Cellars.  The winery has pet names for many of their estate wines and this one is “Little Big Man.”  Maybe the “little” is due to the variety’s low rank among the Bordeaux favorites, and the “big” is for the ripe and ready punch of big fruit and lots of toasty oak. Look for aromas and flavors of ripe plum and cherry with a host of supporting components: potpourri, bell pepper, black olive, toasty oak, menthol and violets. 

Browne Family Vineyards
2012 Petit Verdot, Canyon Vineyard Ranch
Yakima Valley AVA

Precept Wines CEO Andrew Browne offers his annual bottling of Petit Verdot as a tribute to his sister Katie. The 2012 selection is complex and age-worthy with aromas and flavors of dark cherry, cherry candy, plum and cranberry.  Notes of vanilla and spicy cedar linger on the finish as the wine was aged in 50% new French oak. 

Spring Valley
2012 Petit Verdot, Sharilee
Walla Walla Valley AVA

Names given to Spring Valley Vineyard wines are a tribute to the family members who have succeeded in farming the same land where the vineyard and winery now flourish.  This wine is named for Sharilee Corkrum Derby, granddaughter of Spring Valley founder Uriah Corkrum.  Sharilee offers aromas of cherry, blueberry, graham cracker and violets, with juicy flavors of black cherry and blueberry on the palate with notes of caramel and toasty oak. 

Côtes de Ciel
2012 Petit Verdot, Ciel du Cheval Vineyard
Red Mountain AVA

When Jim Holmes and John Williams began their wine adventure on Red Mountain in the 1970s, who knew what dramatic developments would later occur?  Holmes took over Ciel du Cheval Vineyard and the Williams family developed Kiona Vineyards and Winery across the road.  Today, Holmes’ son Richard is the driving force at Ciel du Cheval and also is the winemaker at their new winery venture Cotes de Ciel.  This blockbuster Petit Verdot shows ripe plum and black currant with plenty of barrel spice, vanilla and toast.  Look for some nice nuances of citrus, mint and violets on the finish. 

Wines from other areas:

Clayhouse Estate
2012 Petit Verdot, Estate
Paso Robles

Winemaker Blake Kuhn blended 20% Cabernet Sauvignon into this Petit Verdot and aged it in French oak for 20 months on its lees to give it complexity and character.  The nose offers black cherry and red fruits with vanilla, violets and tobacco leaf.  On the palate, flavors of sweet cherry and cola mingle with cocoa and espresso with spicy oak notes on the finish – great with grilled meats.

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All rights reserved.  Last revised: 10/04/2015