Recognizing Other Reds
Pinot Noir leads the Oregon pack in red wine volume and Bordeaux varieties are familiar to consumers. But some exciting things are going on with other less-frequently seen reds.
At this point in time, two varieties dominate the “other reds” category in Oregon — Tempranillo, the much heralded grape from northern Spain, and Syrah, whose finest examples are found in France’s Rhone Valley.
But activity is by no means limited to those two. Winegrowers are also leaning toward Grenache, the fruity favorite of southeastern France and Sangiovese, the Chianti-making monarch of Tuscany.
Three other Italians, Nebbiolo, Dolcetto and Barbera, have begun to show up in some portfolios. They can all be traced to Piemonte, the traditional home of big, bold vino rossos.
And don’t be surprised to see more examples of well-balanced blends. This approach, so successfully applied throughout the Bordeaux region, may very well be a local wave of the future.
Southern Oregon is action central for the majority of this “other red” emphasis, although examples from the Columbia Gorge, Columbia Valley and Walla Walla AVAs cannot be overlooked.
Following are the 15 wines that came out on top in this month’s closely contested competition. They’re the rewarding result of sampling other red instead.
Ledger David Cellars 2010 Rogue Valley Estate Tempranillo
A mighty tasty middleweight whose forward, fresh fruit is accompanied by hints of coffee and dark cherry. Fruit and spice linger lively on the palate as firm tannins supply a complimentary counterpoint. $28 (247 cases)
Plaisance Ranch 2011 Applegate Valley Tempranillo
A multitude of nuanced niceties emanate from this weighty wine. At once, assertive and subtle, caramel, nettle, plum, tobacco and tea leaves come together quite compatibly. $25 (250 cases)
Abacela Winery 2010 Umpqua Valley Tempranillo
Although still closed in, signs of something special beckon just beneath the surface. Deep color, full-bodied, hints of mint, chocolate and cherry all appear poised to blossom forth. $21 (1,332 cases)
Random Wine Company 2012 Columbia Valley Tempranillo
Founded in 2012, this Gaston winery makes a big, bold statement with an initial release whose youthful tannins help rather than hinder luscious, pepper-accented fruit on a full, finely balanced frame. $28 (70 cases)
Domaine Trouvére 2009 Umpqua Valley Tempranillo
An enticingly earthy aroma introduces bold flavors of cherry and chocolate wrapped in a tannic robe. Big yet balanced with a flavorful finish. $24 (70 cases)
J. Scott Cellars 2012 Rogue Valley Grenache
Fleshy, full-bodied and fruit forward. Like a liquid saturated in the essences of blueberry, blackberry and rhubarb all lending their distinctive flavor profiles to a rich, creamy, lingering taste. $26 (120 cases)
Agate Ridge Vineyard 2010 Rogue Valley Grenache
Fresh and lively at first sip, soft, engaging flavors build on a base of red berry accented by hints of leather, white chocolate and smoke. Supple tannins add structure to a long, smooth finish. $23 (97 cases)
Maryhill Winery 2010 Columbia Valley Syrah
Dusty earth notes mingle with oak vanillin to complement the wine’s dry but soft palate expression. A subtle waft of freshly cut wood underlays flavors of cocoa and ripe raisin. $16.95 (376 cases)
Cerulean Winery 2010 Columbia Gorge Syrah
The perceived size of a wine can make one wonder how it all fits in the bottle. Vibrant hints of ripe dark fruit, cedar and pepper tantalize the nose as sweet, rich flavors of plum and cherry march across the mid-mouth. $30 (150 cases)
Troon Vineyard 2011 Applegate Valley Estate Zinfandel
California has remained the domain of Zinfandel for decades. That may be about to change as this Applegate Valley entry gets around. Light and bright, coffee, cherry and spice are all part of this Zinful example. $28 (200 cases)
Delfino Vineyards 2011 Umpqua Valley Dolcetto
Dolcetto is a low-acid grape designed for consumption within a couple of years of production. Attractively light and bright, this wine says, “Enjoy my fresh cherry core and tart temerity now.” $23 (157 cases)
Remy Wines 2012 Washington State Nebbiolo
Old World-style wines is Remy’s motto, so it should come as no surprise that she is tackling the king of Italian grapes grown in Klipsun, one of the Columbia Valley’s most esteemed vineyards. Loads of flavor-packed black cherry and berry dance atop a solid, dusty structure. $25 (75 cases)
Maryhill Winery 2010 Columbia Valley Sangiovese
Arguably the best wine in this month’s tasting, fineness and finesse are found here from start to finish. Earth and mineral combine with floral up front. Rich, refined flavors of cherry, smoke and toast pleasure the palate. $16.95 (473 cases)
Abacela NV Vintner’s Blend #13 Southern Oregon Red Wine
This month’s tasting was designed to shine a spotlight on grapes other than Pinot Noir and Bordeaux varieties. Blend #13 confounds that premise with a total of nine varieties, including Merlot, Malbec, Petit Verdot and Cabernet Sauvignon. But at 44 percent, Tempranillo is primary in this fruit-forward blend and Syrah comes in second at 17 percent. That leaves 39 percent, including Dolcetto, Grenache and Tannat, to finish out a well-balanced effort. $15 (2,264 cases)
Agate Ridge 2011 Rogue Valley Ridge Rock Red
Fruity on the nose, round in the mouth, ripe on the palate, hints of cola and green pepper topped off by supple tannins complete the picture of a table wine that exceeds expectations. $19 (250 cases)
The Oregon Wine Press tasting panel has selected the following wines based on overall quality and value within their respective categories. To the best of our knowledge, they are currently available in the marketplace. Wine must be: 1) produced by an Oregon winery; 2) priced (retail) $30 or less for reds, $30 or less for Chardonnay, $30 or less for dessert and sparkling wines, and $25 or less for remaining varietals; and 3) currently available to consumers. Recommended wines were selected using a double-blind method and a 20-point ranking system for appearance, aroma, taste, balance and finish.