Non-Bordeaux Believers

Wines from vines whose original roots are firmly planted in more southerly European climates were the focus of OWP’s February tasting. The wines included varieties such as Syrah from France’s Rhone Valley, Tempranillo, the backbone of Spain’s distinguished Rioja and Ribera del Duero wines, Sangiovese, the grape of Chianti, and other non-Bordeaux reds.

All have been transplanted with notable success here in the Pacific Northwest and the wines crafted from them by Oregon winemakers have earned accolades. Numerous examples of comparable quality vied for inclusion, leading the panel to retaste the contenders side by side. As a result, the following 17 wines have been highly recommended.

Agate Ridge 2010 Syrah, Rogue Valley • $24 (97 cases)
An impenetrably purple appearance announces concentrated flavors of dried currants and figs. Tannin aplenty but the velvety texture makes for a well-balanced big boy. 

Viento NV Cuvée R Syrah, Columbia Valley • $20 (313 cases)
Heady flavors of oak, tobacco, briar and black pepper emerge from the deeply pigmented depths to deliver a mighty, tasty mouthful. 

Sweet Cheeks 2009 Barrel Select Syrah, Southern Oregon • $25 (550 cases)
Rich, round flavors of black cherry and candied apple complement tannins and a touch of oak. A stylish Syrah with some restraint. 

Watermill 2008 Tempranillo, Columbia Valley • $28 (153 cases)
A mellow fellow that delights with earthy, berry aromas then satisifies with flavors of black currant, ginger and cocoa. Consistently pleasing from tempting start to savory finish. 

Weisinger’s of Ashland 2010 Tempranillo, Rogue Valley • $30 (160 cases)
A middleweight winner whose sucker punch is baked cherries backed by solid tannin structure and agility that leaves it standing tall at the finish. 

Ledger David 2010 Sangiovese, Rogue Valley • $22 (355 cases)
Lively on the nose and lovely in the mouth, a hint of oak complements ripe, red berries mingling with soft tannins to complete a light but tasty overall impression. 

Maryhill Winery 2008 Proprietor’s Reserve Sangiovese, Columbia Valley • $19.95 (249 cases)
A melody of fruits and spices plays across the palate. Prickly, tangy, cherry, berry, hint of vanillin, touch of allspice. Loads of enjoyment. 

Troon 2011 Foundation ’72 Zinfandel, Applegate Valley • $18 (1,000 cases)
This Zin could easily stand in from first sip to final swallow. Honeysuckle, carnation, wood smoke, black cherry. Well balanced, bordering on elegance. 

Agate Ridge 2010 Estate Primitivo, Rogue Valley • $23 (100 cases)
Italy’s answer to Zin chimes in with a symphony of flavors filling every corner of the mouth. A seductive richness ranging from toffee to rhubarb, celery seed to graham cracker and more. 

Quady North 2011 Bomba, Rogue Valley • $25 (90 cases)
A whole lotta wine but notta whole lotta available. A fragrant rose nose leads into a middleweight mouthfeel bursting with red cherry cheekiness, bright acidity, beautiful balance and a long, lingering finish. 

Three Wives 2010 Remy’s Red, Washington • $19 (500 cases)
Mixed berry jam in a wine bottle. Hints of both the black and red berry spectrum. Bright and lively. Oak and spice. Soft and seductive. 59 percent Barbera and 41 percent Sangiovese. So pretty and pleasurable no wonder it couldn’t be just one wife. 

TeSóAria 2011 Bull’s Blood, Southern Oregon • $25(500 cases)
Anyone who has been to Hungary, or to a Hungarian restaurant for that matter, knows about Egri Bikavér i.e. Bull’s Blood. It’s the country’s signature red wine and TeSóAria has done it proud. This wine is a gem. Floral, vibrant, a satisfying taste treat throughout. 

Agate Ridge 2011 Weeknight Red, Southern Oregon • $15 (406 cases)
Another example of how complexity and finesse can result from a carefully crafted blend. This one is 55 percent Primitivo, 40 percent Pinot Noir and 5 percent Petite Sirah, and the result is a soft-taste, tempting, drink-me-now delight that features dark cherry, cola, coffee bean, leather and licorice. 

Ledger David 2010 Orion’s Nebula Red, Rogue Valley • $30 (411 cases)
This probably should have been in our Bordelaise tasting. But it was only discovered afterward how it’s a blend of 52 percent Cabernet Franc, 32 percent Malbec, 11 percent Petit Verdot and 55 percent Syrah. Full-bodied opulence and flavor complexity make it well worth mentioning regardless. 

Mt. Hood Winery NV Summit Red, Columbia Gorge/Columbia Valley • $19 (552 cases)
Once again, only the master blender can assemble such an offering. Pinot Noir, Tempranillo and Syrah are the trio of varieties, and a soft, rich, dried fruit, caramel-laced, buttery beauty is the result. 

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.

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