Fall 2013

Tasting results: Italian reds

Italy’s history with grape growing and winemaking is legendary, and today Italy makes about a third of all the wine in the world. So it makes perfect sense that Italian varieties have made their way to the New World, particularly the Pacific Northwest.

But when we put out a call for red Italian varieties from Washington, Oregon and Idaho, we did not expect the breadth and depth we received. More than 120 examples poured in, giving us an excellent look at the state of Northwest Italian reds.

While we knew we would see a lot of Sangioveses, we just didn’t realize how many Barberas, Nebbiolos, Dolcettos, Primitivos and Zinfandels were being produced. And that has to be exciting for Northwest wine lovers looking for something different than Cab, Pinot, Merlot and Syrah.

None of these is made in large amounts, however. In fact, all 124 wines we tasted combined for a mere 20,508 cases of production — just 165 cases each on average. This means you’ll find few of these wines on grocery store shelves because of their low volumes. Instead, you’ll want to search them out at wine shops or contact the wineries directly.

Finishing atop our judging was a tiny winery in southwestern Washington. Marc Roland launched his eponymous operation in 2008 in Longview, a city along the Columbia River but in a region that would not be confused with wine country. Roland makes just 600 cases of wine, and 100 of that is a superb and affordable Dolcetto using grapes grown by Mike Sauer of Red Willow Vineyard fame.

Roland met Sauer a few years ago at a grape-growing seminar, just after another winemaker decided he no longer wanted Sauer’s Dolcetto.

“Mike was thinking of pulling it out,” Roland said. “So we buy everything he has.”

Roland, 62, works for the Kelso School District, running its virtual academy, a program that allows students to work online ahead of their peers.

“I don’t have a ‘bell schedule,’ ” Roland said. “That gives me a bit more flexibility during harvest.”

Roland said he believes he’s found the right technique for his Dolcetto. At first, he aged it in oak but didn’t like the results. Now, he makes it in stainless steel, then ages it in neutral oak for just eight months. That allows the fruit to shine, and he can release it more quickly.

“We thought it was a fruitier wine this way,” he said. “We don’t have to age it for 18 months like we do with our other reds.”

Our Italian reds competition was staged during June, overlooking the Columbia River at the Clover Island Inn in Kennewick, Wash. Our judges were: Heather Unwin, executive director for Red Mountain American Viticultural Area; Dave Seaver, a retired scientist and regular tasting panelist for Great Northwest Wine; Ken Robertson, a retired newspaper editor and Wine Press Northwest columnist; and Paul Sinclair, a Kennewick School District educator and Italian wine enthusiast.

They tasted all the wines blind, meaning they knew the variety of wine they were judging but not the producers.Here are the results:

OUTSTANDING

Best Buy!

Roland Wines 2011 Dolcetto, Yakima Valley, $15
Owner/winemaker Marc Roland used grapes from famed Red Willow Vineyard to craft the top wine of our judging of Italian red wines from the Pacific Northwest. Roland launched his Longview, Wash., winery in 2008 and is making small lots of high-quality reds. This wine reveals primarily high-toned red fruit notes, such as cranberry, pomegranate, raspberry and red cherry. It also reveals flavors of blueberry and a hint of plum and earthiness, all backed with bright acidity and mild tannins, making this a delicious, food-friendly, drink-now red. (100 cases, 13% alc.)

Leone Cellars 2009 Nebbiolo, Columbia Valley, $29 This label for Silver Lake Winery in Woodinville, Wash., focuses on Italian varieties, and this Nebbiolo is about as good as it gets in the Pacific Northwest. It is beautifully structured with breadth and depth with a lengthy finish. It casts out aromas of cherry, strawberry and fruit leather, followed by flavors of rich dark chocolate, coffee, a hint of cedar and cherry — all backed with Nebbiolo’s distinctive tannin structure. This wine pairs well now with grilled meats and should age gracefully for a decade or more. (234 cases, 13.5% alc.)

Pontin del Roza 2009 Angelo Pontin Sangiovese, Yakima Valley, $21 Owner/winemaker Scott Pontin’s winery started as an FFA project in high school. Nearly three decades later, he’s still going strong on his Prosser farm. This wine is named for his grandfather, who emigrated from Italy. This was the top Sangiovese of our judging, showing off inviting aromas of cherry, chocolate and oak, followed by big, dark, chewy flavors of rich red and dark fruit. It’s all supported with balanced tannins and acids, making it an attractive and well-managed red. (150 cases, 13.8% alc.)

Best Buy!

Eye of the Needle Winery NV Little Italy Red, Columbia Valley, $12
This small Woodinville, Wash., winery is run by Bob and Lauren Bullock, both veterans of past wine industries when they returned to launch Eye of the Needle. This a great-tasting and superb-value red that is a blend of Barbera, Sangiovese and Dolcetto. It opens with aromas of cocoa powder, black olive, black cherry and raspberry. Its big entry of red and dark fruit gives way to flavors of blueberry, raspberry and vanilla, all backed with mouth-filling notes of spices. The tannin serves as scaffolding for the fruit to cascade across the palate. (300 cases, 13.9% alc.)

Kyra Wines 2011 Purple Sage Vineyard Dolcetto, Wahluke Slope, $20 Kyra and Bruce Baerlocher bought an apple orchard in 1999 and converted it to grapes. Since launching their Moses Lake, Wash., winery with the 2004 vintage, they have been crafting some of the state’s best. This beautiful Dolcetto offers aromas of clove, Rainier cherry, red plum and cranberry, followed by flavors of cherry, spice and a hint of earthiness. It’s all backed by moderate tannins and a lengthy finish. (66 cases, 13.5% alc.)

Yakima Valley Vintners 2010 Primitivo, Horse Heaven Hills, $18 Let’s hear it for the next generation of Washington winemakers! This gorgeous Primitivo was produced at Yakima Valley Community College, under the tutelage of instructor Brad Smith, with grapes donated by Washington growers. This begins with aromas of spice, cherry syrup and oak, followed by flavors of rich dark chocolate, cherry and raspberry. Its well-managed tannins and acidity lead to a lengthy and delicious finish. (60 cases, 15.5% alc.)

Zerba Cellars 2009 Estate Barbera, Walla Walla Valley, $30 Our 2011 Pacific Northwest Winery of the Year continues to prove it’s among the best in the region. This Barbera comes from the estate Cockburn Vineyard at the base of the Blue Mountains on the Oregon side of the Walla Walla Valley. Winemaker Doug Nierman blended 15% Sangiovese for complexity. It kicks off with aromas of coffee, chocolate and strawberry notes, following through with flavors of dark chocolate, raspberry and strawberry, all backed with beautiful richness on the midpalate and a wonderfully silky mouth feel. (307 cases, 14.6% alc.)

Cascade Cliffs Vineyard & Winery 2009 Blood Red Barbera, Columbia Valley, $65 Owner/winemaker Robert Lorkowski has been quietly crafting some of Washington’s best wines for years in the obscurity of one of the state’s most remote areas. His winery in tiny Wishram is in the eastern Columbia Gorge, across the river from northern Oregon. The grapes for this wine were planted in 1990, and the resulting wine is rich and powerful. It opens with aromas of black raspberry, black cherry and ripe strawberry. The bold entry gives way to flavors of blackberry, cranberry, chocolate and delicate floral notes. It’s wonderfully balanced with velvety tannins and a lengthy finish. (300 cases, 14% alc.)

Claar Cellars 2010 White Bluffs Sangiovese, Columbia Valley, $22 The Whitelatch and Claar families have been farming on the White Bluffs above the Columbia River for decades, and their Sangiovese is a signature wine at their Yakima Valley tasting room near Zillah. This is a big wine that offers aromas of oak, chocolate, cherry and spice, followed by flavors of caramel, black olive, black cherry, malt chocolate and cola. Bright acidity and mild tannins give this a great mouth feel. There’s a lot to like here. (183 cases, 13.5% alc.)

Eleganté Cellars 2008 Sangiovese, Walla Walla Valley, $26 Retired educator Doug Simmons owns and operates this tiny winery at the Walla Walla Regional Airport, and his Sangiovese consistently earns top marks in our blind tastings. The grapes for this wine come from Blue Mountain Vineyard. It opens with bright aromas of plum, cherry and floral notes. On the palate, it gives way to espresso, pomegranate, cranberry and red currant. A whisper of smokiness adds a touch of complexity, and superb acidity lifts the fruit through the impressive finish. (142 cases, 13.5% alc.)

Jones of Washington 2008 Barrel Select, Columbia Valley, $25 Winemaker Victor Palencia has accomplished a great deal since graduating from Prosser High School just a decade ago. Today, he oversees a huge custom-crush facility and produces wines for this Quincy, Wash., winery. This is a blend of Sangiovese (80%), Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah, giving a bit of a twist to the Super Tuscan style of reds found in Bolgheri on the Tuscan coast. This opens with a rich, inviting nose of boysenberry, chocolate, spice and dark cherry. The bold entry provides flavors of mint chocolate, cherry, blackberry and oak. There’s a lot going on in this red wine. (168 cases, 14.8% alc.)

Kyra Wines 2010 Pheasant Vineyard Sangiovese, Wahluke Slope, $20 Winemaker Kyra Baerlocher is making a name for herself with both reds and whites. This Sangiovese comes from her estate vineyard on the warm, arid Wahluke Slope, west of Yakima, Wash. It’s a delicious, balanced and complex wine that opens with aromas of plum, oak spice and vanilla. On the palate, it reveals spice, chocolate, violet and strawberry. A hint of smokiness offers a nice layer of finesse to the finish. (136 cases, 13.7% alc.)

Siren Song Wines 2010 Zinfandel, Washington, $32Owner/winemaker Kevin Brown runs this small winery in West Seattle. The California native used grapes from Milbrandt Vineyards on the Wahluke Slope to craft the top Zin of our judging. This opens with aromas of fudge, raspberry and mocha, followed by rich flavors of chocolate, oak, cherry and raspberry. It’s a bold wine with a long finish. (110 cases, 13.5% alc.)

Trio Vintners 2010 Flash Point Reserve Sangiovese, Yakima Valley, $28 This boutique winery in Walla Walla, Wash., is the second career for Karen LaBonte, who purchased Trio after learning her winemaking skills at the University of California-Davis. The grapes for this wine come from famed Boushey Vineyards, and the name pays tribute to LaBonte’s son, who is a San Francisco firefighter. It opens with aromas of Bing cherry, chocolate and mint, followed by bright flavors of cherry, plum and chocolate. It provides a rich mouth feel without overwhelming tannins. (100 cases, 14.2% alc.)

Angel Vine 2010 Primitivo, Columbia Valley, $20 Ed Fus is the rare Oregon winemaker who uses primarily Washington grapes. From his Carlton winery, Fus dips into top sources grapes for his Primitivo — Coyote Canyon in the Horse Heaven Hills and StoneTree on the Wahluke Slope. The result is a wine with aromas of cola, oak, spice and strawberry, followed by a rich entry and flavors of Rainier cherry, black pepper, raspberry and chocolate. It’s a beautifully balanced wine. (350 cases, 15.5% alc.)

Ginkgo Forest Winery 2009 Barbera, Wahluke Slope, $20 This small producer near the Wahluke Slope town of Mattawa is an up-and-comer in Washington wine country. This wine earned a gold medal at this summer’s North Central Washington Wine Awards, and it proved itself again here. It opens with aromas of sweet herbs, strawberry jam and oak spice, followed by big flavors of boysenberry syrup, dark chocolate and black cherry. It’s a rich, stylish wine with an impressive finish. (136 cases, 15.5% alc.)

Tsillan Cellars 2010 Estate Sangiovese, Lake Chelan, $28 Robert Jankelson has created one of the most beautiful destination wineries in the Northwest, building this Italian-style winery on the south shore of Lake Chelan. He planted his grapes where some of the world’s best Red Delicious apples once stood, and winemaker Shane Collins has crafted a superb Sangiovese from them. This opens with aromas of cherry, rhubarb and oak, followed by flavors of red cherry, pomegranate, chocolate and mint. It’s a nicely structured and well-balanced red. (163 cases, 13.7% alc.)

Walla Walla Vintners 2011 Dolcetto, Walla Walla Valley, $22 Co-owner Gordy Venneri’s Italian heritage no doubt helped lead to producing Italian-style red wines, and this is the best of the bunch from this top Walla Walla Valley winery. Winemaker William vonMetzger used grapes from famed Dwelley Vineyard to craft this Dolcetto. It launches with a hint of oak and tones of black raspberry and chocolate. On the palate, it offers a delicious mouth feel backed with flavors of cherry, chocolate and oak. It’s well balanced, dark and delicious. (191 cases, 14.2% alc.)

Cascade Cliffs Vineyard & Winery 2009 Reserve Nebbiolo, Columbia Valley, $50 Nebbiolo is at home in northwest Italy, but owner/winemaker Robert Lorkowski has created a worthy rendition at his small winery atop basalt cliffs in Washington state overlooking the Columbia River. It opens with aromas of cherry, plum, spice and red licorice, followed by big flavors of black cherry, vanilla and cherry liqueur. It is backed with bold acidity and somewhat restrained tannins. This is a wine to savor. (105 cases, 14% alc.)

EXCELLENT

Bunnell Family Cellar 2009 Wine o’Clock Primitivo, Columbia Valley, $22 Former Chateau Ste. Michelle head winemaker Ron Bunnell is behind this Prosser, Wash., winery, and his wife, Susan, runs Wine o’Clock, a terrific restaurant and tasting room in the Vintners Village. This Primitivo opens with aromas of oak, smoke, strawberry syrup and mint, followed by flavors loaded with red fruit, cola, black pepper and chocolate. It’s all backed with firm tannins and a juicy finish. (93 cases, 14.9% alc.)

Glaser Estate Winery 2011 Dolcetto, Southern Oregon, $20 This young winery, vineyard and distillery is in Roseburg, Ore., and Sandy Glaser crafts the wines. This delicious Dolcetto, opens with aromas of cranberry, Queen Anne cherry, red plum and red currant, followed by beautifully balanced flavors of raspberry and cherry. It’s a delicious and bright wine. (80 cases, 12.1% alc.)

Angel Vine 2010 Zinfandel, Columbia Valley, $19 This is just one of several Zinfandels produced by owner/ winemaker Ed Fus at his Carlton, Ore., winery. It opens with aromas of cocoa powder, strawberry and raspberry, followed by flavors of black cherry, raspberry and chocolate. It’s richly flavored with terrific length. (275 cases, 15.5% alc.)

Dakota Creek Winery 2010 Sangiovese, Rattlesnake Hills, $24 Ken and Jill Peck run this winery in the border town of Blaine, Wash. This is one of more than 20 wines they produce, and the grapes come from renowned Elephant Mountain Vineyard in the Yakima Valley. This creates aromas of raspberry, cherry and cocoa, followed by flavors of Bing cherry, ripe raspberry and rhubarb jam. It’s a delicious, well-structured wine. (72 cases, 15% alc.)

Five Star Cellars 2009 Sangiovese, Walla Walla Valley, $28 Winemaker Matt Huse used grapes from Seven Hills, Pepper Bridge and Blue Mountain vineyards to craft this gorgeous Sangiovese. It offers aromas of chocolate-covered cherry and raspberry, followed by flavors of mild oak, chocolate and black cherry. It is a rich, intense red wine. (600 cases, 14.6% alc.)

Vin du Lac Winery 2009 Michaela’s Vineyard Lehm Sangiovese, Lake Chelan, $45 Owner and winemaker Larry Lehmbecker used grapes from his estate vineyard on a bluff above the north shore of Lake Chelan to craft this superb Sangiovese. It reveals aromas of chocolate, vanilla, spice and cranberry, followed by flavors of Rainier cherry and raspberry. This is beautifully balanced, with bright acidity and mild tannins. (68 cases, 14% alc.)

Agate Ridge Vineyard 2010 Primitivo, Rogue Valley, $23 Winemakers Kiley Evans and Brian Denner blended 25% Petite Sirah to this Primitivo to create a red that is rich and robust. It offers aromas of strawberry, chocolate and black pepper, followed by complex flavors of cherry compote and chocolate, all backed with rich acidity and moderate tannins. (100 cases, 13.5% alc.)

Eight Bells 2011 Red Willow Vineyard Sangiovese, Yakima Valley, $20 This Seattle winery consists of three friends who started making wine together and eventually turned their passion into a profession. This delicious Sangiovese from Red Willow fruit offers aromas of cranberry, cherry and pomegranate, followed by rich, round flavors of Bing cherry, plum and rhubarb jam. (212 cases, 13.1% alc.)

Kiona Vineyards Winery 2005 Reserve Sangiovese, Red Mountain, $25 This was the oldest wine in our judging, and it shows a maturity combined with brightness. It offers aromas of spice, black cherry and raspberry, followed by flavors of mint, pomegranate, huckleberry and cranberry. It’s a delicious wine with bright acidity and good length. (400 cases, 13.5% alc.)

Lopez Island Vineyard & Winery 2011 Sangiovese, Yakima Valley, $22 Brent Charnley, who has been crafting wines in the San Juan Islands for decades, uses grapes from Elephant Mountain in the northern Yakima Valley to create this superb Sangiovese. It is a rich and complex red with aromas and flavors of strawberry jam, pipe tobacco, Rainier cherry and dark chocolate. On the palate, it reveals flavors of plump red fruit backed with ample tannin and acidity. (110 cases, 14% alc.)

Trio Vintners 2009 Lonesome Spring Ranch Barbera, Yakima Valley, $20 Karen LaBonte produces wine of exceptional quality and value at her operation in Walla Walla. The grapes for this Barbera come from a vineyard near Red Mountain in Benton City, Wash., more than an hour west of Walla Walla. Its aromas reminded us a bit of a summer rainshower, with notes of sweet herbs and floral overtones. On the palate, it offers bold flavors of dark fruit, walnut, black cherry, black olive and oak. (56 cases, 15% alc.)

Wilridge Winery 2010 Six Prong Vineyard Nebbiolo, Horse Heaven Hills, $20 Paul Beveridge owns the oldest winery in Seattle, operating it from the Madrona neighborhood since 1988. He also owns vineyards in the Naches Heights AVA near Yakima, however the grapes for this superb Nebbiolo come from the southern Horse Heaven Hills. It is a classic New World Nebbiolo, opening with aromas of plum, cocoa powder and cherry. On the palate, assertive tannins back up the flavors of red plum, cherry and tar. (236 cases, 13.8% alc.)

Bunnell Family Cellar 2009 Wine o’Clock Sangiovese, Columbia Valley, $22 At their restaurant in the Yakima Valley, Susan and Ron Bunnell serve some of Washington wine country’s best pizzas from their wood-fired oven. What could go better with them than this delicious Sangiovese? It opens with aromas of pomegranate, red cherry and raspberry, followed by clean, bright, elegant flavors of red currant and pomegranate. It’s a classic Washington Sangiovese. (146 cases, 14.6% alc.)

Desert Wind Winery 2011 Sangiovese, Wahluke Slope, $18 The Fries family has been in the wine business more than 20 years, operating its original winery in Dundee, Ore., (Duck Pond) and this destination winery in the Yakima Valley town of Prosser. The grapes for this Sangiovese come from estate vines on the arid Wahluke Slope. This wine opens with aromas of cherry, pomegranate and red plum, followed by flavors of cranberry and Rainier cherry. It’s all backed with right-on acidity. (168 cases, 13.5% alc.)

Kitzke Cellars 2009 Sangiovese, Columbia Valley, $26 Candy Mountain is a hill not far from Red Mountain, and they are similar in soil type and aspect. This winery uses estate grapes to craft this delicious Sangiovese. It offers aromas of chocolate, oak, maple syrup and Marionberry, followed by flavors of plum and raspberry. It’s a big, round wine with plenty of power. (52 cases, 14.1% alc.)

Lost River Winery 2010 Nebbiolo, Wahluke Slope, $25 Owner/winemaker John Morgan went from his Methow Valley winery to the warm Wahluke Slope for his Nebbiolo grapes. The result is a red wine with classic big structure. It reveals aromas of minerally earth, raspberry and coffee, followed by flavors of red currant, cherry, chocolate and mint. Its rich tannin structure leads to a lengthy finish. (195 cases, 13.9% alc.)

Snake River Winery 2009 Arena Valley Vineyard Barbera, Snake River Valley, $18 Owner/winemaker Scott DeSeelhorst farms one of Idaho’s most picturesque vineyards, where the grapes for this Barbera originated. This offers aromas of oak, walnut and cherry, followed by flavors of strawberry, raspberry and hints of chocolate. It’s a rich wine that is delicious from start to finish. (170 cases, 14% alc.)

Sol Stone 2011 Sangiovese Solare, Columbia Valley, $22This is the first vintage from a winery in Sammamish, Wash., and winemaker Boyd Buckingham is off to a great start. He used grapes from Sagemoor and Chandler Reach vineyards, blending in a bit of Cabernet Sauvignon for structure and flavor. The result is a wine with aromas of cranberry, pomegranate and red cherry, followed by flavors of plum, blueberry and chocolate. The well-managed tannins allow the fruit to take center stage. (100 cases, 13.9% alc.)

Two Vintners 2010 Zinfandel, Wahluke Slope, $25 Morgan Lee, winemaker for this Woodinville, Wash., winery, used grapes from StoneTree Vineyard on the Wahluke Slope to craft a Zin that has a bit of Primitivo and Petite Sirah blended for complexity. It shows off aromas of raspberry-chocolate sauce and black pepper, followed by flavors of raspberry jam. It’s a big, rich wine loaded with flavor. (252 cases, 16.7% alc.)

Walla Walla Vintners 2011 Sangiovese, Columbia Valley, $25 Winemaker William vonMetzger blended a bit of Syrah and Malbec to this Sangiovese using grapes from five vineyards across the vast Columbia Valley. The resulting wine offers aromas of Rainier cherry, raspberry and rich earth, followed by flavors of cranberry, pomegranate and plum. It’s a rich, bold wine. (656 cases, 14.2% alc.)

Wind Rose Cellars 2011 Primitivo, Wahluke Slope, $25 Owner/winemaker David Volmut learned his trade in the Yakima Valley then launched his small-production winery in the Olympic Peninsula town of Sequim. His focus is on Italian varieties, a passion that plays to his family heritage. This Primitivo offers aromas of strawberry, black pepper and cherry, followed by flavors of chocolate and raspberry. A core of ripe red fruit leads to a rich midpalate and good length. (120 cases, 13.9% alc.)

Zerba Cellars 2009 Estate Nebbiolo, Walla Walla Valley, $45 Winemaker Doug Nierman blended 20% Barbera into this Nebbiolo from the estate Cockburn Vineyard near Milton-Freewater, Ore. It opens with aromas of mocha, red cherry and plum, followed by rich flavors of Rainier cherry and pomegranate. It’s beautifully structured with restrained tannins that beautifully balance the fruit. (114 cases, 14.6% alc.)

Barking Frog Winery 2011 Elerding Vineyard Barbera, Washington, $32 Ron Helbig produces his wine on Main Street in tiny Carlton, Ore., and his building is the town’s old theater. He relies primarily on Washington grapes for his wines, and the fruit for this Barbera comes from the Horse Heaven Hills. It opens with aromas of black truffles, oak, black pepper and cherry. On the palate, it offers flavors of walnut, toffee, spice, dark chocolate and boysenberry. (200 cases, 16.1% alc.)

Covington Cellars 2009 Stone Tree Vineyard Barbera, Wahluke Slope, $33 Morgan Lee makes the wine for Covington Cellars and Two Vintners, two sister wineries in Woodinville, Wash. This wine uses grapes from one of Washington’s top vineyards, StoneTree on the warm Wahluke Slope. It opens with aromas of oak, strawberry and spice, followed by rich flavors raspberry, pomegranate and a hint of chocolate. (50 cases, 14.5% alc.)

Covington Cellars 2008 Seven HIlls Vineyard Ode, Walla Walla Valley, $60 This 100% Sangiovese is a tribute to Brunello di Montalcino, perhaps Tuscany’s finest wines. This is crafted from the Brunello clone of Sangiovese, barrel aged for three years then spends a year in the bottle prior to release. The result is a rich wine with aromas of chocolate and plum, followed by smooth, seductive flavors of cherry and red currant, all backed with succulent tannins. (130 cases, 14.5% alc.)

Harbinger Winery 2009 Elephant Mountain Vineyard Sangiovese, Rattlesnake Hills, $30 Owner/winemaker Sara Gagnon was the head winemaker at Olympic Cellars before launching Harbinger in 2004 in Port Angeles, Wash. Hers is the northwestern-most winery in the continental United States. The grapes for this Sangiovese come from Elephant Mountain in the Yakima Valley, and they reveal aromas of vanilla, spice and cherry, followed by big, rich flavors of boysenberry, plum and white chocolate. It’s a mouth-filling wine with plenty of depth. (125 cases, 13.6% alc.)

Le Chateau 2008 Barbera, Columbia Valley, $25 This winery started at the Walla Walla Regional Airport and is now owned by Claar Cellars north of Pasco, Wash. This Barbera uses grapes from nearby Sagemoor Vineyard and offers aromas of chocolate, coffee and blueberry, followed by flavors of oak spice, espresso and boysenberry syrup. (150 cases, 14.3% alc.)

Medicine Creek Winery 2009 Cavalier Jack Sangiovese, Columbia Valley, $33 This winery in the Nisqually Valley near Olympia, Wash., uses grapes from Chandler Reach Vineyard in the Yakima Valley. Winemaker Jim Myers has crafted a Sangiovese with just a touch of Cabernet Sauvignon. It offers aromas of spice, black licorice, black cherry and dates, followed by rich flavors of blueberry, smoke, raspberry and walnut, all backed with dark, brooding tannins. (250 cases, 14.9% alc.)

Pend d’Oreille Winery 2010 Primitivo, Horse Heaven Hills, $30 Owner Stephen Meyer operates his winery in the panhandle of North Idaho and uses grapes primarily from Washington. In this case, he brought in Primitivo from Coyote Canyon Vineyard in the Horse Heaven Hills. It offers aromas of minerally earth and strawberry, followed by big flavors of blackberry, cherry and black pepper, all backed by rich tannins. (148 cases, 15.7% alc.)

Pend d’Oreille Winery 2010 Zinfandel, Horse Heaven Hills, $30 Winemakers Stephen Meyer and Jim Bopp crafted this wine in Sandpoint, Idaho, using grapes from Coyote Canyon Vineyard in Washington’s Horse Heaven Hills. It offers aromas of raspberry jam, cocoa powder and spice, as well as rich flavors of cherry, strawberry and a hint of caramel. (125 cases, 15.2% alc.)

Snake River Winery 2010 Arena Valley Vineyard Sangiovese, Snake River Valley, $20 Our 2013 Idaho Winery of the Year has crafted a delicious Sangiovese from estate grapes. The result is a red wine with aromas of ripe red plum, Bing cherry, clove and orange zest and flavors of cocoa powder, cranberry and Rainier cherry. It’s a rich, round, plump wine. (210 cases, 13.3% alc.)

Whidbey Island Winery NV Barbera Port, Rattlesnake Hills, $20 Owner/winemaker Greg Osenbach used grapes from Elephant Mountain in the northern Yakima Valley and added spirits distilled from his wine by Whidbey Island Distillery in Langley. The resulting dessert wine opens with aromas of plum, cherry and chocolate, followed by rich flavors of raspberry sauce. It’s a delicious fortified wine to enjoy after dinner with blue cheeses. (150 cases, 18% alc.)

Zerba Cellars 2010 Dolcetto, Walla Walla Valley, $30 This top Walla Walla Valley winery crafted this Dolcetto with a bit of Barbera using estate grapes from the Oregon side of the valley. It offers aromas of dark chocolate, plum and sweet oak spice, followed by flavors of cranberry, cherry, chocolate and blueberry. It’s all backed with bright acidity and a lengthy finish. (96 cases, 14.7% alc.)

Abacela 2010 Dolcetto, Umpqua Valley, $22 Andrew Wenzl crafts the wine for our 2013 Oregon Winery of the Year. He used grapes from the estate Fault Line Vineyards in the Umpqua Valley west of Roseburg to craft this yummy dolcetto. It shows off aromas of plum, raspberry and Bing cherry, followed by mild flavors of blackberry, mint, oak and red currant. (313 cases, 13.3% alc.)

Angel Vine 2010 Alder Ridge Vineyard Zinfandel, Columbia Valley, $20 Alder Ridge Vineyard is operated by Winemakers LLC, a part of the company that owns Precept Wine in Seattle. Winemaker Ed Fus brought the fruit to his Carlton, Ore., winery to craft this delicious wine. It reveals aromas of oak, cocoa and cherry, followed by flavors of ripe strawberry, raspberry jam and chocolate. (100 cases, 15.6% alc.)

Angel Vine 2010 Stone Tree Vineyard Zinfandel, Columbia Valley, $20 Winemaker Ed Fus used grapes from famed StoneTree Vineyard on Washington’s Wahluke Slope for this yummy Zin. It opens with aromas of raspberry sauce and chocolate, followed by rich flavors of strawberry, raspberry and black pepper. (100 cases, 15.2% alc.)

Chatter Creek 2008 Barbera, Yakima Valley, $22 Gordy Rawson started his winery in 1996 in Seattle and has since relocated it to Woodinville, where he makes a variety of wines. This Barbera opens with aromas of plum, cola and raspberry, followed by rich flavors of blueberry, huckleberry and dark cherry. It’s a juicy wine backed with nice structure befitting of his rock band — The Turbo Grape Mashers. (70 cases, 13.9% alc.)

Claar Cellars 2009 White Bluffs Sangiovese, Columbia Valley, $22 Claar Cellars’ estate vines are above the Columbia River on the White Bluffs. This Sangiovese offers aromas of plum, red cherry, black truffle and clove, followed by flavors of red currant, cranberry and pomegranate. The rich flavors are lifted by the bright acidity. (114 cases, 13.5% alc.)

Veranda Beach Cellars 2010 Collage, Washington, $29 This winery in Oroville, Wash., uses estate grapes just south of the Canadian border. The vines are tended by legendary grape grower Dick Cleave from British Columbia, and the wines are made by Katy Perry of Tildio Winery on the north shore of Lake Chelan. This is a blend of Barbera, Sangiovese and Cab Franc and reveals aromas and flavors of smoke, cedar, plum and golden raspberry, all backed with fine-grained tannins. (250 cases, 13.8% alc.)

Covington Cellars 2009 Primitivo, Wahluke Slope, $33 Winemaker Morgan Lee used grapes from StoneTree Vineyard on the Wahluke Slope to craft this superb Primitivo. It offers aromas of oak, smoke and cherry, followed by rich flavors of strawberry, raspberry and black pepper. (55 cases, 15.2% alc.)

Martin-Scott Winery 2009 Zinfandel, Columbia Valley, $20 Winemaker Mike Scott aged this Zin on oak for 18 months and in bottle for another two years before releasing it. The result is aromas of cherry, chocolate and espresso, followed by rich flavors of cherry, raspberry compote and spice. (108 cases, 16.2% alc.)

Pheasant Valley Winery 2011 Barbera, Columbia Valley, $40 This Hood River, Ore., winery provides gorgeous views of Mount Hood, and there’s plenty of beauty in the bottle, too. It opens with aromas of milk chocolate, strawberry and black pepper, followed by rich flavors of oak, toast and plum. (120 cases, 14.9% alc.)

Siren Song Wines 2009 Adagio, Washington, $32 This blend of Dolcetto and Zinfandel is a tribute to the winemaker’s accident in Italy that led to a love for Dolcetto. This offers aromas of plum and blackberry and flavors of dusty cherry and spice, all backed with moderate tannins. (125 cases, 13.5% alc.)

Sun River Vintners 2008 Coyote Canyon Vineyard Nebbiolo Angelica, Horse Heaven Hills, $50 This fortified dessert wine comes from a winery in the heart of Washington wine country. It offers aromas of golden raisin, plum and chocolate, followed by flavors of rich chocolate, dried cherry and boysenberry syrup. (140 cases, 19.5% alc.)

Sun River Vintners 2008 Boushey Vineyard Sangiovese, Yakima Valley, $20 This winery in Kennewick, Wash., used grapes from one of Washington’s most famous vineyards. The result is a wine with aromas of cocoa powder, boysenberry and clove and flavors of blackberry jam and dark chocolate. (74 cases, 15.3% alc.)

Trio Vintners 2009 Sangiovese, Walla Walla Valley, $20 Owner/winemaker Karen LaBonte used grapes from Morrison Lane and Cockburn vineyards in the Walla Walla Valley. It offers aromas of cranberry, pomegranate and mild oak, followed by rich flavors of raspberry, cherry and caramel. It’s a rich wine with plenty of length. (196 cases, 14% alc.)

Whidbey Island Winery 2010 Primitivo, Horse Heaven Hills, $26 Owner Greg Osenbach used grapes from Coyote Canyon Vineyards in the Horse Heaven Hills and crafted a wine with aromas of oak, strawberry jam and toast, followed by bold, rich flavors of cherry, pomegranate and raspberry syrup. (165 cases, 14.9% alc.)

Wind Rose Cellars 2011 Dolcetto, Columbia Valley, $19 Owner/winemaker David Volmut blended 20% Barbera into this wine and fermented it in stainless steel. The result is a wine that emphasizes fruit rather than oak. It reveals aromas of vanilla, plum and blackberry, followed by flavors of black cherry, strawberry and cranberry, all backed with modest tannins. (80 cases, 13.9% alc.)

Angel Vine 2009 Les Collines Vineyard Zinfandel, Walla Walla Valley, $22 Les Collines Vineyard is just north of the state line in Washington and is run by Norm McKibben of Pepper Bridge fame. This luscious Zin opens with aromas of chocolate, cherry and spice, followed by zippy flavors of strawberry, cranberry and pomegranate. It’s all backed with mild tannins. (300 cases, 14.3% alc.)

Chatter Creek 2010 Sangiovese, Yakima Valley, $30 Owner/ winemaker Gordy Rawson crafted this from grapes grown by Dick Boushey near Grandview, Wash., then he aged it in neutral French oak for 27 months. It shows off aromas and flavors of cherry, plum, spice and rich chocolate, all leading to a big finish. (70 cases, 13.9% alc.)

Covington Cellars 2009 Sangiovese, Columbia Valley, $27 This Woodinville, Wash., producer brought in grapes from Boushey, Seven Hills and Kiona vineyards to craft a Sangiovese with aromas of red plum, cherry and milk chocolate and flavors of raspberry jam and a hint of oak spice. (225 cases, 14.2% alc.)

Forgeron Cellars 2010 Boushey Vineyard Sangiovese, Yakima Valley, $25 French-born winemaker Marie-Eve Gilla is all about crossing borders, and she jumps into Italy (and the Yakima Valley) for this luscious red. It offers aromas and flavors of oak, black pepper, cherry and milk chocolate. (154 cases, 14.1% alc.)

Best Buy!

Jones of Washington 2008 Sangiovese, Wahluke Slope, $15
This Quincy, Wash., winery crafted one of the most nicely priced wines of our competition. This delicious Sangiovese reveals aromas and flavors of white chocolate, white pepper, cranberry, cedar and clove. Cleansing acidity lifts the fruit and gives the wine tremendous length. (256 cases, 14.8% alc.)

Martin-Scott Winery 2008 Sangiovese, Columbia Valley, $22 This winery in East Wenatchee, Wash., used grapes from the Jones Vineyard on the Wahluke Slope. The resulting wine offers aromas and flavors of rhubarb-raspberry compote, cherry and spice, all backed with ample acidity. (56 cases, 15.7% alc.)

Mystic Wines 2008 Zinfandel, Columbia Valley, $20 This winery near Salem, Ore., brought in grapes from the Oregon side of the Columbia Valley near The Dalles and crafted a Zin with aromas and flavors of rich, bold cherry and blackberry fruit, along with oak and classic black pepper. A juicy midpalate makes this an approachable wine. (325 cases, 16% alc.)

Sleeping Dog WInes 2011 Dolcetto, Yakima Valley , $26Winemaker Larry Oates produces small lots of wine in Benton City, Wash., not far from Red Mountain. This Dolcetto provides aromas and flavors of plum, boysenberry, red currant and black pepper. The palate focuses on dark fruit, and the finish is rich and yummy. (25 cases, 13.3% alc.)

Sleeping Dog WInes 2011 Montepulciano, Yakima Valley , $26Though this is a rare grape for Washington, Montepulciano is the second-most-planted red variety in Italy. This is the only example we’ve ever seen from the Northwest. It offers aromas and flavors of plump plum, black cherry, clove and ripe raspberry. Hints of coffee and chocolate show up in the finish. (51 cases, 12.9% alc.)

Snake River Winery 2010 Arena Valley Vineyard Barbera, Snake River Valley, $18 Owner/winemaker Scott DeSeelhorst makes a number of Italian wines, which further shows the diversity of the Snake River Valley. This Barbera offers aromas and flavors of huckleberry, raspberry, blueberry and chocolate and has tremendous length in the finish. (160 cases, 14.2% alc.)

Cana’s Feast Winery 2010 Primitivo, Columbia Valley, $28 Based in Carlton, Ore., this winery has a long history of using Italian varieties, thanks to founder and former owner Gino Cuneo. This Primitivo comes from Coyote Canyon Vineyard grapes in the Horse Heaven Hills and provides aromas and flavors of cherry, spice and chocolate, all backed with bright acidity. (218 cases, 14.9% alc.)

Coyote Canyon Winery 2010 Primitivo, Horse Heaven Hills, $25 Mike Andrews farms his vineyard in the Horse Heaven Hills and makes the wine in Prosser, Wash. He blended 20% Merlot into this delicious Primitivo, the result of which reveals aromas and flavors of cola, strawberry, sarsaparilla and spice. (151 cases, 14.4% alc.)

Leone Cellars 2009 Dolcetto, Columbia Valley, $32 Bill Ammons, longtime winemaker for Silver Lake in Woodinville, crafts the wines for this Italian label. This Dolcetto unveils aromas and flavors of earth, plum, black pepper and cherry. It’s a fascinating and complex red wine. (70 cases, 13.5% alc.)

RiverAerie 2008 Barbera, Columbia Valley, $18 This is a label for Bunnell Family Cellar in Prosser, Wash., and this nicely priced Barbera offers aromas of chocolate, smoke and cherry, followed by flavors of blackberry, toast, dark chocolate and plum. It is a rich, delicious wine. (169 cases, 14% alc.)

Troon Vineyard 2010 Reserve Zinfandel, Applegate Valley, $60 A few years ago, this Southern Oregon winery won best Zin at a California competition — and it continues to produce some of the best in our region. This opens with aromas and flavors of chocolate, cherry, rhubarb jam and a hint of oak. Racy acidity lifts all the bright red fruit. (75 cases, 15.5% alc.)

Williamson Vineyard 2010 Sangiovese, Snake River Valley, $18 The Williamson family has farmed in Southern Idaho for a century, and Greg Koenig has been making their delicious wines for several years. This luscious Sangiovese offers aromas and flavors of cocoa, cherry, cranberry, dark plum and dark chocolate. (195 cases, 13% alc.)

Wilridge Winery 2010 Estate Nebbiolo, Naches Heights, $30 The relatively cool Naches Heights AVA above the city of Yakima, Wash., could turn out to be a great location for Nebbiolo. That’s what owner/winemaker Paul Beveridge is hoping for. This effort provides aromas and flavors of red cherry, plum, licorice and pomegranate, all backed by medium, well-rounded tannins. (126 cases, 13.6% alc.)

Cana’s Feast Winery 2008 Nebbiolo, Red Mountain, $30 Winemaker Patrick Taylor brought fruit from famed Ciel du Cheval on Washington’s Red Mountain to his winery in Carlton, Ore., to produce this classic Italian variety. This opens with aromas of red licorice and plum, followed by full flavors of pomegranate, cherry and chocolate. The all-important tannins are well managed. (362 cases, 14.7% alc.)

Oak Knoll Winery 2008 Lonesome Creek Ranch Barbera, Columbia Valley, $28 Oak Knoll is one of Oregon’s oldest producers, and the Hillsboro winery brought the grapes for this jammy wine from the Walla Walla Valley. The wine opens with aromas of walnut, blueberry and caramel, followed by rich flavors of strawberry jam, spice and cocoa. It’s a delicious wine with an elegant mouth feel. (208 cases, 13% alc.)

RECOMMENDED

Ferraro Cellar 2010 Zinfandel, Columbia Valley, $26 Using grapes from Gunkel Vineyards in the Columbia Valley, this Oregon winery has crafted a Zin with aromas and flavors of strawberry, cherry, plum and chocolate. It’s all backed with velvety tannins. (32 cases, 15.4% alc.)

Hard Row to Hoe Vineyards 2011 Primitivo, Columbia Valley, $30 Winemaker Judy Phelps brought in grapes from the Wahluke Slope for this yummy Primitivo, which shows off oak, chocolate and dark cherry flavors. It’s a rich, smooth wine with silky tannins. (200 cases, 14.5% alc.)

Mt. Hood Winery 2011 Gunkel Vineyard Barbera, Columbia Valley, $30 Winemaker Rich Cushman crafted this wine in Hood River, Ore., using grapes from up the Columbia River. It offers aromas and flavors of strawberry, raspberry and dark chocolate. A rich wine with nice length. (63 cases, 14.2% alc.)

Pontin del Roza 2010 Angelo Pontin Dolcetto, Yakima Valley, $18 This longtime Yakima Valley winery with Italian roots has crafted a Dolcetto with aromas of milk chocolate and red cherry, followed by flavors of plum, cherry and cranberry, all backed with bright acidity. (100 cases, 13.8% alc.)

Zerba Cellars 2010 Estate Sangiovese, Walla Walla Valley, $35 Winemaker Doug Nierman blended a bit of Syrah and Viognier into this tasty Sangiovese, which reveals aromas and flavors of espresso, dark chocolate, boysenberry and caramel. (90 cases, 14.1% alc.)

Mystic Wines 2008 Barbera, Columbia Valley, $28 California escapee Rick Mafit has been making wine in Oregon for two decades. This yummy Barbera shows off aromas and flavors of sweet herbs, blackberry, spice and mocha. (325 cases, 16% alc.)

Trio Vintners 2009 Far Away Vineyard Zinfandel, Yakima Valley, $20 Far Away Vineyard in the Rattlesnake Hills is the source of the grapes for this jammy Zin. It shows off aromas and flavors of hot fudge sauce, strawberry jam and oak spice, all backed with silky tannins. (100 cases, 14.1% alc.)

Tsillan Cellars 2010 Estate Sinistra, Lake Chelan, $28 Winemaker Shane Collins blended equal parts Sangiovese and Barbera and added 16% Nebbiolo to create this delicious blend that provides aromas and flavors of Rainier cherry, red licorice and cranberry, all backed with mild tannins. (329 cases, 13.7% alc.)

Barking Frog Winery 2010 Elerding Vineyard Barbera, Washington, $32 Winemaker Ron Helbig used grapes from the Horse Heaven Hills for this luscious red that offers aromas and flavors of espresso, chocolate, blueberry and blackberry compote. It’s all backed with sturdy tannins. (200 cases, 16.3% alc.)

Barking Frog Winery 2011 Elerding Vineyard Sangiovese, Washington, $24 This winery in the heart of Oregon’s Yamhill County uses a lot of fruit from north of the Columbia River. This Sangiovese unveils aromas and flavors of walnut, oak, dark cherry and raspberry surrounded by round, juicy tannins. (200 cases, 14.9% alc.)

Mt. Hood Winery 2011 Gunkel Vineyard Zinfandel, Columbia Valley, $32 Winemaker Rich Cushman didn’t have to travel too far up the Columbia River to get these grapes from near Goldendale, Wash. This Zin is a classic with notes of black pepper, strawberry, cherry and chocolate. (99 cases, 13.8% alc.)

Whidbey Island Winery Elephant Mountain Vineyard Reserve Sangiovese, Rattlesnake Hills, $35 Winemaker Greg Osenbach brought in grapes from a top Yakima Valley vineyard to craft a wine with aromas and flavors of raspberry, dark cherry, boysenberry and oak. It’s a big wine with bold flavors. (25 cases, 14% alc.)

Bunnell Family Cellar 2009 Wine o’Clock Barbera, Columbia Valley, $22 This Prosser, Wash., winery named this wine for its terrific restaurant in the Vintners Village. It shows off aromas and flavors of cherry, raspberry, chocolate and spicy oak. (45 cases, 13.7% alc.)

Best Buy!

Ginkgo Forest Winery 2010 Sangiovese, Wahluke Slope, $15
This small winery on Washington’s Wahluke Slope has crafted a Sangiovese with aromas and flavors of plum, pomegranate, cranberry and spice, all backed with ample structure. (146 cases, 14.3% alc.)

Sun River Vintners 2009 Zinfandel, Columbia Valley, $20 Classic aromas and flavors of strawberry, cherry and rhubarb are backed with notes of walnut, toffee and mild tannins. It’s a tasty wine from a Kennewick, Wash., winery. (178 cases, 15.9% alc.)

Chateau Lorane 2011 Shasta View Vineyard Zinfandel, Siskiyou County, $25 Based in the southern end of the Willamette Valley, Chateau Lorane brought in these grapes from even farther south. The wine offers aromas and flavors of strawberry, raspberry and cocoa powder. (77 cases, 15.4% alc.)

Leone Cellars 2007 Primitivo, Columbia Valley, $29 Primitivo, a close relative to Zinfandel, has found a following in the Northwest. This example offers aromas and flavors of raspberry, cherry, spice and oak, all backed by a juicy midpalate. (234 cases, 13.5% alc.)

Wind Rose Cellars 2010 Bravo Rosso, Washington, $20 Sequim, Wash., winemaker David Volmut has crafted a delicious blend of Barbera, Dolcetto, Cabernet Sauvignon and Nebbiolo that shows off aromas and flavors of red licorice, cherry, strawberry and raspberry. It’s a really delicious wine. (110 cases, 13.9% alc.)

Barking Frog Winery 2010 Elerding Vineyard Sangiovese, Washington, $24 Based in Carlton, Ore., this winery uses Washington grapes to craft a Sangiovese with aromas and flavors of cherry, pomegranate and mild oak, all backed with ample acidity and mild tannins. (200 cases, 14.7% alc.)

Chatter Creek 2008 Clifton Vineyard Nebbiolo, Wahluke Slope, $30 Clifton is a vineyard owned by Milbrandt Vineyards on the western edge of the Wahluke Slope, not far from the Columbia River. This Nebbiolo offers aromas and flavors of black licorice, cherry, plum and spice. (150 cases, 13.9% alc.)

Piluso Vineyard and Winery 2009 Dolcetto, Willamette Valley, $22 Winemaker Sandee Piluso used estate grapes to craft this Dolcetto, which offers aromas and flavors of huckleberry, blueberry, vanilla, Rainier cherry and cocoa powder. It’s a bright wine with plenty of enjoyable flavor. (120 cases, 13% alc.)

Misty Oaks Vineyard 2009 IB1, Umpqua Valley, $28 This blend from Southern Oregon includes 50% Sangiovese and equal parts Barbera and Pinot Noir. The resulting wine offers aromas and flavors of red plum, cranberry, pomegranate and milk chocolate. (107 cases, 13.8% alc.)

Whidbey Island Winery 2011 Dolcetto, Yakima Valley, $25 Owner Greg Osenbach brought in grapes from Crawford Vineyard near Prosser and crafted a wine with aromas and flavors of plum, cocoa, ripe raspberry and dark cherry, all backed with rich tannins and great length. (50 cases, 14.6% alc.)

Marshal’s Winery 2010 Nebbiolo, Washington, $35 Marshal’s Winery is near the small town of Dallesport, Wash., along the Columbia River. This deliciously smooth Nebbiolo offers aromas and flavors of cherry, pomegranate and cranberry. (200 cases, 13% alc.)

Tartan Cellars 2007 Sunnyside Vineyard Dolcetto, Willamette Valley,$20 Darcy Pendergrass, winemaker for Amity Vineyards in Amity, Ore., has started this small winery as a side project. This Dolcetto offers aromas and flavors of cherry, plum, spice and milk chocolate. (86 cases, 13% alc.)

Whidbey Island Winery 2011 Sangiovese, Rattlesnake Hills, $20 This tasty and nicely balanced Sangiovese offers notes of black licorice, red cherry and plum. It’s rich, round and backed with moderate tannins and bright acidity. (250 cases, 14.2% alc.)

Trio Vintners 2009 Primitivo, Walla Walla Valley, $26 This is winemaker Karen LaBonte’s first release of Primitivo, and it is a delicious example with aromas and flavors of black pepper, walnut, cherry and strawberry. (100 cases, 14.1% alc.)

This story was originally published September 2, 2013 12:00 AM.

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