Our region’s vineyards grow a surprising array of wine grape varieties that literally range from A to Z, and this edition from our tasting panel shows off some of that versatility, leading off with a tasty, affordable Pinot Noir from the Willamette Valley and a superb Zinfandel crafted by one of Washington’s master winemakers.
Grapes native to Burgundy, the Rhone Valley, Spain and Italy all get to take a turn in the spotlight this time. If a particular vintage has sold out at the winery, be sure to check your grocer or your favorite wine shop. Some of these are from small producers.
‘Outstanding’ wines were deemed by our judges to have superior characteristics and should be highly sought after. ‘Excellent’ rated wines are top-notch wines with particularly high qualities. ‘Recommended’ wines are delicious well-made wines with true varietal characteristics.
Prices are suggested retail.
Lumos Wine Co. 2015 Pinot Noir $17 This wine from the folks in Philomath, Ore., is a bargain in price for a Willamette Valley Pinot and stunningly good, our panel members all agreed. It opens with dark cherry, raspberry, mushrooms and spice, then in the mouth there’s more black cherry and raspberry, abundant acidity, smooth, silky tannins and a long finish.
Thurston Wolfe 2015 Zinfandel $30Wade Wolfe, who’s been working in the wineries and vineyards of Washington for more than 40 years, has always liked working with Zinfandel, and this one shows he’s clearly mastered both where to find great fruit, which came from Zephyr Ridge Vineyard in the Horse Heaven Hills. Its aromas open with a tiny whiff of tomato vine, plum, Marionberry and spice, then a sip produces flavors of black cherry, purple plum and blackberry. It’s lush enough to sip leisurely and pairs well with Italian foods such as pasta and pizza.
Rainstorm 2016 Pinot Noir $15 Dark cherry, a pine forest floor, spice and oak introduce this wine to your nose, then juicy cherry, pomegranate and red currant pop in your mouth. Pair this one with duck, mushroom risotto or maybe even a grilled chicken sausage. It has body enough for the duck and is light enough for to not overwhelm the chicken sausage.
Season Cellars 2015 Grenache $38 Jennifer and Scott Henry IV have about as long a wine pedigree as exists in Oregon, dating back to the 1970s when his family opened one of Oregon’s pioneer wineries. He obviously was paying attention over the decades since, and they opened their own winery in 2012, focusing on some wines his family has traditionally made, including Mueller Thurgau, and also branching out to wines that thrive in Southern Oregon, including Grenache. This one opens with aromas of dusty cherry, rose petal, pepper and pomegranate, then shows off more cherry, pomegranate and red plum. Hearty foods such as stews and cassoulet will pair well with this one.
Upper Five Vineyard and Winery, 2015 Grenache $26 Based just outside Talent, Ore., not far off I-5 and Highway 99, Upper Five is in the Rogue Valley AVA. Its Grenache vines were planted in 2006, so they’re nicely mature and produced this nice example of Southern Oregon wine. It opens with red floral notes of pomegranate, plum and raspberry. In the mouth, cranberry and blueberry join the pomegranate for a bright sipper that would pair well with pork roasted with herbs and cracked black pepper.
Two Mountain Winery 2016 Syrah $25 Tucked away in Zillah, Wash., Two Mountain used fruit from the Yakima Valley AVA to produce a wine with Syrah’s signature aromatics of cured meat, leather, blackberry and dark plum, followed by plum and Marion berry on the palate, with a long finish buoyed up by nice acidity. Charcuterie, Cougar gold and fresh blackberries and blueberries will pair up nicely. Or grill a smoky burger with plenty of hearty condiments, including your favorite barbecue sauce.