Here are the red wines reviewed in our Recent Releases section of the Fall 2009 issue of Wine Press Northwest. Wines are categorized by variety and style.
Alexandria Nicole Cellars 2006 Destiny Ridge Vineyard Alderdale Cabernet Sauvignon, Horse Heaven Hills, 343 cases, 14.5% alc., $32
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Outstanding! Drafting the name of the town you live in and using it on one of your wines is a bold play, but it's a bold wine. There's no shortage of barrel accents - chocolate syrup, tobacco, coffee and leather - yet there's plenty of black fruit to keep up. Blackberry smoothness and Bing cherry acidity stand shoulder-to-shoulder with sinewy tannins.
Davis Creek Cellars 2007 Williamson Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, Snake River Valley, 45 cases, 15.1% alc., $29
Recommended. Young Idaho winemaker Gina Davis is well-acquainted with this vineyard after serving as Greg Koenig's assistant on the Sunny Slope. She produced tones of black cherries, black plums, cedar and fresh green beans with chocolaty tannins, balance and a supple sendoff.
Mount Baker Vineyards & Winery 2006 Proprietor's Limited Release Cabernet Sauvignon, Yakima Valley, 762 cases, 14.1% alc., $16
Recommended. This sturdy wine's pedigree belongs to Crawford, Portteus, Lonesome Springs and Kiona vineyards, and it's spiced up by Merlot (9%), Malbec (8%) and Cab Franc. Blackberry, milk chocolate, mint, coffee and bay rum aromas transform into flavors of more blackberries with cherries inside a chewy structure. Bright acidity and bittersweet chocolate show up in the finish.
Upland Estates 2006 Old Vine Cabernet Sauvignon, Yakima Valley, 99 cases, 13.7% alc., $28
Recommended. Dusty black cherries, cloves, boysenberries, cedar and coffee notes are consistent with the delivery. And that's rich and bold from 22 months in American oak and vines with decades of life in their history.
Aubichon Cellars 2007 Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, 103 cases, 13.5% alc., $34
Excellent. A separate label for Le Cadeau, the focus of the program is on hillside fruit farmed by Buddy Beck, former vineyard manager for iconic Domaine Drouhin in Oregon. It's a high-toned and stylish Pinot showing pie cherries, strawberry/rhubarb compote and cassis. Mint, tobacco and red pepper flakes add spice up and set the table for a long finish of Craisins.
Aubichon Cellars 2007 Reserve Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, 325 cases, 14.1% alc., $42
Recommended. This wine from Anam Cara (60%) and the Le Cadeau vineyards in the Chehalem Mountains with Vista Hills (30%) in the Dundee Hills makes for a plummy drink with black cherry, smoked pepper and green leaf tobacco tones.
Cassini Cellars 2007 Reserve Pinot Noir, Okanagan Valley, 150 cases, 14% alc., $34
Excellent. One of the newcomers to the "Golden Mile" in British Columbia has released an easy-drinking Pinot with a density of ripe Bing cherries and plums with barrel notes that include Chick-o-Stick candy, tobacco and cigar box. Vines north of Oliver on the west bench supplied the berries.
David Hill Vineyards & Winery 2007 Estate Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, 903 cases, 13.3% alc., $20
Excellent. Half of this 40-acre vineyard in Forest Grove, Ore., is dedicated to Pinot Noir, and Jason Bull continues to excel. A complex and plummy nose of cranberries, pomegranate, cherries and raspberries includes hints of cinnamon, allspice and leather. The drink is one for more serious Pinot drinkers as it is high-toned with more cranberries and pie cherries.
Dirty Laundry Vineyard 2007 Pinot Noir, Okanagan Valley, 238 cases, 13.4% alc., $25 CDN
Excellent. Consulting winemaker Phil Soo continues to display the promise of Pinot Noir in the Okanagan Valley. It's 100% of the variety and shows some smoky oak behind the dark cherry, boysenberry and vanilla aromas. There a fresh and ripe entry of Bing cherries and blackberries across the palate, accented by moderate tannins and finished with Coffee Crisps.
Girardet Wine Cellars 2007 Barrel Select Pinot Noir, Southern Oregon, 2,585 cases, 13.1% alc., $25
Recommended. Philippe and Marc Girardet grow this wine in the Old World style in the Umpqua Valley by dry-farming and using sustainable practices. The nose is of boysenberry, lingonberry, saddle leather and smoky bacon. It's an easy drink of more boysenberry and leather with juicy Bing cherries, mellow tannins and good acidity. Enjoy with kippered salmon or quiche.
King Estate 2007 Signature Collection Pinot Noir, Oregon, 29,000 cases, 13% alc., $27
Excellent. Only sustainably farmed grapes make it into this program of John Albin's, and 104 lots - each fermented and barreled separately - were considered for this. Scents of strawberry/muscat jam, raspberry juice, Rainier cherries, apple sauce and milk chocolate come through onto the palate. There's a smooth entry, and it's an easy drink with pleasing balance. A sweep of more raspberries, red currants and chocolate signals the farewell.
Le Cadeau Vineyard 2007 Côte Est Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, 427 cases, 13.5% alc., $47
Outstanding! Colgate grad Tom Mortimer farms his 28-acre estate in four parcels that overlap plantings of different clones. Steve Ryan of Hopland, Calif., took over this portion from Josh Bergstrom, and the production features aromas of currants, plums, dusty cherries and horehound. On the palate, it leads with strawberry fruit leather, huckleberries and black currants among food-friendly tannins. Juice of cherries and plums creates a pleasant finish.
Le Cadeau Vineyard 2007 Diversite Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, 237 cases, 13.5% alc., $47
Recommended. Cheryl Francis and Sam Tannahill of A to Z Wineworks created this from clones 113, 115, 667, 777, Pommard and Mariafeld. The results are high-toned fruit of huckleberries and boysenberries, with food-friendly notes of crushed herbs, cherry juice acidity and sublime tannins.
Le Cadeau Vineyard 2007 Equinoxe Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, 450 cases, 13.5% alc., $47
Excellent. Jim Sanders - Tom Mortimer's winemaking partner in Aubichon Cellars - worked with the center cut of Mortimer's vineyard. His building blocks were Dijon clones 667 and 777 with clone 115 and Pommard, and this seems the most oak-influenced of the series. There's a jammy theme, too, joined by pie cherries, a touch of orangy acidity and tobacco in the finish.
Le Cadeau Vineyard 2007 Rocheux Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, 225 cases, 13.5% alc., $47
Recommended. Vineyard owner Tom Mortimer employed Chehalem's Harry Peterson-Nedry to work his rockiest section, which is overlapped with Pommard and Dijon clone 777. The nose is reminiscent of strawberry Swedish Fish, joined by red currants and dusty cherries. The drink is all about strawberries and pie cherries.
Nk'Mip Cellars 2006 Winemaker's Series Pinot Noir, Okanagan Valley, 1,764 cases, 13.5% alc., $19 CDN
Excellent. Randy Picton can see the U.S. from this winery in Osoyoos, B.C., and he picked up his passion for Pinot Noir while working for American expatriot Tom DiBello at CedarCreek in Kelowna. Black cherries, cocoa powder, vanilla, rosewood and forest floor notes help give this a delicate structure on the palate.
Nk'Mip Cellars 2007 Qwam Qwmt Pinot Noir, Okanagan Valley, 623 cases, 13.9% alc., $23 CDN
Recommended. Plums, black cherries, lots of chocolate and wheat bran flakes come across both as aromas and flavors. It's a juicy structure that features zesty food-friendly acidity rather than tannin.
Reustle Prayer Rock Vineyards 2007 Pishon Bloc Pinot Noir, Umpqua Valley, 665 cases, 12.7% alc., $31
Outstanding! Stephen Reustle enjoyed a vintage in 2007 conducive for his Pinot Noir, and this release in particular garnered gold medals in two California competitions. Named for a Biblical river in the Garden of Eden, here's a babbling brook of high-toned red fruit as cherries, sweet cranberries, strawberries swirl all around. Accents of rose hips, crushed herbs and tart cherries mingle with the smooth and juicy structure.
Shadow Mountain Vineyards 2007 Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, 506 cases, 12.5% alc., $20
Recommended. A lightly structured Pinot Noir is the result of a slightly heavier crop (2.5 tons per acre) and a more subtle barrel program. Notes of pie cherries, brambleberries, pomegranate, cigar leaf, saddle leather and alfalfa swirl over soft tannins and lighter acidity.
Shadow Mountain Vineyards 2006 Reserve Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, 125 cases, 13.2% alc., $30
Excellent. This expanding eponymous estate vineyard program near Eugene is coming into its own as shown with this release of Dijon 115 in Bellpine and Jory soils. The cropping to 2.2 tons per acres allows for red-toned aromas of cherries, cranberry, white pepper and cedar. Long and spicy cherry flavors hook up with notes of cranberries, green tea and leather in a medium body. Present it with grilled sockeye salmon or pork loin in a cherry sauce.
Airfield Estates 2007 Merlot, Yakima Valley, 331 cases, 16% alc., $22
Recommended. Grown-up fans of Dr Pepper should have fun here, and winemaker Marcus Miller notes the super-ripe nature of this wine was not by design as the crop came in at 2 tons per acre. The goal was 3.5. It's quite drinkable with tones of rich cherries, cola, raspberries, vanilla cream, shriveling strawberries and citrusy acidity. Enjoyed it with three years.
Alexandria Nicole Cellars 2007 Destiny Ridge Vineyard Gravity Merlot, Horse Heaven Hills, 388 cases, 14.2% alc., $24
Excellent. Distant from the mainstream, soft-spoken winemaker Jarrod Boyle continues to push out wines that are far from shy. And here's another weighty one that starts the conversation with blackberries that lead to smoky cherries, chocolate, leather and toasty oak aromas. Brassy fruit gushes forth on the tongue with more juicy blackberries, chocolate-covered cherries and some tart boysenberries. Expressive tannins extend the discussion.
Camas Prairie Winery 2006 Champoux Vineyard Merlot, Washington, 200 cases, 12.8% alc., $16
Excellent. It's guaranteed you'll never see another Champoux red priced within everyone's reach. Pie cherries, pink SweeTarts and cedar aromas transcend into appealing flavors of canned pie cherries, blueberries and Red Delicious apples. The tannins arrive up front, but it's a party in the back. The structure and ripeness of the fruit make this appealing and fascinating.
Chateau Ste. Michelle 2006 Ethos Merlot, Columbia Valley, 2,300 cases, 14.5% alc., $31
Excellent. Cold Creek Vineyard is across the Columbia River from the Wahluke Slope in central Washington and supplied most of the fruit in this high-end blend with Cabernet Sauvignon (10%), Syrah (5%) and Malbec. Aromas of black plums, cherries and cranberries are backed by abundant oak notes of brownies, black olive and peat moss. It's boysenberry, blackberry and more chocolate in the flavors, with hints of strawberry and cranberry on the midpalate. The finish is a cup of oolong tea and cocoa powder.
Chateau Ste. Michelle 2006 Canoe Ridge Estate Merlot, Horse Heaven Hills, 11,500 cases, 14.7% alc., $22
Outstanding! Mellowness returns with this medium-bodied Merlot that should serve as an example to follow. Bob Bertheau and Co., fill the nose with blackberries, strawberries and woodruff while allowing the oak to impart toasted hazelnut tones. It's an easy entry of Bing cherries, lingering cassis and more nuttiness in a pleasurable structure framed by black tea tannins and Aussie black licorice.
Chateau Ste. Michelle 2006 Cold Creek Vineyard Merlot, Columbia Valley, 1,700 cases, 14.6% alc., $28
Excellent. Vines entering their fourth decade of life also contributed some Cabernet Sauvignon (22%) to this offering of sweet oak aromas, plums, figs, cedar and orange zest. Ripe boysenberry flavors include black currants and more fig inside a smooth and polished structure that finishes with bittersweet chocolate.
Chateau Ste. Michelle 2006 Indian Wells Merlot, Columbia Valley, 23,000 cases, 14.5% alc., $23
Excellent. Typically, the Indian Wells program targets accessible fruit, and this glass of finesse is no exception. Wahluke Slope grapes dominate the equation, including Syrah (19%), and the subtle invitation starts with plums and toasted oak with cordial cherries, cola, leather and tobacco. Cherries, plums and blackberries spill out in a balanced, smooth and pleasing tone, a just a bit of tannin and crushed leaf in the finish. Suggested pairings include flank steak salad and arroz con pollo - the Latin classic rice with chicken dish.
8th Generation Vineyard 2007 Merlot, Okanagan Valley, 388 cases, 14.5% alc., $22 CDN
Recommended. Eight generations of winemakers are on the tree of this family in Summerland, B.C. Inviting aromas of raspberry, Rainier cherry and green peppercorn are met by a bold rush of black cherries, chocolate and toasted oak on the palate.
Lake Chelan Winery 2006 Merlot, Columbia Valley, 499 cases, 13.7% alc., $28
Recommended. One of the largest bottlings in the Chelan Valley, its black cherries, dark plums, grassiness and juicy acidity should lend it nicely with a pepper steak or Hungarian goulash.
Lodmell Cellars 2005 Merlot, Columbia Valley, 200 cases, 14.4% alc., $33
Recommended. Andrew Lodmell makes the wine and manages the vineyards along the Snake River near Fishhook Park in Pasco, Wash. The combination created a wine full of black cherries, tobacco, alder smoke, pink peppercorns and lip-smacking Super 100 cherry tomato acidity.
Merry Cellars 2007 Stillwater Creek Vineyard Merlot, Columbia Valley, 190 cases, 15.1% alc., $30
Excellent. One of the Columbia Valley's steepest sites gave Patrick Merry a lot to play with. Purple fruit aromas are joined by cassis, cedar and brown sugar, then it's cassis, cherries, watermelon and blackberry chocolate cake on the tongue. Pleasing tannins and good acidity should serve this nicely with marinated flank steak.
Mission Hill Family Estate 2006 Reserve Merlot, Okanagan Valley, 13.5% alc., $25 CDN
Recommended. President plums, Bing cherries, tobacco and 14 months in 50% new French barrels come together in a sweet, oaky and chalky structure.
Novelty Hill Winery 2006 Merlot, Columbia Valley, 2,980 cases, 14.4% alc., $22
Excellent. This second label for Januik Winery consistently delivers, and here it's with a variety of tones that scream for steak. Black cherries, tar, tobacco, coffee, chocolate, pink peppercorns and beef juice aromas are matched on the palate in a delicious fashion with a balanced finish.
Pepper Bridge Winery 2006 Merlot, Walla Walla Valley, 1,543 cases, 14.1% alc., $50
Excellent. A nearly even share of Seven Hills and Pepper Bridge vineyards came into Jean-François Pellet's way, and he lures you in with a bouquet of cherry cola, cinnamon, sarsaparilla and cedar. It's a plump and round delivery of blackberry jam and bright red fruit, with copious levels of chocolate and ample acidity.
St. Laurent 2006 Estate Vineyard Merlot, Wahluke Slope, 500 cases, 14.2% alc., $18
Recommended. Few wineries in the Northwest feature a view as breathtaking and expansive as this estate winery near Wenatchee, Wash. Their other vineyard, an hour's drive downstream on the Columbia River, produced accents of blueberries, black cherries and lilacs with abundant oak notes of vanilla bean, caramel, coffee and lingering tar.
Waterbrook Winery 2006 Reserve Merlot, Columbia Valley, 3,024 cases, 13.7% alc., $20
Excellent. One of Leonetti Cellar's estate vineyards - Loess - joins fruit from Wahluke Slope site Stonetree as well as Blackrock near Red Mountain to create an easy sipper. Aromas hint at blueberry, Bing cherry, malted milk, tobacco and forest floor. The flavors bring in more juicy blueberries and cherries that find a sweet spot on the midpalate. Frontal tannins, white pepper and tobacco accents will fare well with a tenderloin in a blueberry demiglace.
Airfield Estates 2007 Syrah, Yakima Valley, 250 cases, 15.5% alc., $22
Outstanding! The Millers cropped these grapes at 3.5 tons per acre, which begins to explain its decadent nature. Aromas lead with boysenberry, a bit of loganberry, almond extract, milk chocolate and black pepper. A tilt draws in big and juicy boysenberries with smooth chocolaty tannins and a pinch of mint for complexity. Pair this with Tragerized ribs.
Coeur d'Alene Cellars 2006 Alder Ridge Vineyard Syrah, Washington, 126 cases, 14.2% alc., $40
Excellent. This Horse Heaven Hills site along the north bank of the Columbia River is among the featured Washington vineyards in the portfolio of Idaho's "Lake City" winery. A nose of plums, Dr Pepper and brown sugar funnels into a concentrated and rich drink of plum cobbler, juicy boysenberries, mocha, coffee and tobacco.
Coeur d'Alene Cellars 2006 Boushey Syrah, Washington, 172 cases, 14.1% alc., $36
Outstanding! Dick Boushey's Syrah from the Yakima Valley is among the most coveted by Northwest winemakers, and North Idaho winemakers Warren Schutz and Kimber Gates show you why. It starts in the aromas of strawberry fruit leather, Red Vines licorice, cherries, freshly brewed coffee, smoky bacon and rich chocolate. A sip brings almost guilty pleasure with Chukar Cherries and plum jam with juicy acidity.
Coeur d'Alene Cellars 2006 Envy, Washington, 313 cases, 14.9% alc., $32
Outstanding! Our 2006 Idaho Winery to Watch continues to secure its enviable place in the company of the top Syrah producers in the Northwest. Horse Heaven Hills fruit from Rob Andrews' McKinley Springs Vineyard includes Viognier (5%) and produces opulent aromas of plums, black cherries and milk chocolate. It's remarkably approachable with more plums and rich milk chocolate, Kona coffee and tobacco accents. Not only will you find it difficult to put your glass down, but you also can show patience in your cellar.
Coeur d'Alene Cellars 2006 Opulence, Washington, 661 cases, 14.9% alc., $40
Recommended. The reserve-style Syrah off McKinley Springs in the Horse Heaven Hills delivers aromas of pie cherries, horehound and pencil shavings, followed by a mouthful of cherry pie, oatmeal sprinkled with cinnamon and brown sugar, as well as assertive tannins.
Coeur d'Alene Cellars 2006 Stillwater Creek Vineyard Syrah, Washington, 263 cases, 14.8% alc., $36
Recommended. Blueberries are supposed to be good for guys, and those little berries seem to fill almost every corner of this wine. Cherries and chocolate add to a juicy structure that's bright with acidity and departs with berries and a tug of tannin.
Davis Creek Cellars 2007 Skyline Vineyard Syrah, Snake River Valley, 68 cases, 13.7% alc., $20
Excellent. Gina Davis and other Idaho vintners appreciate the hangtime these grapes get at 2,700 feet elevation. She took advantage of that and turned out a wine with aromas of dusty plums, thyme, menthol and tobacco. Real reward spills out with dark berries, cherries and plums in a supple entry. Complexity increases with more tobacco and coffee, then gives way to a lengthy finish. Her suggestion of prime rib will pair nicely with the slightly chalky tannins.
Gilbert Cellars 2006 Syrah, Wahluke Slope, 350 cases, 14.9% alc., $26
Excellent. It's unmistakeably Syrah from the start with aromas of blackberries, blueberries, sweet cinnamon and hibiscus. The reward continues with more brambleberries on a palate that has a punch of food-friendly leanness on the midpalate. Cocoa powder, black licorice and tobacco round out the finish.
Gordon Brothers Family Vineyards 2006 Syrah, Columbia Valley, 2,300 cases, 13.7% alc., $20
Excellent. Jeff Gordon embarked on his plantings overlooking the Snake River near Pasco, Wash., back in 1980. One of his biggest crops is cherries, and this estate Syrah seemed chock full of them, joined by hints of soy sauce, saddle leather, cooked pinto beans, black olive and 70% dark chocolate. That rich structure and cherry-like acidity bodes well for suggested fare of lamb, grilled steak or the backyard burger.
Lake Chelan Winery 2006 Rivers Bend Estate Vineyard, Reserve Syrah, Columbia Valley, 195 cases, 13.7% alc., $36
Recommended. General manager/co-owner John Abbott also owns this Washington vineyard that looks across the Yakima Valley between Benton City and Prosser. The nose is of boysenberry, lavender, burlap and abundant oak. Huckleberries and more boysenberries, including with the seed, flow into a structure of lovely tannins.
Lake Chelan Winery 2006 Rivers Bend Estate Syrah, Columbia Valley, 403 cases, 13.7% alc., $28
Recommended. This family operation features Ray Sandidge as the winemaker and boasts a remarkable outdoor barbecue restaurant out back. Ironically, this wine broadcasts aromas and flavors of alder smoke, along with bacon, plums on parchment paper, blackberries, mint, pink peppercorns and tar. There's also the food-friendly structure of acidity winning out over tannin. No wonder barbecued meats sound good with this.
L'Ecole No. 41 2007 Seven Hills Vineyard Estate Syrah, Walla Walla Valley, 1,013 cases, 14.8% alc., $37
Recommended. This stately vineyard in Milton-Freewater, Ore., is a partnership with Leonetti Cellar and Pepper Bridge Winery, and the wines that come off it are destined for long life. Plums, pomegranate and dark oak aromas are matched in a sweet manner on the palate. Firm tannins give way to a touch of tar and a trail of chocolate.
Lodmell Cellars 2006 Syrah, Columbia Valley, 100 cases, 14.2% alc., $28
Excellent. While the family vineyard flanks the Snake River, Andrew Lodmell relied on Alder Ridge in the Horse Heaven Hills for this bottling. Aging for 23 months in 3- and 4-year-old French oak helped him create stunning aromas of a blueberry shake, blackberries, vanilla bean, coffee and light cedar. Juicy blueberries are a force on the palate and abundant oak tones allow for beautiful flavors of chocolate, coffee and cherries.
Mission Hill Family Estate 2006 Reserve Shiraz, Okanagan Valley, 12.5% alc., $22 CDN
Excellent. Proper hang time in vines near Oliver and Osoyoos, not far from the U.S. border, paved the way for this. Plummy aromas include black cherries, malted milk balls, cinnamon, sensual leather and pink peppercorns. That plumminess continues on the entry with just a touch of greenness, quickly followed by more cherries and loganberries. It's juicy with lovely smoothness across the tongue and blueberries in the finish. And look at that low alcohol!
Mission Hill Family Estate 2006 S.L.C. Syrah, Okanagan Valley, 950 cases, 13% alc., $37 CDN
Outstanding! John Simes continues to dial in his Select Lot Collection program, and here's the latest example, which ranks among the best Syrahs ever produced in B.C. Dark fruit aromas feature blackberry, Van cherries, fig and a chocolate brownie. The drink is full-flavored with boysenberries and plums that accent acidity, but there's a good backing of tannin in the finish for pleasing balance.
Nicholas Cole Cellars 2006 Dauphine Estate Syrah, Walla Walla Valley, 600 cases, 15.4% alc., $49
Recommended. A life of nearly two years in French oak casts long shadows in this. And it's loaded with black cherries, chocolate brownies, dark toast and green peppercorns with a mouthful of tannin.
Novelty Hill Winery 2006 Syrah, Columbia Valley, 1,233 cases, 14.4% alc., $22
Excellent. Mike Januik has been making wine in the Columbia Valley for 25 years now, and here's one of the most affordable and approachable Syrahs you will find. Chukar Cherries, black currant, coffee, black pepper and a toasted Triscuit drift out of this blend with Mourvèdre (3%). It leans toward juicy blackberries on the palate with good acidity and tamed tannins. A rich finish of chocolate and coffee.
Reustle Prayer Rock Vineyards 2007 Masada Bloc Syrah, Umpqua Valley, 739 cases, 13.3% alc., $32
Recommended. Black currant, dried strawberry, cherry, red peppercorns, tobacco and saddle leather tones combine to make this a juicy, straight-forward Syrah from Southern Oregon with bittersweet chocolate on the back end.
St. Laurent 2006 Estate Vineyard Syrah, Wahluke Slope, 700 cases, 14.2% alc., $21
Outstanding! The Mracheks control more than 200 acres of vineyard, but they sell more than 80 percent of their grapes. Their winemaker, Craig Mitrakul, gets his choice, and here's a prime cut. It's easy to pick out the fruit aromas of boysenberry and ripe Bing cherry, backed by hints of chocolate, coffee and cola. There are more Bings and chocolate on the vibrant and balanced palate, along with blackberry, sarsaparilla, Earl Grey tea and leather.
San Juan Vineyards 2006 Syrah, Yakima Valley, 292 cases, 14.1% alc., $19
Outstanding! Chris Primus joined on as winemaker in time for this harvest, and he made the most of that first vintage, including these grapes ferried over from Kestrel View Estates in Prosser, Wash. Sweet oak aromas are backed by plum jam, canned cherry, vanilla, bay rum and anise. The drink is luscious with more plums and Van cherries, but there a sense of slightly unripe blackberries that accent the wine's remarkable acidity.
Seia Wine Cellars 2006 Alder Creek Vineyards Syrah, Horse Heaven Hills, 290 cases, 15% alc., $20
Recommended. Sugared plums, black cherries, lavender, leather, leaf tobacco, orange zest and bright, food-friendly acidity are the hallmarks here. This is the second bottling from this vineyard by the 4-year-old winery near Seattle's Madison Park.
Sovereign Cellars 2006 Syrah, Red Mountain, 50 cases, 13.8% alc., $32
Excellent. Dennis Gross, a retired science teacher in Washington's state capital, has been making wine professionally since 2004. He appears to understand chemistry, too. This work from Kiona Vineyards fruit allowed him to send out tones of cordial cherries, strawberry, vanilla, coffee and fresh-laid road tar. Its structure is balanced, and there's a persistent finish of cherries.
Sparkman Cellars 2006 Ruckus Syrah, Columbia Valley, 100 cases, 15.3% alc., $40
Recommended. This blend of Syrah (75%) off Klipsun and Hedges gathers muscle via Cab from Lewis Vineyard (23%) and Petit Verdot off the Wahluke Slope. They collaborate for a straightforward and food-friendly drink of blueberries, pomegranate, cherries, cloves, spearmint and tar.
Spring Valley Vineyard 2006 Nina Lee Syrah, Walla Walla Valley, 500 cases, 15.6% alc., $50
Recommended. Just like her vaudeville photo, this comes off as smoky, seductive and even a bit steamy with raspberry jam, blueberries, black cherries, bittersweet chocolate and tarry accents.
Le Chateau Winery 2006 Sangiovese, Columbia Valley, 220 cases, 13.5% alc., $34
Outstanding! White Bluffs Vineyard, the estate site of Claar Cellars, also accounts for the Merlot (5%) and Cabernet Franc (5%) in the release from Dick and Diane Hoch's new Walla Walla faux chateau. Cherry and plum aromas include chocolate and cinnamon spice from the two years in French oak. Cherries and chocolate circle smoothly around the palate, followed by robust food-friendly acidity and a clove NECCO wafer as a final treat.
Lone Canary Winery 2007 Sangiovese, Wahluke Slope, 382 cases, 14% alc., $17
Recommended. The Milbrandts' Pheasant Vineyard produced the fruit for this true-to-the-grape release. It's a charming little wine with a red-toned fruit profile of Rainier cherries, boysenberries and strawberries with the leaf. Zippy acidity and chocolaty smooth tannins prompted thoughts of a Spanish stew with smoked paprika.
Whidbey Island Winery 2007 Sangiovese, Yakima Valley, 300 cases, 13.5% alc., $18
Recommended. Greg Osenbach is among what seems to be a growing number of Puget Sound wineries tapping into Crawford Vineyard for fruit. Snipes Canyon and Elephant Mountain also contribute to this drink of Dr Pepper, blueberry, allspice and bittersweet chocolate with juicy acidity and a tart, food-friendly farewell.
David Hill Vineyards & Winery 2006 Tempranillo, Rogue Valley, 275 cases, 14.4% alc., $24
Excellent. Jason Bull turns matador on this bold Spanish red as he removed it from barrel and re-blended the wine three times during a 27-month period. The results show with juicy cherries, chocolate, coffee, tobacco, eucalyptus and saddle leather tones.
Davis Creek Cellars 2007 Wood River Vineyard Tempranillo, Snake River Valley, 46 cases, 13.3% alc., $20
Recommended. This Spanish variety is taking off in Idaho, and the expression by this young winery - which is moving to Caldwell - features a bowl of sweet cherries along with black plums. It's fun and interesting, and there's a cup of espresso waiting at the finish.
Reustle Prayer Rock Vineyards 2007 Reserve Tempranillo, Umpqua Valley, 217 cases, 14.3% alc., $38
Recommended. The valley that made Tempranillo famous in the U.S. produces another noteworthy effort. There are aromas of black cherries, strawberry jam, Nutrella spread and a freshly brewed mocha. Inside is a bold structure of plums and Bing cherries with blueberry acidity and black tea tannin.
Reustle Prayer Rock Vineyards 2007 Timnah Bloc Tempranillo, Umpqua Valley, 661 cases, 13.6% alc., $26
Recommended. Dark cherries, plums and dusty chocolate aromas filter into pie cherries and pomegranate flavors. Sturdy tannins make it lively on the palate. This sinewy red will pair nicely with lasagna or a well-marbled steak, and the combination of acidity and tannin bode well for the future.
Zefina Estate Winery 2006 Tempranillo, Horse Heaven Hills, 100 cases, 14.6% alc., $25
Outstanding! Success stories continue to spread as this historic Spanish variety infiltrates the Northwest. Rob Chowanietz's barrel program of 22 months delivered aromas of pomegranate, plums, dark toast, spearmint, raw beef and Indian spices. There's a nice big entry of blueberries, black currants, Bing cherries and dried fig, with juicy tannins and chocolate pudding in the back end.
Davis Creek Cellars 2007 Wood River Vineyard Malbec, Snake River Valley, 47 cases, 13.5% alc., $20
Recommended. This site in Homedale, Idaho, allowed young winemaker Gina Davis to bottle this Bordeaux variety for the first time. It releases aromatics of pie cherries, pomegranate, cocoa powder and a snip of cedar. Enjoy the plum jam as well as the concentration of cherries on the palate, with accents of Baker's chocolate and coffee.
Gilbert Cellars 2006 Malbec, Wahluke Slope, 275 cases, 14.9% alc., $26
Outstanding! This release notes the winemaking transition to Justin Neufeld, who arrived at this rising Yakima winery in 2007 from Glen Fiona. The organic Doc Stewart estate vineyard makes for a nosefull of spicy plums, cinnamon bark, Tennessee red cedar and eucalyptus. It's lively on the palate with concentrated cherry notes, juicy plums and bright acidity.
Sagelands Vineyard 2006 Dovel Vineyard Malbec, Wahluke Slope, 560 cases, 14.1% alc., $18
Excellent. Longtime Yakima Valley winemaker Frederique Spencer shows a passion for working with this vineyard, having created both an exemplary rose and this single-variety bottling. There's a creaminess in the nose with cherries, chocolate and warm oak, followed by a full-on fruity entry of more chocolate and cherries. It's juicy with a roundness to the balance and capped by a cup of espresso.
Upland Estates 2006 Malbec, Yakima Valley, 74 cases, 13.4% alc., $28
Excellent. Subsequent vintages of this from Todd Newhouse's winery will feature the new Snipes Mountain appellation. Here it opens with black cherries, milk chocolate and brown sugar notes. The drink is thick, rich and very smooth with boysenberries and Chukar Cherries. A trail of coffee lingers in the finish.
Alexandria Nicole Cellars 2007 Destiny Ridge Vineyard Lemberger, Horse Heaven Hills, 56 cases, 14.3% alc., $25
Recommended. There's a history of success with this Central European grape in this region of Washington, and there's a future for it at this site. It's heavy with black cherry, blueberries, mint, cocoa and anise, and the juicy structure makes it ready to enjoy now.
DavenLore Winery 2007 Durif, Horse Heaven Hills, 101 cases, 14.9% alc., $25
Outstanding! Canadian-born Gord Taylor takes interesting angles in Prosser, Wash., with his wines. Most wineries want nothing to do with this variety's traditional name. Here, Taylor pays tribute to the late Francois Durif, who discovered the grape now known as Petite Sirah. Effusive aromas from the Zephyr Ridge fruit feature blackberries, cloves and an Almond Joy bar. Bold black fruit, nutmeg and meaty flavors rush through, and Taylor tames the tannins with surlie aging for four months. Bright cherry acidity helps this pair with a French-cut ribeye.
Kyra Wines 2008 Purple Sage Vineyard Dolcetto, Wahluke Slope, 100 cases, 13.5% alc., $20
Recommended. The estate vineyard of Kyra Baerlocher and her husband, Bruce, produced a quaffable drink with this its second commercial vintage. It's filled with notes of President plums, marionberry, pie cherries and root beer with chocolaty tannins.
Michael Florentino Cellars 2007 Monastrell, Columbia Valley, 72 cases, 13.5% alc., $26
Recommended. Most folks outside of Spain know this grape as Mourvèdre. In this case, there's a splash of Primitivo (6%) blended. As a package, it features a marvelous nose of baked black cherry pie, blueberry, cocoa powder and slate. It's pie cherry again on the palate, where a mild and mellow structure accents acidity over tannin with a dash of soy in the finish. Enjoy with marinated flank steak.
Pentage Winery 2008 Gamay Noir, Okanagan Valley, 120 cases, 13.5% alc., $20 CDN
Excellent. Wines of distinction continue to emerge from Paul Gardner's sweet spot overlooking Skaha Lake. This release from the estate Vista Ridge Vineyard opens with plums, pomegranate, cloves, horehound, almond and cedar aromas. It's sweet with Bing cherries, raspberries and plums on the palate, yet shiny acidity and cinnamon bark keep it fresh and remarkably tasty.
Spangler Vineyards 2007 Cabernet Franc, Southern Oregon, 284 cases, 13.4% alc., $24
Recommended. This Roseburg, Ore., winery continues to make remarkable Cab Franc and includes a dash Petite Sirah (3%). Black cherry, Aussie black licorice, violets and pinch of patchouli lead the aromas. What spills out on the tongue are more black cherries and some blackberries, plum, loganberry, horehound and chocolate.
Airfield Estates 2007 Aviator Red Wine, Yakima Valley, 222 cases, 14.7% alc., $28
Outstanding! Here's a product of Marcus Miller's fifth commercial vintage, and it's a family estate blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (49%), Merlot (22%), Cabernet Franc (12%), Malbec (11%) and Petit Verdot. Beautiful control of the barrels shows first in the aromas of raspberry, unripe blackberry, citrus, cedar, black pepper and tar. Early and bright acidity lifts the pie cherry and raspberry flavors. The tannins are akin to raspberry seeds, and the berries come back on the finish. Enjoy with grilled or smoked meats, but all that acidity bodes well for the cellar, too.
Airfield Estates 2007 Spitfire Red Wine, Yakima Valley, 95 cases, 14.3% alc., $24
Recommended. It's rare to see a blend of Italian varieties such as this Dolcetto (50%), Primitivo (25%), Sangiovese (12%) and Barbera (1%), and the addition of Syrah (12%) adds a lot of flesh. A hugely rich drink of black cherries, milk chocolate and blueberries, there a good grip of tannin in the finish for complexity.
Blackwood Lane Vineyards & Winery 2006 The Reference Red Wine, Okanagan Valley, 240 cases, 14.2% alc., $89 CDN
Outstanding! One of Canada's most expensive red wines is the product of Vancouver businessman Carlos Lee's partnership in Langley with winemaker Charles Herrold. Each of the five primary Bordeaux varieties takes part in this presentation that invites with sweet oak, black cherries, dried strawberries, crushed herbs and pencil shavings. Cherries also dominate the palate, with red raspberries and boysenberries serving as background music. It's sweet, juicy and lengthy. And built to last.
Bodhichitta Winery NV Primordial Compassion Red Wine, Oregon, 20 cases, 12.5% alc., $28
Recommended. Mark Proden served 11 years in the Air Force as a pilot, and now he's a Salem, Ore., winemaker providing public service by giving all his winery profits to charitable causes. His blend of 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon (66%) from the Applegate Valley with 2008 vintage blackberry wine releases notes of marionberry and strawberry. It's got little in the way of tannin, there's a reward of acidity and it comes in bone dry, adding up to a worthy food wine.
Cassini Cellars 2007 Maximus Red Wine, Okanagan Valley, 800 cases, 14.6% alc., $34 CDN
Excellent. Adrian Capeneata in Oliver, B.C., quickly caught the attention of Vancouver collectors with this blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (59%), Merlot (37%) and Malbec from the Black Sage Bench and Road 19. It's a noseful of dusty cherries, plums, chocolate and a pinch of oregano. And there's beauty in the glass with plums, black cherries and chocolate. It's statuesque in structure and finished with cherry skins and fresh coffee.
Challenger Ridge Vineyard & Cellars 2006 Gordon Red Wine, Yakima Valley, 267 cases, 13.2% alc., $20
Excellent. Randy Bonaventura moved away from Mount Baker to Concrete, Wash., to focus on Pinot Noir, but this tribute to one of his best friends is a nicely priced claret - Cabernet Sauvignon (53%), Cabernet Franc (42%), Petit Verdot (2%), Malbec and Merlot. Aromatics include black cherry, sandalwood, green tobacco, black olive and celery leaf. Cherries, plums and green peppercorns play easily on the palate with bright acidity, and the finish of Craisins bodes well for a turkey breast fresh from the oven.
Coeur d'Alene Cellars 2006 McKinley Springs Vineyard BDX Red Wine, Washington, 274 cases, 14.1% alc., $32
Recommended. Production of this Bordeaux-style blend doubled over the 2005 version. Cab Franc (45%), Cab Sauv (36%) and Merlot come together for tones of cherry jam, blackberries, juniper berries, cedar, anise and toasted oak. Check their Web site to see the recipe for their suggested pairing - Three-Chocolate Cranberry Cookies.
Eaglemount Winery 2006 Eaglemount Red Wine, Washington, 105 cases, 13.8% alc., $18
Recommended. Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah from Arianses Vineyard on the Wahluke Slope give this eponymous blend a cherry focus with mint, oregano and Italian parsley notes. Its round structure, bright acidity and enjoyable tannins make a perfect pairing with meat loaf.
Eaglemount Winery 2006 Meritage Reserve Raptor Wine, Washington, 53 cases, 13.8% alc., $26
Recommended. The Olympic Peninsula winery also taps into the Wahluke Slope for a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (52%), Merlot (37%) and Cabernet Franc (11%) for plummy, cherry, chocolate and cola approach built on acidity rather than tannins.
E.B. Foote Winery 2007 Remembrance Red Wine, Columbia Valley, 795 cases, 14.4% alc., $28
Recommended. Once you learn the story behind this wine, you'll understand why it's Sherrill Miller's largest production. She blended Cabernet Sauvignon (60%), Merlot (30%) and Cabernet Franc as a tribute to her late husband, Rich, claimed last year by Alzheimer's. She donates $14 of each sale toward clinical research of the disease. Notes of plums, pomegranate, lavender and leaf tobacco make this one to toast with while seated to a table featuring prime rib.
Gilbert Cellars 2006 Claret, Wahluke Slope, 952 cases, 14.5% alc., $20
Outstanding! Credit goes to the previous winemaker, Nate Gilbert, who created harmony with Cabernet Sauvignon (74%), Merlot (12%), Malbec (8%), Petit Verdot (5%) and Cabernet Franc from the estate Doc Stewart vineyard. There's intensity from start to finish as cherries, vanilla bean, nutmeg, Ovaltine and tobacco abound. It's supremely balanced inside its medium structure and features notes of hickory coffee and mocha in the finish.
Gilbert Cellars 2006 Allobroges Red Wine, Columbia Valley, 781 cases, 14.9% alc., $24
Excellent. A history lesson is served with this blend of Syrah (60%), Grenache (22%) and Mourvèdre as this Yakima farming family pays tribute to a Rhône-based Celtic tribe crushed by Hannibal. The Carthaginian commander would have enjoyed this peaceful drink, which opens with boysenberry and marionberry aromas, joined by cherry cola, green peppercorns and freshly trimmed artichoke. Inside it's akin to a warm berry pie with charming acidity and black cherries in the finish. Enjoy with spoils such as a marbled T-bone.
GraEagle Winery 2006 Red Wing Red Wine, Walla Walla Valley, 1,200 cases, 14.4% alc., $25
Excellent. Estate fruit for this second label of Nicholas Cole Cellars gives Michael Neuffer a nice set of tools in this melange of Cabernet Sauvignon (38%), Cabernet Franc (35%), Merlot (18%), Syrah (6%) and Petit Verdot. The choice of all French oak is apparent with warm toast among the blackberry, pomegranate, plum and cedar tones. A theme of blackberry and chocolate arrives on the palate with chewy tannins, leaf tobacco and a finish of plums.
Lake Breeze Vineyards 2006 Tempest Red Wine, Naramata Bench, 300 cases, 14.5% alc., $35 CDN
Outstanding! While it ranks as the biggest red produced at this winery overlooking Penticton, B.C., it might also be its best. Merlot (60%) takes the lead with Cabernet Franc (35%) and Cabernet Sauvignon in support, and time in new French oak carries notes of Belgian chocolate in the nose, but not at the expense of the dusty plums and black cherries. The drink is a smooth one of blackberries, black cherries, a cup of mocha and a slice of gooey chocolate cake. Generous tannins signal the finish.
Lake Chelan Winery 2005 Maximum II Meritage, Columbia Valley, 203 cases, 13.8% alc., $45
Recommended. Trivia time: Why won't this winery be able to use Jones Merlot (60%) and Rivers Bend Estate Cabernet Sauvignon (40%) to this extent any longer? Because they come from outside the new Lake Chelan AVA, and the winery bears the same name as the AVA. So enjoy this strongly flavored package of black cherries, plums, chocolate and leather, all of it held firmly by assertive tannins.
L'Ecole No. 41 2006 Pepper Bridge Vineyard Apogee, Walla Walla Valley, 1,748 cases, 14.3% alc., $50
Recommended. Blueberry, plum, black cherry, bacon, lavender and pepper aromas emerge from this blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (46%), Merlot (42%), Malbec (8%) and Cab Franc. Black cherry flavors make for a mouth-filling entry met by muscular tannins that provide this wine plenty of strength for cellaring.
L'Ecole No. 41 2006 Seven Hills Vineyard Estate Perigee, Walla Walla Valley, 1,627 cases, 14.4% alc., $50
Recommended. Marty Clubb takes a similar approach to this Cab-led blend off his estate parcel in Milton-Freewater, Ore., as he does with the Apogee from Pepper Bridge. However, this merging of Cabernet Sauvignon (56%), Merlot (34%) and Cab Franc features a more hedonistic structure with black cherry juice, brown sugar and cola. There's good grip from tannin, joined by underlying tar and tobacco, and finished with piece of caramel.
Merry Cellars 2007 Stillwater Creek Vineyard Mourvedre-Syrah, Columbia Valley, 210 cases, 15.6% alc., $36
Outstanding! Palouse vintner Patrick Merry makes this a 50/50 split of Rhône varieties, and it's a successful marriage. Most of the plum, cherry cola, strawberry Twizzlers, tobacco and mincemeat aromas make it onto the palate, but blackberries and red currants stand at the altar. They are bound together by a pleasing structure, a scrape of tannin and a lingering kiss of black cherries.
Mission Hill Family Estate 2006 Five Vineyards Cabernet Merlot, Okanagan Valley, 12.5% alc., $19 CDN
Excellent. An assortment from five vineyards in Oliver, Osoyoos and the Naramata Bench were blended as Merlot (48%), Cabernet Sauvignon (37%) and Cab Franc. It equates to aromas of red cherries, chocolate-covered pretzel and cedar with flavors that also include plums and a tannin profile of jasmine tea. Suggested fare includes lamb stew or duck confit.
Mount Baker Vineyards NV Tivoli Bistro Red Wine, Yakima Valley, 23 cases, 13.4% alc., $25
Excellent. A true bistro wine in the sense that this trio of Syrah (50%), Mourvèdre (25%) and Grenache (25%) was made for Bellingham's French-themed Tivoli Bistro. The ponderous oak in the aromas of coffee and ketchup lifts upon the entrance to the palate, where black cherries and bright acidity stand tall. Moderate tannins are covered in a sweep of milk chocolate and coffee.
Nicholas Cole Cellars 2006 Juliet Red Wine, Walla Walla Valley, 150 cases, 14.1% alc., $40
Outstanding! A superbly structured Super Tuscan- style red has emerged from Michael Neuffer's estate. Sangiovese (53%) takes the lead on Cabernet Sauvignon (24%), Cabernet Franc (16%), Merlot (4%) and Petit Verdot. Dense aromas of blackberries and blueberries sidle up to plums, black cherries, moist earth, coffee and a puff of cigar. Smooth sips of blueberries and blackberry jam fill the mouth, and chocolaty tannins meet with the juicy acidity that calls for a New York strip.
Nodland Cellars 2005 Private Blend Red Wine, Columbia Valley, 401 cases, 14.5% alc., $35
Recommended. Tim and Tracy Nodland christened their Spokane Valley winery with this blend of six Bordeaux varieties off some famed sites - Seven Hills Merlot (43%), Pepper Bridge Cab (39%), Dineen Cab Franc (9%) and Gamache Malbec (5%), as well as Carmenere (3%) from Davis in Walla Walla and Petit Verdot via Jessica Vineyard near Red Mountain. Hallmarks of this include black cherries, mint chocolate, fragrant oak, rosemary, saddle leather and a structure of richness with frontal tannins.
Patterson Cellars 2006 BDX Red Wine, Columbia Valley, 235 cases, 14.8% alc., $22
Excellent. John Patterson's connections in Washington show with his grape sources - Boushey, Kiona, Milbrandt, Snipes Canyon, Wahluke Slope - for this blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (55%), Merlot (23%), Cab Franc (12%), Malbec (7%) and Petit Verdot. It leans toward hedonism as new French oak helps elicit tones of blueberries, cherries, cocoa, cedar, tar and tobacco spin around into rewarding depth and a touch of sweetness.
Pepper Bridge Winery 2006 Seven Hills Vineyard Red Wine, Walla Walla Valley, 462 cases, 14.1% alc., $55
Excellent. A classic blend from a stately vineyard, put in the hands of a skilled vintner, produces wines of distinction such as this. Jean Francois-Pellet brought in Cabernet Sauvignon (50%), Merlot (40%) and Cabernet Franc, then shepherded French oak barrels for 18 months. What comes out are aromas of boysenberry, strawberry fruit leather, allspice, fresh-cut hay, cedar, lilac and molasses. Very juicy flavors of cherries, blueberries and black currants show a hint of sweetness alongside taut tannins.
RockWall Cellars 2007 Second Generation Red Wine, Washington, 149 cases, 15.1% alc., $34
Excellent. This new winery in Omak, Wash., grabbed gold at the San Francisco Chronicle earlier this year for its Riesling, and here's a medal-worthy red, too. Cabernet Sauvignon (50%) from White Bluffs in Pasco, Wash., Merlot (47%) from Oroville and estate Marechel Foch make for aromas of Montmorency cherries, Hershey's Kiss, teriyaki, coffee, charcoal and fresh-cut Douglas fir. The palate is of sugared raspberries on top of chocolate, with coffee-like acidity and bracing tannins.
Sparkman Cellars 2006 Ruby Leigh Red Wine, Red Mountain, 200 cases, 14.6% alc., $42
Recommended. Christian Sparkman is part of the "Hoodinville" scene in Woodinville, but he's also got some respected friends on Red Mountain. His blend of Merlot (60%), Cabernet Sauvignon (20%), Cab Franc (19%) and Petit Verdot (1%) is named for his youngest daughter and comes as a boisterous drink of blackberry jam, chewy blueberries, slate and bittersweet chocolate. As with many Red Mountain reds, they start to come of age 2-3 years after release.
Sparkman Cellars 2006 Wilderness Red Wine, Columbia Valley, 400 cases, 14.5% alc., $28
Excellent. Christian Sparkman could charge more for his blend of Syrah (29%), Merlot (20%), Petit Verdot (18%), Cabernet Franc (18%), Petite Sirah (12%) and Cabernet Sauvignon, and perhaps he should considering he donates some proceeds to The Wilderness Society. Plums, pie cherries, a scrape of orange peel and pleasing oak aromas are followed onto the palate. There's marionberry jam and mint, then a bit of grip in the finish for braised meats or cellaring.
Spring Valley Vineyard 2006 Frederick Estate Red Wine, Walla Walla Valley, 1,500 cases, 15.4% alc., $50
Recommended. Vines surrounded by rolling Palouse wheat fields produce this Cab-based blend with 21 months of French oak behind it. Blueberries, black cherries, pomegranate, bittersweet chocolate and bright acidity are its hallmarks.
Spring Valley Vineyards 2006 Uriah Red Wine, Walla Walla Valley, 2,500 cases, 14.9% alc., $50
Excellent. French winemaker Serge Laville's most prolific - perhaps best - wine ignores Cabernet Sauvignon. Instead, it's Merlot (54%), Cabernet Franc (33%), Petit Verdot (7%) and Malbec. Their life in French oak is three months less than the other Spring Valley wines, and that is apparent. First come whiffs of strawberry jam, cherries, chocolate, coffee beans and celery leaf. Smooth flavors of chocolate-covered cherries take center stage and cast a lengthy - and sturdy - shadow into licorice and black olive accents.
Whitestone Winery NV Piece of Red v 5.09, Columbia Valley, 450 cases, 14.7% alc., $17
Excellent. Michael Haig makes wines from the photogenic family vineyard along the Columbia River not far above Grand Coulee Dam. This annual, albeit nonvintage blend, routinely sells out. It's easy to see why as Merlot (60%), Cab Franc (30%) and Cab Sauv create aromas of raspberry, pie cherry, cranberry, chocolate and bell pepper. Foodies, in particular, appreciate this because the palate is that same high-toned red fruit, and orangy acidity pushes aside the tannin.