Over Memorial Day Weekend, I decided to take my third trip to the Columbia Gorge and also take another look at the Willamette Valley. I was really excited about this visit because it was my first look at the Washington side of the Columbia Gorge. I got a late start leaving Seattle and got caught in the usual “look at everyone around you” traffic, but I managed to make it to four really good wineries. Each of the wineries on this trip was unique in their own way and I was really pleased with what’s coming out of the region. The picture above is a shot from the Washington side of the Columbia Gorge. You’ll see these rock formation throughout this region. The Washington side of the Columbia Gorge is like night and day compared to the Oregon side. The climate & terroir is very different from the Oregon side which makes this region very exciting to visit. So without further adieu 🙂
When I arrived at Cor Cellars, I was greeted by Lana in the tasting room. On this windy day, I was wondering if anyone was going to be coming around the vineyards, but it wasn’t long before a large group of people arrived as I was leaving. Cor Cellars had 5 wines available at the time, but have expanded to 8 wines in their collection. The price points are very approachable and the wines are great for any level of collector. I managed to pick up 3 great wines on my visit and have plans to pick up more in the future!:
Refreshingly different, this wine is made with a nod to the Alsatian wines of northern France. The barrel fermented Gewürztraminer adds spicy honeysuckle and floral spring aromas, while the Pinot Gris contributes vibrant pear and melon, refreshing acidity and structure.
- Varietals: 54% Pinot Gris / 46% Gewürztraminer
- Vineyard: Celilo Vineyard
- Appellation: Columbia Gorge
- Fermentation: Pinot Gris: Stainless Steel / Gewürztraminer: 100% neutral French oak
- Time in Barrel: 5 months
Cor Cellars 2008 Sauvignon Blanc
There are no tasting notes available on this wine and I believe it’s because it is sold out. I will contact the winery and see if I can obtain them. One thing to note, they have released a 2009 Old Hwy white wine which is a Sauvignon Blanc blend. I will definitely check this out!
Black cherry, plum and cassis, with hints of dark chocolate, spice and violets. Starting with a base of Cabernet Sauvignon, which is floral, regal and extensive, we add Merlot for silky texture, Petit Verdot for spice and then finally Malbec for its earthy and expressive personality.
- Varietals: 30% Cabernet Sauvignon, 28% Petit Verdot, 21% Merlot, 21% Malbec
- Vineyards: McKinley Springs Vineyards / Alder Ridge Vineyards
- Appellation: Horse Heaven Hills
- Barrel: 90% French / 10% American (40% new / 60% two-year-old)
- Time in Barrel: 10 months
- Bottled: August 2009
Syncline Wine Cellars
Probably one of the more talked about wineries in the Columbia Gorge, Syncline Wine Cellars offers many wines in their collection. Some of their wines are blended with grapes you may or may not be familiar with: Cinsault, Counoise, Carignan just to name a few. I found most of their wines to be light and have a very european feel to them. If you’re looking for wines that you can hold onto or drink immediately, this is the winery for you.
The tasting room is very large and was busy during my visit. I was greeted by Georgia and Sara who were very pleasant and fun to talk to. I had the opportunity of taking home 3 wines on my visit. I would’ve taken home more, but it was only the beginning of my trip 🙂
Syncline Wine Cellars 2009 Rosé
Following our faith in Rhone varietals, this Rosé is in direct response to our fascination with hedonistic country wines. Immediately striking with pale water-melon color, the aromas practically leap from the glass. A medley of different grapes yield a full satisfying dry wine: The Cinsault base gives the unmistakable aroma of rose water and violets, Grenache gives juicy strawberry and musky watermelon rind aromas and flavors, Mourvedre sends its characteristic spice to the mix, Counoise and Carignan bring fresh acidity and ripe berry notes. Finishing completely dry, this is as serious as rosé gets.
Appellation: Horse Heaven Hills and Wahluke Slope, Columbia Valley
Varietals: 37% Cinsault / 35% Counoise / 12% Grenache / 11% Mourvedre / 5% Carignan
I picked this wine up in my belief that it will develop quite nicely over time. The blend on this wine is unlike anything I have tried or have in my collection. It was a very subtle wine and had a good balance. I’m looking forward to opening this bottle sometime next year or the year after that.
Syncline Wine Cellars 2008 Roussanne
Unfortunately, the tasting notes for the 2008 Roussanne are unavailable, but here are the 2009 tasting notes to give you an idea on the wine. I’ve always enjoyed Roussanne wines from Washington State and this was among my favorites. The nose on this wine was very nice and the flavors came through very nicely. Definitely one for the summer time or to be enjoyed with a nice dinner.
Syncline Wine Cellars 2008 Subduction Red
Long inspired by the wines of the Southern Rhone Valley, this is our answer to a Washington version of a Cotes-du-Rhone Villages wine. Ripe and hedonistic, this wine displays vivid ruby color with varying degrees of purple-black. This is a blend of classic southern French varieties that are unique and expressive on their own; yet each contributes to create a harmonious whole. Bold and seductive, this wine exhibits ripe raspberry, violet and game aromas, with juicy plum flavors. The bright, supple finish and pleasing fruit-filled mouthfeel make Subduction Red adaptable to many foods and occasions.
Appellation: Columbia Valley (80%Horse Heaven, 20% Wahluke Slope)
Varietals: 26% Grenache / 25% Syrah / 24% Cinsault / 12% Mourvedre / 9% Counoise / 4% Carignan
This was one of my favorite wines during the tasting. Just look at that blend of varietals above 🙂
Overlooking the Hood River is Memaloose Winery. Driving up to the winery, I noticed the great views of the river and the high winds in the area. It’s very unique and definitely worth the visit. As I was getting out of the car, I was greeted by a curious, 4 legged friend:
Wine dogs are just so entertaining 😉 Inside the winery, I was greeted by Rob who was quite knowledgable about the region and quite friendly. Memaloose had 4 wines at the time and was barrel tasting a 5th wine. Now they carry 6 wines. All their wines have a european feel to them and weren’t high on alcohol volume. I only took one wine home, but I would’ve taken home two if the other one was available at the time:
Memaloose 2008 Rosé of Tempranillo
Unfortunately there are no tasting notes available for this wine. I can tell you that it was a very pleasant rosé that you can enjoy during those summer months. As their tag line suggests, Memaloose wines go well with food.
My last stop on day one, and my favorite, was Domaine Pouillon. This winery focuses on Rhone style blends. I had the pleasure of hanging out with the winemakers while I listened to some classics on their antique record player. The feel of this winery is very warm & inviting and I highly suggest taking a visit. I tasted through all their wines and I wound up taking these home:
Domaine Pouillon 2008 Deux
Double Gold, Seattle Wine Awards, May 2010
Unfortunately there are no tasting notes for this wine, but here are the stats:
Columbia Valley AVA
Source: Brehm Vineyards & Coyote Canyon Vineyard
57% Chardonnay 43% Viognier
Cases Produced: 199 ABV: 13.8%
This is an excellent wine that you can have with a nice dinner or it can stand alone. I’ll be looking forward to trying out the 2009 vintage in the spring. To give you an idea, here are the tasting notes for the 2009 vintage.
Horse Heaven Hills AVA
Source: McKinley Springs Vineyard & Coyote Canyon Vineyard
35% Grenache 25% Syrah 30% Zinfandel 10% Cabernet Sauvignon
Cases Produced: 352 ABV: 14%
“The nose of Black Dot delights with hits of curry spices, licorice, and blueberries. This wine has a balanced tannin structure with an extremely long and nuanced finish of marionberries, anise, and earth.
The blend for Black Dot changes every year. This wine is blended by spirit and flavor, (we’re always trying to recreate the first magical vintage that contained grape varieties that no one can seem remember). An experiment in non-conventional winemaking, Black Dot proudly breaks the rules.”
The first words out of my mouth when I tried this wine were, “DAMN!” I was really impressed by the flavor of this wine, it was quite unique. This wine has a lot of depth and its worth holding on to.
After a long day of tasting, it was time for me to head back to my hotel and rest up for the Willamette Valley portion of the trip. Overall, it was a great day of wine tasting and I will be looking forward to my next visit on the Washington side of the Columbia Gorge.