While it may seem like I took the summer off, I’ve actually been hard at work researching and sipping wines all season. The theme of this list reflects my many wine events and travels throughout the summer from Celebrate Walla Walla, my birthday bash, a family road trip to Utah, the International Pinot Noir Celebration in the Willamette Valley, and a local farm dinner.
Cayuse Armada Vineyard Syrah 2010
(Walla Walla Valley; $85)
This summer, Walla Walla celebrated Syrah and I was lucky enough to do a full tasting at Cayuse Vineyards. Vigneron Christophe Baron was the first to recognize the potential of Walla Walla’s alluvial stones for growing Rhone varietal grapes. This Syrah exhibits the region’s pronounced funk on the nose with dark red fruit and prosciutto on the palate plus briny olive tapenade, crushed rock, and even some cacao. Assistant Vigneronne Elizabeth Bourcier gave it the funny description of “nervous, twitchy, and savory” but my notes simply said “amazing” with three bold underlines.
Upsidedown Rescue Rosé 2016
(Washington State; $18)
Pale in color and bone dry, I popped a bottle of this rosé of Nebbiolo open on my birthday while the pizzas were grilling. My guests loved the slightly effervescent strawberry notes so much, the bottle was gone in a flash. Note to self, buy a case next year – especially since 20% of the proceeds go to local animal rescue organizations.
Tendril White Label Chardonnay 2013
(Willamette Valley; $40)
After an exceptionally long day with the kids driving from Oregon to Park City, Utah, I treated myself to a luxurious bubble bath in our modest 4-story “cottage” at Silver Star. I locked the door, turned up the music, sipped this bright vibrant Chardonnay, and let those hours in the car slip away. The bouquet dances with citrus of many colors – lemon, key lime, blood orange – and some vanilla from the French oak barrels. All that citrus made my mouth water and was accompanied by green apple and kiwi on the palate. Sip and repeat.
Fletcher Bay Malbec 2015
(Yakima Valley; $32)
With a bulk of our family road trip behind us, I found myself in a mediocre Salt Lake City hotel room with deadlines looming and a pile of work to accomplish while the family grabbed dinner. Thankfully, I had this bottle of Malbec left in my cache to keep me company. Black cherry, cedar, and spice livened up my palate with moderate tannins that kept me pouring “just another sip.” It would have gone great with a char-grilled skirt steak, but I made do with the last pack of goldfish that had mostly turned to crumbs due to the thousands of miles in the car.
Phelps Creek Vineyards Cuvée Alexandrine Pinot Noir 2014
(Columbia Gorge; $54)
The theme of this year’s IPNC was “The French Connection” meaning the panel discussion featured French winemakers that work with Oregon fruit. Alexandrine Roy, a fourth-generation Burgundian winemaker, works with select barrels at Phelps Creek in the Columbia Gorge AVA to produce a truly exceptional Pinot Noir. Smoky aromas of pepper, tea, and red fruit lead to raspberry and forest floor on this complex but light-bodied wine. Good tannin structure and acidity mean this wine will be good for years to come.
Matthews Winery Merlot 2013
(Columbia Valley; $55)
I had the pleasure of attending a Matthews Winery Farm Dinner in August featuring produce grown onsite in Woodinville. While there were many unforgettable moments on the plate, it was this Merlot that sunk its teeth in and won’t let go. A blend of 76% Merlot and 24% Cabernet Franc, it has rich dark plum, raspberry, and licorice aromas with a perfectly balanced tannin structure and juicy acidity. It was a knockout with the steak.