Seattle Wine Blog

This blog is dedicated to commentary on all aspects of wine, especially short entries to help you find the best wines without the usual hype and spin. These are my frank, independent opinions, usually based on tasting wine at a public event, off the shelf or at the winery. "All creative acts must arise out of a specific soil and flicker with a spirit of place" -D.H. Lawrence

Monday, September 28, 2009

The Gorge II

We actually visited the Washington side of the Gorge first and we started from the east. Maryhill was the first stop. Perhaps more infamous for rock concerts, Maryhill winery is a destination tourist site. Spectacular views, delicious BBQ and a wide selection of wines invite a picnic. We tasted through almost the entire selection of bottles. The 2007 Gewurz was another classic with tastes of pears & peaches, again, perfectly balanced. The 2005 Sangiovese Classic is indeed a classic Chianti-like version with a smokey, leathery nose and tangy fruit. Close your eyes and you are in Tuscany.The 2006 Syrah Classic was medium to light bodied with the taste of marionberries. The '07 Winemakers Red is light round and fruity with a smokey leathery nose, too. At $14 a bottle it is a great wine for your picnic. The 2006 Zinfandel Reserve with 1.5% residual sugar taste like a light Port. Interesting, but hard to pair with food - blue cheese, maybe. The 2007 Muscat Canelli is sweet and flavorful, but not too sweet - an excellent dessert wine. Overall Maryhill offers something for everybody, even though the average profile is fairly light bodied and fruity. Be sure not to miss the Maryhill Museum nearby. We stopped at Cascade Cliffs where Barbera is the thing - soft fruity and friendly - maybe the best Barbera we've tasted. We also got a sip of Naked Chardonnay from across the river in Hood River. I guess they have a bottle exchange program or something.

On to Syncline winery in Lyle. Following various back roads with the navigational help of Kathy we ended up in sort of a hollow with a house, barn-like structure, various outbuildings and vines growing outback. James & Poppie Mantone were on hand along with two very able pourers and the winery dog. Although most of the grapes are sourced from Horse Heaven Hills and the Columbia Valley, this was a nice setting in which to taste wine. As usual the excellent Mouvedre was sold out. All of the wines were excellent , though the 2007 Syrah was a little disappointing after the 2006. The 2008 Subduction White is a blend of 42% Chardonnay, 30% Roussanne, and 28% Viognier. The 2008 Viognier was pleasingly dry, round, and fruity with a hint of citrus in the finish. The '08 Roussanne had a wonderful hint of walnut in the nose and excellent acid balance. The 2007 Cuvee Elena was the Tovey's fave - a complex, but smooth blend of 70% Grenache, 17% Mourvedre, 9% Carignane, 2% Cinsault, and 2% Syrah leaves only eight varietals to go for the mythical thirteen of Chateauneuf- du- Papes. This time around I preferred the McKinley vineyard designate Syrah over the regular Syrah, but the mindblower was the 2007 Steep Creek blend of 61% Syrah, 24% Grenache & 5% Mourvedre. Steep Creek is big and complex with tastes of cranberry, spice, pepper and nutmeg on an earthy base. Of all the Rhone Rangers, James may be the Lone Ranger himself. Whoa!

James recommended Cor winery, but the tasting room guy was a wiseguy and the wines weren't very good. Turn left onto Canyon Road, right on Lyle Snowdon Road to Domaine Pouillon. Where we tasted a number of excellent wines. We liked the 2007 Blanc du Moulin, a Roussanne/ Viognier Blend, the 2007 Black Dot, a Rhone style red blend and the medium bodied Cab/Syrah blend, but 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon Barrel Select 100% Cab knocked our socks off - big spectacular and complex everything you could hope for in a Cab. The proud owners hope it spotlights Columbia Gorge Cab, but in fact the grapes were sourced from the Columbia Valley. Is it Mistral Ranch or McCormick Family or Memeloose? Apparently, Mistral Ranch is owned by the McCormick family who produce Memeloose wine. Did I get it right? No matter! We finally found the winery on its spectacular perch above the Gorge. We talked with the father, but apparently the son makes the wine. The vineyards are on both sides of the river. The wines were good but a little lighter than we like. We particularly liked the Idiot's Grace Cab Franc and the Pinot Noir. To us, this winery represents the current state of the Columbia Gorge and its future - lots of potential. Phelps Creek in Oregon and Syncline in Washington show what can be done.


  • At 12:52 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    In Cascade Cliffs Vineyard & Winery there is always more than "The Best of the Best" Barbera... Besides all their fruity wines...There are incredible views to Mt. Adams, to the River, Cliffs and an impressive Vineyard... Along with the informative folks who enlight you with their knowledge of wine ensuring a sensational experience you'll nver forget.

  • At 11:21 AM, Anonymous Rob McCormick said…

    Just a point of clarification...The AVA for Columbia Gorge extends east to Lyle on the Washington side and to the western edge of The Dalles on the Oregon side. Many folks are confused about this. The Columbia Valley AVA takes over east of the above, so wineries such as Maryhill and Cascade Cliffs are in the Columbia Valley AVA.

    For those wanting to experience the taste of grapes from the Gorge AVA, they should look for that appelation on the label. Many of the wines in our area are labeled "Columbia Valley" (or AVA's further east). The Gorge is a loose term, and can refer to the scenic area boundaries or much more. Just a distinction that might be worthy of mention.

  • At 11:28 AM, Blogger Gene Stein, Ph.D. said…

    Thanks for the clarification, Rob
    It's bad enough that the appelation is in two states. Gene

  • At 7:19 PM, Anonymous Fenton said…

    You did not elaborate on your comment on the COR winery in Lyle, WA, in your Gorge II Post, but I have observed and followed them over the past 3 years. I have never had a bad tasting experience or a bad glass of wine. They create a blend with Celilo grapes called Alba Cor that is a fine, dry white. COR makes a dry SB and Riesling from Gorge Grapes, some from their own vineyard. The COR grower contended and I have come to agree, the Gorge has a unique climate and terrain that can produce complex white wines. I had their SB and Klickitat River steelhead recently and can still taste it!

  • At 7:46 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Stopped in at Cascade Cliffs 2/28/10. Enjoyed the nebbiolo and barbera a lot. His two red blends (Goat Head and Horse Thief) were also good and at a much lower price point. We were on a tight budget so only bought the nebbiolo this time.


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