The Gorge II
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.