Last month I covered several of the more popular Rhône varietals that have found their way into Washington vineyards. Since then, I’ve been on a mission to search out, taste, and come up with specific recommendations of wines produced from the varietals that I think you’ll enjoy.
The only problem I encountered was narrowing down the list of superb wines I tasted in an effort to give you the best of the best.
To refresh your memory, a Rhône varietal is one of 22 grapes sanctioned by the French government for wine production within that country’s Rhône Valley. Of those, the top six varietals now grown in Washington are syrah, viognier, grenache, roussanne, marsanne, and mourvèdre.
Now, my recommendations:
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Corvidae Wine Company 2011 Syrah (about $16) – Gorgeous black cherry flavors stand out with undertones of gamey meats and subtle, sultry spices on a silky-soft finish. This overachieving, entry-level selection from Owen Roe Winery delivers from start to finish and is a classic example of excellent winemaking during a challenging vintage year. The 2012 vintage of the wine is now also currently available.
Cougar Crest Estate Winery 2013 Viognier (about $22) – Sourced from Walla Walla Valley estate vineyards, this wine’s big aromatics of lemon and key lime are matched with honeydew melon flavors and bold tropical fruits of mango, papaya and pineapple. The finish is slightly plump with a borderline-sweet trailing note.
Maryhill Winery 2009 Syrah (about $22) – This older vintage syrah is still available and drinking beautifully. Honey graham and vanilla bean aromas, a mouthful of dark cherry fruits on the mid-palate, and a lengthy finish with accents of caramel and black licorice highlight this fine effort.
Lookout Point Winery 2011 Grenache (about $24) – There’s a nice fleshy quality to this wine, while at the same time brighter strawberry, red currant and pomegranate flavors come through on the finish along with a spritz of white pepper. Keep your eye on winemaker George Petzinger, who is really hitting his stride with this micro-boutique winery that operates from a cozy tasting room in downtown Yakima.
Forgeron Cellars 2013 Façon Blanc (about $25) – This tasty blend of four white Rhône varietals – roussanne, grenache blanc, viognier, and marsanne – is filled with mouthwatering white peach and apricot flavors that transition into crisp, vibrant citrus while maintaining a full-bodied quality. Another stunning effort from Walla Walla winemaker Marie-Eve Gilla.
Maryhill Winery 2011 Marvel ~ GSM (about $40) – What more can one say about this highly decorated wine that was Great Northwest Wine’s 2014 Wine of the Year? Grenache, syrah and mourvèdre converge in this red blend with smoky, pepper bacon on the nose, understated mincemeat and fig flavors and, when decanted for several hours, a soft, chocolaty finish. Truly a phenomenal wine worth savoring.