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Three Winemakers You Want to Know

Zach's 93 Point Wine Spectator Syrah

Remy's Under $25 Italian Inspired Reds

Justin's Allobroges Red - Under $25 and Memorable

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If you like the northwest's big red wines at around $30 or less, you want to know these three winemakers.


Zach Brettler of SYZYGY, Remy Drabkin of Remy Wines, and Justin Neufeld at Gilbert Cellars are all independent winemakers with impressive big reds at the best prices.

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Zach Brettler's SYZYGY




SYZYGY (pronounced Siz-eh-gee) means "a moment of perfect alignment among three celestial bodies, such as during a total eclipse". SYZYGY owner and winemaker Zach Brettler (at right) is an astronomy buff, thus the name. SYZYGY could also mean "hidden gems" - small amounts of especially good red wines from an insider's winery. His Syrah celebrates its second year in a row with a score of 93 points from Wine Spectator.

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Walla Walla Syrah 06 $32.95/$29.66

Wine Spectator 93 points
August 12, 2009

"Supple, seductive and explosive with its beautiful plum, huckleberry, cream and white pepper flavors that glide easily over a bed of polished tannins, lingering on the expressive finish. Drink now through 2013. 370 cases made." - HS


Beautiful ripe fruit and spice, balanced acidity and some nice tannins to back it all up. Have some patience and lay her down for a while or be sure to uncork it ahead of drinking - if you just can't wait! 370 cases produced, 100% Syrah, from the Walla Walla vineyards Seven Hills, Morrison Lane, and Les Collines.


Avalon Wine Syzygy
Red Wine 06
Excellent Value

This wine is a bit different each year - consistently delivering on its intention to be a delicious "early drinker", but with the complexity to age for some years as well.


Syrah shines through on this wine - as it is more Syrah based than recent vintages. It does not stop there, however, as layers of complexity unfold with Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon adding some darker fruit and soft silky tannins, then all elements intertwine with the essence of Malbec's spice to linger on the pallet.


580 cases produced, 56% Syrah, 20% Merlot, 13% Cabernet Sauvignon and 11% Malbec. From the Conner Lee, Wallula, Spofford Station, Minnick Hills and Stone Valley Vineyards.


"A beautifully smooth [wine] with with blueberry and huckleberry on the taste. The nose is marked by white pepper, blueberry, and toast." - wawinereport.com


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Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley 06

Produced from Sagemoor (34 year old vines), Conner Lee (19 year old vines) and Klipsun's spectacular Red Mountain vineyard. This year there is also fruit from the gorgeous Wallula Vineyard, located in the Horse Heaven Hills appellation. Approachable now, but will develop wonderfully for years to come. Best held to 2010 and later.


"I first tasted this at the winery with Zach Brettler, and it came on as a sexy Cabernet offering a ripe berry nose with cassis and oriental incense, and deliciously well-wrought flavors. It had been open only ten minutes, so Zach gave me the bottle to take home.


At lunch an hour later, it opened up to sultry aromas of black cherry, huckleberry and crushed roses with a voluptuous dark fruit entry, followed by an intermixture of chewy fruits, mocha, licorice, roast coffee and minerally earth, culminating in a lingering chewy tannin finish. I suspect it will get even better". Rand Sealey's "Review of WA Wines". 19+/20 Point System

Justin Neufeld's Gilbert Cellars

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Gilbert Cellars' Justin Neufeld studied under Doug Gore, winemaker at Columbia Crest and one of Washington's best. He's making some big balanced red lip smackers. When we tried his wines at the store, everyone within hearing insisted on trying them as well, we were making such loud sounds of delight.


The Gilbert Cellars Claret is a no-brainer for Mark Ryan followers- same huge, boisterous, aggressive profile.


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Gilbert Cellars Claret 06

Mark Ryan fans will love this wine. Scents of dried cherries and sweet cedar open to big big flavors of cherry, leather, pipe tobacco, dried fruit, licorice, and meaty tannins. Boisterous and aggressive, this is a wine to have with a big hunk of grilled meat. 74% Cabernet Sauvignon, 12% Merlot, 8% Malbec, 5% Petit Verdot, 1% Cabernet Franc


Gilbert Cellars Allobroges 06

Syrah (60%) Grenache (22%) Mourvedre (18%) - medium to full bodied - sweet berry, plum, & cherry with a hint of incense oak.


Bright aromatics, luscious texture and pure fruit arise from this Rhone-style blend from four vineyards in the Columbia Valley. Syrah and Mourvedre from the Olsen Vineyard add richness to the palate, red cherry flavored Grenache from Ciel du Cheval Vineyard and the winery's estate Sunrise Vineyard brighten the finish and enhance the aromatics. Syrah from the winery's estate adds fleshy dark cherry fruit for a decadent ending.

Remy Drabkin's Remy Wines


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Remy Wines' 27 year-old Remy Drabkin (at right) makes Italian inspired wines in the Pinot-centric Oregon Willamette Valley. Sangiovese, Cannonau, Barbera, and Lagrein are some of the varietals she uses in making her polished wines.


Remy's "Three Wives" label is grabbed up by Portland locals and is rarely sold outside the city. Her Syrah 07 and Cabernet Sauvignon 07 are especially popular "house wines" at a few lucky Portland restaurants.


Remy's Remy label now includes a 100% Lagrein red wine - she buys the only acre of Lagrein grapes grown in the Pacific Northwest and makes a fascinating, huge red that tastes like nothing else. It's pricey, but memorable.


Remy Wines
Three Wives Cabernet Sauvignon 07

Remy's remarkably approachable and delicious under $20 wine.
Black cherry, toast, and smooth vanilla oak of a Washington Cabernet are here, with enough juicy berry acidity to add freshness. Nicely smooth and full bodied, it's ready to drink. 100% Red Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon.


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Remy Wines
Syrah 07

Yet again - big value, big wine

Big yet balanced, another of Remy's remarkable values. Classic northwest Syrah with lots of black cherry and plum flavors, some layered minerals and earth, and an appealing finish with soft vanilla toast and more cherries, juicy and fresh.


Tasting Remy's Syrah with friends, they kept comparing it to similar wines they liked - and noticed the other wines all sold for twice the price.


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Remy Wines
Three Wives Red 07

Very limited - 2 cases left

Intriguingly new and subtly different, the Lagrein grape adds something unique to this captivating wine. Sweet blueberry and dark plum flavors are invigorated by juicy acidity and dried roses. There is a hint of sweet cedar, black pepper, and some woodsy notes in the finish.


50% Syrah, 13% Sangiovese, and 37% Lagrein.


Lagrein? The Lagrein grape is grown almost exclusively in the Alto Adige region in northwestern Italy. Remy gets her grapes from the one vineyard in the northwest where it is grown, Illahe Vineyards. Illahe has one acre of mature Lagrein vines, sold exclusively to Remy. They call it "an unsung hero of northern Italy, this red is packed with color, tannin, and deep, sultry aromas." In Italy, it is often used as a blending grape with Pinot noir.


There is also a very limited Remy Wines Lagrein 06 $59.95/$53.95.

New on the Avalon Wine Blog

for 8-24-09
Remy Wines' Lagrein - One Acre of Pacific Northwest Italian Fascination
Monsters of Oregon Wine - Sineann - Made by Peter Rosback
Spindrift Cellars Reserve Pinot noir 06, Riesling 08
Paul Champoux recovering from West Nile Virus
Updated Wines - Eyrie, Mark Ryan, Crowley, Remy, Va Piano, Buty
New Generation, Old School - Back to Basics Pinot noir
2006 Vintage Big Reds at 2001 Prices

Recent Avalon Wine Newsletters and Articles


8-23 Laura Volkman Vineyards:
"She clears the land and plants a vineyard"
by Rusty Gaffney, Avalon Wine Guest Columnist

8-19 2008 Sineann Pinot noirs & Old Vine Zinfandel

8-12 Pinot noir - New Generation, Old School

8-7 Oregon's Italian Connection - Barbera

8-3 Andrew Will Older Vintage Sale

8-1 Shea Vineyard - New Penner-Ash,
Shea Wine Cellars, Panther Creek, Raptor Ridge

7-23 Westrey Wines - Taking the Long View

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