there's no doubt about it - you can get more high quality big
for fewer bucks than a few years ago. A combination of competition
between a large number of new and established wineries, and
the flood of imports, particularly from Australia, has had
a positive impact for consumers.
Oregon, we're seeing more and more customers who
don't want to spend $50
anymore for an outstanding wine. They want to spend $35 or
less, and they expect a really good wine for that price.
And they are getting it. Here are NW wines ranging from $12
$30 with exceptional value/quality/price.
Tillie Claret $14.35/$15.95
The story behind this winery is almost as intriguing as this
total bargain priced Bordeaux blend. The winery is in the heart
of the Ribbon Ridge, nestled between Bergstrom and Brick House,
just down the road from Penner Ash and Beaux Freres. The Looney
family live on Darlene's family farm, one of the oldest in the
area. Ed and Darlene recently planted this vineyard and have
just released two wines. Tillie is their Red blend.
When Ed came by the store
early this year to see what we thought about the wine, Marcus
called me as soon as he left and said
- "we've got to get this wine". It wasn't labeled,
Ed had just brought it by to see what we thought, so we couldn't
buy it, but we kept remembering the wine and worrying that we'd
miss out. Then Ed showed up at the store one day, and here we
We mostly sell this wine at our store, as local customers grab
it up as soon as it comes in. It's a big, fruity, blend of estate
grown and Washington Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot,
and Petit Verdot. It's ready to drink now, a lush and satisfying
big red for summer grilling and sipping. It has a great balance
of succulent, lavish black fruit, fine tannins, and an exuberant,
lively finish. Everybody likes this wine, then they see the price,
and they LOVE it.
Creek "Tributary" Red
Wine 03 $17.77/$19.75
This is one of the best deals in the sometimes pricey Walla Walla Valley. It's
a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Syrah from six different vineyards
by Russell Creek winemaker and owner Larry Krivoshein.
Spectator gave the 2002 vintage 91 points and said: "Supple
and generous, simply delicious; a plush mouthful of spicy raspberry, plum
nicely with hints of mushroom and tomato stalk, all of it lingering gently
on the finish. Tannins are unobtrusive. Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. Drink
now through 2010." (HS)
WELL PRICED WINE
FROM "THE ROCKS" ... ROCKS
The wine is made from fruit grown on the Oregon side of
the Walla Walla Valley, in the section called "The Rocks".
Rocks" is an area of former river bottom on the Oregon side
of the Columbia where the ground is completely covered with water
washed circular rocks. It was formerly riverbed, and years and years
of erosion have created wide flat beaches of river rock. It's the
part of Walla Walla that was discovered by Christophe Baron,
of Cayuse, who started planting grapes there, to the derisive
laughter of some of Walla Walla's most established winemakers.
As you all know, those guys were soon eating their words.
that "The Rocks" grow incredible Syrah grapes, as evinced
by the Wine Spectator scores of Cayuse wines over the last few
years. Cayuse's Cailloux Vineyard is there,
and I hear that Cayuse is building their winery on the Oregon
side of the
Walla Walla region to stay in close proximity to their rocky
Zerba - Cecil and Marilyn Zerba owned a big piece of "The
Cayuse arrived, and started a vineyard in 2001, spurred on
by Christophe. Their Winesap Vineyard is the
source for their 2003 Syrah. The wine is not as big as the
Cayuse wines - it's medium bodied and elegant, with a tad more
than the huge, plush Cayuse wines.
of red fruit, both cherries and raspberries, are mixed with a
minerally character, along with toasted fresh ground coffee,
mocha, and a caramel quality that runs through all of the
Zerba wines (a characteristic of the Winesap Vineyard?) The wine
is aged in 2-3 year old American oak, and the vineyard was
cropped to less than 2.5 tons per acre, The vineyard is quite
young, and the wine, delicious and fascinating, is also interesting
for its tremendous promise for the future.
Cellars Merlot 02 $22.95/$25.50
Cole Danehower's Oregon Wine Report recently gave this "barely
Oregon" wine an A- (quite a high score for his newsletter).
The wine is made from fruit grown in the Oregon side of the Walla Walla Valley,
in the section called "The Rocks". Cole
has this to say about the Zerba Cellars Merlot: "Full
dark maroon color. Piercingly clear aromas of boysenberry fruit shine out from
ancillary notes of ground coffee, barrel spice, and lavender potpourri. Fresh
in the mouth, the wine has forward sweet wild blue and black berry fruit flavors,
accented by nuances of toffee and roses. Brick acidity gives the wine a delightfully
fresh feel, and controlled tannins help frame the wine in the mouth - though
they also create a dusty feel that lingers on the finish. Even so, the finish
retains excellent fruitiness, and the lingering pucker of the tannins is relatively
Syrah 03 $26.95/29.95 At a recent tasting of Walla Walla wines, this small,
new winery really stood out from the rest. Going around the event,
trying wines from new and established wineries, this
wine just kept drawing us back for more. Winemaker Zach
Brettler has a knack for producing really balanced, nuanced,
In the nose,
the wines has characteristic meaty, toasty notes underlying
the dominant black cherry scent. The flavor is lush and soft,
with initial flavors of black cherry and black berry, followed
by an explosively spicy hit of blackberry pie. The wine is
generous and concentrated, meaty, dense, with full bodied flavors
and hints of smoke, licorice, and cherry liquor. Everything
is just as it should be in this wine, it has a copious amount
of fruit, yet the balance of fruit, tannin, and acid is exceptional.
We predict great reviews for this new wine and eagerly look
forward to Zach's future wines.
Good Value Wines of Owen Roe & Sineann
David O'Reilly and Jerry Owen contemplate
their newly purchased
For intriguing, delicious wine made
from unusual blends of varietals, look no further than the combined
genius of David O'Reilly and Peter Rosback. Customers who've
followed Avalon for awhile know that we adore their wines. When
you buy Owen Roe, Sineann, Jezebel, or O'Reilly, you get it all.
The wine making methods are impeccable, the attention to the
vineyard fanatical, and the flavors are innovative and always
delectable. David and Peter make quite a range of wines, with
David's labels including Owen Roe, O'Reilly, and Sharecroppers,
and Peter's labels including Sineann, Jezebel, and Medici. Here
are their "best Value" wines, all under $30.
Owen Roe Sinister Hand 04 $21.55/$24
Yumm, in a word. It's a blend of Syrah 32%, Grenache 36%, Mourvedre
22%, and Counoise 10%. This wine sings so many notes. I can
write about the scent of spicy carnation flowers in the nose
the palate (Marcus calls it Tellicherry peppercorn). The flavors
just keep changing in the mouth, from sweet red pie cherry
grenache to black plum and blackberry, to that country French
and desert herb hit that goes so well with dark meats. This
is a wine that will have everyone asking for more, again and
as the wine opens and changes and they explore the tantalizing,
shifting flavors. It's so different. Really a refreshing change
from Cab blends or Syrah.
Here's Marcus's take on the
Owen Roe Sinister Hand: "The
2004 Owen Roe Sinister Hand is a true stand-out. The first swirl
revealed classic floral grenache aromatics. Sweet, dark blackberries
and red licorice notes filled the palette, with a hint of bacon
and spicy peppercorns on the finish. I really like this wine!"
Owen Roe Abbot's Table 04 $18.86/$20.95
More than half of the blend of Abbot’s Table is the
Bordeaux varieties of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet
Franc - it’s the non-traditional Zinfandel, Pinot Noir,
Grenache, and Syrah that make this wine so drinkable. Its
a combination of 44% Cabernet Sauvignon, 13.6% Syrah, 13%
Merlot, 9% Cabernet Franc, 8% Zinfandel, 4.5% Grenache, 3.4%
Malbec, 3% Pinot Noir, and 1.5% Counoise.
We tasted the wine at the store again yesterday, and have
to say, it's really something. Initially, I was pleased by
the red raspberry in the nose, the full, rounded quality
of the flavors, the hints of smoke and spice, the long finish,
and the way the Zinfandel adds a lush quality. As the wine
opened up in my glass, it kept changing. The range of grape
types kept the scent and flavors changing constantly, and
it just won me over. It's still young, and the next year
will make the wine even better, if anyone can hold on to
it that long. Yes, I agree with our customers who stock up
on multiple cases of this wine. It's fascinating, and continues
to fascinate over time.
Jezebel "Rouge" 03
Jezebel is the second label for Sineann and Daedalus.
Peter Rosback (Sineann) made this wine with Aron Hess (Daedalus
Cellars). An unusual
of 32% Cabernet Franc, 28% Cabernet Sauvignon, 14% Merlot,
14% Pinot Noir, 8% Syrah and 4% Zinfandel. Impenetrable dark
red in color, scents of dried cranberry, black raspberry,
and cinnamon are complemented by flavors of sweet and spicy
blackberry, raspberry, currant, red plum, cinnamon, spice,
and sweet cherry. Just when you think the wine might
me a tad too gushingly fruity and soft, the Pinot noir pops
to add backbone and fine, totally integrated tannins. I love
the gushing sweet fruit, tempered by the dark notes of Cab
Franc and Pinot to make a balance that goes with food and
keeps on pleasing throughout a meal. Such a deal at this
price, a fun wine to offer to friends. I wonder if they can
name the varietals in this wine!
Andrew Will at Under $30? Yes!
Will Sangiovese 03 $26.99/$29.99
Winemaker Chris Camarda (aat left) says: "This wine is
adorable, immediately lovable. The wine is giving with a lingering
and satisfying finish. The nose is filled
with dried currant and spice. While the core of the wine is firm and pliable,
it still has the structure to age. The fruit is from Ciel Du Cheval. This is
a medium bodied wine with a sexy appeal."
of the few NW Sangioveses with something there that makes
it worth buying, the Andrew Will wine is priced reasonably
for what it delivers. Don't expect a Chianti Classico-
this is pure New World Sangiovese- but there is varietal
character in the dried fruit and spice notes, and the strong
But it is quite different from an Italian Sangiovese. Intriguing,
interesting, and for some wine lovers, a real winner. Just
depends - try it, it might be just the "something
different" for you!
About Jean Yates
Jean Yates is owner of Avalon Wine,
and has worked to promote Oregon and Washington wine for over
19 years through her wine shop, web site, and articles.
Jean previously worked in the
computer industry and does most of the work on the Avalon website.
She is a passionate photographer and many of the images on this
site are hers