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New NW Wine Releases
Value NW Reds
For August 25, 2005
by Jean Yates

Well there's no doubt about it - you can get more high quality big red wine 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.

In 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 to $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 are. YOW!

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.

Russell 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.

Wine Spectator gave the 2002 vintage 91 points and said: "Supple and generous, simply delicious; a plush mouthful of spicy raspberry, plum and cherry flavors shaded 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)



If you like the Syrahs of Cayuse and K Vintners, you'll be interested in the
Zerba Cellars Walla Walla Syrah 03 $26.05/$28.95.

The wine is made from fruit grown on the Oregon side of the Walla Walla Valley, in the section called "The Rocks".

"The 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.

Turns out 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 vineyards.

Enter Zerba - Cecil and Marilyn Zerba owned a big piece of "The Rocks" before 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 acidity than the huge, plush Cayuse wines.

Flavors of red fruit, both cherries and raspberries, are mixed with a distinct earthy, 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.

Zerba 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 soft."


Syzygy 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, complete wines.

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.

The Good Value Wines of Owen Roe & Sineann


David O'Reilly and Jerry Owen contemplate
their newly purchased vineyard

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 and on 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 bacon fat and desert herb hit that goes so well with dark meats. This is a wine that will have everyone asking for more, again and again, 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 $16.16/$17.95
Jezebel is the second label for Sineann and Daedalus. Peter Rosback (Sineann) made this wine with Aron Hess (Daedalus Cellars). An unusual blend that really works, the wine is composed 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 through 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!

Andrew 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."

One 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 backbone. 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


Article Sections

Introduction Page

Value Pinot noirs -
You Don't Have to Spend a Lot

Oregon's Finest Pinot noir
New Releases for Fall 2005

Value Northwest Reds-
Up-and-Comers and Old Timers

Classic Reds
New Releases for Fall 2005

My Kitchen Sink
What we are Drinking -
bottles on the drainboard

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New section- under $20 Pinot noirs
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