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House Wine for YOUR House-
A Guide to the best NW values for stocking the cellar

by Jean Yates

Fall is here, and a cold beer with barbeque is giving way to inside dinners with a nice glass of wine. If you have a home cellar, you're probably looking for some great value wines at reasonable prices, wines that you can just pull out and enjoy, and if they happen to be delicious, well that's what you expect from Northwest wine.

Here are our finds for the fall season, mostly under $25, and the best will come and go quickly. Big reds to light whites, there are some really great wines from Oregon, Washington, Idaho, and British Columbia this fall.

Famous wineries such as Cadence, Owen Roe, Sheridan, Penner-Ash, Maryhill, and Fidelitas are offering killer yumm everyday red wines. Smaller 2003 and 2004 vintages may not leave enough juice left over to make these wines next fall, so it's also a great time to stock the cellar.



Juicy, Easy Drinking Red Wines, Usually Blends

When the boutique winemakers of the Northwest make their best wines, they go through many barrels, trying dozens of blends of the slightly different new wines from different vineyards, different parts of their vineyards, different types of barrels. They blend their fancy wines from a selection of their available wine, but what to do with the wine that does not "fit" in the recipe?

The answer? Lower priced blends, made to be immediately accessible and drinkable. Here's our choice of the best:

Bergstrom "Red Wine" $18/$16.19
A blend of mostly Cabernet and Syrah from Paso Robles fruit, quite the hit in Portland, where it's the current great value. Rich, fruity, shows that Josh knows how to get the most from many different styles of red grapes.... a slurper.

From the winery: "This pomegranate colored wine is a flavorful blend of Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon from the Paso Robles area of Central California. It possesses rich aromas of burnt cherry, fig and wild strawberries. The wine is generous in the mouth with a cornucopia of red fruit flavors, bright acidity and good tannic structure. Perfect for spring and summer barbecues and seasonal dishes."

Cadence "Coda" Red Wine 02 $23/$20.70
Cadence has made a small amount of Red Table Wine under the "Coda" label, basically it's the juice that did not fit into their Cadence red wines. Great everyday wine for the experienced wine consumer who doesn't want to share the good stuff everyday but who wants something real special with their burgers.

Owen Roe "Sinister Hand" 03 $20/$18
The wine is an exhuberant, lively, juicy blend of syrah, grenache, and other Rhone grapes. There is not the smoky forest fire contribution in this vintage, just a hint of bacon fat and lots and lots of different black fruit and spice flavors. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

Fidelitas Red Table Wine $20/$18
A blend of Cabernet and Merlot, nice fleshy mouth feel, with plum and black fruit flavors, hints of pie spice, undercurrent of cedar and smoky finely delineated tannins. Excellent value. This is the inaugural vintage of Red Table Wine from Fidelitas. The wine has ripe blackcherry and slight herbal, spice notes both in the aroma and on the palate. The wine was aged for eighteen months in both French and American oak barrels. This wine is very approachable upon release and should be consumed quite young.

Sheridan "Kamiakin" Red $20/$18
Sheridan Vineyard is one of Washington's most promising new wineries, and the fruit from its vineyard is in great demand. Here is a bargain priced, huge red blend, just a killer good bundle of big red wine. BEST VALUE. Sheridan Vineyard is regarded as one of the best vineyards in the Yakima Valley, attracting winemakers like Chris Camarda of Andrew Will to purchase the grapes for their best Meritage style reds. This wine is made from the red wine that did not fit Sheridan's blend for the L'Orage Meritage, and it's a delicious, blackish-purple, plummy, smoky, berry fruit bomb with well integrated tannins for balance. Enjoy now - it's ready!

K Vintners House #13/$11.70
Steal of the summer, a big, dense blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc, at such a bargain price, from Charles Smith's iconoclastic, over the top, hedonistic winery. Your spouse will get mad you spent so much money when they try this wine! And then you get to tell them what it cost! The label says "House Wine", with a picture of a house (drawn by a child?)black and white, as usual, K's very, well shall we call it basic, style? Huge bottle of black fruit and toasty oak. Real yummball!

Forgeron Red Table #20/$18
Yes yes yes! Surprisingly rich, juicy, super good deal, Avalon highly recommends this beautifully crafted bargain. A blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Syrah. Marie Eve makes lovely, carefully crafted red wines, and this wine, her "value" bottling, is just a super deal. The nose has mocha and espresso bean hits along with plush plum and bing cherry. The wine is viscous and rich in the mouth, with lots of Cabernet complexity and lively, juicy black fruit. Big, well integrated tannins finish the wine with a hint of spice.

Owen Roe Abbot's Table 03 $23/$20.70
So very very popular, so reasonably priced. One of the hottest selling wines in the Northwest is Owen Roe’s 2002 Abbot’s Table, a blend of seven grape varieties from some of the best Washington and Oregon vineyards.

The wine offers seven different varieties. It has the Bordeaux blends, 31.2 percent Cabernet Sauvignon, 21.7 percent Merlot, and 6 percent Cabernet Franc. But what distinguishes this wine is the 18.3 percent of Zinfandel from old vines, 16 percent Pinot Noir, 5.1 percent Syrah and 1.7 percent of Grenache. It is hearty, but with the different blends, can pair well with all types of food.

Canoe Ridge Red Table $18/$17.10
The winery says: "Don’t be fooled by the name. This is a serious little wine that blends the lighter lots of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot into a delicious, approachable, everyday wine. Our Red Table wine is aged in 75 percent French and 25 percent American oak barrels for 14 months. "

Roxyann Claret $25/$22.50
From the winery: "...our estate blend of 26% Cabernet Sauvignon, 52% Merlot and 22% Cabernet franc that is rich, smooth and concentrated with loads of dark plum, blackberry and dark cherry flavors. Silky-textured and elegant, this wine has a long, pure, flavor-packed finish."

Sokol Blosser Meditrina $20/$18
A red version of their super popular "Evolution", A perfect marriage of Pinot Noir, Syrah and Zinfandel that’s juicy, rich and full of fruit. Open a bottle and say marvelous, magnificent or simply Mmmmmmm. A core of rich, lush raspberry from the Syrah. The Zin brings spice, tannin and structure. And the Pinot Noir brings flowers, earth and elegance. It all adds up to a luscious, juicy, easy-drinking mouthful of red wine that's both bright and vibrant yet round and soft. Great packaging.

Abacela Vintners Blend 01 $17/$15.30
From the Winery: "The 2001 Vintner’s Blend is a remarkable wine. Nine different individual wine varieties are harvested, fermented and cellared separately. The finished blend is a medium weight wine with succulent red and black fruit aroma, spiciness and flavors comprised predominately of Tempranillo, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. We think this wine will be at its peak over the next three to five years.

Pair with dishes such as Schezwan beef stir-fry or grilled pork tenderloin and ricotta cheese with garlic-rosemary foccacia."

Willow Crest "Rockin L" Red $19/$17.10
A LOT of wine for the price. 2002 is fuller, bigger than the 01, still a bargain. Big blended red flavors, a blend of Cab Franc, Syrah, and Pinot gris. Delicious quaffer. All estate fruit. BEST BUY!

This excellent value is 56% Cabernet Franc, 36% Syrah, and 8% Pinot gris. Why Pinot gris? Well, normally Viognier is added in small amounts to enhance complexity and the bouquet. Since the winery didn't have Viognier, but they grow a very highly regarded Pinot gris, they added the gris. And the wine benefits from it- the Pinot gris balanced the tannins and added hints of crisp apple and pear to the scent.

Six Prong 01 $15/$13.50 Made by Charlie Hoppes
Rich and decadent blend, made by super talented winemaker Charlie Hoppes. Huge juicy fruit is balanced with fine tannins and racy acidity. Just a stunner at this price.

Maryhill Fort Rock Red $15/$13.50
Wine Press NW says: "With this red blend Maryhill pays tribute to Lewis & Clark, who floated past the winery’s Columbia Gorge location nearly two centuries ago. It honors the explorers well with its exotic aromas of cherries and sweet pipe tobacco and plush fruit flavors that don’t overemphasize the oak. Mocha and herbal notes mingle with complex spices on the finish. Won gold at the West Coast Wine Competition."

A to Z Claret $17/$15.30
They're best known for their A to Z Pinot noir, but this is a wine to check out. From the winery: "Tasting Notes: Super dark opaque royal color. A huge nose of cassis, graphite, truffles, blackberries, smoke, minerals and tar soar from the glass immediately. Exotic spices, toasty oak, violets and raspberries lend complexity and depth to the aromatics. The attack mirrors the aromatics with concentrated ripe, lush fruit followed in the mid-palette by strong ripe tannins. Built like an ox, the wine barrels through the mouth cutting a wide swath across the tongue and finishes with flavors of fruit and earth that stain the palette with their persistence and power. The wine is a new classic, an Oregon Claret, and showcases the power, succulence and potential of the 2002 vintage in Southern Oregon."

Penner Ash Rubeo Red $20/$18
From the winery: "The 2002 Rubeo is our irreverent blend of Pinot Noir and Syrah. In 2002 we found ourselves with extra Syrah from a vineyard in The Dalles (Columbia River Gorge, Oregon). The result was a wine with a wonderful smokiness and dark rich fruit aroma. We partnered it with some Willamette Valley Pinot Noir to come up with a tasty red blend that has the aroma of Syrah, but the creaminess and integration of a Pinot Noir. We hope you will enjoy this delightful addition to our cellar and maybe someday we ’ll tell you why we call it Rubeo…"


Oregon Pinot Noir - The Hidden Best Buys

Andrew Rich Cuvee B 02 $19/$17.20
Andrew's great value Pinot, the 2002 vintage is by far the best ever, well balanced, beautiful fruit, spice, and hints of vanilla, highly recommended as a "House Wine" for your house.

Jezebel Pinot noir 03 $20/$18
just delicious. Highy recommended. A joint effort of two Oregon winemakers, Aron Hess (Rex Hill) and Peter Rosback (Sineann). This wine is a steal of a deal. Black-fruited like a Pinot twice its price, this is serious, but affordable Pinot Noir. A blend of Sineann and Daedalus fruit.

Brooks "Runaway Red" 03 $19/$17.10
Runaway Red is a pinot Noir blend from various vineyards as well as negociant wine purchased from quality wineries in the northern Willamette valley. It is made to be enjoyed earlier than most Pinots with less than 10% new oak and less than the normal dose of sulfites. As with all my wines each fermentor is treated separately and approached individually to bring as much character and intensity to each lot. Bright and hopeful. A true Bolshevik of a wine. A bit rustic and ready. Red fruits, cherry and hints of mushroom and earth. The attack is fruity and bright with a good middle full of strawberry flavors finishing with bright clean acidity and very soft tannins.

McKinlay Pinot noir 02/03 $17/$15.30
a blend of mostly 02 with some 03 Pinot noir, generous, rounded, medium-big- full of red and black berry flavors, Matt's usual outstanding value. Highly recommended. Matt Kinne makes small lots of carefully crafted Pinot noir and then sells it for a low low price. His simple labels and utter lack of marketing might make you pass this one by, but as our local Oregon customers know, this wine is a super deal.

Territorial Pinot noir 02 $18/$16.20
Lovely balanced, fruity Pinot noir for drinking now. Excellent quality for under $20.

White Blends that Please

Jezebel Pinot Blanc 03 $13/$11.70
A blend of five grape varietals: Gewurztraminer, Pinot Blanc, Riesling, Pinot Gris and Chardonnay. The wine is aromatic, complex and very drinkable. And such a reasonable price for what you get! Rich, very full bodied white - super refreshing and perfect sipping wine. Just delicious.

Laurel Ridge Dry Riesling 02 $11/$9.90
Delicious and quite nice complexity, dry finish and lots of hints of star jasmine, toasted hazelnut, peach blossom in the nose, flavors of white peach, hint of lychee, toasted nuts, and a crisp, refreshing finish.

Sawtooth Roussanne $14/$12.60
Intense aromas of ripe tropical fruits, honey, and creamy vanilla. The flavors and mouth feel are round and rich with a long finish. Only 280 cases made.

Willow Crest Pinot gris 03 $10/$9
Great price, intensely flavored, Washington Pinot gris comes on strong.

Kiona Vivacious Vickie $10/$9
A blend of white grapes that did not make it into Kiona's higher end whites, this is a super fun summer slurper. Lighter than a Chardonnay, with nice crisp fruit flavors and a pretty, pleasant finish.

Fidelitas Tranquility $10/$9
Delicious white wine blend with intriguing hints of apricot.







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