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Sineann Winery


2004 Sineann Article from Avalon Wine

“A True Northwest Winery:
Sineann Creates Great Oregon
and Washington Wine”
The Standard is Treating all Varietals
Like the Finicky, Challenging Pinot Noir Grape
By Christina Kelly
Avalon Editor/Writer

Most people live and work in real time. Peter Rosback, winemaker for Sineann Winery, is probably on double time, forging a path that is sometimes hard to follow, but his trail is scattered with beautiful Oregon and Washington wines.

The Oregon winemaker lives in the Willamette Valley, but produces wine from both Oregon and Washington, thus making him truly a Northwest winery.

“I am blessed, there is no doubt it,” said Rosback. “I live in an area where great Pinot Noir can be produced, and I have access to great fruit from Washington to make a terrific Cabernet Sauvignon.”

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At a time when many winemakers are cutting back on the number of varietals produced, Rosback and crew continue to offer more and more, both with his Sineann label, and with the Medici Wines, made from the Estate fruit at the Sineann Winery (located at the Medici Vineyard).

Parts of Rosback’s new offerings include fruit from a newer vineyard, Schindler, in the Eola Hills of the Willamette Valley. The vineyard is managed by Kevin and Carla Chambers, biodynamic farmers who also manage the formerly known Reed and Reynolds vineyard—the vineyard where Rosback perfects his best Pinot Noir (Resonance).

“I love these great vineyards and it is hard to say no when offered the fruit,” said Rosback. “I’ve thought about dropping a few varieties, but all of them have their followings. As long as they do well, I will continue to produce them.”

Rosback has several biodynamically and organically farmed vineyards in his portfolio, even though he said he isn’t sure whether the flavors are much different from vineyards that aren’t farmed biodynamically.

“What I know is the concept of increasing the health of vineyards and help fight disease,” he said. “If we can strengthen the vineyard health, we won’t need to use as many chemicals.

“I still think the jury is out on biodynamic farming—we need a number of years yet. But people who farm in this manner are very hard working and dedicated, and I believe their efforts show in the vineyard. It is beautiful fruit that translates into beautiful wine.

The Odd Couple—Rosback and Hess

Sineann's Peter Rosback

(Note, 4/06- Rosback and Hess have gone their separate ways, with Hess taking the Jezebel label.)

If there are two winemakers who appear to be diametrically opposites, it’s Peter Rosback and Aron Hess. In fact, they could easily be thought of as the Felix and Oscar of Jezebel wines. Rosback will rail on about Hess being overly principled about things, and Hess will poke at the hyperactive Rosback, stating that his five-year plan is out the window in five minutes.

“Our styles are as diametrically opposed as it gets,” said Hess, laughing while shrugging his shoulders. “I brood and grouse and grumble with the wine. I spend a lot of time hovering over the wine.

“Peter can produce remarkable wines and finish off the blends in a relatively short period of time and then he is off to the next project.”


Aaron Hess, Daedalus & Jezebel Winemaker, Consulting Winemaker at Rex Hill

Hess’ fermentation process is a minimum of 50 percent longer than Rosback. Hess does not add yeasts to his wines, while Rosback will add yeasts. Hess says Rosback can coax his wines to move through the winemaking process faster but still have lushness without any objectionable characteristics in the wine.

“His wines are very user friendly,” said Hess. “I have much more structure in my process. I am not necessarily looking for the wine to be finished at bottling. It’s just a completely different way of thinking and neither of us is wrong in our approach. But it does make for jokes.”

So how does a highly structured, deep-thinking Felix make wine with the sometimes whimsical, occasionally fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants and faster than lightening Oscar?

“It is an unholy alliance,” joked Hess. “The truth is, despite our philosophical differences in making wine, Peter has been very supportive of me since I entered the wine industry. And, we both love sushi. ”

It was a sushi lunch where the idea originated to create Jezebel wines. The conversation was something like Peter asking Aron, “Could you whore yourself and make a second label wine?”


Peter’s recollection is something more akin to “could we make a whorishly good wine at affordable wines? ”

The result is Jezebel (named, they say, after the Biblical reference to a woman of questionable virtues), producing a Pinot Noir, Syrah and a white wine blend. Both winemakers say it is the best bottle of Pinot Noir they could make under $20.

Jezebel Pinot Noir is seductive and alluring; with fleshy fruit and soft tannins that is easily assessable right out of the bottle. The 2003 vintage has more depth than the previous vintage, with a little more complexity. That vintage has just been released.

Hess is doing the initial blending, although both sit down and compare their blends to others in the same price range. It is this time that they will both heap a lot of abuse on each other, all in a good-natured spirit. Yet, in tasting the wines, the two seem to move towards the center, hoping to give wine enthusiasts the biggest bang for the buck.

Passion Drives Sineann to Quality

For those who have never tasted a Sineann Pinot Noir, or the Old Vine Zinfandel, Rosback makes mouth-coating, handcrafted, rich and intense wines. His 2003 Baby Poux Cabernet Sauvignon (from Paul Champoux’s vineyards near Prosser, WA) sells out quickly every year, as does the Old Vine Zinfandel, produced with grapes grown in Washington (yes—WA does have sites that get hot enough to ripen the Zinfandel grape!)

Crop yields for Sineann wines drive farmers crazy—often one or two tons per acre or less, when other vineyards produce five to six tons easily. The low crop yields produce the most intense fruit—a characteristic of Sineann wines.

Although cellaring these wines will continue to improve the beauty already in the bottle, many people can’t wait to try them and his new offerings are quickly disappearing. They include:

• 2003 Pines Zinfandel: About 1,000 cases of this new zin come from the Pines Vineyard, another new source for fruit. The land was platted in 1852. Rosback said he tried to structure this wine to be more Bordeaux style. The juice was pulled from the fermenters right after de-stemming in order to further concentrate an already very concentrated must. This has a strong blackberry component and needs time to showcase its core.

• 2003 Blend: This is a blend of Merlot, Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon. “This is the perfect blend—it is wine made to be good, not just the kitchen sink,” says Rosback.

• 2003 Hillside Merlot: Rosback said a number of Sineann customers want a Merlot, and this is the response, the second year of production for this wine. This wine is dark and concentrated, beautiful aromatics with chocolate overtones and berries, and silky tannins.

• 2003 Red Table Wine: Once the top-of-the-line wines are made, the wine leftover goes into the table wine, providing some darn good flavors in at an inexpensive price.

• 2003 Baby Poux Cabernet Sauvignon: Rosback thinks this could be one of the best wines he’s pulled out of Washington State. This is a cab for socking away for a year and then rejoicing with its incredible aromatics, complex and intense fruit that just sings. It is so difficult not to drink this quickly, but with a little age, the wait will pay you back twice-fold.



November 2003 Sineann and Medici Releases

That’s not all Folks

On top of Sineann and Jezebel, Rosback also makes wine under the Medici label, crafting a Pinot Noir and a Riesling. Medici is the location where Rosback produces Sineann. In order to honor his two daughters, Casey and Sydney, Rosback made a Zinfandel ice-styled wine called Sweet Sydney, and a port, called CJ (for Casey Jane).

In barrel, Rosback has Grenache and Cabernet Franc. He says it is too early to decide what he plans to do with it, but his mind is racing ahead to possible blends or other possibilities, depending on what happens in barrel. He also produced a Syrah from the ’02 vintage for Jezebel that quickly sold out, and has another Syrah to be released next year.

Although many Northwest wine enthusiasts already know about Sineann wines and quickly snap up what they can buy, his wines are highly rated by national wine magazines such as Wine Spectator and that hasn’t slipped past him. However, with everything he has in production, about 9,000 cases with all the labels, he has no plans to expand.

“This helps the quality control,” Rosback said. “We want to continue with beautiful, hand-crafted wines and you can’t do that in mass production.”

New Vineyard at Medici, Lavender Drying Barn above

The avid bicycle rider still finds time to help out other winemakers when asked and continues to taste other Northwest wines to keep his palate finely tuned.

However, lately Rosback has a new project garnering his sharp focus—his daughter Sydney is off to college next fall and the proud papa is helping her to select a college or university, where she will likely study mathematics.

“Once that is done, I will rest for a while,” joked Rosback, who still has 8-year-old Casey Jane at home. “Getting one daughter to this stage takes work and patience. It won’t be that long before we’ll go through it again.”

Wife Nancy, an artist who designed the labels for both wines named after the two redheaded girls, smiles when she learns her husband “will rest.”

In the Rosback home, “resting” is a word to be defined, and Peter Rosback’s definition doesn’t allow much time to pass without movement forward.






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