"The Wines of Sineann Continue to Shine"
by Christina Kelly, Avalon Editor/Writer, December 2004
For the past four years, Peter Rosback produced small quantities of intense, often powerful, bright and impressive wines for Sineann, his Newberg, OR winery.
This fifth year, says Rosback, is his best.
"The wine is surpassingly good - this is the fifth year in a row of great crops, great weather and great wine," Rosback said. "In fact, this year's Pinot Gris is the best I've ever made."
A powerful boast from a winemaker who consistently produces high scoring, handcrafted wines described as over-the-top, exuberant and complex.
Exciting Winery from the Beginning
Sineann is easily one of the Northwest's most exciting wineries. Rosback and his partner David O'Reilly scoured Washington and Oregon for the best vineyards they could find. Their first commercial effort, in 1994, produced an amazing old vine Zinfandel from one of the oldest producing vineyards in the Northwest.
"Where the fruit comes from is a big deal to us," Rosback explained. "We select farmers who not only have pride in their work, but take pride in the end product. Our producers have low yields, high elevations and are able to ripen the fruit reliably."
Rosback, with his fiery red hair cropping his face like a lion's mane, is surprisingly low key and unassuming. He is intense and passionate about wine and his family (daughters Sydney, 15, Casey-Jane, 6, and wife Nancy) but less comfortable with the daily marketing and chest thumping associated with selling premium wine. It is where the partnership developed with O'Reilly, whom he met in the early 1990s while O'Reilly worked as a marketing director for Elk Cove Vineyards and Rosback helped out with crush and harvest.
In fact, O'Reilly has performed such a good marketing job that some people are confused and believe O'Reilly is the winemaker for Sineann. To confuse the issue further, Rosback is consultant for Owen Roe Winery, where O'Reilly is the winemaker, and O'Reilly wines, the value-priced label of the group.
Rosback Influences Many Wineries
Despite his aversion to basking in the spotlight, Rosback quietly makes wine for Medici Vineyards where Sineann is produced, and made Zinfandel and Merlot for "The Pine 1852", a new label. He is the consultant for Helvetia in Portland, and assists a number of vineyard owners with small productions of wine from each crop.
Abacela winemaker and owner Earl Jones, who produces Tempranillo, Syrah, Dolcetto and other varieties at his Southern Oregon vineyards, says Rosback helped him during his first year in business.
"Peter is a great winemaker with a great passion," said Jones. "He was supportive when we wanted to plant Tempranillo and advised us along with way. We drink his wines."
O'Reilly also praises Rosback and the skills he brings to the partnership.
But Rosback wants the bottle to speak for Sineann and Owen Roe wines. The 2001 Pinot Noir from the Reed and Reynolds Vineyards is full and rich with delightful, mouth-coating fruit, shedding flavors of smoke, herbs and cedar.
The 2001 Cabernet Sauvignon McDuffie Vineyard, with grapes sourced from a small vineyard in the Dalles, is also rich, with black cherry, spice, oak and a hint of bitter chocolate. Smoky oak lingers in the finish.
The 2002 Pinot Gris is one of Rosback's favorites, with rich hints of honey and spice and a mid-palate hit of pineapple and pear. Rosback says his 2002 Gewurztraminer and Rieslings are very Alsatian in style and a hit with white wine drinkers. A recent tasting with sushi highlighted just how good his newly released Riesling paired with seafood.
Sineann's white wines are available now. His red wines - Pinot Noir, Old Vine Zinfandel (an incredible Zinfandel grown outside of California), Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon will be released in the fall, with the exception of the 2001 McDuffie Cab. The Sineann Cabernet Sauvignon "Block One" comes from the Champoux vineyard in Eastern Washington and is a killer Cab. Very little is produced and it is nearly always sold out by the time it is released.
The sister winery, Owen Roe, has just released its 2001 Dubrul Cabernet Sauvignon and supplies are extremely limited. This wine has layers of spice, black cherry and plum, with lingering flavors of roasted espresso bean and black fruit flavors. This is one of those wines to savor and purr over.
Same with the Owen Roe 2001 Merlot - another powerful wine filled with blackberries, spice and rustic tannins that will mellow with some bottle age.
Commitment to Quality
Rosback says he enjoys good wine and will go out of his way to make the best he can. The secret to his success, he says, is to bottle his wines young in order to hold on to the pretty fruit. Wines with too much oak will sometimes lose the brightness of that fruit.
He gets good texture, good color and supple tannins by cold soaking the fruit and starting with native yeast. The grapes are pressed gently - all hand punched. Everything is meticulously monitored. Even the labels are handcrafted, with a woodcut design and wax seals.
"There is an ocean of mediocre wines out there, and we try to rise to the top," said Rosback, a former mechanical engineer from Tektronics who took a voluntary lay-off to concentrate on wine production. "I don't think we've made our very best wine yet, but we're always working on it."
Even with the economic downturn and foreign affairs causing uncertainty in the market, Rosback says he will continue to drop fruit in order to obtain the intensity with his wines. He is spending more money for less fruit these days, but he has a goal to make the best Northwest wines possible. He added another Gewurztraminer vineyard this year with the goal "to make the best Gewurztraminer in the country."
The Medici Vineyard Although the sinewy winemaker with a passion for bike riding doesn't look like a bulldozing giant, his tenacity to get what he wants from the vineyards continues to hold true. His production is currently 6,000 cases per year, and like his crop size, he wants to hold the line, and even reduce the amount.
Sineann wines can be hard to find and are often sold out because of low yields and limited bottling of some varietals. Rosback says he would rather produce small amounts of great wine, rather than increase the quantity and lose the meticulous control of the process.
About the author:
For more than 20 years, Christina Kelly worked as a newspaper reporter on the West Coast, covering education, public safety, government, business, environmental issues, entertainment and minority affairs.
During the same time, the Washington native began her lifelong interest in wine. After two decades in the news reporting business, Christina decided it was time to concentrate on her passion - the wine industry. She is our indispensable staff writer and columnist.
This intelligent, charming powerhouse graces the Northwest wine industry with her insights, tastings and conversations with those in an industry that has exploded in the past few years.