Wine Tasting Dinner: Washington Rhone-Style Red Blends



By Kori ~ January 18th, 2012.

The Rhone Valley in France is divided into two parts, appropriately referred to as the northern Rhone and the southern Rhone. While the northern Rhone produces mostly single varietal wines, the southern Rhone is known for producing blends. The most famous AOC in the southern Rhone is Chateauneuf-du-Pape, which is well known for its Grenache-based blends, many of which are GSM’s (Grenache-Syrah-Mourvedre blends). A number of wineries in Washington State are producing blends similar to those produced in the southern Rhone.

This month’s wine tasting dinner featured Rhone-style red blends from Washington State. It was another fabulous evening of great wines, the company of wonderful friends, and LaGayle’s (Mom’s) excellent food. All six wines paired extremely well with our dinner of tomato basil soup, mixed green salad, roasted beef tenderloin, green beans with almonds and caramelized shallots, roasted rutabagas, and Death by Chocolate ice cream with ladyfingers.

The overwhelming consensus favorite was the 2008 Olsen Estates Red Wine. It received an unprecedented eight out of eight first place votes against some stiff competition. This is the first time in 102 tasting dinners that I can remember a wine sweeping the top spot. And, at $11, this wine is an absolute steal. The bad news is that Olsen Estates is now a defunct winery, officially closing its doors last year. While the Olsens continue to focus their efforts on grape growing, they are no longer making their own wine. But if you see this wine on closeout at a local Seattle retailer, I highly encourage you to grab a few bottles.

Rounding out the top three wines and also receiving Quality ratings of 4.5 stars were the 2008 Rôtie Cellars Southern Blend and the 2008 Grand Rêve Collaboration Series II. As you will see from the quality ratings below, we felt that all six wines were very good. In my opinion, you cannot go wrong with any of these. Not only did all six wines receive a Quality rating of 3.5 stars or higher (out of 5), but five of the six also received a QPR rating of either 4 or 5 bangs for your buck (out of 5).

From 1st to last in the group consensus rankings:

2008 Olsen Estates Red Wine (Yakima Valley, Washington): 70% Syrah, 12% Mourvedre, 12% Cinsault, 5% Grenache, and 1% Counoise. Dark purplish red in color. Nice nose with black cherry, blackberry, spice, and vanilla aromas. A lot going on in this wine. Gorgeous black fruit, nutmeg, pencil lead, and leather come through on the palate. Well-balanced with a long, lingering finish. An outstanding wine from the first sip right on through dessert.
Quality: 4.5 stars (out of 5)
QPR: 5 bangs for your buck (out of 5)
Where to buy: Full Pull Wines (Seattle, Washington), $11; Available elsewhere, $15 to $18

2008 Rôtie Cellars Southern Blend (Washington State): 70% Grenache, 15% Syrah, and 15% Mourvedre. Deep, ruby red. Nose is a bit tight at first but then opens up with nice red and black fruit aromas and a hint of earth. More red and black fruit and earth as well as spice and perfume come through on the palate. Medium to full-bodied with crisp acidity and medium tannins. Well-balanced with a long finish.
Quality: 4.5 stars (out of 5)
QPR: 5 bangs for your buck (out of 5)
Where to buy: Winery, $40; Available elsewhere, $38

2008 Grand Rêve Collaboration Series II (Ciel du Cheval Vineyard, Red Mountain, Washington): 40% Grenache, 38% Syrah, 20% Mourvedre, 1% Viognier, and 1% Roussanne. Deep, dark red. Very aromatic with eucalyptus, violets, vanilla, and a hint of barnyard on the nose. Black plum, vanilla, and oak come through on the palate. Full-bodied with lively acidity and big, bold, chewy tannins. Well-balanced with a very long finish.
Quality: 4.5 stars (out of 5)
QPR: 4 bangs for your buck (out of 5)
Where to buy: Winery, $50; Available elsewhere, $54 to $78

2010 Owen Roe Sinister Hand Red Wine (Columbia Valley): 71% Grenache, 24% Syrah, and 5% Mourvedre. Deep purplish red. Aromatic with strawberry, red cherry, pencil lead, and floral notes on the nose. Black cherry, vanilla, floral notes, and a hint of coffee come through on the palate. Medium to full-bodied with lively acidity, smooth tannins, and a long finish.
Quality: 4 stars (out of 5)
QPR: 5 bangs for your buck (out of 5)
Where to buy: Fred Meyer (Seattle, Washington), $23; Available elsewhere, $20 to $30

2010 Syncline Subduction Red (Columbia Valley, Washington): 31% Mourvedre, 25% Syrah, 21% Grenache, 12% Cinsault, 7% Carignan, and 4% Counoise. Deep ruby red in color. Nice nose with black cherry, raspberry, and cinnamon aromas. Fruit-forward with red and black cherry, spice, and herbs on the palate. Medium to full-bodied with good acidity, medium to high tannins, and a long finish.
Quality: 3.5 stars (out of 5)
QPR: 4 bangs for your buck (out of 5)
Where to buy: Fred Meyer (Seattle, Washington), $18; Available elsewhere, $18 to $20

2007 Brian Carter Cellars Byzance (Columbia Valley, Washington): 51% Grenache, 25% Syrah, 20% Mourvedre, 2% Counoise, and 1% Cinsault. Deep, dark red. Smoked meat, spice, blackberry, and black cherry come through on both the nose and palate. Medium to full-bodied with lively acidity, medium to high tannins, and a long finish.
Quality: 3.5 stars (out of 5)
QPR: 3 bangs for your buck (out of 5)
Where to buy: Fred Meyer (Seattle, Washington), $27; Available elsewhere, $22 to $27


Filed under: American Wine, Five-Bangs For Your Buck Wines, Food & Wine, Red Wine, Washington State Wine, Wine Tasting Dinners, Wines Over $25, Wines Under $15, Wines Under $20, Wines Under $25

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