Private Tasting: Washington Rhone-Style Blends

By Kori ~ April 27th, 2009.

2006 Gilbert Cellars Allobroges and 2007 Syncline Subduction RedThe 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).

Some of our favorite Syrah producers in Washington State are now producing blends similar to those produced in the southern Rhone. However, while the southern Rhone blends usually contain more Grenache than any other variety, the two Washington Rhone-style blends we had in this private tasting are Syrah-based.

When we visited Gilbert Cellars last summer, one of the barrel samples we tasted was an SGM (Syrah-Grenache-Mourvedre blend) that Sean Gilbert was considering calling Allobroges as a nod to its Rhone inspiration. We thought it was very good so recently when I saw the 2006 Gilbert Cellars Allobroges on an end cap display while grocery shopping at Fred Meyer, I picked up a bottle.

Shrimp EtouffeeA few days later when shopping at Pete’s Wine Shop in Bellevue, I came across a bottle of the 2007 Syncline Subduction Red. It is an SMG (Syrah-Mourvedre-Grenache blend) with some Cinsault and Counoise thrown in as well. So in typical Wine Peeps fashion, I bought a bottle, brought it home, and sacked it up along with the Gilbert Allobroges, and put them into our private tasting lineup. For a more complete description of how we set up these private tastings, please refer to How We Taste.

The other night we had what turned out to be this Washington Rhone-style blends showdown. They paired extremely well with our spicy dinner of shrimp etouffee and a mixed green salad with pepperocinis. The Gilbert Allobroges was even better than we had thought when we tasted the barrel sample, and the Syncline Subduction Red was good as well. We liked both of these wines but all four of us preferred the Gilbert Allobroges. And with a QPR of 5 bangs for your buck, the Allobroges is a great buy to boot!

2006 Gilbert Cellars Allobroges (Columbia Valley, Washington): 60% Syrah, 22% Grenache, 18% Mourvedre. Deep red with dark fruit aromas. Dark fruits, pomegranate, and a hint of pepper come through on the palate. Medium-bodied with soft tannins. Smooth and well-balanced with a long finish.
Quality: 4 stars (out of 5)
QPR: 5 bangs for your buck (out of 5)
Where to buy: Fred Meyer (Seattle), $21.99; Winery, $24

2007 Syncline Subduction Red (Columbia Valley, Washington): 35% Syrah, 21% Mourvedre, 16% Grenache, 15% Cinsault, 13% Counoise. Deep red and very aromatic. Strawberries and raspberries on the nose lead to more red fruit flavors. Has a vegetal component on the finish along with some dark plums. Medium-bodied with low to medium tannins. Smooth with a medium finish.
Quality: 3.5 stars (out of 5)
QPR: 4 bangs for your buck (out of 5)
Where to buy: Pete’s Wine Shop – Eastside (Seattle area), $16.69; Available elsewhere, $18

Filed under: American Wine, Five-Bangs For Your Buck Wines, Grenache, Mourvedre, Red Wine, Shiraz/Syrah, Washington State Wine, Wines Under $20, Wines Under $25

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