Posted by: tomciocco | June 26, 2014

A BIT OF THE MIDI IN (THE) COLUMBIA (VALLEY)

It’s no secret that wide swaths of California have a climate that almost exactly mirrors the classic sunny Mediterranean winemaking terroirs found in Italy, Southern France and Spain, but Washington State? To be fair, the Columbia Valley growing region (which by the way also leaks down into Oregon, and indeed this wine emanates from a little town in Washington called Lyle that rests directly on the Columbia River just north of the Oregon border) is not exactly like Sardegna or Minervois or Priorat, but it is definitely a far cry from the cool and rainy images conjured by the Pacific Ocean-influenced regions in western Washington.

Like so many fine wine regions, The Columbia Valley (which contains sub-zones such as Horse Heaven Hills, Red Mountain and Yakima, all of which contribute different grape varieties to this blend and upon which their respective micro-climates put a distinctive stamp) gets lots of hot sun (more than many regions in California) but once the big yellow disc goes to bed, the evening temperatures here drop dramatically. This sort of temperature excursion directly yields lush, ripe fruit that also shows a crispy, crunchy and fresh acidity that yields balanced but still dramatically-styled wines.

So what we have in this cuvee` is essentially a sort of Cotes-du-Rhone Village blend with the varietal percentages carefully dialed in for the southern Washington terroir. To put actual names and numbers to the composition, the wine is made up of 28% Mourvedre, 26% Grenache, 23% Syrah, 13% Counoise, 8% Carignan and 2% Cinsault with the fruit fermented in both open and closed concrete vats and then aged for 11 months part in concrete and part in 90% used and 10% new French oak barrels. The upshot of all this is that this blend of six different grapes from three sub-zones aged for a shortish stint in both cement and (mostly) used oak yields a wine that accentuates the characteristics of the region rather than a sole grape variety or the signature style of a “celebrity” winemaker. Columbia Valley, it’s time for your close-up.

This bright and bold American wine called for a menu to directly match these characteristics and this time around that turned out to be pepper and onion cheese steak sandwiches with a fresh corn, black bean and carrot salad.

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Syncline Columbia Valley “Subduction Red” 2012

Opaque, blackish purple/garnet color. Smokey, minerally aromas of mulberry, black raspberry, plum butter, cloves, dried roses, and cut green underbrush. The palate is full-bodied, supple, chewy  and rich, with tall but tamed tannins and crunchy, juicy acidity framing sweet and sour blueberry, black cherry and black currant fruit flavors well supported by notes of pumpernickel bread, “burnt cream”, black pepper, and dark chocolate. Quite clean and long notes of tomato paste on the finish.

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