The Pines 1852
Made in the town of Newberg in the Willamette Valley, wines labeled as The Pines 1852 are made from grapes grown in the Columbia Valley AVA. The Pines zinfandel ($39) is a wine of moderate intensity and high alcohol, with mild briary black fruit notes overlaid by the scent of charred oak barrels. Lonnie Wright, owner; Peter Rosback, winemaker.
Quenett wines are made in Washington from Columbia Valley fruit and are available in downtown Hood River at a prominently placed storefront tasting room. Quenett makes a popular ‘Redd Red’ wine ($20) from a blend of syrah, merlot, and cabernet sauvignon, which has a soft friendly uncomplicated texture and an international style often found in other $20 wines made in California, Australia, and at the larger wineries in eastern Washington. James and Molli Martin, owners.
A little known Austrian white wine variety, called Grüner Veltliner ($22), similar to Riesling but a little softer and less tart, is made at Reustle-Prayer Rock Vineyards It smells like cucumber dusted with dill, and it finishes on the palate with a hint of white pepper. Gloria & Steve Reustle, owners; Steve Reustle, winemaker.
In perhaps the most attractive historic barn still standing in Oregon, RoxyAnn’s tasting room pours up many varieties of wine, and their claret ($26) is surely the most popular. The name used for centuries by Englishmen for the cabernet-based wines of Bordeaux, claret made at RoxyAnn is a blend of Bordelaise varieties, such as cabernet franc, cabernet sauvignon, merlot, and malbec, which tastes of mulberries and does particularly well in the climate of the Rogue Valley. Parsons Family, owner; John Quinones, winemaker; Michael Donovan, manager.
If Argyle makes top-notch, reasonably priced sparkling wines, Soter makes the best. Their ‘Blanc de Blanc’ sparkler ($65) is made from 100 percent chardonnay and rests on its lees (dead yeast cells that fall to the bottom of the bottle during aging) for a decade or so before the wine is released. They also make excellent pinot noir, the best from the Mineral Springs Ranch vineyard (located on top of the hill next to the winery, which was converted from an old dairy barn and still looks like one), also called ‘MSR’ ($48). Tony Soter owner; Tony Soter and James Cahill, winemakers.
Making one of Oregon’s best cabernet sauvignons, labeled as Estate ($50), this wine has a richness and black-currant flavor found only in cabernet wines made from fruit produced by older vineyards. A slightly more rustic wine made from cabernet franc ($24) is also richly textured, with a mild scent similar to freshly mowed grass. Pat and Lorrie Spangler, owners; Pat Spangler, winemaker.
Also a source for some of the world’s best pinot noir, St. Innocent makes wines that are complex, multilayered, and long, with red fruit flavors. The White Rose vineyard pinot noir ($60) is St. Innocent’s best, with intense red berry flavors overlaid with the scent of carnations. Mark Vlossak, co-owner and winemaker.
Syncline wines are reminiscent of great Châteauneuf-du-Pape, made from a blend of grenache, syrah, mourvèdre, and cinsault. There is a rich texture to these wines, especially the Cuvée Elena ($30), which has a tarry, blackberry, cherry blend of flavors that reflect the blend of different warm-weather grapes used to make the wine, which is without question the best wine made in the Columbia Gorge in every vintage for the last five years. James and Poppie Mantone, owners; James Mantone, winemaker.
Named after an American Indian word for Mount Hood, the Wy’east vineyard is perfectly perched on an east-facing hillside south of the town of Hood River. They make the best pinot noir wines in the Columbia Gorge AVA, and their ‘Blue Chip’ ($24) bottling is an ethereal, delicate expression of the light red berry flavors that experienced pinot noir drinkers look for. Christie and Dick Reed, owners; Peter Rosback, offsite winemaker.