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Why the Columbia Gorge Is America’s Hottest Wine Region

Forget Napa Valley. For the ultimate wine vacation, go here.

MAXIM MAN By Emily Siegel
 
Nestled along the Washington/Oregon border lies an up-and-coming wine region unlike any other. Established in 2004, it’s one of the younger wine cultures in these United States. Producers are known for their inexpensive blends, laid back vibe and for taking full advantage of the area’s mountainous landscape.

Let’s put it this way: If Washington’s Columbia Valley is Napa-Sonoma’s less expensive kid brother, then this region—the Columbia Gorge—is their overlooked cousin who quietly got into Harvard while people looked the other way. Now, even the most prestigious wineries in California are shelling out millions to buy land in this soon-to-be-famous territory.

The Gorge is spliced in half by the pulsing Columbia River, with young winemakers snapping up land on either side of the state divide. Despite it’s breathtaking scenery and ample outdoor activity (enough to satisfy an Eagle Scout), its location that makes this place so desirable. And since it’s only 45 minutes from Portland by car, you can experience the best in both urban and country living with a single visit to the region.

This perfect storm has made the Columbia Gorge an increasingly hot destination for bachelor parties and other gentlemen seeking unconventional destinations. It may not have Vegas’ nightlife or NOLA’s gumbo—and who are we kidding, Bourbon Street—but only here can you windsurf in the morning, relax on a vineyard through the afternoon, and then party in Portland all night.

What To Taste:
What makes the Columbia River Gorge such an interesting place to grow grapes is the presence of mountains, which divide the region into two distinct climates. There are high altitude rain-lands to the West, and arid, almost desert-like conditions to the East—within five minutes of each other. The difference in altitude, rainfall and temperature between vineyards continues to have a strong influence on the wines they produce.

The Grüner Veltliner grape, for example, comes from Austria, where colder, mountainous regions lend to its strength and flavor. Syncline Wine Cellars in Lyle, Washington has recreated the Austrian climate by planting their vines on the subalpine terroir of the Underwood Mountains. Basked in nearly 50 inches of yearly rainfall and enjoying consistently cool temperatures, these European grapes have been made to feel right at home in the Pacific Northwest.

 

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So whether you’re on the hunt for an adventurous getaway or looking for quiet place to slow sip wine in a hottub, Columbia Gorge has it all. Visit now before Anthony Bourdain does a special on it and turns the place into a madhouse.

 Read the full article HERE

 

 

The November issue of GQ Magazine featured an article about Garagiste’s Jon Rimmerman and one of his favorite wine recommendations, the Syncline 2010 Horse Heaven Hills Mourvèdre.

“The Columbia Gorge, in Washington and Oregon, is the most exciting wine region in America. Try Syncline, a family operation near the Columbia River, a unique and precarious place to make wine.”

Read the full article here→


 

 

 

Syncline Wines: Getting To Know The Columbia Gorge

Syncline Wines: Getting To Know The Columbia Gorge

 

What do you know about the Columbia Gorge? This extremely scenic wine region, where you can spy Mount Hood while strolling in the vineyards, encompasses both Washington and Oregon. It’s also a diverse spot for grapes, growing everything (as they like to say) “from Albariño to Zinfandel”. What makes this region unique? I asked James Mantone of Syncline Wines.

What are some of the more unusual or exciting grapes you are working with, and what makes them successful in the Columbia Gorge?

“We don’t work with anything ‘exotic,’ however, we do grapes that are unusual for Washington State. We are going on 5 years of making Grüner from a vineyard on Underwood Mountain. This was the first Grüner planted in Washington, and is from one of the coolest places in the northwest to reliably ripen wine grapes.

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Hidden in Plain Sight

Uncovering uncommon varietals in the vineyards of Washington and Oregon

 April 2014

Story by Katherine Cole
Photos by Stuart Mullenberg

The 75-mile drive through the Columbia River Gorge from Portland, Oregon, to the up-and-coming wine town of Lyle, Washington, is a revelation of craggy basalt cliffs, tumbling waterfalls and the wind-smacked blue waters of the mighty Columbia River.

In Lyle, another revelation awaits: the breathtaking sight of a row of wines, lined up on a granite-topped bar.

What’s so arresting about these bottles? Mostly, the names—Counoise. Grenache Blanc. Grüner Veltliner. Marsanne. Mourvèdre. Picpoul. The list goes on.

This is not your typical Pacific Northwest lineup. From a global perspective, the Northwest is fairly new at the fine-wine game. The region doesn’t have centuries of production under its belt in the way that Europe, or even New World regions—such as Australia, South Africa, Chile and Argentina—do. It can’t even claim the long winemaking tradition of California.

So, while American wine drinkers know and love Oregon Pinot Noir and Washington Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah, it’s possible that they haven’t yet discovered the best varietals for the Northwest.

Mourvèdre in the Gorge

Let’s back up to that lineup of bottles at Syncline winery. For more than a decade, James and Poppie Mantone have been on a mission to realize the Northwest’s winegrowing potential. When they started their label in 1999, they knew they wanted to focus on varieties that thrive in France’s Rhône River Valley, which shares the characteristics of sun-roasted slopes and strong winds with Washington’s Columbia Valley.

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featured both our Red Mountain and Columbia Valley Mourvèdres among their favorite old and new world wines in their article “Mourvèdre Smackdown.  We’re in some really great company!

Mourvèdre Smackdown

A tasting of wines from the Old World to New.

 Tricky to pronounce but easy to drink, Mourvèdre (pronounced moor-veh-dra) has grape geeks around the globe taking note. A longtime blending grape throughout southern France and Spain, modern Mourvèdres are showing themselves more and more as a worthy solo sipper. In fact, we’ve named domestic Mourvèdre a featured flavor of our 2014 Imbibe 75. But there’s more to Mourvèdre than what’s happening on our own side of the pond, so we tasted through a variety of wines across the Old World and New.

New World Mourvédre
From California’s Central Coast to Walla Walla in Washington State to southern Australia, Mourvédre is on the move in New World wine regions where dry, dusty soils provide ideal growing conditions for the thick-skinned grape—here are five of our favorites.

Syncline
Syncline in Washington State’s Columbia Valley produces two distinctive Mourvédres—one from a trio of vineyards in the granite-rich Red Mountain AVA (including fruit from the lauded Ciel du Cheval), and a second mostly comprised of grapes from the Horse Heaven Hills AVA. With only 160 cases of the Red Mountain bottling produced, it’s is strictly reserved for wine club members, but the rest of us can still get a taste of the Columbia Valley version direct from the website.
$30, synclinewine.com

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Oeno Files

Five years ago, this pink wine was relegated to the bottom supermarket shelf. Today it’s a harbinger of summer, and a particular strength of Washington winemakers. Here are seven bottles that drive home that point.

 
Syncline has long carried the dry rosé banner in the Pacific Northwest, and this wine is rich in feel with notes of strawberry and melon.
Syncline Wine Cellars Rosé Columbia Valley 2013 $18

Rosé has experienced a nearly complete change in fortunes here in the last few years. Five years ago, there were few quality bottles produced in Washington. Consumers weren’t terribly interested in rosé; most drinkers lumped it with cheap, sweet, white zinfandel on the bottom of the supermarket shelf.

Today, there is an abundance of quality rosé being made in our state. Some have even become quasi cult wines, selling out almost immediately upon release and long before the sun starts to shine in the Pacific Northwest.

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Oeno Files

This collection of grapes drive some of the state’s most compelling wines. Here are 10 bottles that demonstrate what all the fuss is about.

 
Syncline Wine Cellars Cuvée Elena Columbia Valley 2011 $40
A blend of Mourvèdre, Syrah, Grenache, Carignan, and Cinsault with notes of blackberry, herbs, and peppery spices, it’s a one-wine primer on why Washington Rhone-style wines are generating so much excitement.

Rhone-style wines—made from a collection of nearly two dozen grape varieties native to France’s Rhone Valley—are making waves in Washington. Though plantings of some of these varieties remain limited, many are now being used to create some of the state’s most compelling wines.

Washington’s earliest experiments with Rhone varieties began with Grenache in the 1960s. However, the notoriously cold tender variety eventually succumbed to eastern Washington’s harsh winters, wiping out the original plantings and leaving many a grower and winemaker discouraged.

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These 15 wines distinguished themselves beyond all others, regardless of category or variety. These are quite simply the best of the best —Washington’s finest wines.

Force Majeure Collaboration Series VI Red Wine Ciel du Cheval Vineyard Red Mountain 2010
Force Majeure—a French term for an act of god or a “superior force”—pairs some of the state’s top winemakers with fruit from Ciel du Cheval Vineyard, one of our state’s viticultural crown jewels. Here Syncline Cellars winemaker James Mantone blends mourvèdre and syrah with a pinch of grenache. It’s aged in concrete tanks and French oak puncheons, larger-format barrels that reduce exposure to wood; the focus is on the fruit, which comes down like a velvet hammer. $50

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Wine, Elevated: Gruners Grow Here

wine-tn-gruner-veltliner

Turns out you can grow cool-weather grapes like Gruner Veltliner in Washington.

James and Poppie Mantone, the owners of Syncline Wine Cellars, pointed Lindsey-Thorsen toward Underwood Mountain Vineyards. There, in the Columbia River Gorge above the Washington bank across from Hood River, a young six-acre plot of gruner veltliner grapes sat 1,000 feet above sea level, enjoying an enviable view of Mount Hood.

Syncline started making small amounts of gruner using Underwood grapes in 2008. It so impressed Lindsey-Thorsen that he went to see for himself the vineyard and its namesake mountain, an extinct volcano layered with basalt boulders that impart a mineral flavor absent from most of Washington’s silty soil. Underwood Mountain’s western slopes are the last point in the state to catch the maritime winds, and up at 1,000-feet elevation, grapes get ample sun, but only a gentle daytime heat. He was sold.

Read The Full Article Here →


11 top wine experts pick the best 100 Northwest wines under $50.

 
 
(4 Sommeliers chose Syncline in their top wines list!)
 
 
2008 Syncline Grüner Veltliner, $20
Columbia Gorge, Washington
This unusual white varietal from the cool climate of the Underwood Mountain Vineyards in the Columbia Gorge has flavors of lemon, pineapple, honeydew melon, and white pepper, and brilliant acids.
2007 Syncline Mourvèdre, $30
Horse Heaven Hills, Washington
Roasted plum, black pepper, and a hint of tar plus medium acidity makes for a long lush finish.
2008 Syncline Subduction White, $18
Washington
Made with fruit from Columbia Gorge and Horse Heaven Hills, this viognier-chard blend has great richness and is kept in balance with exceptional chardonnay from Celilo Vineyard.
2007 Syncline Viognier, $20
Columbia Valley, Washington
This viognier is a great expression of ripe tropical fruit, Starburst candy, and finesse.

Oeno Files

“A fall storm always screams for a wine that offers a warming embrace.”

Wherein we ask local wine notables to make our weekday drinking decisions for us.

Self-styled “roving Sommelier” Chris Lara began his Seattle career as Wine Director at Crush, then Matt’s in the Market, and, most recently, as Sales Director at Cadence Winery. Currently, Lara is eyeing the grueling Master Sommelier test. Here, he gives us his cold-weather pick.

So what do you think Chris, what should I drink tonight?

Drinking in cooler weather or in the middle of a fall storm always screams for a wine that offers a warming embrace. Syncline’s 2011 Cuvée Elena is that wine. A gorgeous mourvédre, syrah, and grenache blend, artfully crafted by James and Poppie Mantone. These types of blends offer cooling red fruits, and sparks of dark toned fruit, with beautiful pepper spice. Perfect for fall game dishes or hearty stews.

Taste Washington delivers some soon-to-be-released Washington wine discoveries.

A week has gone by now and I’m still mulling over everything I learned at Taste Washington. One of those things, though, was the unusual direction some Washington wineries are taking on whites. Here are a few discoveries.

Bubbles: Syncline
The talk of Taste may well have been Syncline’s sparkly Scintillation. Bubbly isn’t always high on my priority list (I know, I’m the only woman in America not falling all over herself for Champagne; heck, it took me years to accept sparkling water). But I do appreciate good Champagne, and bubbles as a whole are growing on me. And this sparkling sure was growing on the crowd. Not one but at least three winemakers sent me in search of it.

Make no mistake: This is no sweet, sparkly, American wine designed to satisfy the sorority girl graduation crowd. The Scintillation was crisp and clean, full of lemon and lemon curd, and this very slightest hint of hay on the nose.

Scintillation is another labor of love. The blanc de blanc spent two years in tirage, and all the riddling and disgorging was done by hand, in house. If you’ve never seen this sparkling white on the shelf before, that’s because although Syncline has been making a sparkling since 2001, this is the first year enough has been made (200 cases) to wholesale.

The 2009 Syncline Scintillation releases next week, with 60 cases allocated to Seattle. It’s expected to be available at shops like Pike and Western, McCarthy and Schiering, and PCC, as well as several restaurants, and should retail for $40.

Read full article here →

“Dark cherry, a bit of plum, and a dash of spice.”

Wherein we ask local wine notables to make our weeknight drinking decisions for us.

In 1976, Michael Teer’s father brought home a bottle of Ste. Michelle Semillon Blanc and a lifetime passion—and career—was born. Seattle raised and educated, Teer started working at the Pike and Western Wine Shop in Pike Place Market in 1980. In 1991, he bought the store, and he continues to dole out advice and recommendations for anyone who asks.

So what do you think, Michael Teer, what should I drink tonight?

My pick is the Syncline 2012 Subduction Red. It’s a six-grape blend, dominated by mourvèdre, Grenache, and syrah with a bit of counoise, carignan, and cinsault to add depth and complexity. The beautiful summer of 2012 produced grapes that give this wine a wonderful combination of rich, spicy fruit that reminds of dark cherry, a bit of plum, and a dash of spice, all while maintaining a wonderful freshness. I will be recommending this for many of my customers’ Thanksgiving meals.


A few of these are widely available for your New Year’s Eve consumption.

Wine geeks dig Syncline’s hard-to-find sparkling wine.

I mean, you can go the traditional Champagne route when it comes time to toast 2013’s arrival. But at last count, eight wineries around the state make sparkling wine, many in the traditional methode Champenoise, meaning bubbles come from a secondary fermentation in the bottle, rather than carbonation. A few are widely available on Seattle store shelves. Others are seldom available outside the winery, but two have even been poured in the White House. But according to the Washington Wine Commission, these are the wineries that bring the sparkle.

Syncline
The winery on the Columbia Gorge is known for its Rhone varietals but its small-batch releases of methode Champenoise blanc de blanc, made entirely of Chardonnay grapes from the Celilo Vineyard, are also building a following. If you happen to come across one of these bottles, don’t hesitate. www.synclinewine.com

Read full article here →


 

Portland & Oregon Restaurants, Food & Drink Recipes | Mix Magazine

Wine tasting excursions around Lyle, Washington

Portland MIX Editor  By KATHERINE COLE

Lyle is an unexplored pocket of breathtaking beauty. The drive from Portland is jaw-dropping, as the road cuts through basalt columns and crosses jetties surrounded by azure waters. It was once a busy steamboat landing where cattle and sheep wranglers would load their live wares onto boats to float down the Columbia. The old wagon roads remain, but today, couples like the Pouillons are discovering the Washington side of the Columbia River Gorge for its possibilities as a winegrowing region, not to mention its inherent charm as a place to build a life.

The quality is high and the travel time is low: With just four tasting rooms around town, you can tackle them all in one day. Which leaves time for hiking, windsurfing, birding, or floating down the Klickitat River in an inner tube, clutching a chilled bottle of rose.

Syncline
111 Balch Road, Lyle; 509-365-4361; synclinewine.com
Chickens, dogs, a cat, the occasional turkey and two horses roam James and Poppie Mantone’s 35-acre property, which they farm biodynamically. Their older daughter sells eggs out of the tasting room. If they play their cards right, pint-sized visitors might be invited to pick fruit from the colorful organic garden. Inspired by the local loggers who drag timber by hoof, James is training his horses to plow his four acres of grapes.

What to drink:
2009 Syncline “Scintillation” Blanc de Blanc ($40)
Antique riddling racks next to the bar in the tasting room display the next vintage of this knockout sparkling wine, made from chardonnay grown at the historic and famously chilly Celilo Vineyard in Underwood. The Mantones follow the traditional “methode Champenoise,” and if you’re into the geeky details, you’ll want to know that this wine goes through native yeast fermentation and sees no CO2 until dosage. The result: an incredibly light, creamy wine with an impressive mousse, delicate floral notes, a touch of nectarine and a finish of lemon chiffon.

2010 Syncline Washington State Pinot Noir ($30)
What does Washington state pinot noir taste like? If it’s sourced from Celilo Vineyard and Underwood Mountain Vineyards, it’s flat-out delicious. Imagine a bowl of freshly picked red cherries, strawberries and raspberries, bottled.

2010 Syncline Horse Heaven Hills Mourvedre ($30)
The Mantones ferment this satisfying red in concrete vats, then age half the wine in concrete and the other half in neutral-oak barrels. The result is a pillowy-soft, velvety texture and such compelling notes of blueberry and black currant that you’ll want to take a bite out of your glass. Coffee and earth on the finish make this a complete package.

Read the full article here →


 

Wine Country Weekends – Portland Monthly

wine traveler

Catherine Creek Trail

Great wine regions can be found across the world, but none quite like the Columbia River Gorge. Where else can you pair a delicate viognier or an earthy zinfandel with some of globe’s best windsurfing, hiking, river rafting, and biking? If your every weekend—even one spent tasting wines—needs action, head east, not south.

FRIDAY

Taste

You can’t taste this region’s wines without crossing the Columbia into Washington for Rhône-style pours at Syncline Winery. James and Poppie Mantone have one acre of vineyards on their property and 24 in eastern Washington’s Horse Heaven Hill and Columbia River Gorge AVAs; they produce 5,000 cases a year of mostly Rhône varietals, such as mourvèdre, roussanne, and viognier. Thur–Sun 11–6; 111 Balch Rd, Lyle; 509-365-4361; synclinewine.com

Do

Not far from Syncline, the moderate one-and-a-quarter-mile hike to the top of Catherine Creek brings you to a superlative picnic spot. (Keep an eye out for poison oak.) The views of the Gorge, Oregon’s lush northern edge, and Mound Hood’s majestic peak are jaw-dropping. www.fs.fed.us

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Not much to do in Columbia gorge town of Lyle except have a perfect weekend

By Terry Richard | trichard@oregonian.com
on September 25, 2010 at 11:25 AM

Winemakers live at Lyle because they want to. The rocky, dry soil grows grapes begrudgingly, so much of the fruit is purchased from large Columbia Valley vineyards farther east.

But Lyle is in the heart of the Columbia Gorge. The beauty of the place and the recreation it offers have caused winemakers to plant roots, just in case sailing winds are nuking or powder snow is dry on Mount Hood.

Just down the hill, James and Poppy Mantone were earlier masters of the Rhone-style at Syncline Wine Cellars. Their 11-year-old label is the longest established among Lyle’s makers of traditional wines.The Mantones’ Steep Creek Ranch vineyard sits in the bottom of a canyon where summer heat presses down like an anvil. Cool evening breezes off the river welcome their winery’s club members gathered for an outdoor dinner on another delicious evening in the gorge.Luke Bradford is winemaker at Cor Cellars, closest winery to Lyle. He studied Italian varietals while working in Tuscany and Sicily, and now specializes in four white wines, plus a blend of four red grapes.

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Columbia Gorge’s Washington shore offers sun, scenery, good wine and open road

The less-visited Washington side of the Columbia River Gorge is quiet in the fall, with plenty to see and do including hikes, winery visits, windsurfing and more.

ByTan Vinh Seattle Times staff reporter

Southern exposure

As I squinted at the view, it was easy to appreciate one big difference between the Oregon and Washington sides of the Gorge: On Washington’s south-facing slopes, it’s sunnier.

We are right on the fringe of the desert. We are where the desert and the foothills of the Cascades come together,” said Syncline Wine Cellars winemaker James Mantone, whose vineyards and farmhouse sit high in the hills outside of Lyle.

Mantone, 38, kayaked here in the 1990s and knew he wanted to settle his family and cellar here once he realized the Gorge’s wine potential. “We’re in the dry zone. You get a lot of sunshine,” he said. “Our winter is more mild and warmer. It’s moderated by the maritime influence,” ideal for his European-style syrahs — savory, herbaceous and lower in alcohol. Seattle Times wine columnist Paul Gregutt calls Mantone one of the most talented winemakers in Washington.

It’s a more intimate wine experience in the Gorge, with mostly boutique wineries, where the winemaker, his spouse or his dog will greet you when you pull up in the driveway.

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