“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.
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.
“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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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
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.