90: 2014 Subduction Red, Columbia Valley
Checking in as a southern Rhone-like blend of 46% Syrah, 27% Mourvedre, 14% Grenache and the rest Carignan, Cinsault and Counoise, the 2014 Subduction Red is terrific value that offers forward, charming, downright delicious notes of ripe black fruits, pepper, underbrush and earth. Drink this beauty over the coming 4-5 years
90: 2013 Mourvedre, Red Mt
My favorite in the lineup was the 2013 Mourvèdre Red Mountain, which is 100% varietal and comes mostly from the Heart of the Hill Vineyard (there’s 10% from Force Majeure). Fermented in concrete tanks and aged in older French oak, it has terrific notes of blackberries, plums, licorice and scorched earth in a medium to full-bodied, rich, textured and layered package. It actually needs a few years in the cellar, and will have a decade of prime drinking.
91: 2012 Cuvee Elena, Columbia Valley
I loved the 2012 GSMC Cuvee Elena, and this blend of 45% Mourvedre, 45% Grenache and 10% Syrah has lots of richness and depth in its blackberry-laced fruit, peppery herbs, roasted meat and licorice aromas and flavors. Aged 16 months in barrel, this medium to full-bodied, pure, polished and elegant 2012 has fine tannin, plenty of freshness and a good finish. Drink it anytime over the coming 7-8 years.
90: 2012 Mourvedre, Red Mt
The 2012 Mourvedre Red Mountain, which incorporates a splash of Syrah, comes all from Red Mountain, mostly from the Ciel du Cheval Vineyard, yet also 15% from the Force Majeure Vineyard. Showing the earthier side to the variety, it offers lots of tree bark, red currants, licorice and dried herbs and dried-earth qualities to go with a supple, elegant, lightly textured profile on the palate. It too is made in a lighter style, yet I like its balance and purity, and suspect it will drink nicely at 10.
93: 2012 Syrah, Ciel du Cheval, Red Mt
I think the star of the show is the 2012 Syrah Ciel du Cheval Vineyard, which comes from what I think is one of the top vineyards in the AVA. Mixed with 10% Mourvedre and aged 16 months in older French oak, it sports an inky purple color to go with classic blackberry, blueberry, crushed violets, crushed rock and serious peppery nuances on the nose. Medium to full-bodied, concentrated and balanced, with stunning purity, it will benefit from short-term cellaring and drink nicely through 2024.
91: 2011 Syrah, Ciel du Cheval Vineyard
My favorite in the lineup, the 2011 Syrah Ciel du Cheval is a rocking effort that gives up loads of spice, mineral, earth and melted licorice to go with a core of sweet black raspberry and black cherry styled fruit. Showing surprising ripeness in the vintage, this medium to full-bodied effort has good acidity, solid mid-palate depth and plenty of length on the finish. Aged all in 3- to 4-year-old barrels, it can be consumed anytime over the coming 7-9 years.
90: 2011 Mourvedre, Red Mountain
A classic Washington State Mourvedre, the 2011 Mourvedre has beautiful, dark fruit, licorice, raspberry, cracked black pepper and assorted floral notes all emerging from its medium to full-bodied, focused and nicely balance profile on the palate. Aged all in older French oak barrels for 16 months, it too can be enjoyed anytime over the coming 7-9 years.
91: 2011 Cuvee Elena
Deeper and richer, the 2011 Cuvee Elena is a barrel selection of top lots and is comprised of 37% Mourvedre, 30% Syrah, 26% Grenache and the balance Carignan and Cinsault. Aged in larger, completely neutral barrels, it offers a lively and complex bouquet of raspberry, sage brush, thyme and hints of darker-styled fruit as well as a medium-bodied, supple and beautifully pure mouthfeel. One of the more approachable vintages for this cuvee, it can be consumed now or cellared for 4-5 years. Drink now-2019.
90: 2011 Syrah, Boushey Vineyard
A pretty, elegant and complex effort that’s loaded with bright Bing cherry, raspberry, licorice, underbrush and hints of pepper, the 2011 Syrah Boushey Vineyard is medium to full-bodied, supple and beautifully textured on the palate. Soft, up-front and with moderate tannin, it’s not a long term prospect, but will still benefit from another year or two in the cellar and drink nicely through 2019. Drink 2014-2019.
Focusing on Rhone styled blends, Syncline Wine Cellars is the brainchild of James and Poppie Mantone. The wines are always of high quality and stress purity, elegance and drinkability over concentration and power. In addition to these releases, James is also producing a Rhone Styled blend for the Force Majeure lineup, which is reviewed (highly I might add) in this report.
90: 2010 Subduction Red
The Syncline 2010 Subduction Red – their largest bottling – represents a geologically and geographically diverse range of vineyards and the following varieties: Mourvedre, Syrah, Grenache, and smaller amounts of Cinsault, Counoise, and Carignan (of which, yes, there is some, at Alder Ridge in the Horse Heaven Hills). Bright red raspberry tinged with bay and sage and allied to red meat juiciness takes on increasingly smoky, piquantly fruit pit, as well as stony notes as it heads into a long, quite fascinating finish of infectious juiciness and refreshment. Firm and lean in feel, this is apt to loosen-up and become even more expressive in another year or so, which is amazing considering what terrific value it represents now.
91: 2010 Mourvedre, Red Mountain
Sourced from Ciel du Cheval, Heart of the Hill, and Kiona vineyards, Syncline’s 2010 Mourvedre Red Mountain offers a striking melange of tart-edged dark berries with juicy red meatiness. An alliance of black tea- and peat-like smokiness, along with an undertone of dark chocolate accents the bright finishing fruit. Mantone says that aggressive early crop thinning – pursued largely through Red Mountain’s near-ubiquitous vineyard manager Ryan Johnson – makes all the difference in the world to getting Mourvedre genuinely ripe, though as one can taste here, without heat or roughness from high alcohol. This should remain fresh for at least 6-8 years.
Poppie and James Mantone met while working at a Willamette Valley winery, and in 1999 moved to the Columbia Gorge with the intention of specializing in Rhone varieties but also in affordability and value, all of which aims have already manifestly been met. “We do all the things they tell you not to do in school,” says James Mantone when asked for an overview of his methodology, which includes typically spontaneous fermentation (though the 2010s needed to be yeasted — clearly with no ill-effect!) and low sulfur, but not anything that seems extraordinary in a global context, or that would not be expected from someone playing by biodynamic rules, which Mantone indicates that they are applying to their new estate vineyard, only a tiny share of which has as yet been planted. To the extent possible, at least some lots of any given wine were fermented and/or matured in concrete, and to give readers an idea of the barrel regimen, for most bottles none are younger than seven years of age! Unfortunately, I could not take time this year to taste the entire Syncline line-up, but what follows are notes on more than three quarters of the portfolio, and you may rest assured that I’ll be paying them an extended visit next year.
91: 2010 Scintillation, Blanc de Blanc
A seriously impressive Sparkler, with ripe apple, brioche and citrus aromas and flavors, the 2010 Scintillation Blanc de Blanc (100% Chardonnay initially fermented in neutral barrel before two years in bottle and disgorged in January 2013) has a beautiful creaminess to its texture and a fine mousse. This fleshes out in the glass and gains additional richness with air. Beautiful purity, detail and freshness all around, it’s a serious effort that will stand toe to toe with a number of Champagnes. Drink now-2017.
91: 2010 Mourvedre, Horse Heaven Hills
Kicking off the 2010s and bright and lifted, with juicy berry-like fruits, violets, wild herbs, pepper and potpourri-like aromas and flavors, the 2010 Mourvedre is medium to full-bodied and has a core of sweet fruit, good acidity and a structured, well focused finish. A 100% Mourvedre that spent 16 months in a combination of concrete and neutral barrel, this supple, rounded and delicious Mourvedre has the texture and fruit to drink well now, yet should evolve gracefully for 7-8 years. Drink now-2021.
91+: 2010 Syrah, Mckinley Springs
A rich and meaty Syrah, the 2010 Syrah McKinley Springs Vineyard is 100% Syrah that was fermented with 20-30% whole-cluster and then aged 16 months in neutral French oak. Loaded with black fruits, smoked bacon, coffee, spice-cabinet and mineral qualities on the nose, this full-bodied, well put together Syrah has juicy acidity, a lively, clean texture and a structured, tannic finish. Give bottles another 2-3 years in the cellar and then drink over the following 5-8 years. Drink 2015-2023.
93: 2010 Cuvee Elena
A small step up from the 2010, and an outstanding blend of 57% Grenache, 32% Mourvedre, 5% Syrah and the rest a mix of Counoise and Carignan, the 2010 Cuvee Elena offers up meaty, rich aromas of black cherry and blackberry styled fruits that are intermixed with notions of crushed stone minerality, black licorice, herbed meat and olive qualities on the nose. Beautifully put together on the palate as well, with a medium to full-bodied, elegant and layered texture, notable acidity and a core of fruit that comes out more with air, this superb blend should be given 2-3 years of bottle age and then consumed over the following decade. Drink 2015-2025.
90: 2009 Rose
The 2009 Rose is a blend of Cinsault, Counoise, Grenache, Mourvedre, and Carignan. Light pink in color, it reveals a fragrant nose of cherry blossom, strawberry, and rhubarb. Dry on the palate with plenty of spicy, savory fruit, this balanced, lengthy Rose will provide pleasure over the next 12-18 months.
91: 2009 Cuvee Elena
The 2009 Cuvee Elena is composed of 50% Grenache, 41% Mourvedre, and the balance Syrah and Carignan aged entirely in neutral oak. Expressive notes of rose petal, spice box, incense, underbrush, black cherry, and blueberry inform the nose of a savory, round, smooth-textured wine with a sense of elegance. Drink this already complex offering over the next 6-7 years.
94: 2009 Blanc de Blanc Celilo Vineyard
Sparkling wine is becoming a significant if still small part of Syncline’s program employing fruit from famed Celilo Vineyard, including the Chardonnay informing a 2009 Blanc de Blanc Celilo Vineyard, which not only utterly belies its having originated in a hot vintage but joins the best traditional method wines of Argyle, Soter, and Syncline-near-neighbor Analemma (all of whose wines I reported on in issue 202 featuring Oregon) to demonstrate that the Pacific Northwest can generate some of the world’s most profound non-Champagne sparklers. Apple, white peach, mint, buddleia, lime and tangerine zest team up for a winsome nose, then reassemble on a buoyant; subtly leesy and creamy; finely pearling palate, along with invigorating piquancy of fruit pit and crunch of lentil sprouts; smoky richness of nut oils, and mouthwateringly savory salinity. This memorably complex, long performance ought to be worth revisiting for at least a couple of years and will, I predict, leave you (as it did me) shaking your head in amazement for days after first tasting. As Mantone regrettably puts it, “it’s too hard, expensive, and time-consuming for me to make these sparking wines a big part of my project,” but at least we can look forward to 200 cases of the present beauty and somewhat larger volumes of other sparkling cuvees in the near future.
91: 2008 Syrah Mckinley Springs
The 2008 Syrah McKinley Springs Vineyard was co-fermented with 2% Viognier. It exhibits an expressive nose of cedar, smoked meat, game, blueberry, and blackberry. Ripe and fleshy on the palate, this complex Syrah has enough structure to evolve for 2-3 years but can be enjoyed now.
92: 2008 Cuvee Elena
The 2008 Cuvee Elena is a blend of 48% Grenache, 24% Mourvedre, 13% Syrah, with the balance Counoise and Cinsault aged in neutral barrels and concrete. It offers up a nose of underbrush, brier, spice box, plum, and boysenberry. Medium to full-bodied on the palate, it has excellent volume, intense fruit, good depth, and a lengthy, pure finish. Give it 2-3 years of additional bottle age and drink it through 2020.
90: 2008 Mourvedre, Coyote Canyon Vineyard
The 2008 Mourvedre Coyote Canyon Vineyard is a glass-coating opaque purple color. It sports an inviting nose of underbrush, brier, Asian spices, incense, garrigue, and plum. Dense, ripe, and complex, this lengthy Mourvedre captures the essence of this grape in a big way.
91: 2008 Pinot Noir
The 2008 Pinot Noir Columbia Gorge, sourced from the Celilo Vineyard (55%) and the Underwood Mountain Vineyard (45%), and made with 20-30% whole clusters. Dark ruby-colored, it displays an enticing perfume of black cherry, black raspberry, spice box, and incense. Savory on the palate and already revealing some complexity, this intense Pinot will have more to say with another 2-3 years of bottle age.
93: 2007 Syrah
The 2007 Syrah is 65% Horse Heaven Hills and 35% Wahluke Slope fruit. An enticing nose of spice box, smoked meat, hung game, and blueberry are first class. This leads to an elegant yet mouth-filling Syrah that has exceptional concentration and length. It can be enjoyed now for its fleshy fruit but will be more refined and civilized with 6-8 years of additional bottle age.
93: 2007 Cuvee Elena
The 2007 Cuvee Elena is a blend of 70% Grenache, 17% Mourvedre, and the balance Carignan, Cinsault, and Syrah. The wine has terrific aromatics that would make most producers of Chateauneuf-du-Pape very proud. Aromas of spice box, raspberry, cranberry, garrigue, and underbrush lead to a silky, elegant, exceptionally concentrated and impeccably balanced wine that can be enjoyed now and over the next 8-10 years.
93: 2007 Mourvedre, Coyote Canyon Vineyard
The 2007 Mourvedre Coyote Canyon Vineyard was raised in seasoned 500-liter barrels. It has an untamed bouquet of underbrush, truffle, wild blueberry, and blackberry liqueur leading to an intense, concentrated, dense, rich wine with exceptional length. The wine demands 4-6 years of cellaring to give its full expression.
91: 2007 Pinot Noir, Celilo Vineyard
Syncline produces a Columbia Gorge Pinot Noir (a few others are reviewed in my Oregon report.). The 2007 Pinot Noir Celilo Vineyard is sourced from a dry-farmed vineyard planted in 1972. The wine was aged for 12 months in 20% new French oak. It displays a lovely perfume of black raspberry and black cherry. Silky-textured, sweetly fruited, and elegant, it can be enjoyed now and over the next 6 years.
91: 2006 Syrah, Mckinley Springs
90: 2006 Mourvedre, Coyote Canyon Vineyard
92: 2006 Cuvee Elena