Yes there is kick-ass wine made in Oregon: Rockblock Syrah

I mentioned to a friend of mine that I was going review a Syrah from Oregon and he was bemused. “I never think of good wine coming from Oregon. I didn’t even know they made wine in Oregon.” I was a little stunned, taken aback. I thought, don’t worry, he’s just Canadian. (Save your hate mail Canadians. I’m just joking and I love your country even if you have crazy bad Olympic closing ceremonies. I mean what was with that inflatable Rocky and Bullwinkle?) Then it hit me, Oregon wines are to wine what Portlandia is to TV sitcoms.  Brilliant maybe, but only insiders know about it.

I assume that everyone appreciates the splendor of Oregon wine like I do. After all, there are no finer Pinot Noirs made on this Earth. But I get Portlandia. I worked at a winery in Oregon. I guess the wines are a better kept secret than I realized outside of the wine geek world. I feel it’s my duty to proselytize.

Oregon is known for its cool, rainy climate which is perfect for growing Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. There are also regions where the sun burns hotter, such as the Columbia and Rogue Valleys. The Del Rio Vineyard in the Rogue Valley Appellation in Southern Oregon grows thicker skinned grapes like Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah. They make their own wines and also sell grapes to other fine wineries.

In 1999  Ken and Grace Evenstad, owners of esteemed winery Domaine Serene, decided to make small production, single vineyard wines from three vineyards in two appellations outside of the Willamette Valley. What happens when you put quality fruit in the hands of a skilled wine maker? I stumbled across a pile of 2005 Rockblock Syrah Del Rio Vineyard bottles at the local wine shop and had to bring home an armload. I’m glad I did. I’ve had Del Rio Vineyard wines made by other wineries, and I’ve had buckets of Domaine Serene, so I knew I was in for a treat.

Here’s what it’s like.   

Look Rockblock dresses a glass with deep eggplant and ruby glints in the light revealing sparkling clarity.  
Smell It introduces itself with an Australian accent, the thrill of alcohol springing forth and opening to fig, raspberry and roses.  
Taste Then it reveals a French heritage with cassis, black cherry cola and dark chocolate flavors tempered with smoked cedar in a long finish.
Price $20


I’ll put Rockblock Syrah into my regular rotation to drink with lamb or beer and to drink on its own. It’s approachable like an Aussie Shiraz, but more refined like a French Cotes du Rhone. Don’t take my word for it, try an Oregon Syrah. I purchased this wine at Specs Wine & Spirits.

What are you drinking?

Published by

Matt McGinnis

As a marketing strategist for Pen & Tell Us, Matt McGinnis provides marketing, branding and communications counsel to food and beverage as well as other clients globally. He is also an avid beverage enthusiast, chronicling his interests as a Food & Drink contributing writer for CultureMap, as the Food & Drink columnist for Austin Man Magazine, and as a blogger for What Are You Drinking?. He is passionate about the wine industry having previously worked at a winery in Oregon and in wine sales. He has served as Guest Host of Sommelier Cinema at the Alamo Drafthouse, and is a Certified Sommelier in the Court of Master Sommeliers. His writing has been recognized as a Top 10 Food Blog by the Austin Chronicle in 2013 and 2014, with a 2011 Texas Social Media Award from the Austin American-Statesman.

5 thoughts on “Yes there is kick-ass wine made in Oregon: Rockblock Syrah”

  1. Hi Matt,

    I’m really surprised that you would make such disparaging remarks about an entire nation over a bottle of pinot noir. So let me begin my rebuttal. Oregon is not the center of the universe (let alone the wine industry). You pass through the state going to somewhere else, somewhere important. This being the case, I’m always open to new experiences and will give Syrah a try. You also might want to look into some vineyards above the 49th parallel. Below are the names of two that have gotten some attention.

    Lailey Vinyard

    Ice wine is very popular. Don’t knock it until you try it.

    Also, let the record show that Canadians should be very proud of their showing in the last Winter Olympics. We took gold (beating out the US) in hockey while collecting 26 total medals, the most a host country has won at the Winter Olympics, since the United States in 2002. Not bad for a country with only 30+ million people.

    1. Andre, you are right. I shouldn’t disparage all of Canadia just because of your ignorance. I’m never surprised that quality wine is made in all sorts of unexpected places. I’d be thrilled to try the wines you mention here. Next time you go back to Toronto, would you pick some up for me? I’ll definitely review it.



  2. Well, I do regard New World wine as being very worthwhile. In the case of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, it is, absolutely, the best. But to claim Oregon Pinot Noir is the best in the world is ridiculous. Worthy of ridicule.
    Burgundy make the world’s best wine. Much of it is Pinot Noir. Anyone who knows wine knows that. You pay a lot of money to drink something you cannot experience without paying the money.
    Oregon. You may produce decent wine, but why invite derision?

    1. Gerry, thank you for your comment. Its good to know that I have knowledgeable readers. My claim that Oregon makes the finest Pinot Noir on Earth was written in the spirit of the TV show Portlandia that I reference in the opening. Its intended to reflect the self-absorbed, hyperbolic tone of the characters on the show. Tongue firmly planted in cheek. (I also enjoyed the Calgary Winter Olympics.) That said, I think there are many fine Pinots made in the state. I agree that there are many sublime wines made in Burgundy, and that region as a whole is top notch. No argument with you there.

      Also thanks for your comment about New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. I need to write more about that it.



    2. Gerry, thank you for your comment. Its good to know that I have knowledgeable readers. My claim that Oregon Pinot Noir is the best on Earth is made in the spirit of the TV show Portlandia. Its self-absorbed hyperbole like what Fred Arminsen would write for the show. While the comment was a bit tongue in cheek, I do believe that the state produces top rate wines. I completely agree with you that many sublime wines are produced in Burgundy and the region has turned many of the best wines in the world.

      Also thank you for mentioning New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. I enjoy it as well. I need to write about it more.



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