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?