Monday, March 30, 2009

Good People & Good Wine At McKinley Springs

In general, what I like most about the wine business is the people. It is inevitable that when you are out tasting you will run into old friends, and make a few new ones along the way. Last night I met a couple of new friends in Doug and Sandy Rowell, the owners of McKinley Springs Winery.

Doug and Sandy have been in the wine business for many years, beginning as grape growers for some of the most prestigious wineries in the region since 1980. Their considerable 1800 acres of vineyards, located south of Prosser in the Alder Ridge area, supplies juice for Bookwalter, Northstar, Columbia Crest, Waving Tree, and many others.

In 2002, like many other growers, Doug decided to take the difficult trail toward starting his own winery. With Sandy by his side, Doug started producing Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah. They have since branched off into producing Viognier, Chenin Blanc, Malbec, Petit Verdot, and are working on many other varietals and blends.

The 2006 Viognier opens up with a nose of honeysuckle and spring flowers. It features flavors of peaches, pears, and a wonderful dry minerality which gives it a slight sparkle. The finish is quite acidic, which paired with the mineral clears the palate but leaves a nice lingering finish. My immediate thoughts were to pair this with grilled Tilapia and a nice spicy mango salsa.

I next tasted the 2005 Syrah. Doug produces his Syrah in the traditional Cote Rotie style by blending in a little more than three percent of whole Viognier grapes during the initial fermentation. This method produces a famously meaty, dark, rich Syrah that you can really sink your teeth into, while providing a beautiful elegant nose. A wonderfully balanced wine with a long tannic finish.

After the Syrah we went on to try the 2005 Malbec. As you already know, I’m a pretty ardent Malbec fan, and drink a considerable amount of the stuff. So, let’s say I wasn’t expecting anything out of the ordinary. Right away I was impressed with the dark, rich nose of blueberry pie and the nearly black colors in the glass. This wine opens up with dark cherries, blueberries, vanilla, and finishes with the lingering rainforest flavor that I love. I’ll tell you now, that this is among the best being produced in this region.

Last, we tasted the 2006 Petit Verdot. Usually used as a mixing grape with other varietals, I am usually hesitant to just reach out and grab a bottle at my favorite wine shop. Doug has, however, done a nice job of tackling this very difficult grape. The Petit Verdot opens with dark colors and flavors of stone fruit. It fills the mouth with espresso, cinnamon, and fresh black pepper. Serve this with a smoked ribeye and you’ll be in love.

In closing, I want to mention that you can’t get these wines in Eastern Oregon at this time. However, if you want a reason to visit the winery they are planning several Barbeque events when things warm up this year. The one to not miss is their BBQ Showdown & Benefit on June 13th. The cost is $25 per person over 19. 18 and under are free. This includes wine for those over 21, soft drinks, food, and a lot of fun. The proceeds go to feed returning troops at Ft. Lewis. To find out more about McKinley Springs go to . Enjoy!

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