Saturday, May 16, 2009

New Wines Available In Eastern Oregon

One of the benefits of writing this column is that I get to taste new wines as they are introduced into the region. This week I tasted some new wines and new vintages that I am excited about sharing with you.

First, I want to talk about Stella Fino Winery. My friend Marlene Steiner and her husband Matt have just opened their new winery with the releases of a 2006 Sangiovese, A Tuscan red blend called The Boot, and their 2007 Pinot Gris.

Matt and Marlene named the winery after Matt’s great-grandmother who’s name was Stella Fino, an Italian immigrant who raised her family in the Bronx, New York. Her Italian ways and culture have encouraged Matt’s culinary and wine influences throughout his life. When he and Marlene decided to move west from New York to engage in the wine business, they decided that they would focus on making great Italian style wines in her name.

As is usual with new vintners, the Steiners have produced a limited amount of wine for release to the open market. The wines are fun and engaging at a reasonable price for a Walla Walla producer.

The 2006 Boot is a blend of 50% Sangiovese and 50% Barbera. It starts out with a nose that is mossy, and reminds me of early mornings on the Tucanon River trout fishing. The flavors are full and bright with fresh red raspberries and white pepper. This will pair very well with a meatball or sausage and pepper sandwich.

The 2006 Sangiovese is made with 100% Sangiovese juice that was sourced from a mixture of Pepperbridge in Walla Walla, and Candy Mountain just outside of West Richland. The wine features flavors of dark cherry, menthol, and fresh tobacco leaf.

Last, the 2007 Pinot Gris was a bright and fresh wine, with overtones of pear and citrus salad. It would be perfect with seafood or soft cheeses.

Another winery that I tasted this week was Garrison Creek. I can truthfully say that I was blown away. The bottles read 2001 and 2002, which concerned me as they were being opened. Usually vintages of that age are already headed for oxidation. But not these beauties.

Garrison Creek is a winery that has been a long time coming in the Walla Walla region. Michael Murr, the owner, and David March, the winemaker have put many painstaking years into building their winery and their wines. Currently they make Cabernet Sauvignon, a Syrah, Red Blends, and are getting ready to release a Zinfandel.

I tasted the 2002 Cabernet Sauvignon. The nose was full and rich with plums, dark fruit, and leather. Flavors of plum, vanilla, anise, and dark cherries filled my senses. If I hadn’t known better I could have sworn I was sitting in Napa Valley drinking a local Cabernet. If you like big, strong, but gentle Cabernets I highly suggest that you try these wines.

If you want to purchase any of these wines I suggest getting out to the usual haunts in Pendleton or Hermiston. If they don’t have them now, they should in a few days or weeks. Be sure to ask if you don’t find what you’re looking for.

Have a great weekend, and enjoy!


  1. Curious. I followed a link to this column expecting to read about wineries in Eastern Oregon, confirmed by the headline of the story. I enjoyed the information about Walla Walla wineries you visited, but I still would love to know if there is a column on Eastern Oregon. Can you let me know? Thanks, Susan O'Hara,

  2. Sorry for the confusion, however the title is acurate for the story. The title denotes distribution availability in the region, not actual facilities.

    On the other hand, Stella Fino considers themselves to be a Walla Walla winery, however they are located on the Oregon side of the border. There are several wineries that produce wine that is grown in Northeast Oregon, however there really isn't anyone marketing it as such. Zerba is the only winery that is actually located in Milton Freewater at this time. 7 hills vineyard is a popular "Walla Walla" wine that is actually juice from south of Milton Freewater. Maryhill, Bergevin Lane, and many other top notch Washington Wineries buy fantastic juice from vineyards in Echo, but no one is actively selling it as such.


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