Del Rio Vineyards “Rock Point River Rock Red,” 2009

For Valentine’s Day, I’ve a short review of a red wine I haven’t been able to shake from my mind. A wine from Oregon, a region I briefly lived in as a youth. Only bought one bottle, and ever since I had it, I’ve wanted more. Love is so often like that, right? Those little things that stick with you – faint essences in the air, scents, hints of a special something, a special someone. As W.S. Merwin put it:

“Your absence has gone through me

Like thread through a needle.

Everything I do is stitched with its color.”

But far from being melancholy about this longing, I rejoice daily in the inspiration that wine still gives me. I’ve always felt, in fact, that wine has been my only lasting love affair. Each glass makes me more enamored. The way to make this nagging stop is write it out, so…

Back when I lived in Oregon, I’d spend my summer days dashing around the hills, looking at the landscape in constant astonishment. Far different from anything else I’d known, and so wild… the wines reflect this wildness, I’ve found, across regions and across varietals. Pinot Noir from the Willamette Valley – Oregon’s dominant red grape from its premier region – often shows a lovely mix of earthiness, gamy animal musk and floral delicacy… but the blackberry fruit beneath is so vibrant and fresh that you can’t stop coming back for another sip. I find this wildness to be the most compelling thing about Oregonian wine. But in wine, as in relationships, I also tend to look to the unusual. So, this post concerns a strange bird: the 2009 Rock Point River Rock Red, a Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon blend from Del Rio Vineyards, located just south of Walla Walla, the other important winemaking region in Oregon.

The River Rock vineyard itself rests in an ancient riverbed, and the blend is 63% Syrah, 37% Cabernet Sauvignon, both hand-harvested in mid-October. Separate primary fermentation, delicate handling, and malolactic fermentation (the least romantic word for the most sensual transformation in wine), followed by aging in French oak for one year. Like love, winemaking is often complicated.

But what results!  Bright berry red in the glass, and a nose bursting with ripe cherry aromas, forest floor, mushrooms, and vanilla spice as well as faint notes of sage and eucalyptus. The body is full and round, with more red fruits as well as plums and black olives in the mouth. This is paired with a deliciously silky texture and snappy acidity to keep the lush tannins upright. Beautiful finish, dry and long. Enjoy this with your sweetheart for just $12.

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