Absolutely ZinFul

Here’s another Washington Wine Wonder! Maryhill Winery, just NorthEast of The Dalles, Oregon, on the Washington side of the Columbia River. We had visited them in our last two trips to Oregon, and the very nice young man (and knowledgeable, too!) behind the counter remembered us. That’s probably 5,000 visitors later.

It might have helped that after our first visit, we worked to get Maryhill’s wines into Colorado. It probably also helped that we got signed up in their Industry program on our last visit (their Gold Program is the best one for repeat offenders/customers).

In our first visit, we had purchased an assortment of wines to taste on our visit to the Oregon coast. As I recall, all were great, but the 2001 Zin was outstanding (note that we did not keep the label; the photo at left is from 2005). Between our visit and a week later when we returned to get more, it had won some California judging and had totally disappeared. That was the best Zin I’d tasted in 2 years! And it was gone!

This year we made it a point to catch them earlier. And guess what, the “normal” 2004 Zin is great, and at a retail price of $20 (Gold members pay $15) is a great value. We also tried the Reserve Zin, and it was as close as it gets to the incredible 2001. But our price/value sense says go with the normal. We also liked the Cab and Syrah, and bought a bottle of the Reserve Malbec because we have a thing for this Bordeaux-blending wine that Argentina has perfected as a stand-out stand-alone.

The Pinot Gris was a bit sweet for our tastes, but great for a hot day. My sister Mary Jo didn’t mind the sweetness one bit. It disappeared quickly.

If you are in the area, cross the Columbia River in North-Central Oregon from The Dalles (alleged home of the next Google Server Farm, according to NY Times), and go East 25 miles. I strongly recommend a visit to Maryhill Winery. Ask about Sam Hill (“what the Sam Hill?”), taste their wines, and see one of their concerts. This is not one of the big wine conglomerates. It is a small family operation run excellently.

2007 Update: 5 August 2007
In planning our 2007 trip to Oregon, we visited the Maryhill Winery website, to see what was new with the winery, and to explore their new releases. We also submitted the above post to their novel “Maryhill Memories” program, for interesting stories about Maryhill experiences.

We visited the winery in the heat of the July afternoon, and had a wonderful lunch in the shaded arbor outside the tasting room. We accompanied our cheese, sausage and bread, all bought at the winery, with the Maryhill 2006 Pinot Gris. It was a little more dry, and perfect for the day, than last year’s Gris.

We came away with a selection of 2005 Zin (even better than last year), 2004 Proprietor’s Reserve Cab (I’m afraid we downed that this week, for the sake of science, of course), and an absolutely stellar Proprietors’ Reserve Sangiovese, that we shared with friends (hi Stan!) down on the Oregon Coast at Gold Beach. You don’t normally get good USA Sangiovese, the grape of Chianti Classico Reserva and of my favorite, Brunello de Montalcino.

I don’t know why it is, but we just cannot seem to keep these Maryhill Winery wines until they reach their peak; I guess we are too eager. The Sangiovese would have saved for 4-5 years, and the Cab had a good 10 year life ahead of it. I guess we’ll have to get more!

Oh, and we received word this weekend that our post is a winner for the month of July in the Maryhill Memories contest. You should visit Maryhill Winery, or find their wines in your local savvy wine outlet (if they are available in your area), and start your own entry in the contest!