About six years ago, friends Mike Tembreull and Doug Roskelley stumbled upon a “vineyard for sale” sign. Not just any vineyard, but the first commercial vineyard in the Walla Walla Valley, planted in 1981. That brilliant old-vine fruit provides the backbone for Tero’s cellar-worthy Windrow Vineyards Old Block and Estate Reserve Cabernets. Also recommended is the smoky, toasty Windrow Vineyards Herb’s Block Merlot.
Winemaker Kenny Hart manages some of Walla Walla’s most coveted vineyards, and selects fruit from specific rows to make his own wines under the Tulpen label. “I know where the good fruit’s at and where to harvest it,” he says with a grin. A gregarious, food-loving guy, Hart’s wines are as generous and enjoyable as he is. Look for the Merlot and Syrah, in particular.
Tranche is a sister winery to Walla Walla’s Corliss Estates, with a focus on Rhône varieties. Drawing upon a range of fruit sources, including its own expansive Blue Mountain Estate Vineyard, Tranche offers a wide range of well-made wines. Most notable are the Slice of Pape Blanc and Slice of Pape Red—Châteauneuf-du-Pape wannabes.
Winemaker Robert Brittan moved to Oregon to pursue his dream of producing cool-climate Pinot Noir and Syrah after 16 years at Stags’ Leap Winery in Napa Valley. He produces two different Pinot Noirs at Brittan, the Basalt Block and the Gestalt Block, and both are exceptional. Characterized by great purity, depth of flavor and vivid minerality in the best vintages, they should continue to improve for a decade or more after bottling.
A biodynamic producer tucked away in Southern Oregon’s Applegate Valley, tiny Cowhorn focuses on Rhône-style white and red varietal and blended wines. Each is distinctive, with thrilling, detailed flavors unique to the site. Bonus: Bottle prices are modest.