Northern Exposure

Pioneer Washington vintner Peter Rosback continues to put Sineann on the map.


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Get to know Peter Rosback's highly sought-after wines.

Sineann's owner/winemaker Peter Rosback gets called a lot of things—hyperactive, intense, manic—but never lazy. On a perpetual tear, this 49-year-old, sushi-loving, hockey-playing dervish has almost single-handedly established Zinfandel as a legitimate Northwest wine grape. But that's just the start.

His new lineup includes a dozen Pinot Noirs, 10 from single vineyards. "All different," he says, "or I wouldn't make them." There are also three vineyard-designated Gewürztraminers, old vine Cabernet from one of Washington's founding vineyards, and a seemingly endless parade of one-off Rieslings, Sauvignon Blancs, Chardonnays, Merlots, dessert wines and blends. All different, and very good.

The diversity and across-the-board excellence of the Sineann portfolio speaks to both Rosback's abundant talent and his boundless enthusiasm for great vineyards. It would be difficult to name anyone in either Washington or Oregon who has worked more tirelessly to find, improve and express the terroir.

Rosback began making wines as an amateur in the mid-1980s. When he made a particularly good wine, he would contact the grower and offer top dollar, picking the grapes himself and paying full price on the spot. "I was rarely denied," he grins. From there he began moonlighting as a cellar rat at Elk Cove, where he met his partner David O'Reilly, a marketing specialist. Soon, Sineann was launched.

Their first wine, a 1994 Old Vine Zinfandel from a forgotten vineyard called The Pines, set the standard for everything that followed. Now, with an unbroken track record of exciting, powerful wines from a couple dozen different vineyards, it is the growers who seek him out as often as not. This year, for the first time, Rosback will harvest Cabernet Sauvignon grapes from Ste. Michelle's famous Cold Creek Vineyard.

Look to Sineann for intense wines from low yielding vines, designed for maximum flavor extraction and immediate, fruit-powered pleasure.


Pinot Noir

92 Sineann 2005 Maresh Vineyard Pinot Noir (Willamette Valley); $42. This is the most concentrated and structured wine among ten Pinots tasted from Sineann in this vintage. Still quite young, tart and juicy, it mixes strawberry, raspberry and plummy fruits, supported by firm, compact tannins. The impression of sappy, juicy, fresh-picked fruit continues with a finishing lift of spice. Excellent focus and concentration.
91 Sineann 2005 Resonance Vineyard Pinot Noir (Willamette Valley); $48. Biodynamically-farmed grapes seem to provide an extra layer of texture, as the layers of ripe strawberry and cherry fruit spread across the palate. It hints at toast, espresso and cola while retaining its supple grace. Perhaps a bit less rich than in years past, but what a wonderfully elegant expression of the grape.
91 Sineann 2005 Phelps Creek Vineyard Pinot Noir (Columbia Gorge); $42. Always a top vineyard-designate, the '05 Phelps shows good ripeness, firm acids and a rather soft and broad mid-palate showcasing flavors of strawberry preserves. It's lightly spicy, still quite youthful, super clean and resonant right on through an extended, refreshing finish.
91 Sineann 2005 Lachini Vineyard Pinot Noir (Willamette Valley); $42. Much lighter in '05, the Lachini is nonetheless ripened to a comfortable weight for Pinot Noir, rather than pushed into super-ripe jamminess. Perfectly balanced, it shows elegant flavors of sweet berry and tea-like tannins.
90 Sineann 2005 Whistling Ridge Vineyard Pinot Noir (Willamette Valley); $42. This vineyard really shines in this vintage, sending up concentrated aromas of blackberry and raspberry fruit. It leads into a ripe, plump and gently rounded mid-palate, with Burgundian balance. Sweet plum and cherry fruit, hints of cocoa, no overt oak and pleasingly soft tannins all contribute to this graceful wine.
89 Sineann 2005 Able Vineyard Pinot Noir (Columbia Gorge); $36. The winemaker calls this "our most delicate, most feminine Pinot Noir" and indeed it is a very pretty wine, with sweet fruit that sits right between pie cherry and cherry candy flavors. It's light in the manner of a simple Volnay, and like many of Sineann's '05 Pinots, may develop surprising complexity if given some years in the cellar.
89 Sineann 2005 Covey Ridge Vineyard Pinot Noir (Willamette Valley); $42. A classic Oregon style in a moderate year, with herb and leaf, beet and sour cherry. There is an earthy kick to the tannins, and a sniff of pot bud that continues through the palate; not unpleasantly.
88 Sineann 2005 Wyeast Vineyard Pinot Noir (Columbia Gorge); $42. This interesting wine carries scents of raisin, soy, cocoa and chocolate, and tastes lightly of pine needle and spice. Quite tart, the tannins seem to stand out at this point, with residual, dry flavors of green tea. This will benefit from some more bottle time.
88 Sineann 2005 Pinot Noir (Oregon); $30. This Oregon bottling, Sineann's compendium of many of its left-over barrels from the single vineyard Pinots, is quite tart, with flavors of rhubarb and strawberry. It's a clean, modest wine, nicely balanced and detailed. The finish shows good length and doesn't fade.
87 Sineann 2005 Schindler Vineyard Pinot Noir (Willamette Valley); $42. This Eola Hills Pinot is the lightest of the lineup, almost to the point of seeming thin. It is also the most herbal, and carries a whiff of blood, like raw meat. Pretty, delicate berry flavored fruit is laced with cinnamon, then turns rough in the tannic finish.



Zinfandel

93 Sineann 2005 Old Vine Zinfandel (Columbia Valley); $36. These are century-old vines—unique in the Northwest. The new vintage brings the alcohol down to a welcome 14.8%, and offers complex, soft, plummy fruit with the grace of old vines. The grapes seem to quietly show their mastery of scents and flavors, lightly liquorous, but laden with plums, cherries, dates and figs. Turley eat your heart out!
92 Sineann 2005 The Pines Zinfandel (Columbia Valley); $27. The same vineyard that produces the winery's 'Old Vine' Zinfandel makes this thick, concentrated wine, from almost 20-year-old vines. It's packed with black raspberry and black cherry fruit, wafts of smoke and clove and meat. Young, tannic, thick and quite ripe, it's got more raw power than the O.V. but a tad less complexity.

 

Cabernet Sauvignon

92 Sineann 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon (Columbia Valley); $30. Seductive and pungent with a wide array of Asian spices, incense and fresh earth. There are gentle reminders of umami—soy and balsamic, salt and mushroom—and the fruits are ripe and very slightly cooked. Raisin, spice cake, plum pudding—this is a baker's dream!


Gewürztraminer

88 Sineann 2005 Celilo Vineyard Gewürztraminer (Columbia Gorge); $18. Pure pear and mineral, this is the fruitiest of the winery's trio of Gewürz. Intense, clean and focused, it's a pleasure wine, forward and with a suggestion of sweetness.
91 Sineann 2005 Resonance Vineyard Gewürztraminer (Willamette Valley); $18 This is the spicy Gewürz, with a bouquet of ginger, clove and mint wrapped into clean pear and stone fruits. There is excellent lift and balance, and together these three wines cover all the bases.
93 Sineann 2005 Oak Ridge Vineyard Gewürztraminer (Columbia Gorge); $18. Fragrant and varietal, this showers you with its pungent and penetrating perfume, then wraps the palate in a cascade of pear, pineapple and grapefruit. Lush and round, ripe and rich, it's a mouthful and a noseful, quite beautifully rendered.



Sauvigon Blanc

90 Sineann 2005 'Kingfish Cuvée' Sauvignon Blanc (Columbia Valley); $18. This is an unusual straw gold, a darker, rounder, riper version of Sauvignon Blanc than we are accustomed to seeing from the Northwest. Scented with honey, mint and vanilla tea, it is quite the opposite of the grassy, stony style of SB that I generally admire. But the winemaking is so polished, the wine so supple, toasty and flavorful, that it blows away all my objections.


Pinot Gris

91 Sineann 2005 Pinot Gris (Oregon); $18. Clean, ripe and rich, as are all of these wines, this shows fleshy pear highlighted with fresh cream. It's full-bodied, balanced and lush, with nice hints of cinnamon spice peaking out of the finish.
91 Sineann 2005 Chardonnay (Oregon); $18. No oak! Just a crisp, fruit-driven Chardonnay that delivers excellent complexity. Nice integration of apple, pear and peach flavors, leading to a firm and full-bodied wine that penetrates and lingers. Who knew that oakless Chardonnay could be this good? It's even got a nice lemony lift from the acids.



 

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