A time to give thanks: Thanksgiving weekend at Sineann

Several years ago, I worked for a local natural food chain store in Portland, Oregon as a wine, beer, and cheese monger. One of my regular customers at the time was a man named Peter. Peter came in on a regular basis, bringing his absolutely adorable daughter with him. We would talk about food and wine, he would buy some cheese or a bottle of wine and go on about his business.

When I had started at the company, the policy was that individual stores could stock wine and beer based on what they felt was most appropriate for the audience. Shortly before I left, the policy changed; all stocking decisions now came from the central office. At around this time, Peter came in, bearing a bottle of wine he had made himself, and asking if we would be interested in stocking it. Unfortunately for our customers, we were no longer allowed to do so without sending it through the central office. Because Peter, of course, is Peter Rosback, and the wine he was selling that day so many years ago was one of the first Sineann releases.

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Sineann sources grapes from throughout the Northwest region--they make everything from a killer pinot noir to cabernet franc, zinfandel, and a house red that has a little of everything. They have relationships with three biodynamic vineyards, though all the grapes they source are of the highest quality. Their iconic figure has been the monk that has been displayed on the label all their releases; however, beginning with the releases this year, the monk has been replaced with a number of new labels. The folks at Sineann will continue to change their labels until they find one that they like well enough to see every day. Sineann is also well known for their use of glass corks, though Peter expressed surprise that more wineries aren't following the same path. The corks make a great seal, they're reusable in a way that standard corks aren't, and there's no problem with "corked" wines.

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Peter has prospered since that day nearly ten years ago; his wines are now nationally renowned. Over Thanksgiving weekend, Man of La Muncha and I stopped in to try some wine and talk to Peter as he rushed madly about during the annual open house. While we didn't get a chance to talk much, we did manage to taste a number of very fine wines; below are my tasting notes.

Sineann 2005 Chardonnay "Oregon". This wine is fermented purely in stainless steel, and it shows. A bright apple nose, with a slight smokiness on the palate and a crisp, lingering finish. A fantastic food wine.

Sineann 2005 Pinot Gris "Oregon". Also fermented in stainless steel, the pinot gris has a bright nose, while the palate shows hints of lychee. The finish is creamy and smooth; this is a textbook Oregon pinot gris.

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Sineann 2005 Red Table Wine. The Sineann red table wine is a blend of all the reds that have been released in 2005. It includes pinot noir, merlot, cabernet franc, and zinfandel. It's an unlikely combination, but the wine itself is outstanding, with a tobacco nose and a strongly tannic backbone, with the pinot adding a bright cherry note to an otherwise dusky wine. Man of La Muncha and I buy this as our "house" wine.

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Sineann 2005 Pinot Noir "Oregon". A stinky barnyard/bramble nose yields to a wine with hints of leather, tobacco, and black cherry. A solid Oregon pinot with a great sense of terroir.

Sineann 2005 Pinot Noir "Schindler". A rich, meaty nose on a wine that has a slight hint of tar and bright ripe raspberry palate.

Sineann 2005 Pinot Noir "Resonance". This is a really pretty wine. A bright fruit nose and a dusty, earthy palate with the slightest hint of barnyard. Rich coffee/toffee notes in the finish make for a subtle, approachable wine.

Sineann 2005 "Maresh". A pretty violet nose, with bright red cherry. I get a hint of plastic off the palate, but Man of La Muncha begs to differ, discerning currants in the nose with blackberry and boysenberry in the palate.

Sineann 2005 Blend. The blend differs from the red table wine in that there are only three varietals included (syrah, merlot, and cabernet) all from a single grower outside of The Dalles, Oregon. It has a candied cherry nose, and bright, approachable fruit. A friendly wine.

Sineann 2005 Zinfandel "Pines". A ripe, rich nose leads into a wine with strong fruit and pepper overtones with a hint of brambliness in the back. This wine was a little hot for my tastes.

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Sineann 2005 Old Vine Zinfandel. A smooth fruit nose, with tobacco and chocolate in the palate. Intensely concentrated, with a strong blackberry backbone.

Sineann 2005 Merlot. A vegetal, green beany nose with a bing cherry palate. This wine was a little tight, and could do with some additional bottle aging.

2005 Old Ball and Chain. A dessert wine named after Peter's wife, the Old Ball and Chain shows a hint of olive in the nose, with a rich, fruity, well balanced palate. This is a great dessert wine--not overwhelming sweet, but rich enough to provide an appropriate end to an evening.

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Sineann 2005 Cabernet Franc. Sineann does a fantastic job with cabernet franc, and 2005 was no exception. The cabernet franc is lush, with chocolate and coffee tones.

The Sineann wines are all outstanding--we didn't have a single one that we were disappointed in. While I didn't get a chance to talk to Peter as much as I had hoped, the wines we sampled more than made up for it. Besides, there's always next year.

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Photos by Man of La Muncha

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