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January 25, 2014

Howard Hewitt: Lenore Syrah is great tasting value wine

For seven years this column has focused mostly on great wines under $20 that you won’t find on the grocery shelf. Every time it seems like the list is exhausted, another wine comes along to make even the wine cynic say ‘Wow!’

For regular wine drinkers, finding such a wine is the thrill of the hunt. Always on the lookout for a wine that rocks for a low, low price, the real enthusiast treasures the unexpected find.

Lenore Syrah, from Washington State, might be the best value wine I’ve tasted in years. First a little necessary background is in order. Washington is really turning the heads of value wine drinkers. The wines tend to be full, rich, less tannic, value priced, and imminently drinkable.

One of the biggest names in Washington wine is Owen Roe. Owen Roe was a 1600s Irish patriot who was known for his dedication to principle and not compromise when seeking the best of any pursuit.

It’s that dedication modern-day winemaker David O’Reilly and vineyard manager Jerry Owen bring to their Washington wines. The Owen Roe label – which includes Syrah and a number of red wine blends – sells mostly in the affordable $20-$30 range.

But like many wineries Owen Roe has a ‘second-tier’ or value label. That is more common in the wine industry worldwide than some wine drinkers may realize. The value label is Corvidae-Lenore. Corvidae is Latin for the family of birds including ravens, magpies, and crows. “Their reputation as crafty, adaptable, and somewhat dubious characters is a fitting icon for our suspiciously terrific value wines,” the winery website suggests.

The Lenore 2011 Columbia Valley Syrah features a Raven and embraces the legacy of Edgar Allen Poe. The wine is a real thriller.

It has wonderful fruit without being over-powering, wonderful spice, and a mouth feel that will have you headed back to the shop for more. I found this wine to be such a bang-for-the-buck I would have bet it was a $30-$40 bottle if I had tasted it blindly.

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