End the year on a high note

I was stocking the shelves in the Wine Cellar when I turned around and found a quite elderly lady standing across the counter from me. She asked to sit down in the corner, where there are a few chairs placed for travelers to rest.

She then asked me whether I was the Wine Whisperer, the "gentleman" who wrote the wine article for the newspaper. I said I was.

She explained in some detail how she had earned her degree in journalism at the University of Oregon in 1939 (I did the math, and yes, she was quite elderly). She said she had been reading my wine article since I began writing it in 1980. This was, of course, very flattering to me, and I told her so. She waved her hand in an almost dismissive manner; she was not there to "flatter" me, but to give me some "very sound advice." OK, I was up for it.

She said I had a fiduciary obligation to end the year with an uplifting wine column. There are so many down and disturbing things written in print today, she said, that I should send my readership a little present of goodness during the holiday season.

I promised I would. She nodded, and off she went. No name, no goodbye, just a request, then back up the stairs.

In the spirit of her visit, I'm recommending the 2009 Founder's Reserve petite sirah, a dessert wine, from RoxyAnn Winery in Medford.

In the past, I have written about the great 2005 merlot from Jim Devitt, the 2007 claret from Slagle Creek and the stunning sparkling wines from John Michael Cellars. And now, another superstar from Southern Oregon.

Under the firm and wise hands of winemaker John Quinones and his right-hand man, Fred Mihm, comes a dessert wine of superb complexity, elegant fruit and wonderful palate density. The 2009 dessert petite sirah is one of the treasures of Northwest winemaking and will light a fire under this quite amazing winery sitting proudly in the heart of our valley.

The test of port and port-like wine lies in the finish, the winding of aftertastes that linger on the palate long after the initial tastes have slid away. The genius of this wine is Quinones' choice to use RoxyAnn's succulent petite sirah vines as its heart and soul.

I was first made aware of this offering by the well-known and highly respected Ned Armstrong, who, along with hard working and equally respected Gregg Berry, are the faces of RoxyAnn in the field. Ned said nothing to me as he poured the port and simply walked away, looking at what stock was needed in the shop. As soon as the wine opened in the nose, I knew that something wonderful was about to happen. The wine just got better and better as the taste sensations hit the palate.

I have been evaluating port wine for four decades and find the Founder's Reserve petite sirah simply one of the finest representations on its kind available today. The 500-milliliter bottle sells for about $24, and the tasting room manager, the knowledgeable Brenda Pine, has it for sale at this time. It's also offered at selected wine retailers around the valley.

I think it should be kept in mind that, in the world of dessert wines of this quality, regardless from where made, this sweetheart is woefully underpriced for the quality of the product. Someone fell asleep at the pricing of this beauty, so grab it when and where you can and give yourself a wonderful holiday treat.

Lorn Razzano is owner of the Wine Cellar in Ashland. Reach him at razz49@aol.com.

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