Virtual Tasting - Owen Roe Sinister Hand 2008

We will be having a special Devil's Night edition of the Virtual Tasting tonight. The wine is the 2008 Owen Roe Sinister Hand. This wine is a blend of Grenache, Syrah, and Mourvedre and retails for $24. If you haven't already picked up the wine, see a complete list of Washington retailers as well as select on-line retailers here.

As usual, the tasting will begin at 7pm Pacific Time. Look for updates to this post starting at that time, updating every 15-30 minutes or so. I will also be tweeting @wawinereport and using the hashtag #octvt.

Please join us in trying this wine and posting your thoughts.

7:00pm Update: And we're off!

First some background on the wine. The 2008 Owen Roe Sinister Hand is 62% Grenache, 35% Syrah, 3% Mourvedre. This would be considered a classic Southern Rhone blend. The Rhone area has two main regions, the North and the South. The only red grapes allowed in Northern Rhone wines are Syrah (often co-fermented with the white grape viognier). The only red grapes allowed in Southern Rhone wines are Grenache, Syrah, and Mourvedre, the varietals that compose this wine.

Syrah has long been a star in Washington since the original plantings at Red Willow. Grenache is up-and-coming with some wineries such as Gramercy (whose first Grenache release just came out this week) and Rotie Cellars bullish about its prospects in Washington. Betz Family Winery has also long made a Grenache blend, the Besoleil.

Mourvedre is used more as a blending grape, although some Washington wineries such as McCrea also make it as a varietal bottling.

The wine is listed as Columbia Valley AVA. The winery's website states that the primary source is the Elderding Vineyard in the Horse Heaven Hills AVA.

On to the wine...

7:20 Update: Popped and poured into a Venturi aerator. I did this to try to open the wine up a bit given its young age.

The bottle had a natural cork that was drizzled with wax. The wax is in lieu of a capsule. You usually see this on somewhat more expensive wines. Here I think they did this to add to the Halloween creep factor. There are several ways you can go about removing these wax tops. In this case, it wasn't actually a complete seal so I just used a knife to cut it off. Rabbit style wine openers also will just pull right through the wax (they say specifically not to do this btw). However, if you do this, you risk getting some wax into the bottle. I have always read recommendations to warm the wax with your hand for a while and then use a corkscrew, rabbit, etc. If anyone has any magic secrets, please share.

The cork itself was very lightly colored, not surprising given that this is the 2008 vintage.

Had to throw the glass with the wine and the wine itself into the fridge as it was a too warm 70 degrees. The place that I am drinking the wine is like the Bahamas.

Prior to this, the nose very aromatic for a 2008 with a lot of red fruit. Particularly strawberries.

7:40 Update: Okay the glass is out of the fridge (20 minutes dropped it from 70 to 63 degrees). First impression, as before, very aromatic with red fruit, earth, and game. Quite a fun nose for such a young wine. The youth does show up a bit more on the taste where it is a bit more closed and tight, although I must say my palate has been off this week (sinus issues). A pretty good dose of acidity. A bit of a back bite on the palate. Alcohol also seems to hang around on the palate for a long time after drinking. Will check the OH level later. A lot of fruit and a nice rounded feel.

8:00 Update: More background on the wine. This wine was aged for 8 months in 18% new French oak. Alcohol is 14.4 percent. I feel like it drinks a little higher but may just be me. Regarding the label, the winery says:

"On this label the family crest depiction of a severed left hand tells the story of a rowing competition among the ONeills & the OReillys (Owen Roe was an ONeill). Whoever touched land first after rowing across the lake was rewarded with the land he touched. Lagging behind, one of the kinsfolk grabs his sword to cleave his hand and pitches it ashore to touch land first. He won the land and eventu­ally ruled over it as king."

8:20 Update: This recommendation from Paul G regarding opening bottles with wax on the top (tried to post as a comment): " tip for opening wax: Use a waiter's corkscrew. Pull the cork about 3/4 of the way out. Take a wet towel and wipe away the wax flakes. Then pull out the rest of the cork. I usually put a paper towel under the bottle to catch some of the flakes also. Pain in the A---". These sound like good wines to take to a restaurant to watch a waiter struggle with.

8:40 Update: Background information on Owen Roe.

Owen Roe is located in in the Willamette Valley in Newburg, Oregon. The winery was opened in 2000 by winemaker David O'Reilly who co-owns the winery with Peter Rosback (Sineann). The winery makes a diverse lineup of wines from both Oregon and Washington. Under current releases, the winery's website lists twenty-two different wines. O-Reilly also makes wine under the O'Reilly label as well as Corvidae and others.

9:00 Update: Final update. As I originally noted, the wine lists for $24. I bought it at Pete's Bellevue for $23.49.

Overall, I really enjoy the nose. Lots of red fruit (strawberry), wet stone, and earth with an underlayer of game. The taste is drinking a bit young. I also, strangely, get a lot of alcohol on the taste. I say strangely given that the wine lists at 14.4% which I don't see as particularly high. Don't know if anyone else is getting this. I won't rate this wine as I've got a dead spot right in the middle of my palate at the moment (sinus troubles). Bottom line I would say is, give this wine six months or so before drinking. Better yet, buy the 2008 now and stash it away for Halloween 2010. The best of both worlds.

Thanks to everyone who participated. If you didn't get a chance to try the wine, feel free to do so and add your comments. We'll do it all again next month.

Sean P. Sullivan

Please e-mail any comments or questions to


  1. Upon initially opening this wine, I am FLOORED by the smell that this is a 2008. There is gamey stuff of either cured ham or roasted meat that is pretty powerful. Layers of tobacco underneath as well. Haven't tasted it yet though.

  2. I agree that the nose is quite a surprise for a 2008. Not what I was expecting at all. I was expecting super young and more closed down but at least on the nose, very aromatic. Haven't tasted the wine yet either.

  3. Moving this comment over from the original post over in the month.

    Sara has left a new comment on your post "October Virtual Tasting - Owen Roe Sinister Hand 2...":

    Smokey when first poured, but it dissipates quite quickly and opens up to a round bouquet of spiced berry. Very easy on the palette, extremely drinkable. Certainly worth its 24.99 price tag IMO.

  4. Sara, thanks for the comment. I agree that this wine is easy on the palate. Made for drinking!

  5. Taste is overall good as well. Lots of berries and tannins. Super young. They should release their wines later. Still though, good. A bit of a strange after-taste though.

  6. Lots of smoke and spice on first pour, seems to lose heavy nose fairly quickly. Second pour brings it right back though. Seems fairly well balanced with great tannins and acids. Very spicy, with blackberry and clover or allspice. Grenache seems to bring the berry while mouvedre brings the spice. Reminds me of my favorite, easy drinking cotes du rhone wines! Owen roe never lets me down!

  7. This wine is not as SCARY as the name might suggest!

  8. Alpine Yeti, the nose does seem to burst forth initially and then pull back a bit. I think we've woken this wine up from its slumber.

    Anon, I agree that the wine seems quite young. Difficult choices for wineries. Sitting on the wine means: 1) storage cost (maybe no room for new wines) and 2) no revenue from the wine. For this reason, many release wines younger than they should truly be consumed. While I realize the logic (or necessity) of doing this, I do think it is problematic. You never get a second chance to make a good first impression and many will either not know to wait or will drink the wine and think it is not very good rather than that it is young.

    Here Owen Roe clearly likes to tie this wine to the Halloween time hence the release this time of year. That said, you wish it were the 2007 rather than the 2008. That said, I'm sure it does quite well for them.

  9. Hints of chocolate on the nose, layered deep underneath the spice and smoke/gamey aromas. Took a minute, but particularaly at the right temperature you get the chocolate. Palate is also nice, for an infant of a wine that is. Smooth with lots of fruit. Can defintely get the granache on the taste, but more the syrah on the nose.

  10. Mr. Parkster (or shall I say jokester?), nice note. Thanks.

  11. After reading your post sean, I checked the bottle and realized that they sold me the 2007,purchased this week! Not quite the youngster you are tasting. Not really getting the gamey granache. This is more representive of the bigger ownen roe we all love. That said, it is a bit thinner than the bigger, more expensive wines. Not bity on the back palette at all. very well balanced!

  12. Alpine Yeti, all the better for you trying a wine with another year on it. I actually originally intended to pick up the 2007 as well for comparison but didn't get the chance. The game notes seemed to come off fairly quickly actually. What's left is a very pretty, classic Southern Rhone blend. Thanks for the thoughts!

  13. As a follow up, the 2007 is 62% grenache, 21% syrah, 17% mourvedre.
    My guess is that this is why I am not picking up the gamey, meaty flavors often found in washington syrah.... (this is good for me, as SPS can attend to my less than favorable opinion of this style of washington syrah). SPS, do you know the vinyards for syrah on this?

  14. Alpine Yeti, buy more of that 2007! It's quite drinkable from the sounds of it. That said, the 2008 is quite a good wine for the $ and maybe it's time for a side by side tasting. think you'll appreciate the gamey nose given the age, or lack of age that is.

  15. Alpine Yeti, Thanks for sending along the info on the 2007 blend. Regarding WA Syrah, all the more for the rest of us I say! No word on the vineyard sources other than the website saying it is predominantly Elderding. My assumption is that this is where the Grenache is from. I'll see if I can get more information from the winery.

  16. My overall assessment. Dynamite nose for the age. The gamey aromas with hints of chocolate and fruit are very appealing for a 2008. After time, with no swirling I do get that it might be a tad hot. Palate is easy drinking, a lot of fruit, I'm thinking raspberry or strawberry even? I think buying it, waiting a year, and it will be super.

  17. Anon, you read my mind! Buy some bottles now, put them in the cellar, and break them out next Halloween.

  18. As this 2007 continues to open up, I begin to get more rasberry notes with a strong presence of chocolate (cocoa powder). smokey nose all but gone. Definately will buy more 07. side by side at the pre-funk?


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