With a name like Orphelin ("orphan" in French), this bottle certainly tugs at my thirsty heartstrings. I imagine all those poor little Rhône-style grapes, grown out of enterprising curiosity at Washington's mega-Chateau Ste. Michelle but not used in any of its signature blends, sitting around, searching for a bottle.
Thank goodness winemaker Bob Bertheau came up with a home for this lovable red blend. It's a menagerie of nine grapes - from syrah and mourvedre to cinsault, grenache, touriga nacional, and viognier - that together evoke a very accessible New World expression of the Rhône. Dark cherry fruit as ripe as a Twizzler is shaded with the tingle of cracked pepper, cedary earth, and a long, soft, vanilla finish. Discounted $18 off list by the PLCB for one of the lowest prices on this bottle I've seen, this is one juicy Washington orphan that's bound to win a lot of new friends in Pennsylvania.
The 2005 Orphelin from Chateau Ste. Michelle costs $11.99 at selected Pennsylvania wine stores.
- Craig LaBan