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Reininger Winery is a Walla Walla area winery founded by Chuck and Tracy Reininger. Prior to starting the winery, winemaker Chuck Reininger worked as a climbing guide out of Tacoma. After several years of home winemaking, Reininger had its first commercial release in 1997. The winery spent its early years in the airport region which the Reininger's affectionately referred to as the "shack-teau." Earlier this decade, Reininger moved to a new facility west of Walla Walla.

From the beginning, Reininger has focused on using Walla Walla Valley fruit for its wines (the winery also has a second label, Helix, which uses Columbia Valley fruit). The grapes have come from some of the valley's finest vineyards, including Pepper Bridge, Spring Valley, Ash Hollow, and Seven Hills.

Seven Hills Vineyard is a partnership among Norm McKibben, Gary Figgins, Marty Clubb, and Bob Rupar. The vineyard was first planted in 1980 and then was expanded in 1989, 1997, and 1998. Seven Hills now comprises over 200 acres planted to Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, Sangiovese, Cabernet Franc, Semillon, and Sauvignon Blanc. Additionally, there are small plantings of Petit Verdot, Malbec, and Carmenère.

Carmenére, which originates from the French word for crimson, is one of the six Bordeaux varietals. Originally used for blending, the grape has fallen out of favor in Bordeaux and is now uncommon there. Carmenére has, however, established a foothold in South America, particulary in Chile.

Carmenére is infrequently found in Washington. Reininger created its first Carmenére in the 2002 vintage. Since that time it has gone on to become a winery favorite. The 2003 vintage of this wine is a knock-out that is drinking absolutely beautifully.

Wines:

Reininger Carmenére Seven Hills Vineyard WWV 2003 $45 Rating: *
An expressive nose with moist earth, chocolate, and floral - almost geranium - notes. A weighty, full palate with a soft entry. The taste has a lot of fruit, dried chocolate, white pepper, and firm tannins. Palate keeps lifting up toward a long, lingering finish. 100% Carmenére, Seven Hills Vineyard. Aged in 100% new French oak. 14.8% alcohol. 98 cases produced.

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