Hello friends. I recently had a chance to taste through the entire lineup of Corvidae, which is Owen Roe’s sister label focused on value price points. What an impressive lineup! It underscored for me what a fabulous job David O’Reilly and his team are doing, producing outstanding wines across a broad spectrum of tariffs. Corvidae is a family of birds that most famously includes crows and ravens, the trickster geniuses of the Pacific Northwest. It’s a good fit for the Owen Roe family: intelligent, mischievous, and vaguely gothic.
Narrowing down the list of which Corviade wines to write up today was no easy task. In the end, we’re going to focus today on the glorious Syrah, which offers plenty of stuffing at a modest tag, and then down below we’ll also include a bonus white and a bonus red.
My oh my. I’m racking my brain trying to come up with a Syrah that we’ve offered at this tariff or below. Most of what I think of as our best value Syrahs (Southard, For A Song, Saviah Jack, McKinley Springs) have been a tick or two higher than this one. “Smells like baby Ex Umbris” is the first line of my note, and maybe I should just stop there and start taking order requests. Really though, this immediately enters the conversation of the best value Syrahs in Washington. The quality for price is excellent.
There’s not a ton of information about vineyard breakdowns for these Corvidae wines, which is no surprise at this price point. What Owen Roe says here: not much: “The hillside vines in Yakima contribute fragrance, texture, and purity of fruit flavors. The depth of flavor belies the paltry price-point.” Well, I certainly agree with that second sentence, and the first sentence (“hillside vines in Yakima”) give us a pretty good clue that much of the fruit here could be similar to what goes into the Owen Roe wines. As for the name, it’s a stretch, but I suspect we’re referring to the Raven member of the Corvidae family, and specifically to Edgar Allen Poe’s The Raven, which mentions Lenore a full eight times, including here:
Ah, distinctly I remember it was in the bleak December;
And each separate dying ember wrought its ghost upon the floor.
Eagerly I wished the morrow;—vainly I had sought to borrow
From my books surcease of sorrow—sorrow for the lost Lenore—
For the rare and radiant maiden whom the angels name Lenore—
Nameless here for evermore.
Here’s the bottle shot, and this clocks in at 14.1% listed alc and offers a nose of smoky blueberry and marionberry fruit, olive brine, and fresh herb (mint leaf, tarragon). That smokiness is what caused me to jot “baby Umbris” a second time. Rich, ripe, and openly delicious, this is a long, palate-coating, easy-drinking beauty, the tannins soft and fine-grained and openly inviting. Charming and generous enough to open for folks who don’t really care about wine, and sneakily complex and savory enough to open for folks who do.
Again, we can surmise that a lot of the fruit is the same as Owen Roe’s, which likely means a surfeit of Yakima Valley Chardonnay here. It’s done entirely in stainless steel and clocks in at 13% listed alc. What I like especially is how unfussy it is. It’s honest, drinkable, fruit-driven Washington Chardonnay. It opens with a nose of tree fruits (bosc pears, apples), plantain, and nice chalky subtleties. The palate has some richness of texture despite the wholesale absence of oak (perhaps some lees stirring?), and lovely layers of delicious fruit. ’13 was a warm year, but based on the listed alc and the balanced acidity, this must come at least partially from some cooler sites. It’s also a beautiful bottle to look at, expressing the Owen Roe aesthetic with aplomb.
Sub-$20 Washington Cabernet Franc? That’s a rare bird (a rare crow?) indeed. Here’s the label, and again, there’s very little info about the vineyard sourcing. What we do know: the production level here is miniscule, just 100 cases, and the listed alc is 14.1%, an honest representation of the 2012 vintage. The nose combines blackberry fruit with lovely Franc nuances of poblano pepper, roasted walnut, and exotic star anise; the combined effect is that of a Oaxacan mole. Yum. A rich, balanced palate delivers blue/black fruits mixed with earthy/green savories, and it rolls into a powerful finish with serious leafy chew. This one lingers and lingers, offering real density and finishing depth for the price point. I’d love to know where this fruit is from.
First come first served up to 72 bottles total (mix and match as you like), and the wines should arrive in a week or two, at which point they will be ready for pickup or shipping during the next temperature-appropriate shipping window.