No sooner do I get done discussing Wines of Substance out in Washington state, a couple of weeks ago, than several other samples of Washington syrah end up in my lap. And while syrahs from that state are still touch-and-go in my book, with several of them winding up very unbalanced, my tongue was gratefully spared the monstrosities. Thanks to a combination of efforts from Hospice du Rhône’s Taste Live event and the Washington Wine Tasting Blog Tour (not sure how getting billed as a “tour” has anything to do with sending out promotional samples, but I digress), you’re getting more than your average dose of Washington juice here.
I’ve got a thing for syrah, and I know it’s a matter of redundancy on this blog, but it’s especially true for “old world” style syrahs, that carry that meaty, smoky, earthy, umami sort of quality to them. Yes, I want black fruits and floral notes and a peppery kick, but without that “gamey” quality, I’m gone. And though the soul of that type of wine finds its home in France’s Rhône region, Washington has managed to hold its own, while Aussies, for the most part, miss the boat in this regard, though there are obviously a few exceptions.
Since I just finished mentioning Substance’s wines, Gramercy is the first on the list because it’s kinda like Substance’s daddy (Substance is a joint venture between Waters Winery and Gramercy Cellars). And it’s no surprise that I loved Gramercy’s 2007 Lagniappe Columbia Valley Syrah, given how I gushed about Substance. In discussing the wine with Greg (the winemaker), one word kept coming out of my mouth: balance. Everything I love about a syrah was in play, the earth, the black fruit, the meatiness, the smoke, but it was also elegantly balanced. No overblown alcohol, no baked fruit. Greg mentioned picking his fruit early, worried more about ripe seeds than sweet flavor, which no doubt plays a huge role in creating this graceful wine. Price tag: $38.
Another great bottle of juice to come out of the tasting was K Vintner’s 2007 K Syrah “Phil Lane.” Much like the Gramercy, it carried all the old-world essences but it was accompanied by a little new-world fruit forwardness. A little more opulent, a little more indulgent, but in the end an extremely well-balanced wine that, like Gramercy, would have been well-suited to a cigar. Price tag: $70.
Then there was a bottle everyone seemed to rave about but me. I simply couldn’t wrap my head around it, despite it’s old-world funk. DeLille Cellars 2007 Doyenne Syrah, no matter how long I let it sit and open up (even the next day), still hit me with a lot of heat and a lot of oak. The flavors I loved were there, but hidden under a mask that was nearly impossible to remove…it just never blew off. Nonetheless, it got a ton of oohs and aahs from the other bloggers, just not this one. Price tag: $49.
Lastly, we’ve got L’Ecole No. 41’s 2007 Seven Hills Vineyard Estate Syrah. L’Ecole was part of the Washington Wine Tasting Blog Tour, not the Taste Live event, but still it finds a home among these other wines. Of the samples sent to me by L’Ecole, their Syrah was, without question, my favorite. How do I know? It’s got a shit load of tasting notes scribbled all over its sell sheet, most of them scratched out as frantically as a polygraph that’s been attached to Tiger Woods. And while every one of their red wines got my attention, their Syrah held it. At the risk of becoming repetitive, this was also earthy, smoky and spicy, with plenty of black fruit. It started out a little hot, but blew most of that off with time, and was even better the second day. I had this alongside some pecorino di tartufo and the pairing was outstanding. Its siblings—Apogee, Perigee, and a cabernet varietal—also deserve hunting down. Price tag on the syrah: $37.