It’s time to conduct a Washington Syrah challenge mid-year check in! Perhaps this will offer inspiration if you’re wondering which Syrahs to explore in the remaining months of the challenge. If not, it will serve as a reminder for me, since it’s already a struggle to recall some of my choices earlier this year!
How can two Syrahs from the same vineyard taste wildly different? This question has been on my mind since a recent tasting of two Syrahs from Boushey Vineyard in the Yakima Valley, each vastly distinct from the other yet equally delectable. Read on for more insight about the winemaking behind these fantastic wines, quotes from the winemakers, and tasty pairing recommendations.
Sample bottles were graciously provided by the wineries, Damsel Cellars and Two Vintners.
The Two Syrahs from Boushey Vineyard
Beyond the grape and the vineyard name, the similarities for the most part end. Although grapes for these wines grew up on vines across the road from one other, each has a unique personality. Is it due to that concept of terroir? Winemaker Morgan Lee proclaims that Syrah absorbs its sense of place, even at such a short distance. Or, perhaps it’s a reflection of each winemaker’s style. Long story short, when it comes to flavor profiles, WOW is there a contrast between these wines!
“If you’re at all artistic or creative, Syrah will go there with you.” ~ Mari Womack on working with Syrah
When I posted about Walla Walla Valley Wine Month on Instagram, a friend commented that she wasn’t even aware that such a month had been declared. So, here’s some insight as to why you may not have heard about it, a run-down on what to know about the month, and recommended bottles to open.
First, let’s solve the mystery of why this vinous month is less than well known. Consider that April 2020 was the first Walla Walla Valley Wine Month. Well, the pandemic unexpectedly threw a monkey wrench into the inaugural event. It was a fine idea when originally planned, however, born from the notion that the vineyards come back to life in April. It’s also tied to Spring Kick-Off Weekend. That’s the special time of year when many wineries open their doors to showcase their latest releases. The hubby and I have certainly enjoyed our share of winery visits during April. I mean, it’s our duty as Washingtonians, right?
2nd Annual Event Offerings
“Walla Walla Valley Wine Month is an unparalleled opportunity to experience Walla Walla Valley Wine, whether you are near or far,” says Robert Hansen, Executive Director of Walla Walla Valley Wine. If nothing else, simply follow along on social media to learn about the Walla Walla Valley AVA.
For those interested in a visit to the region, wineries have special offers for intimate experiences including elevated tasting options. If you plan to visit a winery in person, be sure to make a reservation due to limited capacity.
Alternatively, those who prefer a virtual visit at this time may explore the Walla Walla Wine Alliance website buying guide for special packages and discounted shipping while available.
Celebrate at Home
At VinoSocial we’ve been celebrating Walla Walla Valley Wine Month while simultaneously tackling the Washington Syrah Challenge! First, with a Gramercy Cellars 2010 Walla Walla Valley Estate Syrah. The 2010 vintage was a cooler one. The result is a wine that is still vibrant and loaded with mouth-watering, spicy goodness. If I had to use one word to describe this wine it would be, “Mmmmmm!”
A bottle of 2018 Proper Walla Walla Valley Estate Syrah was our next selection. With less age, this one needed to decant several hours before dinner. Plum, baked blackberry, and cinnamon were part of the intensely colored wine’s beguiling profile.If you’re a Syrah fan, Walla Walla has numerous delectable options that are worthy of a celebration.
Next up, we’ll open a bottle of Northstar Red Blend received as a gift from the Walla Walla Valley Wine Alliance.
With over 120 wineries in the Walla Walla Valley, there are a lot of exciting Walla Walla wines to get to know.
Do you need to restock your supply of Washington wine? You’re in luck, I’ve uncovered some incredible deals just in time to celebrate Taste Washington with wines under $20! Bottles were purchased from Esquin Wine and Spirits (a VinoSocial client), or direct from the winery. Now, let’s uncork some values!
2019 Diffraction Red Blend
$18 at the winery
I have to confess, I purchased a case of this wine when it was on sale for just $12 a bottle (get on the winery’s email list so you don’t miss out next time!). However, even at $18 it delivers remarkable quality for the price. This delectable red blend is composed of a number of Rhone varieties and although lighter in style, it’s loaded with flavorful spicy nuances. It has been our house wine this last year. In fact, the hubby and I enjoyed the wines we tasted from Cairdeas so much that we have joined the wine club!
Try this if: you want a red wine with dinner that won’t overpower your food.
Pair with: everything from barbecue to roasted chicken with a spice rub.
$19.99 at Esquin
Spaniard Javier Alfonso works with Spanish varieties grown in Washington. Fruit is sourced from Yakima Valley where cooler nights help retain acidity. This wine is an easy drinker!
Try this if: you want to experience Spanish influence on Washington wine.
Pair with: meat loaf topped with barbecue sauce.
Locus Wines (a VinoSocial client)
$15 at the winery
I discovered Locus Wines through Seattle Urban Wineries, a great resource if you want to explore wineries in the city.
This mouthwatering blend of Grenache, Cinsault, and Mourvedre from Rattle Snake Hills starts with strawberry flavors and ends with a minerally finish. This is a terrific wine for fans of Provencal rosé. Although the owners at Locus have a heavy focus on wine and food pairing (yay!), I would gladly spend the day on the patio while sipping this wine on its own.
Bonus: the winery delivers in Seattle for wine orders of $75 or more.
Try this if: you want to pretend you’re in the Mediterranean.
Pair with: Greek salad, panzanella, or grilled salmon.
$19.99 at Esquin (regularly $24.99)
Lydian is Avennia’s introductory label, primarily meant for glass pours at restaurants. Same great winemaker, terrific sources for fruit, but at a more approachable price. Lydian wines have been a hit in my virtual wine tastings.
Try this if: you want a wine from a top notch producer, but don’t want to spend top dollar.
$16.99 at Esquin
Single vineyard Syrah from Den Hoed Wine Estates crafted by Ryan Crane of Kerloo Cellars – for less than $20? Huzzah! It needed a good decant to open up then revealed astounding refinement.
Try this if: you’re looking for a wine that drinks well above its price point.
$11.99 at Esquin (regularly $21.99)
A second label for Isenhower Cellars, this fruit forward wine was fitting for a weeknight dinner of takeout barbecue.
Try this if: you’re looking for a value wine for the Washington Syrah Challenge.
2017 The Ramparts
$17.99 at Esquin (regularly $39.99)
This is serious toe-curling stuff! So, why that unbelievable price? Whenever there’s a transition from one winemaker to another, it typically means great deals are to be had. This was one of the last wines crafted by extremely talented winemaker Ali Mayfield before she moved on from The Walls. Red Mountain fruit makes up the enticing blend of Grenache (40%), Mourvedre (40%), Counoise, and Viognier (5%). It’s kind of like amped up Pinot Noir.
Try this if: you want an amazing medium bodied wine that’s full of fruity, spicy, smoky character.
If you plan to celebrate Taste Washington with wines under $20, keep in mind that prices here, and availability, may change after March.
Note: I do not receive compensation from VinoSocial clients for any purchases made. These are businesses that I personally patronize.
It’s not often that a winemaker initiates a discussion on consumer perceptions of wines and winemakers. Especially rare is a winemaker who openly discusses his use of oak chips in winemaking. Insists that wine tastes better paired with music. Or asserts that sulfite free wines age forever. Yet, all this and more was tackled head on during an online media tasting with Clark Smith, winemaker for WineSmith Wines & Consulting and author of Postmodern Winemaking.
I wasn’t sure what to anticipate from the virtual event. One thing was for sure, though. When I received the sample bottles, I was excited to see wines rarely associated with California such as Saint Laurent and Petit Manseng.
Here’s the first thing Clark wanted to say:
“My wines are highly manipulated. ALL wines are highly manipulated. Those are not grapes in the glass. No wine is as manipulated as any beer, and that’s the truth. The foundation of our brand is total honesty.”