Each year wine reviewer Sean Sullivan poses a challenge to wine lovers to explore one specific underappreciated variety of Washington State wine. Participants who agree to the challenge simply uncork a bottle of that variety at least once a month and report back. Fun, right? This year the chosen grape is Syrah. Will you join the Syrah challenge? If you’re not exceptionally familiar with Washington Syrah, don’t worry! After all, this is your chance to learn more.
There are a number of ways to tackle this monthly endeavor. Don’t get too hung up on that, just start the challenge! Then if more focus is needed, here are some suggestions.
- To get the most out of the challenge, include some bottles from wineries, vineyards, and regions that are new to you.
- Each month open a Syrah from different Washington State American Viticultural Areas (AVAs).
- OR, take a deep dive into just one or two AVAs.
- Try Syrah from different vineyards.
What’s so captivating about Syrah? At a past Taste Washington seminar, Wine Bible author Karen MacNeil waxed poetic about Washington wine, vividly describing each pour as only she can. As the audience sipped on Syrah from cult producer Cayuse she uttered,
“This wine is primal scream. Wonderfully corrupt.”
Furthermore, Syrah tends to masterfully reflect the site in which it is grown. To evaluate the differences for yourself, below are some starting points that offer distinct expressions of the source. This is by no means a comprehensive list. Rather, these are wines that should be relatively easy to source. Additionally, most are under $50.
Boushey Vineyard, Yakima Valley AVA
The Syrahs from Boushey Vineyard often make me think of black olive tapenade.
Pair these Syrahs with Tarragon chicken doused with balsamic vinegar and accented with black olives and garlic.
Red Willow Vineyard, Yakima Valley AVA
The very first Syrah vineyard block planted in Washington was at Red Willow in 1986.
Wines from Red Willow typically entice with hints of violet.
Eight Bells Winery
Red Mountain AVA
Wines from Red Mountain are known to be intense and concentrated, often with smoky notes.
Stony Vine Vineyard, The Rocks District of Milton-Freewater AVA
This vineyard is actually on the Oregon side of the border-straddling AVA. However, a number of Washington based wineries source fruit here, and their wines are fair game for the challenge. The wines express a distinctive funk.
How to Join the Syrah Challenge
Learn more about the Washington Syrah Challenge and how to sign up via Washington Wine Report.
Where to Purchase Washington State Syrah
The closure of winery tasting rooms and restaurants last year negatively impacted many locally owned wineries. If you can make a direct purchase from a winery, that is the best way to support the business.
A great alternative is to source selections from a locally owned bottle shop. This also has the added benefit of an opportunity to conveniently purchase wines from multiple producers. VinoSocial client Esquin is the Northwest’s oldest locally owned wine store, and one of the largest with over 5,400 wines. At this writing, the store is open and also offers curbside pickup and delivery in the greater Seattle area. Additionally, their maddwine.com online shop is able to ship to a number of states.
Note: I do not receive compensation from VinoSocial clients for any purchases made. These are businesses that I personally patronize.
There are so many fantastic options here in Washington that I’m excited to continue to explore! I’ll post my personal selections on Instagram each month. Be sure to follow along and share your experience with Washington Syrah!