December Lehigh Valley Chapter Tasting
Washington State Syrah
Saturday, December 19, 2020 5:00 PM
Host: Geoff Harrington
Virtual Event on ZOOM
Washington State Syrah tends to be savory and Old-World-leaning, with a wide range of possible fruit flavors and plenty of spice. America’s second-largest wine-making state is fast becoming recognized for wine made from this classic Rhone variety, which is expressive of terroir, with a breadth of styles grown in diverse locations.
Our LVAWS December 19 tasting, hosted by Geoff Harrington, will offer a tasting tour of Syrah grown in five Washington viticultural areas: (1) Walla Walla Valley, (2) Red Mountain, (3) Wahluke Slope, (4) Horse Heaven Hills (all sub-AVAs encompassed by the broader Columbia Valley AVA) and a Washington State bottling that includes grapes from (5) Yakima Valley, also an AVA within Columbia Valley.
Although it has varied microclimates, the entire Columbia Valley experiences extreme winters and long, hot, dry summers. Frost is a common risk in spring. The Cascade mountain range keeps the valley relatively rain-free throughout the entire year, necessitating irrigation from the Columbia River. The lack of humidity combined with sandy soils allows for vines to be grown on their own rootstock, as phylloxera is not a serious concern.
Supply has not kept up with demand for Washington Syrah, so not all the wines available in the Lehigh Valley are featured in every store -- and the quantities are limited. I recommend you choose 3 wines from the list of 5 offered below. We will discuss and taste all 5 wines on December 19 -- and you may buy all five if you care to seek them out.
Everyone should readily locate our benchmark wine, Charles Smith Boom Boom Syrah 2017, which is available at 15 Lehigh Valley stores and Quakertown. Likewise, there’s good availability for North by Northwest Syrah 2013 (highly recommended) offered at 6 Lehigh Valley stores as well as at Quakertown. The other three wines are each available at 2 or 3 stores (see below).
Buying both the Smith and North by Northwest wines, plus one of the three other selections will cost between $59.97 and $69.97. Buying all five will set you back $114.95. Enjoy the chase!
1) Charles Smith Boom Boom Syrah, Washington State, 2017 $17.99 #01501
Vinted and bottled by Charles Smith Wines, which became a Constellation brand in 2017. The grapes are most likely from the Columbia Valley with some of the wine purchased in bulk from other producers and blended by Charles Smith. One of his higher end Syrah’s was ranked #2 on the Wine Spectator Top 100 in 2017. The Wine.com tasting panel describes it as “fresh, smooth, and luscious with blackberry notes and tangy, balanced style.” The winery describes it as “one of the biggest and boldest Syrahs of all time.”
Alcohol by Volume 14.5% https://charlessmithwines.com
Available at: Cedar Crest (32), White Hall (17) Krock’s Road (14), Center Valley (11), Bethlehem (15), Emmaus (23), and Quakertown (20).
2) North by Northwest Syrah, Walla Walla Valley, 2013 $21.99 #83236
Produced and Bottled by the King Family from grapes sourced from a small group of growers from throughout the Walla Walla AVA in the Columbia River Valley. Cold soaked for extraction, then punched down, and pumped over. For optimum flavor and body, the grapes underwent delestage, and saw an extended maceration. This wine saw 21 months in 31% new French oak barrels. 1,045 cases.
“Focused and deftly wrought, with rich pomegranate, red plum and blackberry flavors floating over superfine tannins. The elements move weightlessly through the long, expressive and open-textured finish. Drink now through 2023.” -- Wine Spectator (93 Points)
Alcohol by Volume 13.5% https://www.kingestate.com/
Available at Cedar Crest (67), Krock’s Road (11), Center Valley (60), White Hall (12), Quakertown (10) Easton – Nazareth (11), and Easton - Freemansburg (20).
3) Alexandria Nicole Cellars “Jet Black” Syrah, Horse Heaven Hills, 2016 $24.99 #76537
A project of the Mercer and Boyle families (winery named after winemaker Jarrod Boyle’s, partner and wife, Ali) “Produced…from select blocks of the (estate) Destiny Ridge Vineyard in the Horse Heaven Hills AVA of the Columbia Valley…whole berry fermented and aged 18 months in 40% new French oak and 60% 2-year-old French oak barrels, this wine showcases a wide array of fruit, earthy notes and smoked meat, backed with a velvety richness. On the nose, raspberry, Rainier cherry, and boysenberry, cured meat, a touch of allspice, vanilla and mocha. Pallet is highlighted by plum, blackberry and ripe blueberry, with oaky nuances and a plush tannin profile.” (Winery Notes) 450 cases
Available at Cedar Crest (10), Center Valley (16), and Quakertown (10)
4) The Walls “Gaspard” Syrah, Red Mountain, 2016. $19.99 #79215
Chairman's Selection® Winemaking guided by Todd Alexander, formerly of Cade, PlumpJack, and Bryant Family Vineyard, with fruit from the premier Red Mountain AVA featuring hot days and cooler nights:
“… reveals a deep, inky purple color as well as powerful notes of blue fruits, ground pepper, crushed violets, and graphite. It’s beautiful on the palate as well and is full-bodied, with terrific purity of fruit and a great finish, all while staying in the elegant, seamless end of the spectrum.” — 95 Points Jeb Dunnuck, 2019
“Vibrant aromas of blackberry, black cherry, cassis, licorice and violet. Densely packed, vibrant and pure, with intense black fruit and dark chocolate flavors complicated by hints of stone and game. Finishes with serious, fine-grained tannins, excellent energy and sneaky, slowly building length. Drink 2020-2027.” — 92 Points Vinous Media, 2018
Alcohol by Volume 15.4% https://www.thewallswines.com
Available at Cedar Crest (10) and Krock’s Road (9).
5) Guardian Cellars “The informant” Syrah, Wahluke Slope, 2016, $29.99 #76451
Have you heard the one about the cop and the newspaper reporter who fell in love, got married and started a winery with one Bordeaux-style blend, a Cabernet, and a Syrah? For harvest 2019, Jerry Riener and Jennifer Sullivan produced 16 different wines between the two labels – “Guardian” and “Newsprint” -- a total of just over 9,000 cases.
“This is classic Syrah with a little oomph. It’s a blend of 97% Syrah with 3% Viognier sourced from StoneTree Vineyard in the Wahluke Slope…surrounded on one side by the Columbia River and on the other by the Saddle Mountains. This velvety and lush wine was aged 18 months on 45% new French oak and is full of notes of blueberry, white pepper and tar. It’s a serious wine with tons of mouthfeel. 350 cases.” (Winery notes) 89 Points – Wine Spectator
“Decanted 8 hours, but this wine needs more time. So dense and it’s all there, but this needs a few more years.” – Cellar Tracker Review
Alcohol by Volume: 14.5% https://www.guardiancellars.com
Available at Center Valley (10), White Hall (10), and Doylestown (15)