Washington's Rise of the Rhônes
Try these offerings, which range from world-class wines to great values.
94 Gramercy Cellars 2011 Syrah (Walla Walla Valley). In 2011, the alcohol drops a bit (to 13%) and the fruit comes forward, stepping slightly away from the strongly herbal flavors of the 2010. It’s reflective of the vintage, and perhaps more immediately approachable, without sacrificing any of the complexity or structure that typifies Gramercy wines. Strongly aromatic flavors of blackberry, black cherry, cola and licorice are all in play, backed with refreshing minerality. The wine should age beautifully for a decade or more. Cellar Selection. —P.G.
abv: 13% Price: $50
94 K Vintners 2010 The Beautiful Syrah (Walla Walla Valley). Cofermented with 3% Viognier, this Tablas clone Syrah offers red- and purple-berry flavors, deep and pure. Snappy and focused, it layers in smoke, dust, citrus, blood orange, baking spices and a vein of pure mineral. Beautiful indeed. Editors’ Choice. —P.G.
abv: 14% Price: $60
94 Owen Roe 2011 Red Willow Vineyard Chapel Block Syrah (Yakima Valley). Sourced from arguably Red Willow’s finest block of Syrah, this is superbly balanced and remarkably concentrated for this cool site in a cool vintage. Cassis fruit is streaked with licorice and mocha, showing plenty of new oak influence without sacrificing depth or fruit. Drink soon, or tuck it away for a few more years. Either way, it’s a gem. Editors’ Choice. —P.G.
abv: 14.1% Price: $55
93 Gordon Estate 2010 Estate Grown Syrah (Columbia Valley). If this wine carried a different winery’s name on the label, it would sell for double or triple the price. So it goes in the wine biz. Cool-climate details of earth and herb join the peppery blue fruit, wrapped in sweet brown spices and toasty tannins. There is lovely concentration and balance, with Rhône-like nuances of meat and pepper. Give this a little extra time and attention, and it will reward you. Editors’ Choice. —P.G.
abv: 13.9% Price: $21
93 JM Cellars 2011 Syrah (Columbia Valley). In this new vintage, the principal vineyard source is Boushey, with Stillwater filling in the last third of the blend. Ripe, meaty and dense with a concentrated mix of blue and black fruits, this fills out with dark flavors of espresso, cocoa, smoke, licorice and tar. The balance is maintained through a lingering, baking-spiced finish. Editors’ Choice. —P.G.
abv: 14.6% Price: $38
92 Amavi Cellars 2011 Les Collines Vineyard Syrah (Walla Walla Valley). Sourced from the oldest blocks in the vineyard, this mélange of boysenberry, blueberry and blackberry fruit is dotted with pepper and hints of brine and espresso. Young and compact, but complex and fascinating, this is a wine to tuck away for at least another five years. Cellar Selection. —P.G.
abv: 14.2% Price: $36
92 Dunham 2009 Lewis Vineyard Syrah (Columbia Valley). One of a trio of Lewis vineyard reds, this opens slowly, seeming at first a little thin, with herbal accents outshining the fruit. Stick with it, because it evolves nicely in the glass, filling in the plummy, peppery fruit, and adding barrel notes of clove, licorice and dusty earth. —P.G.
abv: 14.1% Price: $75
91 Coyote Canyon 2011 Coyote Canyon Vineyard Tres Cruces Red Wine (Horse Heaven Hills). A blend of Syrah, Grenache and Mourvèdre, it’s an immediately appealing wine with notes of coffee, black olive, blueberry and smoked meat. There’s a pleasing texture and richness running from head to tail, with coffee and chocolate flavors that linger on the finish. Editors’ Choice. —S.S.
abv: 14.3% Price: $25
91 Efestē 2010 Boushey Vineyard Jolie Bouche Syrah (Yakima Valley). The Jolie Bouche is dark and brambly, fully packed with blackberry fruit, baking spices and a dusting of black pepper. The supple tannins carry a streak of graphite and clean earth. Editors’ Choice. —P.G.
abv: 14.9% Price: $39
91 Watermill 2009 Praying Mantis Syrah (Walla Walla Valley). The instantly recognizable label, sporting a bright green praying mantis on a plain brown background, is a quirky choice for a fine, estate-grown reserve. The fruit reaches blackberry concentration, with stiff, ripe tannins swathed in dark chocolate. Hints of earth and stem fade out through a lingering finish. It’s drinking well, but could be cellared for another five years. Editors’ Choice. —P.G.
abv: 14.9% Price: $30
90 Southard 2010 Syrah (Columbia Valley). Previously, this Syrah was sourced completely from Lawrence Vineyard grapes. But here, they are mixed with fruit from StoneTree. It’s a dark, smoky wine, with highlights of licorice around deep cassis fruit flavors. The chewy tannins finish with a pleasant streak of pretty cherry fruit. Editors’ Choice. —P.G.
abv: 14.5% Price: $16
87 Snoqualmie 2011 Syrah (Columbia Valley). Long a strong suit at Snoqualmie, this new vintage does not disappoint. It’s light and lively, with dusky flavors of plum and sweet tomato. Highlights of chocolate and cinnamon are delicately in focus. For the price, it would be hard to find a better Syrah in Washington. Best Buy. —P.G.
abv: 13.5% Price: $10