Despite a few downturns on the global scale, syrah continues to hold its own as a solid wine grape in Washington.
While consumers have gradually moved away from a flood of overripe, fruit-bomb Australian shirazes (the equivalent of our syrah) over the past several years, Washington continues to quietly carve out a niche of its own among syrah drinkers.
It’s still a relatively new grape here, and it really wasn’t much of a player in the state’s red wine market until the late 1990’s to early 2000’s.
But in just the last five years, syrah has accounted for anywhere from about 12 to 16 percent of all red varieties produced in the state. That places it only behind cabernet sauvignon and merlot in Washington red wine production, according to the USDA.
Here are some recommendations of several Washington syrahs I think you might enjoy:
Two Mountain Winery 2009 Syrah (about $25) – This Matt Rawn syrah from the Yakima Valley rocked my world with opening flavors of red currant that melt into darker cherry fruits and a hint of smoky spice. There’s also an underlying layer of acidity, a touch of minerality and gentle tannins for perfect balance.
Stephenson Cellars 2008 Columbia Valley Syrah (about $30) – Winemaker David Stephenson continues his mastery of the varietal with a syrah long on black plum flavors plus touches of blackberry, blueberry and sweet cedar. A gentle splash of acidity and supple tannins provide just the right amount of lift and structure. Excellent!
Terra Blanca Winery 2008 Arch Terrace Syrah (about $15) and 2007 Signature Series Block 8 Syrah (pictured at left, about $42) – These two syrahs have been beautifully crafted by winemaker Keith Pilgrim in more of Northern Rhone style and were sourced from his estate vineyards in the Red Mountain Appellation.
The Arch Terrace is the leaner of the two, with bright red cherry and huckleberry flavors; while the Block 8 is a bit bigger and darker with a nice earthy quality, reserved red plum and fig and a spritz of smoky black pepper. Both wines make excellent food-pairing partners with roast beef, pork sausage, lamb or a hearty beef stew.
Dynasty Cellars 2008 DCS Syrah (about $38) – Bellingham winemaker Peter Osvaldik scores yet again with this incredible syrah sourced from Walla Walla’s Les Collines Vineyard. Rich and layered, it’s brimming with flavors of ultra-dark cherry and espresso, while the lengthy finish suggests toasted oak and a whisper of seductive smokiness.