Succulent Syrah spoils us in the Pacific Northwest

By on October 4, 2015
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Chuck Reininger, founding winemaker of Reininger Winery in Walla Walla, chats with Forgeron Cellars winemaker Marie-Eve Gilla on Feb. 27, 2015, while sampling Syrah made from the 2014 vintage off Seven Hills Vineyard. The 10th annual tasting was held at L'Ecole No. 41 in Lowden, Wash.

Chuck Reininger, founding winemaker of Reininger Winery in Walla Walla, chats with Forgeron Cellars winemaker Marie-Eve Gilla on Feb. 27, 2015, while sampling Syrah made from the 2014 vintage off Seven Hills Vineyard. (Photo by Eric Degerman/Great Northwest Wine)

As the joke goes, what is the difference between a case of syphilis and a case of Syrah? It’s easier to get rid of the syphilis.

That’s not quite true, but wine sales people might think so at times.

Taste a delicious Northwest Syrah and it’s difficult to understand why it’s these wines aren’t flying out the door. Blame the Aussies: A few years ago, they flooded the American market with cheap, sweet, flaccid Shiraz (the same grape as Syrah) and all but turned off the American consumer.

But here in the Northwest, things are better. High-end Syrah producers don’t have a lot of trouble moving their wines, even at premium prices. It’s the mass-produced wines destined for groceries that tend to languish.

And all of this is too bad because the Syrahs from our corner of the world are pretty special. They can most easily be described as the crossroads between the ripeness of the New World and the complexity of France’s Northern Rhône Valley. Blackberry, plum and boysenberry lead to notes of roasted meats, bacon and spice. Sigh.

And Syrah tends to be a chameleon, adapting to whatever environment it’s in. A warm-climate Red Mountain Syrah, for example, is worlds apart from a cool-climate Syrah from Boushey Vineyards just 30 miles to the east.

Now we see superb Syrah grown across the Northwest. In Washington, it’s the No. 3 red wine grape, while it is catching on quickly in Southern Oregon and British Columbia’s Okanagan Valley. In Idaho – both in the Snake River Valley to the south and the Lewis-Clark Valley around Lewiston – Syrah could well end up being the most important variety for the Gem State.

And in Walla Walla in particular, Syrah is so fascinating, thanks to high-elevation regions such as Upper Mill Creek and SeVein and low-lying areas such as The Rocks District of Milton-Freewater.

Here are a dozen delicious Syrahs we’ve tasted in recent weeks. Click that little arrow above to move from page to page.

About Great Northwest Wine

Articles authored by Great Northwest Wine are co-authored by Eric Degerman and Andy Perdue. In most cases, these are wine reviews that are judged blind by the Great Northwest Wine tasting panel.

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