Expressive Syrah

Washington’s Signature Varietal

This morning I received an email reminding me about the upcoming annual Celebrate Walla Walla week in June. Each year they feature a specific varietal. 2017 is the year I’ve been waiting for: Syrah. Along with Merlot, Syrah is one of Washington’s signature grapes. But, the thing I love most about this Rhone-based varietal is its tendency to showcase the unique characteristics of its vineyard. More than any other grape, Syrah wears its terrior on its sleeve.

Kontos Cellars Syrah 2014
(Walla Walla Valley; $41)
Sourced from Les Collines Vineyard, a high-elevation sustainably farmed site, winemaker Cameron Kontos coaxed rich qualities from these grapes. The wine is dark ruby-purple and gives off aromas of blackberry compote, black currants, peppercorns and some floral notes of crushed roses. The moderate full-body carries mocha and moderate tannins across the palate, finishing delicately at the back of the mouth. Pair with roasted pork, earthy mushrooms, grilled meats.

DeLille Cellars Signature Syrah 2014
(Yakima Valley; $44)
Big bold red wines are the hallmark of Red Mountain, source of nearly 70% of the fruit in this Syrah. Blue-black in color, the nose is raspberry, lush with violets and a touch of tobacco. Its smoky-meaty quality balances the ripe red fruits, while the hint of Viognier (2% co-fermented) whispers citrus into the mix. While most people would not think to pair this with a white fish, it went beautifully with halibut and morels in a dashi broth.

Saviah Cellars The Stones Speak Syrah 2013
(The Rocks District of Milton-Freewater; $55)
This is a prime example of Syrah’s ability to convey a keen sense of place. Wines from this sub-AVA of Walla Walla Valley often exude a distinctive funky game quality – some of the fruit was literally sourced from a property called Funk Estate. Prosciutto, olive brine, and smoky cherry dominate the bouquet. Savory tones compliment the generous fruit on the palate with a whiff of wintergreen in the finish. Pair with grilled or smoked meats – would be wonderful with lamb.

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