Each year, Celebrate Walla Walla week features 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.
Saviah Cellars The Stones Speak Syrah 2013
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 complement the generous fruit on the palate with a whiff of wintergreen in
Pairings Grilled or smoked meats. It also would be wonderful with lamb.
Details The Rocks District of Milton-Freewater, $55
Gramercy Cellars Syrah 2013
Winemakers Greg Harrington and Brandon Moss currently make five different Syrah wines under the Gramercy label, each more specific and nuanced than the last. Their “entry level” Syrah brings together the best qualities of Walla Walla and lower Yakima Valley fruit. Funky, meaty brine melds with red fruit and roses for a full range of aromas. On the palate, dark fruits round out the core with smoke and a saline quality.
Pairings Greek- or Middle Eastern-spiced lamb, wild mushrooms, and umami-based sauces.
Details Columbia Valley, $36
Kontos Cellars Syrah 2014
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.
Pairings Roasted pork, earthy mushrooms, grilled meats.
Details Walla Walla Valley, $41
DeLille Cellars Signature Syrah 2014
Big bold red wines are the hallmark of Red Mountain, source of nearly 70 percent 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 percent co-fermented) whispers citrus into the mix.
Pairings While most people would not think to pair this with a white fish, it went beautifully with halibut and morels in a dashi broth.
Details Yakima Valley, $44
Celebrate Walla Walla is June 15-17. Meet more than 60 winemakers and chefs while enjoying Syrah during several events.