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By Chuck Hill

Chuck Hill, wine reviewer and columnist

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Chuck's Wine Reviews
of Northwest Wines

Organized by varietal



Wines of the Week Archive
Archived March 19, 2012
Published March 5, 2012

Syrah and Petite Sirah – Wines for Spicy Food
Part 2 of a 3-Part Series (See Part 1) (See Part 3)
By Chuck Hill

Rich and fruity Syrahs pair nicely with spicy grilled beef, especially when sauced with garlicky chimichurri.  Release your inner gaucho and fire up the grill for your next Syrah tasting.  A note: these rich, young wines are – for the most part - reluctant to give up bold, forward aromas when first poured.  Breathing time helps the wines open up.   

Maison Bleue
2009 Liberte, Syrah
Boushey Vineyard, Yakima Valley

Of all the Boushey Vineyard Syrahs we have tasted from the 2009 vintage, this one stands out as the finest example of the grape’s potential in Washington.  Winemaker Jon Martinez utilizes partial whole berry fermentation, a six-day cold soak and a minimum of new oak in the barrel aging to craft this stunning wine.  Look for complex aromas and flavors of violets, citrus zest, white pepper, cocoa and smoky toast over a fruity foundation of blueberry and black currant. [Editor's Note: Maison Bleue won Seattle Magazine's "Best Emerging Winery" designation in 2011.]

K Vintners
2009 Syrah, The Beautiful
Walla Walla Valley

Charles Smith crafted this wine from fruit grown at Cougar Hills Vineyard in the southern part of the Walla Walla Valley AVA.  Another complex and appealing Syrah, The Beautiful offers aromas of spicy pepper, tropical fruits, blackberry and toast.  The palate is long with flavors of black fruits, toasty oak and a complex finish of spice, smoky bacon and earthy vanilla.  Save this wine to accompany meats from the grill.

Long Shadows
2007 Sequel, Syrah
Columbia Valley

Winemaker John Duval comes to the Columbia Valley to expand his repertoire adding “Sequel” to his successes in the Barossa Valley of South Australia.  The 2007 vintage of Sequel offers intense aromas of berry, smoky bacon, tea and spicy plum.  The palate is rich and full with ripe blackberry, blueberry, toasty cedar, vanilla and cassis.  This is a superb accompaniment to beef from the grill. 

PB Wines (Rasa Vineyards)
2009 Red Mountain
Yakima Valley

Winemaker Billo Naravane crafted this blend of 61% Syrah and 39% Cabernet Sauvignon from grapes grown at Kiona Vineyard on Red Mountain.  This winery specializes in Syrah and blends with a goal of making terroir specific wines from select locations in the Columbia Valley.  This balanced blend offers aromas and flavors of cassis, white pepper, spicy cedar, dark berries and floral notes – a great sip with spicy beef and chimichurri.

2008 Signature Syrah
Yakima Valley

This blend of 98% Syrah and 2% Viognier uses grapes from both Red Mountain and Boushey Vineyard in the mid-Yakima Valley.  Aromas and flavors of black raspberry, plum, smoky meat and pepper are complemented by notes of mineral, floral perfume and fresh herbs.   

Bergevin Lane
2009 She-Devil Syrah
Columbia Valley

Owners Annette Bergevin and Amber Lane work closely with winemaker Steffan Jorgensen to produce several Syrah wines, each offering unique character and style.  The playful She-Devil name (“deep, dark and brooding like all complex women”) intrigues the taster, and the wine doesn’t disappoint, offering complex aromas and flavors of black fruits, earthy vanilla, peppery spice and mineral/citrus notes.  Nice balance on the palate makes for delicious enjoyment with rich meats and sauces. 

2009 Syrah
Les Collines and Wallula Vineyards
Columbia Valley

NXNW is a project of Oregon’s King Estate winery representing wines made from the inland grape-growing appellations of the Columbia River Basin of Oregon and Washington.  Varietals under the NXNW label include Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Riesling.  This Columbia Valley Syrah offers big fruit of dark cherry with a juicy, round palate and nuances on the nose of earthy spice, pepper and hints of violets. 

Charles Smith Wines
2010 Syrah, Boom Boom
Columbia Valley

Charles Smith crafts this wine from grapes grown throughout the Yakima Valley and the Wahluke Slope AVAs.  It is the epitome of juicy, ripe, approachable Washington Syrah that can accompany steaks from the grill, pizza from the hearth, chicken from the fryer or rich pasta meat sauce from mama’s treasured recipe book.  Blueberry, cherry, spice and earth are the four booms that echo from the name. 

Cathedral Ridge Winery
2008 Syrah
Columbia Valley

As spring comes to the Columbia Gorge, it might be time for you to plan a visit to this most picturesque Northwest locale.  Cathedral Ridge Winery (named for a striking, knife-edge ridge running down the northwest side of Mount Hood) offers acclaimed grounds and picnic area, along with unique educational displays on winemaking and grape growing – don’t miss it!  While there, don’t miss tasting some award-winning wines.  The 2008 Syrah offers aromas and flavors of earthy floral and citrus over a background of blackberry and peppery spice. 

2009 Syrah
Columbia Valley

The Hogue family’s original commitment to the Genesis brand was to use the highest quality grapes from vineyards throughout the Columbia Valley to produce excellent wines representing each varietal.  The 2009 vintage Syrah offers ripe berry and toasty oak aromas with notes of smoky game and dried herbs.  The palate shows blackberry and vanilla flavors with a firm finish that pairs well with meat from the grill. 

509 Wine Company
2009 Roots, Syrah
Columbia Valley

509 Wine Company is “Seattle’s Urban Winery” offering wine tasting and events just a stone’s throw from landmark Gasworks Park on Lake Union and only a 10-minute drive from downtown Seattle.  Their 2009 Roots Syrah is rich with berry, white pepper and earthy notes of tar and herbs – one taster described it as “gnarly in a good way.”   

Thurston Wolfe
2009 Syrah, Burgess Vineyard
Columbia Valley

The Burgess Vineyard near Pasco is the source for the fruit that Wade Wolfe has used to craft his Syrah since 1995.  Aromas of rich blueberry, baking spice, vanilla and spicy oak lead to a full palate with ripe berry flavors complemented by toasty oak, herbs and floral notes – a very tasty sip with spicy beef. 

Brian Carter Cellars
2008 Byzance
Columbia Valley

Winemaker Brian Carter continues to excel at blending wines of character from the same grapes used in Europe.  His Byzance Rhone-style blend includes a base of Grenache with ample amounts of Syrah and Mourvedre and touches of Counoise and Cinsault.  Complex and elegant, look for aromas and flavors of blackberry, cherry, raspberry, citrus, vanilla and spicy oak – delicious with smoky meats from the grill. 

2008 Syrah 74
Applegate Valley

Bill and Barbara Steele are committed to the Earth.  They farm their vineyard and garden with care and dedication, being careful to observe the intricacies of Biodynamic processes.  Rhone varietals are the ones they selected to plant in their vineyard site, and their first wine was a Syrah from the 2006 vintage.  The 2008 edition offers rich aromas of grapy berry, floral perfume and juicy berry syrup.  The palate is juicy and succulent with fresh fruit flavors, vanilla and peppery herbs.  A fair amount of sediment suggests that you decant this wine before serving.

Wines from other areas: 

Tardieu Laurent
2010 Les Becs Fins
Cotes du Rhone

In this wine drinking age of “bigger is better” this humble bottling from the Cotes du Rhone in France might go unnoticed.  A blend of half and half Syrah and Grenache, it fulfills the typical requirements for a quality wine from its region – balanced, complex, varietally true.  We applaud the last part, especially as the wine shows spicy berry and cherry, components of mineral, toast and herb, and a balanced palate that complements rather than competes with your meal - a top-rated selection by all. 

2009 Shiraz, Bin 28
Kalimna, South Australia

South Australia’s Barossa Valley is home to many famous vineyards including the Kalimna Vineyard purchased by Penfolds in 1945.  Though the name is now a trademark and not necessarily indicative of fruit origin, this bottling is now in the 50th year of its conception.  Good Aussie Shiraz, this.  Look for earthy dark fruits, spicy berry, caramel, cocoa and notes of toasty oak and vanilla.  Great with meats from the barbie. 

2010 Shiraz, Bin 128

The well-respected winegrowing region of Coonawarra is in the southeast part of South Australia.  (Kalimna Vineyard is up north near Narioopta.)  This bottling is a year younger and offers a more fresh and juicy profile (but with less complexity and nuance). You’ll find aromas and flavors of fresh raspberry and blackberry with hints of floral and citrus and a finish of creamy berry/vanilla. 

Tablas Creek Vineyard
2010 Patelin de Tablas
Paso Robles

The longtime relationship of Chateau Beaucastel (Chateauneuf du Pape) owners, the Perrin family, and importer Robert Hass blossomed in the late 1980s when the friends purchased vineyard land near Paso Robles and eventually created Tablas Creek Vineyard and Winery.  Naturally, Rhone varieties prevail and many superb wines come from this excellent producer.  Patelin de Tablas is a blend of Syrah, Grenache, Mourvedre and Counoise and it offers dark fruits, raspberry, spice and mineral as well as complex earthy/meaty notes to accompany your savory efforts from the kitchen. 

Ad Lib
2008 Shiraz, Middle of Everywhere
Western Australia

Winemaker Larry Cherbino crafts this Shiraz in the Frankland River area of Western Australia where warm and dry conditions are near perfect for the varietal.  The nose and palate are a basket of berries kissed with baking spice and pepper, and finishing with lingering fruit nuances, hints of tropical citrus and ample tannins to stand up to your meats from the grill.

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