Wow, These Are Some Killer Washington Wines

I went to a “Meet the Makers” Visit Seattle event at Filson’s flagship NYC store in Union Square  and soaked in the idyllic and nostalgic Pacific Northwest vibe. One of the highlights, of course, was the selection of Washington State wines available to sample. And I have to say, I was fairly gobsmacked by many intriguing and delicious bottles.

Here are some highlights.

6 Washington State Wines to Covet and Drink

Orr Wines Old Vine Chenin Blanc (2016)

Save the Washington Chenin! There’s very little left, and a lot of it is old-vine goodness. Kudos to winemakers like Erica Orr, creating Loire-esque wines with the grape.

Wow, These Are Some Killer Washington Wines

Two Vintners O.G. (2017)

Morgan Lee must have been the first person to make an orange wine in Washington State. If you know who beat him to it, LMK. This is the 6th (!) vintage of this wine. Oh, O.G.=Orange Gewurztraminer. The color comes from the grape skins spending extra-special time with the juice. This is killer!

Wow, These Are Some Killer Washington Wines

Smockshop Band Pinot Noir (2016)

Whoa, a stunner! (The label and the wine.) This winery is new to me, part of cult-y Hiyu Wine Farm. This Pinot comes from a single vineyard in the Columbia Gorge AVA. There is simply no more exciting region for wine in Washington State than the Gorge.

Wow, These Are Some Killer Washington Wines

Savage Grace Côt (2016)

I’ve been a fan of Michael Savage’s wines for a while now. They have an appealing light touch. Nowhere is this more apparent than in this Malbec. He calls it Côt as a nod to how the grape is referred to (and the style of the wine) in the Loire Valley: elegant, not jammy.

Wow, These Are Some Killer Washington Wines

Gramercy Cellars Forgotten Hills Syrah (2015)

Greg Harrington is firing on all cylinders and nowhere is this more apparent than his Syrah. It’s a very gulpable, old-world influenced bottling. A great synthesis of grape, site, and winemaker.

Wow, These Are Some Killer Washington Wines

Reynvaan Family Vineyards Syrah Stonessence (2015)

In contrast with the Gramercy Cellars, the Reynvaan is a meaty, smoky, gamey affair. The first whiff you take  places the fruit from the extremely distinct “Rocks” area of Walla Wallla Valley. (Which is actually in Oregon, but that’s another story.)

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Also thanks to these folks representing the city and state:

The reps from the Space Needle providing an update on the, well, major updates there. Chihuly Garden and Glass for the tiny, precious piece of glass I have purposed for salt-keeping. Hama Hama for the amazing oysters. Chef Jeff from No Anchor for the creative veg and salmon bites. Boo and Christophe from Hedges Family Estate, an always entertaining duo. (Check out their biodynamic Cabernet in magnums.)

Finally, Washington State Wine for all the eye-opening bottles.

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Blind Tasting Syrah in Reno with Mom

You ever fly across the country just to conduct a wine tasting? Well now I can say I have. I jetted to Reno to lead my mother and about a dozen of her neighbors through an evening of blind tasting Syrah. Of course the main reason was to see my mom, duh, because I am a (pretty) good son (at times). This goes in the plus side on The Ledger of Life.

I picked out six wines, two from the west coast of the US and four bottles of international vino. Here’s the unveiled lineup:

Blind Tasting Syrah in Reno with Mom

Blind Tasting Syrah: The Wines Revealed

  1. Tenet Syrah 2016 The Pundit (Washington) $25
  2. Fess Parker Syrah 2014 (Santa Barbara County) $24
  3. Montes Alpha Syrah 2013 (Chile) $19
  4. Mollydooker Shiraz 2016 The Boxer (Australia) $21
  5. Nobles Rives Cave de Tain Syrah (France) $13
  6. Mullineux Syrah 2015 (Swartland, South Africa) $35

This is also the order the wines were poured. I thought about slotting the Mollydooker last because it would stick out so much with its juicy fruit and alcohol and oak, etc. But then I supposed it would be an interesting/jarring contrast to the more subtle wines following. Seems kinda counter-intuitive to have this fruit bomb detonate on your palate then follow it up with some chill juice, but we had a lot of food and took our time in between wines so no biggie. Wasn’t one of those tastings where you have six glasses in front of you and haul ass.

Post-Blind Tasting Syrah Thoughts

Tenet is a collaboration between Chateau Ste. Michelle in Washington, Costières de Nîmes winemaker Michel Gassier and enology consultant Philippe Cambie, who has a Châteauneuf-du-Pape HQ. The Pundit, a blend of 90% Syrah, 4% Grenache, 4% Mourvèdre, 2% Viognier (co-fermented with Syrah) was my second-favorite wine. Very elegant and balanced. Impressive.

The Fess Parker was deep, dark, and oaky. Monolithic. 15.5% ABV

The Montes had very appealing minty, eucalyptus notes, and was the oldest wine in the group at five years post-vintage. Kind of reminded me of Carménère, which is a little nutty. But none in there: 90% Syrah, 7% Cabernet Sauvignon, 3% Viognier.

The Mollydooker. Holy cow, 16% ABV, some sweetness. I remember when these wines set the world on fire in the heady heyday of Aussie Shiraz. “GOBS OF FRUIT!”

Damn. I just realized I asked for the Nobles Rives Cave de Tain Crozes-Hermitage but got the plain ‘ol Syrah. Whoops. Not sure what the vintage was, either. Sorry! Well this was…meh. I didn’t love it, I didn’t hate it. Snooze fest. This is a private label for Total Wine, BTW. Anyway, if you are looking to dip your toe into Syrah form the Northern Rhône get a bottle of Crozes-Hermitage. (And scrutinize the label rather than being oblivious me.)

My favorite wine was the Mullineux. It was pretty good when first cracked but really blossomed after a couple hours of air. Excellent stuff with a balance of fruit and other non-fruit stuff (earth, pepper, etc.) that I want from Syrah. Very little new oak here and a lot of large barrel usage for less wood influence on the wine.

In a tasting like this I also recommend going back and trying every wine again. After they’ve been open for a few hours you will be a witness to change. Sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse.

Thanks to Mom, winemaster Keith, and everyone who stopped by the clubhouse to hang out, chat, learn, and drink wine.

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