Washington Wine Club – January 2009

2006 Gramercy Cellars Walla Walla Valley Syrah
Greg Harrington is clearly one of the most promising new winemakers in Washington. Before he came to Washington in 2005, he was the youngest American ever to pass the Master Sommelier Exam and then worked as a sommelier and wine program director for some of the top restaurants in the country. Impressed by the earthiness and balance of Walla Walla wines, he gave up the big money to found his own boutique winery. His wines are very limited; he made only 194 cases of this Syrah. This wine exemplifies what he sought from the top vineyards in the Walla Walla Valley. It is 100% Syrah and displays primarily black fruit flavors, with balanced acidity, and hints of smoked meat, black olives, and licorice. The light touch of oak (only 15% new) gives it an intense richness and a touch of vanilla spice. Like Northern Rhone Syrahs, it is a perfect match to smoked and roasted meat dishes. It is $48.75, ready to drink, and in very short supply.

2006 Syncline Cuvée Elena
Another of Washington’s top winemakers, James Mantone, is responsible for this gem, a delicious and carefully constructed Southern Rhone style blend of their very best grapes and the flagship wine for Syncline. The Grenache, from Northridge Vineyard in the Wahluke Slope, provides good acidity and tasty dark fruit flavors, particularly plum. The rich meatiness and garrigue aromas derive from the Clifton Vineyard Syrah. The blackberry flavors and peppery notes come from the Mourvedre and Cinsault from Coyote Canyon Vineyard in the Horse Heaven Hills. In comparison to the Northern Rhone style power of the Gramercy Syrah, this wine offers the more elegant and nuanced layers of Southern Rhone blends. While drinking beautifully now, particularly if paired with hearty stews or complex holiday meals, the 2006 Cuvée Elena will age another five years or more with little trouble. It’s $35 and is completely sold out.