2013 Proper Wines, Syrah, $45
Winery info: Proper is a project begun by a group of friends from Colorado who shared a love of Old World, earth-driven wines. They began by purchasing an old cherry orchard in the Rocks District of the Walla Walla Valley in 2006. This, you may recall, is the region first planted by Christophe Baron, of Cayuse fame, and source of his now legendary Syrahs. The area is an ancient, dry riverbed, covered in large rocks reminiscent of Châteauneuf-du-Pape. The Proper folks pulled out the cherry trees and planted their own Syrah vines. “We set out to produce wines that were Rhône in character while showcasing the uniqueness of Walla Walla and our estate vineyard with as much integrity as possible.”
Winemaker: Sean Boyd (also owner and winemaker at Rôtie Cellars)
Grapes: 100% Syrah
Vineyard sources: The Rocks District of the Walla Walla Valley (actually on the Oregon side of the valley) on a site not far from Cayuse Vineyard.
Flavor profile: This wine has been described as a “baby Cayuse,” with its wild, savory aromas and flavors (think olives and smoked meat), lush texture, and endless finish.
Production/Availability: 576 cases made. There might be a bit left, but supply on this one is getting low.
Drinkability: This wine is drinking great now, though you certainly could let it age if you wanted to.
Food Pairing: Perfect for roasts or savory dishes
2011 Ambassador, Diplomat, $39.75
Winery info: Here is another winery begun by a group of friends from a variety of backgrounds. What they all had in common was a belief that “no other experience is quite as enchanting as drinking wine…that something magical happens when you drink wine with friends.” They founded Ambassador in 2004 with the goal of becoming the top estate-producing winery on Red Mountain, crafting wines that reflect the richness and diversity of their unique terroir.
Winemaker: Sarah Goedhart, whose family founded Hedges Cellars, where she is also head winemaker. The consulting winemaker is Napa’s Tom Rinaldi, who co-founded Duckhorn Vineyards in 1978 and who has also made wine at Freemark Abbey, Rutherford Hill and Round Hill.
Grapes: 63% Cabernet Sauvignon, 18% Cabernet Franc, 18% Syrah
Vineyard source: Ambassador Vineyard, on Red Mountain, managed by Dick Boushey.
Flavor profile: Soft and well integrated, full of rich cassis and blackberry fruit flavors, with good acidity and a long finish. A big hit at our tasting of Ambassador wines in March.
Production/Availability: 264 cases produced. This one should be in good supply for a while.
Drinkability: While you could enjoy this soon with a good decanting, another three to four years in the bottle would really allow it to develop and soften the Red Mountain tannins.
Food Pairing: With its solid structure and ripe tannins, this would be great with red meat dishes or other robust fare.