On Friday, June 16th, I attended the Celebrate Walla Walla Valley Wine tasting which was one of the "World of Syrah": events produced by the Walla Walla Valley Wine Alliance. The tasting was moderated by Patrick Comiskey, Senior Correspondent for Wine & Spirits Magazine. The panelists included winemakers Doug Frost of Jean-Luc Colombo in Cornas, Rhone Valley of France, Gary Mills of Jamsheed Wines in Yarra Valley, Australia, Helen Keplinger of Keplinger wines in the Napa Valley, and Byron Kosge of Kingston Family Vineyards in the Casablanca Valley, Chile. The Walla Walla Valley winemakers were Corey Braunel of DustedValley, Nina Buty of Buty Wines and Steve Brooks of Trust Cellars.
The tasting started off with a Prologue presentation by Whitman College Geology Professor Kevin Pogue, with an overview each winery's terroir and climate. Then the moderator and panel went on through the tasting and discussion of the wines being presented. The wines showed similarities and differences due to the variety of terrors and winemaking techniques. Here's a summary of the wines tasted and the winemakers' commentary.
2012 Jean-Luc Colombo Cornas, Les Ruchets ($60) - This comes from the upper slopes of Cornas in the North Rhone Valley and is 100% Syrah. It showed a semi opaque ruby color and a distinctive nose of raspberry and cassis. The flavors were intense, with varietal purity and granitic minerality, imbued with licorice, dark chocolate and French roast, and a persistent dryish, savory finish. Doug Frost said that they let the wine speak for itself. 19.5/20 points.
2013 Buty Rediviva of the Stones Red Wine, Walla Walla Valley, Rockgarden Estate Vineyard ($60) - Composed of 80% Syrah, 14% Cabernet Sauvignon and 6% Mourvèdre, this showed a ruby-crimson color and a seductive, perfumed nose of blackberry, blueberry and cassis, with scents of crushed roses, lavender and violets. The flavors, as well, were alluring, with penetrating dark fruits that marked by "Rocks" earth and minerality. Nina stated that minimal irrigation and 80% destemming of grapes make for increased complexity. 19.5/20 points.
2013 Keplinger "Hangman Hudson" Syrah, Carneros, California ($70) - This comes from a family operation, started on 1998. Helen Keplinger said they pick for a range of ripeness and do not do a lot of handling of the wine. It showed a ruby-crimson color and a lovely perfumed nose of cherry, cassis, black roses, violets and incense. The black and blue fruit flavors were suave and grace, yet firful, marked by licorice, cocoa, earth, grilled nuts, toffee and charcoal, followed by a lingering, sweetish finish. 19+/20 points.
2013 Dusted Valley "Tall Tales" Syrah, Walla Walla Valley, Stoney Vine Vineyard ($60) - Corey Braunel said this was 70% whole cluster fermented with extended maceration for increased concentration. Semi opaque ruby colored, it possessed aromas of wild fruits - blackberries, blueberries, black currants - with scents of crushed roses, mulberry, tobacco, olive and incense. The flavors were full and generous, marked by licorice, grilled nuts and charcoal, followed by a firm, yet ripe tannin finish. 19+/20 points.
2013 Jamsheed "Seville" Syrah, Yarra Valley, Australia ($53) - This comes from an area north of Melbourne, in a transitional zone. They hand harvest and use extended maceration in small batches. It showed a deep ruby color and jammy, spicy aromas of plum, cherry and black currants, with crushed roses and spices. The flavors thick and juicy, yet firm, with notes of roasted berries and nuts, scorched earth, grilled nuts and charcoal, followed by a lingering firm yet ripe tannin finish. 19/20 points.
2013 Trust Cellars Syrah, Walla Walla Valley ($32) - This was sourced from the Les Collines (loess soil) and the Davidson (alluvial fan) vineyards. It showed a somewhat wild and gamy nose of blueberries, currants and Marion berries, with scents of garrigue and incense. The flavors were which, chewy and direct, with notes of licorice, dark cocoa and French roast. The back picked up macerated berries, roasted nuts, dried currants and charcoal, follow by a lingering chewy tannin finish. 19/20 points.
2014 Kingston Family Vineyards "Lucero" Syrah, Casablanca Valley, Chile ($20) - This comes from a high elevation region. It showed a ruby-crimson color and rich aromas of raspberry, blueberry and currants with scents of crushed roses and lavender. The flavors were fairly compact and restrained, with notes of licorice, espresso and earth. The back picked up squeezed berries, toasted nuts and graphite, followed by a long, juicy, savory finish. 19/20 points.
There was not a lot of difference qualitatively in the wines, but there were stylistic differences, with the Keplinger and Kingston the most graceful. and the Cornas and Buty the fullest bodied. My favorites, albeit subjective, were the Buty Rediviva and the Colombo Cornas. The best values were the Trust Cellars and Kingston Family Vineyards (a steal at $20).