Where was it grown? In most technical sheets published by wineries, where the grapes came from is omitted. When you think of a wine being an expression of place, this is surprising.
Cabbage does not express its terroir. Grapes can and do. They keep that expression, if kindly treated, through the process of fermentation and élevage. They lose it if they are man-handled and altered by winemaking interventions that go beyond astute and artistic adjustments. This one shows aspects of place that are known to Washington Syrah.
We like to see the differences that Syrah, for example, shows when grown in gravel (Hermitage) or in soils that are richer, lighter, and more fertile (Barossa) . Columbia Valley soils range from light loam to stoney, gravely terroir. This Syrah, from Chateau Ste. Michelle, displays an acid lift on the edges of its flavors — a noticeable facet of some Washington Syrahs. Main flavors of dark ripe fruits (just a splash of fresh raspberry) and judiciously added oak flavors (dominantly vanilla and spice) round out the core of the wine.
As it breathes more oxygen, notes of clove and toast emerge and the darker side deepens. But as the wine finishes on the palate, the edges become more apparent. It finishes with an acid lift that causes the mouth to salivate assertively and very pleasantly, and it does not lose this over several days.
It is not a sign that the wine is out of balance but a sign that the wine has kept something in reserve to show you. Do you prefer a wine that is consistent from sniff to swallow, or one that develops and reveals different faces? The lift around the edges is not dominant in the wine but an encore, with a flourish as the curtains descend on its performance that gives this wine character. Without it, the wine is just another Syrah, albeit a good one. Syrah from Washington State in certain soil types can exhibit this quality. This is terroir speaking.
We could even call this lift a hint of citrus — to my taste, lime. The beneficial factor is the cleansing the wine offers at the end of its journey and I’m ready for the next taste or bite of food before returning for another interesting journey. Not all Syrah is the same, as Australia has proved, and not all are the same within one region, either. Please explore as you experience wine.
Get yourself a bottle and see for yourself. Ask yourself which representation of this classic grape you prefer — a Hermitage, a Shiraz, or a Syrah from another place: Washington?
P.S. The comments above are not a snapshot of the wine but an examination over a period of four days.
Emotional rating: High, where rich foods need a relief and yet the main element of dark fruit and oak are needed to complement.
Available almost anywhere.