Red, Ready, but will keep

2009 En Chamberlin Syrah Cayuse Vineyards

2009 En Chamberlin Syrah Cayuse Vineyards

Red | Ready, but will keep | Cayuse Vineyards | Code:  11458 | 2009 | USA > Washington State | Syrah/Shiraz | Full Bodied, Dry | 14.6 % alcohol

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Scores and Reviews

WA - Smoky evocations of peat and black tea along with pungent, well-hung gaminess are what first tweak the nose from Baron’s 2009 Syrah En Chamberlin Vineyard, followed by high-toned candied lemon and orange rind; bittersweet distilled floral essences; and evocations of kirsch and framboise eau de vie, a wealth of aromatic constituents that may well arise from the relative coolness and long hang time of this site.

Bourcier suggests that there might be something about the 2009 growing season that particularly favors this vineyard, and it sure tastes that way to me! Its soaring and penetrating smoky and high-toned intensity seems to billow across the palate, where dark cherry and plum preserves mingle with marrowy rich meaty savor.

Salt and crystalline impingements so vivid one seldom associates their like with red wine, lead to a finish that leaves my mouth tingling and my salivary glands helplessly stuck wide-open. (“Long hang time:” could have been a reference to my tongue on Chamberlin.) Above all, this wine is just plain mysterious, not only in the intrigue of its flavors, but in engendering wonder as to how it manages to taste as it does. Baron’s response to that thought is (no doubt but half in jest): “The monks and nuns of Cayuse need their own thousand years to figure that out!” Follow at least one or two bottles – assuming you’re lucky enough for this to be possible – well into their second decade.
David Schildknecht - Wine Advocate #204 Dec 2012

The Producer

Cayuse Vineyards

Cayuse Vineyards

Cayuse Vineyards is one of the leading wine producers in Washington State, owned and run by Frenchman Cristophe Baron. Cayuse's single vineyard Syrahs have become incredibly sought after and are compared with the finest wines from the Northern Rhone.

Christophe Baron grew up among the vineyards and cellars of his family's centuries-old Champagne house, Baron Albert and became the first Frenchman to establish an estate domaine in Washington State. While visiting the Walla Walla Valley in 1996, Christophe spotted a plot of land that had been plowed up to reveal acres of softball-sized stones.

He became ridiculously excited. This stony soil, this terroir, reminded him of vineyards he had visited in France and Spain. The difficult ground would stress the grapevines, making them produce more mature, concentrated fruit. Christophe Baron had found a new home.

The majority of the vineyard is planted with Syrah, and the rest dedicated to Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Grenache, Merlot, Tempranillo and Viognier. All of the vineyards are planted in rocky earth within the Walla Walla Valley appellation. Cayuse is also the first domaine in Walla Walla to farm using biodynamic methods.

The Grape

Syrah/Shiraz

Syrah/Shiraz

A noble black grape variety grown particularly in the Northern Rhône where it produces the great red wines of Hermitage, Cote Rôtie and Cornas, and in Australia where it produces wines of startling depth and intensity. Reasonably low yields are a crucial factor for quality as is picking at optimum ripeness. Its heartland, Hermitage and Côte Rôtie, consists of 270 hectares of steeply terraced vineyards producing wines that brim with pepper, spices, tar and black treacle when young. After 5-10 years they become smooth and velvety with pronounced fruit characteristics of damsons, raspberries, blackcurrants and loganberries.

It is now grown extensively in the Southern Rhône where it is blended with Grenache and Mourvèdre to produce the great red wines of Châteauneuf du Pape and Gigondas amongst others. Its spiritual home in Australia is the Barossa Valley, where there are plantings dating as far back as 1860. Australian Shiraz tends to be sweeter than its Northern Rhône counterpart and the best examples are redolent of new leather, dark chocolate, liquorice, and prunes and display a blackcurrant lusciousness.

South African producers such as Eben Sadie are now producing world- class Shiraz wines that represent astonishing value for money.

The Region

Washington State

Washington State was effectively a 'dry-state' producing only grape jelly, until the 1980s spawned a wine industry desperate to make-up for the lost time. In 2004 plantings were at 12,141ha (up 4,000ha since 2000). Columbia Valley AVA dominates with approx. 60% of total vineyard area; the prized sub-region Yakima Valley AVA covers 39%; Walla Walla Valley AVA 1%.

Lying to the east and in the shelter of the coastal Cascade Mountains, the region enjoys a dry, distinctively continental climate, where Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot blends can reach great heights on the sandy gravely loam soils; Semillon and Riesling are the most promising white wines. 

In 2005 there were approx 350 wineries (a 10% increase year on year), with the Andrew Will Winery regarded as the region's best.

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