I’m a huge lover of Syrah! While the Rhone Valley of France is where this varietal first emerged, it is now well known in New World wine regions as well. It was one of the first varieties imported for planting in Australia, where it is called Shiraz. Yep, it’s the same grape. Many wine lovers don’t realize that Shiraz is indeed Syrah!
There are many different styles of Syrah. In the northern Rhone Valley it is often blended with a bit of Viognier. In the southern Rhone it is an ingredient in the fabulous and famous Châteauneuf-du-Pape wines. In Australia, Cabernet Sauvignon is often used as a blending partner. California and Washington are also making some wonderful examples of this fabulous varietal, often using 100% Syrah (as they do in the Cornas region of France), making the wines dark, inky and pretty darned tannic.
A couple of nights ago I cracked open a bottle of his 2009 K Syrah from the Pheasant Vineyard in the Wahluke Slope AVA. This aromatic wine has lots of red fruit, especially raspberry and currant, on the nose. Some lavender and violet are also present. The smooth, velvety palate is rich with cherry and the raspberry and currant, along with some wonderful porky nuances. The finish is nice and long. Decant this for an hour or two to let the tannins settle down, or cellar it for up to at least a decade. This is a very yummy wine.
Charles Smith is one interesting wine guy! He definitely takes the stuffiness out of wine. Originally from the Sacramento, California area, he spent nine years managing rock bands and concert tours throughout Europe. His passion for wine was developed while on the road with such groups as the famous Danish duo The Ravonettes. He returned to the states and landed in the Seattle area, where he opened a wine store. He discovered Walla Walla on a road trip in 1999 and moved there to start making wine. He looks a little like Sammy Hagar, and his wines rock!
While visiting the Walla Walla wine region a couple of years ago, I paid a visit to the tasting room at Charles Smith Wines. It is located right in the heart of the city and is a really fun spot to taste. The place is huge, with exposed pipes, wooden rafters and great brick walls. This tasting room truly seems to be a reflection of the winemaker’s persona. It was a blast listening to music while tasting some of their awesome wines.