The last time we compared Washington Syrah in our blind format was way back in February 2009, so we were easily overdue for a revisit.
Our results were mostly positive, and while each bottle offered something distinctive, they also shared similar characteristics, with dark fruit flavors, peppery spice, and supportive acids. Ali was not impressed with them, however, reminding her of a compost pile and garbage. Many had some unbalanced levels of alcohol, showing some heat on the finish, and we suffered some palate fatigue because of it, but our top three bottles showed much to admire overall, and all changed with time in the glass.
Andy brought the same value bottling he submitted twelve years ago, grabbing the fourth most points, and Josephine won with an impressive 30 points, supplying the most expensive wine of the night, one that displayed expert balance and precision.
First Place: Betz Syrah La Côte Rousse 2016 (Red Mountain). Dusty nose, suggesting chalkboard erasers, plus very ripe plums, cherries, butterscotch, dried orange rind, Dr. Pepper, licorice, wool carpet, and hints of acetone. Very well-balanced in the mouth, offering flavors of dark fruit, freshly brewed coffee, and licorice. Finishes earthy and nutty, like roasted hazelnuts, and then a peaty, dark mushroom, umami, iodine quality. Ali noted that "I feel like I have a mouthful of dirt", but David was impressed with its overall harmony and integration of components. David, Josephine, and Suzanne gave this their top votes, for a total of 30 points. Josephine's bottle. About $72.
Second Place: K Syrah Powerline Vineyard 2016 (Walla Walla Valley). Jumps out of the glass with complex scents of dark cherries, dark raspberries, dust, black olives, lavender, scrubby herbs, underbrush, black pepper, toasted oak, chocolate, vanilla, and cherry juice blend. Josephine found "coffee beans that are slightly burnt" and "dried chamomile flowers." Plenty of acidity supporting flavors of coffee, cherry, strawberry, iron, blood, and iodine. Comes off as a little hot, but also dark and intense. Andy, Ali, and Kristin's favorite of the night. 26 points. David's bottle. About $45.
Third Place: Barnard Griffin Syrah 2018 (Columbia Valley). Tasters found dairy scents like butter and cream, but also blueberries, rubber eraser, freesia, cantaloupe, Fruit Loops cereal, and blueberry muffin. Full-bodied, with candied fruit flavors that were a little much, but with powdered cocoa, espresso, and caramel notes on the finish. Very ripe. Everyone gave this at least one point, with 12 total. Suzanne's bottle. About $18.
Charles Smith Syrah Syrah Boom Boom! 2018 (Washington State). This came off as a little odd, though not necessarily bad, with unusual aromas of creamy caramel candies, dust, bubble gum, and stewed tomatoes in a can. Almost grapey. Kristin detected "Strawberry Shortcake doll", while Andy noted that "it doesn't smell like wine." One taster decided on "stomach acid." Tasted a lot better than it smelled, offering youthful flavors of bubble gum, oregano, blood, and green stalk. David felt that it was more of a summer red, and that it was reminiscent of a cru Beaujolais. Unevolved. 7 points. Andy's bottle. About $16.
K Syrah The Hidden Northridge Vineyard 2017 (Wahluke Slope). Complex nose, showing notions of flowers, dust, dark fruit, ink, citrus, orange rind, basil, cinnamon, mums, marigold, caramel, clove, potpourri, fennel, cigarette smoke, gun powder, talc, and heliotrope. Josephine noted a saline quality, "like the water canned olives are in." A potpourri note on the palate also, plus cherry, cranberry, black tea, anise, cola, sarsaparilla, bitter herbs, and clove cigarettes. Relatively short on finish, with a bare hint of eucalyptus. Kristin noted that it was a "straight shot down my tongue." High acidity, and some noticeable tannins. 5 points. Ali's bottle.
Tenet Syrah The Pundit 2019 (Columbia Valley). Like freshly brewed coffee on the nose, plus hazelnuts, pine resin, vanilla pod, prunes, and coffee ice cream. Ali noted "coffee cherry" and "compost." Candied in the mouth, like cherry cough syrup, Twizzler or licorice. Flabby. Josephine decided that it "needs architecture", while Kristin noted that "this would mess you up if you had too much of it." 4 points. Kristin's bottle. About $20.