This was our third tasting of Washington wines, and except for one bottle, we were impressed by the depth of flavor and diversity of these wines. It was difficult to vote. Indeed, the top two wines were separated by only one point, with the third place wine not far behind.
The winner showed real richness without being too heavy, and was also the oldest wine.
This tasting also marked five years of time since the monthly tastings began, and Gilles and Joyce were perfect guest tasters to celebrate the occasion.
First Place: L'Ecole No. 41 Syrah 2002 (Columbia Valley). Complex aromatics, showing blueberry, raspberry, tar, licorice, old grass, asphalt, green bell pepper, wild berries, and acetone. Rich in the mouth, with cough medicine, wild berry, and brewed coffee flavors. Dense, syrupy texture. Gilles described it as "a mouthful", while Ali felt it was like "stepping into cold water". Gilles felt that the long finish was "trying to crawl back on the tongue". Slightly alcoholic close. Everyone gave this at least a point, and was the favorite of Gilles and Joyce. Received 24 total points. Kristin's bottle. About $30.
Second Place: Charles Smith Syrah Boom Boom 2006 (Columbia Valley). Dust, locker room, gun powder, sneakers, vanilla, licorice, and eucalyptus on the nose. David felt it was like "sitting over a campfire", while Kristin was reminded of "vampire crypt". Gamey, bacon and duck flavors, with a savory and luscious texture. Velvety. Juniper on the sticky, long finish. Gilles decided that it was a "conversation stopper". Andy and Kristin's favorite. Received 23 points. Andy's bottle. A bargain at about $15, this was the night's best value.
Third Place: Cadaretta Syrah 2006 (Columbia Valley). Aromas reminiscent of coffee, varnish, cranberries, dried leaves, molasses, and cloves. Hints of raw meat and blood sausage. Showed restraint, which Gilles described as "a murmur, not a full song". Ali thought of it as "autumnal". Focused, with intensity to the mid-palate, having black cherry, pepper, and licorice flavors. Smooth texture. David and Ali's favorite. Received 21 points. David's bottle. About $30.
JM Cellars Syrah 2004 (Columbia Valley). Brown sugar, vanilla, caramel, ice cream, cinnamon, nutmeg, crème brulee, smoke, light chocolate, and plums on the nose. There was something artificial and elusive to the taste of this one, with hints of Nyquil. Abrupt finish. Gilles noted that "it finished before you're done". Received 10 points. Joyce's bottle. About $40.
The Magnificent Wine Company Syrah 2006 (Columbia Valley). Musty aromatics, with rotten pear, laundry bin, "haunted house" (Gilles), basement (Ali), and "Mrs. Havisham" (Kristin). Caramel, vanilla, cranberry, beets, cola, varnish, and mushroom notes. Creamy palate, featuring yogurt, vanilla, cream soda, and a metallic/foil quality. Not as dense as the others. David felt it was "squishy around the mouth". Astringent finish. Received 6 points. Ali's bottle. About $20.
Reininger Syrah Ash Hollow Vineyard 2005 (Walla Walla Valley). Overwhelming coconut aromas reminded tasters of Hawaiian Tropic oil, rum, and apple cider. Ali announced that "it makes me a little sick", and was reminded of "hurricane atrocities in New Orleans". Burnt sugar, dust, and passion fruit notes. David noted that it "smells like I should be opening a can of it". Tasted of coconuts, tropical fruits, bananas, sangria, burnt cardboard, and coffee. Ali repeated "I hate this", and Gilles felt it was "the wine that would convert me to beer". No points. Gilles' bottle. About $43.