Bottle Notes, Syrah

Pick My Next Bottle – Best of the Best Domestic Syrahs

The November installment of Pick My Next Bottle focuses on some of the very best domestic Syrah producers. As I mentioned in the July installment, the purpose of this series is to provide insight into specific wines or producers you may currently have in your cellar. I plan on opening the winning bottle on December 2nd and publishing an in-depth bottle note on December 3rd.

The producers I chose make some of the very best examples of domestic Syrah:

  • Lillian – Maggie Harrison was assistant winemaker to Manfred Krankl of Sine Qua Non for eight years before moving to Oregon to take over the wine making position at Antica Terra. Lillian, founded in 2004, represents Maggie’s personal project and reflects everything that she learned during her time at Sine Qua Non.
  • Araujo – Bart and Daphne Araujo acquired the iconic Eisele Vineyard in 1990. Under their watch the various Araujo wines including the Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon and Sauvignon Blanc have grown to represent the very best of what Napa Valley has to offer for each particular varietal.
  • Cayuse – Cayuse was founded in 1997 by Christophe Baron, a native of France who grew up in family of winemakers in Champagne. Baron studied viticulture in Burgundy and Champagne, and had ambitions to make Pinot Noir in Oregon. However, on a visit to Walla Walla he found property that he believed would be perfect for growing grapes, and purchased the land.

The Contenders

’05 Lillian Syrah – The Lillian 2005 Syrah exhibits a beautiful deep ruby/purple hue in addition to a sweet bouquet of flowers, black currants, forest floor, and subtle road tar. Full-bodied and gorgeously textured with terrific fruit purity, outstanding depth, and an impeccably well-balanced, savory mouthfeel with no hard edges, this beautiful Syrah can be drunk now or cellared for another 7-10 years. 92 points from the Wine Advocate.

’03 Araujo Eisele Vineyard Syrah – Although production is tiny (300 cases), Araujo’s Eisele Vineyard Syrah is an ageworthy effort that is generally co-fermented with a small amount of Viognier (around 4%), and aged in French oak (50% new). The 2003 Syrah Eisele Vineyard reveals a wonderful blackberry, chocolate, and peppery-scented nose along with good subtlety as well as authoritative richness, power, and purity. It is a stunning Syrah that should last a decade even though it will provide immediate gratification. 94 points from the Wine Advocate.

’04 Cayuse Cailloux Vineyard Syrah – Syrah is the principal raison d’etre at Cayuse Vineyards. In a typical vintage five are produced beginning with the 2004 Syrah “Cailloux Vineyard,” a cuvee co-fermented with 4% Viognier. It delivers a splendid nose of lavender, leather, meat, and blueberry jam. This is followed by a wine with great flavor already exhibiting complexity. It could use a bit more depth but that is a minor matter. 93 points from the Wine Advocate.

Which Domestic Syrah should I open?

  • '05 Lillian Syrah (42%, 22 Votes)
  • '04 Cayuse Cailloux Vineyard Syrah (32%, 17 Votes)
  • '03 Araujo Eisele Vineyard Syrah (26%, 14 Votes)

Total Voters: 53

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Thanks for voting! I’d love to hear why you picked one bottle over another. Also, let me know if you have any suggestions for the December installment of Pick My Next Bottle.

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11 thoughts on “Pick My Next Bottle – Best of the Best Domestic Syrahs

  1. Gotta go with the Lillian. I’m a sucker for both ladies and flowers. And I’ve never had that one and want to hear about it. :)

  2. I have a weakness for Araujo. Never had the other two. I am in Alsace this week, how about a future piece on the great white wines of this region?

  3. I voted for the Lillian, but I haven’t had any of the three. Been on the waiting list for 2 years on Cayuse. Most of the syrah I drink is Paso or Santa Barbara (Herman Story, McPrice Myers, Jaffurs, Torrin, Booker, Saxum)

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