Bottle Notes, Syrah

Pick My Next Bottle – Cult Syrah

The December installment of Pick My Next Bottle focuses on some of the very best domestic Syrah producers. As I mentioned in the first installment, the purpose of this series is to provide insight into specific wines or producers you may currently have in your cellar. The winning bottle will be opened this Saturday and a Bottle Note will be published the following week.

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

  • Saxum – Saxum Vineyards is focused on producing Grenache, Syrah, and Mourvedre based blends from the Templeton Gap/Willow Creek area of Paso Robles. The winery was founded in 2000 by Justin Smith and the 07 James Berry Vineyard was the Wine Spectator Wine of the Year.
  • 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.
  • 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

  • 2007 Saxum Booker Vineyard – The inky/purple-hued 2007 Booker Vineyard (95% Syrah and 5% Grenache) boasts a floral-dominated bouquet with camphor, blackberry, roasted meat, and espresso scents in the background. The density, flavor intensity, richness, full-bodied power, elegance, and freshness are all hallmarks of this special vintage in the Central Coast. This wine should drink well for 10-12+ years. 99 points from the Wine Advocate.
  • 2006 Lillian – The second release from Maggie Harrison, previously an apprentice at Sine Qua Non, the 2006 Syrah from Lillian is even better than the excellent 2005. Totally sourced from the White Hawk Vineyard, and aged in 65% new oak for 23 months, there are 508 cases of this beautiful Syrah. Notes of creme de cassis, blackberries, spice, incense, flowers, ground pepper, licorice, and subtle smoke are followed by a full-bodied, layered, multidimensional, big (15.6% alcohol) Syrah. Beautifully balanced, elegant, and pure, it should age gracefully for a decade or more. 94 points from the Wine Advocate.
  • 2005 Cayuse En Chamberlin – From what Baron describes as ‘a normal vintage for Washington: not too hot, but ripe; (En Chamberlin Syrah having been) picked the third week of September; and the first at our new facility and with indigenous yeasts’ — features strongly bittersweet, medicinal iodine- and alkali-tinged herbal and dark berry essences along with savory, smoky evocations of roasted poultry pan drippings. Its diversity; seamlessness; almost oily richness of texture; and finishing crescendo are utterly striking. That said, I suspect this will be best appreciated over the next 2-3 years, not wishing to see more prominence accrue to what is as yet a very faintly warm, stewed aspect to the fruit. 94 points from the Wine Advocate.

Which cult Syrah should I open?

  • 2005 Cayuse En Chamberlin (40%, 17 Votes)
  • 2006 Lillian (36%, 15 Votes)
  • 2007 Saxum Booker Vineyard (24%, 10 Votes)

Total Voters: 42

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

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8 thoughts on “Pick My Next Bottle – Cult Syrah

  1. As good as the Cayuse sounds, & I prefer cool weather Syrah, got to go with 2007 Saxum Booker Vineyard. I have a bottle laying down myself that I am dying to open!

  2. Beautiful line-up, Tom! As you know, I recently opened the 05 Cayuse En Chamberlin and it’s ready to enjoy now. Terrific wine! The 07 Saxum Booker is also probably ready to enjoy but will probably keep longer than the 05 En Chamberlin, if my tasting of the 07 Saxum Bone Rock is any indication. I’m not that familiar with the 06 Lillian, but I suspect it’s ready now as well. All three wines should be wonderful. If it were my choice of which wine to drink now, I’d go with the 05 Cayuse En Chamberlin. Enjoy!

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