Hello friends. It makes no sense. It makes no sense that we have offered two wines from Gramercy Cellars and neither has been a Syrah. I blame the changeable trade winds of the wine world, which always blow towards dwindling wines. We offered Greg Harrington’s “Inigo Montoya” Tempranillo back in October and his Cabernet Sauvignon in January; in both cases, great wines that were rapidly disappearing. But it’s Greg’s ethereal Syrahs that have built Gramercy’s reputation, and it’s criminal that I have waited this long to write about them.
Greg is one of the faces of the reactionary Syrah movement in the Walla Walla Valley (and a savant with animated videos). This is a movement away from alcohol and new wood, and towards natural acid and earth. In the past few years, Gramercy and Waters Winery (they share a facility) have been churning out vibrant, sleek, stinky Syrahs with alcohols in the 13% range. And heads have turned.
What Greg shares with a vigneron like Christophe Baron of Cayuse is a desire to express the earthy side of Syrah. Where they differ is in mouthfeel, texture, and body. While many would frame this as a dichotomy – an either/or proposition – I think there is plenty of room in the world for both styles of wines, especially wines as aromatically complex as these. Some days, and some meals, lend themselves to bigger wines; other days and meals to racier wines. So be it. A fascinating experiment would be a barrel trade: let Christophe work with one small section of Forgotten Hills Vineyard and Greg work with a piece of Cailloux Vineyard. Unfortunately, this kind of terroir-expression experiment is more likely to exist only in my wine-addled brain than in any reality. Alas.
Some things that Greg does differently with Syrah: he considers it a delicate grape; one that should be treated more like Pinot Noir than like Cabernet. He embraces whole cluster fermentation, including stems for their earthy aromatics, their mid-palate body, and their lick of tannins. And he picks early, obsessing much more over acid development than sugar. In short, the man is a Côte Rotie-head, and it must have been a massive compliment to have Jancis Robinson call one of Greg’s Syrahs “not so unlike a really ripe Côte Rotie.” (As a frame of reference, many Côte Roties come in at 11-12% alcohol, so by Rotie standards, 13.5% is “really ripe”). Fruit-and-barrel Syrah lovers beware: these wines are not for you. But for those of us who love dirt and acid, meat and funk, these are among the finest examples our state has to offer.
2007 Syrah “Lagniappe”
This is a near-50/50 blend from two cool-climate vineyards: Forgotten Hills, which you may remember from our Waters single-vineyard offering, and Minick Vineyard, a fascinating, high-elevation (1250ft) site in the Rattlesnake Hills that consistently imparts a lovely citrus-peel quality to its Syrahs. Here is an opportunity to taste whole-cluster fermentation, as a full 50% of the grapes included stems.
The 07 Lagniappe began to make real haste off the shelves after Wine & Spirits Magazine made the wine its highest-scored American Syrah of the year:
Wine & Spirits: “($40); [REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. 96 pts.”
Please limit order requests to 10 bottles, and we’ll do our best to fulfill all requests. We should have this wine in the warehouse in less than a week, at which point it will be available for pickup or shipping.
2007 Syrah Walla Walla Valley
The 2007 Walla Walla Valley Syrah comes from another savory Syrah vineyard: Les Collines. While Les Collines is only 15 minutes away from Forgotten Hills, Les Collines is much warmer and tends to come in a full moth before Forgotten Hills. This is a bit rounder than the Lagniappe to my palate, but it is still racier than just about every other Syrah coming out of the valley. A full 30% whole-cluster, and this saw just 10% new French oak (the rest neutral).
Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate (Jay Miller): “($42); [REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD] 94 pts.”
Washington Wine Report (Sean Sullivan): “($42); [REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD] Rating: ** (Exceptional).”
I just grabbed the last parcel of this remaining in Western Washington, and it’s miniscule. Please limit order requests to 2 bottles, and we’ll do our best to fulfill all requests. We should have this wine in the warehouse in less than a week, at which point it will be available for pickup or shipping.