Hello friends. I don’t get surprised all that much anymore when I taste wine. But this year, two of the biggest surprises I’ve experienced in some time have come from, of all things, Oregon Syrah. The first was the 2012 Cowhorn Syrah we offered back in March. The second is today’s wine, a Willamette Valley Syrah that is as much a northern Rhone ringer as any new-world wine I’ve tasted:
Gaironn poured through a wonderful lineup of Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir (we may return to those in a future offer), and then she poured Fool’s Journey. I noticed right away that the front label just had the brand name (Fool’s Journey) and the vineyard name (Deux Vert), but no variety. Now I’m often told that Syrah is a tough sell in Washington (although that has never been the case with Full Pull, where it always runs neck and neck with Cabernet Sauvignon as our most popular variety), but can you imagine what a tough sell it is in the Willamette Valley, in the Pinotocracy?
I suspect that’s why “Syrah” and “Viognier” are shuffled off to the back label, and I also suspect that’s why the wine is priced where it is. In Oregon, Gaironn and Marcus are working to find Syrah converts. Among our list members, they’re preaching to the choir.
A lot of northwest Syrah producers talk the talk about Cote Rotie, but I’ve never seen something walk the walk quite like this. First, the listed alc is 12.8%, which is low by the standards of northwest Syrah but right down the middle in Cote Rotie. Second, there is a really healthy whack (10%) of cofermented Viognier here. Third, this is done 100% whole cluster. [Side note: at the recent Louis Barroul lunch I attended, he poured his transcendent 2011 Saint Cosme Cote Rotie, and he talked about how he views the recent trend in CR towards de-stemming as “completely catastrophic” to the intrinsic character of the region.]
Deux Vert is a 21-year-old vineyard, planted in 1995; these have to be some of the oldest Syrah vines in the Willamette Valley. They are farmed by Mike and Patty Green (nope, not that Patty Green; a different Patty Green), the “two Greens” (Deux Vert) of the name. The grapes are fermented with native yeasts, foot trodden, and then racked directly to neutral French oak, where the juice ages for about two-and-a-half-years. This was bottled sometime in mid-2015 and has now had another year to age in bottle.
It comes roaring up out of the glass with a Cote-Rotie ringer nose: huckleberry and bacon fat, charcoal and smoky earth, and oh the flowers. Still very compact and youthful, this offers pepper-dusted, densely-packed layers of fruit and mineral and meat still waiting to unfurl, hidden behind wave after wave of bright, juicy acidity. I followed a glass over the course of an afternoon, and with time and oxygen exposure, the acidity softened up and the complexity ramped up: very promising for the years to come. Any lover of terroir-driven Syrah, any lover of cool-climate Syrah, hell, any lover of Syrah period, would do well to check out this singular bottle of Oregon wine. If this wine was made in Washington, it would cost at least twice as much. If it was made in Cote Rotie, yikes; I won’t even hazard a guess.
First come first served up to 12 bottles, and the wine should arrive in a week or two, at which point it will be ready for pickup or shipping during the next temperature-appropriate shipping window.