Wednesday, May 02, 2007

The Ballad of North and South - Walla Walla Syrahs

With apologies to Rudyard Kipling - -

"Oh, North is North, and South is South, and the twain shall often meet...
Till Earth and Sky stand presently at Bacchus's great Judgment Seat

Two wines from Walla Walla recently got my interest, one from north of town and the other from south. Both are estate wines; the northerner comes from 100-year old wheat land and the southerner comes from old rocky river beds. What do they have in common? The comprise examples of the finest estate Syrah grown and made in the Walla Walla Valley, and as it happened both wines stood side by side in my house the other evening.

I knew the northern wine had come from Spring Valley Vineyards as soon as my nose hit the bowl of the glass. These old northern slopes of wheatland resembles those vertigo-inducing slopes of Northern Rhone and the earthiness of the estate's old wheat fields came through just as it does with their Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. It's a smell that I happen to love, as it reminds me of my grandfather and the smell of his OshKosh B'Gosh overalls from his days out in the wheat fields. Violets from my grandmother's garden came through as well.

This 2004 vintage, named "Nina Lee" by Spring Valley, is very large, with fruits of blackberry and plums and a hint of chocolate. There seem to be enough tannins going on that you'll be able to put some significant age on the bottle, though it is delicious now. There's an interesting contrast, in fact, between the wine in the bottle and the wine's label: the wine is big and dense, yet the woman -- Nina Lee herself, in a fetching photo from the 1920s -- is petite and delicate looking woman. But don't be fooled by her size. From what I've heard about her, the wine named for Nina Lee beautifully and accurately represents her big and bold spirit.

From vineyards south of town came the Cayuse Cailloux Syrah 2001 from Cayuse Vineyards. The stones held the secrets of the grapes and the name, Cayuse, which was given to a local Native American tribe by French trappers, is an evolved spelling of the French word "cailloux," which means rocks.

When I first smelled this wine it reminded me of an old French wine -- a mixture of perfume and soil, of a woman's subtle fragrance and a barnyard's odor. Well, that's French and French-style wine for you! But later the nose opened up and developed smoky notes with hints of coffee and florals - again, violets. The mouth was full and intense. Blueberries came though with a finish of Chinese Five-Spice. To me, this Syrah resembled the noble red grape from the rocky slopes of France's Rhone Valley. I thought it had just the right amount of tannins, but in my heart I knew we had opened it too soon. This Cayuse Syrah had more stories to tell if left in the bottle a few more years.

The ballad ends with two empty bottles that once held two different styles of Syrah from two different areas of the Walla Walla Valley. One defining thing they have in common: they are both beautiful wines that this woman from the West of Walla Walla would never turn down.

But there is neither North nor South, Border, nor Breed, nor Birth,
When two strong Syrahs stand face to face, tho' they come from the ends of the Walla Walla!"

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

I like what you said on the "Friday 13th" entry.

Anonymous comments and siblings.

Obviously you have been taking the screw cap off the Thunderbird bottle again.

You don't even know if we, siblings, visit this site. You can't prove it's us. So you can't tell "Mom". So there.

Damn, I think I may have given it away. Oh well.........ya'll kant pruv nuthin no how cuz ah ain't gat one of them thar camputer thigies har in Tennessee.

Damn.....Did it again. ROFLMAO

Catie said...

Shhhh...my readers think I am really cool. Don't ruin it for me or I will have to tell Mom and you won't get the car tonight.