Monday, August 09, 2010

Wait for it! Wait for it! Waters Winery Syrahs of 2009

Last week seemed to be a week for me of  tasting up-and-coming wines of 2009. How did it happen? Luck and good timing, I suppose. Now, it is important to know that these wines have not been released, let alone the red wines are still in the barrel.  However, the day they become available, these wines will definitely be worth seeking out. 

One group of exciting 2009 vintages I tasted last week were from Waters WineryWaters Winery is a boutique winery located at the south of Walla Walla inches away from the Washington/Oregon border. Waters was founded in 2005 and their foundation was built by the knowledge that terroirs of the Walla Walla Valley are capable of producing some of the best wines in the world. Their approach to wine making, under the hand and passion of winemaker Jamie Brown, is influenced by their preference for "old world" styled wines that are expressive of their "terroirs" - their place of origin.  When I have tasted wines with Jamie, I have always been impressed by the significance of showing place of origin in the wines from Waters Winery, but also how important it is to him that each grape variety expresses its true characteristic. 

The focus of wines from Waters Winery were two luscious Syrahs from two different vineyards in the Walla Walla Valley. And with that said, each vineyard offered to the palate two very distinct noses and flavor profiles.  It is always exciting for me to find such obvious differences in the same varietal from the same AVA. 

Waters Winery Loess Vineyard Syrah - 2009:  The Loess vineyard was planted in 2002 by Gary and Chris Figgins of Leonetti Winery - one of the oldest and most renowned wineries in the State of Washington.  This 27-acre vineyard is located in the foothills of the Blue Mountains and just two acres are planted in Syrah.  The rows of Syrah have been placed on a 30 degree northeast-southwest orientation to balance morning and afternoon ripening.

The vineyard name, "Loess" (pronounced Luss) comes from the name of one of the soil types that is responsible for making up Walla Walla Valley over 15,000 years ago. In fact, there are days when we still see these soils at work with every wind storm in the valley.  Loess is an accumulation of  wind-blown silt with lesser and variable amounts of sand, clay and some minerals such as fine-grained mica. Loess is a highly porous soil which makes for good drainage in the vineyards. 

The nose of this Syrah was delicate. There were aromas of mocha and cherries with light notes of floral in the background. The mouth feel was round and silky. It continued on with the flavors of mocha and suddenly exploded with flavors of blueberries and spice. The fruit continued to linger and announce itself. If I was to explain this Syrah in one word - - "elegant."  Again, it is important to remember this is a young wine right from the barrel and still needs time to age and reach its full potential. 

Waters Winery Forgotten Hills Vineyard Syrah - 2009: During the Wine Bloggers Conference 2010 in Walla Walla we had an opportunity to visit this vineyard with Christa Hilt of Waters Winery and Dr. Kevin Pogue, Professor of Geology at Whitman College. 

Forgotten Hills Vineyard was originally planted in 1996 by Jeff Hill, a well known Walla Walla artist, and was planted on the Hill family homestead.  This 7.5-acre vineyard is at the eastern edge of the Walla Walla Valley AVA and is also at the foothills of the Blue Mountains.  This vineyard is composed of three different soil types:  basalt cobblestones, deep silt loam and sandy loam.  Believe it or not, the old cobblestones not only provide drainage, but also radiate heat that continues during our cool evenings in the Walla Walla Valley.  If you don't believe it, pick up a stone in 90 degree temps and see how long you can hold onto it before you are forced to drop it - - unless you are wearing heat-resistant mitts, of course.    

The harvest dates of this vineyard tend to be later in the season than a lot of the vineyards in the Walla Walla Valley.  At close to 1,000 feet elevation, along with steady warm winds and less extremes in temperatures, the additional hang time on the vine produces complex fruit that is even and ideal in its ripeness.   

I barely put my nose in the glass and the Waters Winery Forgotten Hills Syrah - 2009 screamed at me, "Coffee-Espresso-Macchiato-Americano!" The nose of this Syrah would make Starbucks pale and run away. This Southern Rhône-style Syrah has a lot to say for such a youngster.  This inky wine couldn't help but to be described as, "Old World" as it brought out notes of musty earth and smoke.  Dark fruits and spices of cloves and pepper were on the palate.   To desribe this Syrah in one word - - "robust."

These two 2009 vintage Syrahs from Waters Winery are a fine example of powerful red wines that express the true characteristics of this dark-skinned grape that is  grown throughout  Walla Walla and Washington State and in fact, the world.  They are truly worth waiting for.  Cheers!

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