Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Olive-Driven: 10 Years On, Cayuse Syrah Slays

Cayuse Syrahs never cease to amaze me. These two 2004s are still doing wonders.
A lot of wine lovers, myself included, use the term “mineral-driven” to describe certain wines. I find many a lot of Mosel Riesling, Chablis and Champagne to be driven by a sense mineral intensity. Well, to be consistent, aged Cayuse Syrahs should be called olive-driven.

So much olive. And I absolutely love it.

Of course, these wines have more than olives going for them. Tons of berry fruit, lots of earthy and herbal tones, notes of cured meats. The wines are popular (and expensive) for a reason: they’re gorgeous Syrahs, some of my favorite in the New World.

I tasted these two beauties alongside a slew of amazing wines and good friends
during a recent end-of-the-year wine bash. We gathered at one of DC’s most delicious and wine-friendly restaurants, Ripple in Cleveland Park, to catch up, eat and imbibe.

Both of these Syrahs come from the rock-laden soils of Walla Walla, which straddles parts of Oregon and Washington. They both come from the same vintage, 2004, a hot growing season with a long, cool fall that led to small berries and concentrated wines.

Christophe Baron, the Champagne expat winemaker and genius behind Cayuse, started his Walla Walla Syrah run with the Cailloux Vineyard, which was planted in 1997. The En Chamberlin Vineyard, also home to Cayuse’s Widowmaker Cabernet, was planted in 2000. It was fascinating to taste these
two vineyard-designate wines side-by-side a decade after the juice was pressed.

Cayuse Syrahs aren’t easy to find, and they’re not cheap, but lovers of Syrah (and olives) will not regret seeking them out.

2004 Cayuse Syrah Cailloux Vineyard
More than a year since my last tasting, and this one is still kicking. I get beef jerky, tons of green and black olives, as well as pickled beet and soy on the nose, not to mention the blueberry and bright cherry fruit. The blueberry, blackberry and wild cherry fruit is juicy and creamy, but the non-fruit flavors steal the show: green olives galore, smoked meat, crispy pork belly, roasted peppers... did I mention olives? Still showing dusty tannic structure and the acid helps tame the velvety mouthfeel a bit. Just a gorgeous wine. (94 points)

2004 Cayuse Syrah En Chamberlin Vineyard
Deeper and darker on the nose than the 2004 Cailloux tasted side by side. More plum cake, baked berry pie, more black olives. I also get a meat and seaweed note. Plummy and rich with blueberries, almost cough syrup-like presence, but it’s actually very pleasant and precise at the same time – somehow. So many complex flavors to unpack: fall leaves, bacon fat, teriyaki jerky, black and Greek olives, also some dried rose potpourri and lavender notes. A feast for the senses and a beautiful accompaniment to the slow cooked lamb shoulder. (95 points)

No comments:

Post a Comment