Perhaps it is best to trust a Frenchman with 500 years of winemaking experience in his family to make Washington’s best Syrah. Christophe Baron is not just the leading winemaker of Syrah in Washington, if not the entire U.S., he is also the reason Syrah is a big deal in Washington. When he started, Syrah in the state saw but spotted plantings and nothing inspired.
Chateauneuf Terroir in Washington State
His initial forays into Washington led him to a riverbed that most had ignored, but was filled with Chateauneuf du Papes style galet stones, with silty loam, sand and cobblestone on the surface and then 200 feet of stone underneath. Baron was meticulous in his practices, digging up and hand planting the vineyard that is now known as Cailloux, in the heart of Walla Walla. While Baron now has 3 other vineyards, Cailloux remains the heart of Cayuse and the original site of Baron’s fully biodynamic winery.
Baron experiments with both French and Spanish varieties, but it is his Syrah that is the heart of Cayuse and the most important wine he makes. This stuff is truly terroir driven, and plays out Baron’s obsession with earth, soil and site.
Obsession with Purity
Baron does some outstanding things at Cayuse like planting vines on their own rootstock, despite the risk of phylloxera, along with high density plantings, green harvesting and the use of native yeasts in the winemaking process (interestingly, see Jamie Goode’s article on the importance of yeasts for terroir in the latest World of Fine Wine magazine).
One of the World’s Great Syrahs
The wine itself is aromatically suave and presents some vegetal aromas along with roots, hoisin, meat and mineral. The palate is truly exceptional and extremely balanced and long. Again come vegetal elements, minerals, and soft black fruits without any bitterness. There is nothing out of place in this wine and nothing difficult to understand, even though it is complex and profound. In fact, the wine is truly exceptional and deserving of a place amongst the world’s greatest Syrahs.
The 3000 case production sells out annually at Cayuse, but you can find his wines in Vancouver yearly at Everything Wine and at select restaurants.
$122 at Everything Wine
P.S. There will be about a week of haitus on this blog while I attend a friend’s wedding, then on to Languedoc-Roussillon.