Spotlight on Washington Syrah: Waters “Forgotten Hills” Syrah 2006

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Walla Walla is now the symbolic centre of the Washington wine industry. Ten years ago, however, it was more famous for housing some of Washington’s top wineries than it was for actually supplying grapes for the state’s best wines. These days, however, plantings in the Walla Walla Valley have significantly expanded. Waters is one of the new breed of wineries that is taking advantage of some of the great sites and soils in the area.

A Slow Ripening Vineyard

Waters planted a vineyard near to the famous Cayuse vineyard in the south of Walla Walla at the eastern edge of the Walla Walla Valley appellation near the foothills of the Blue Mountains. The soils are composed of three different types: basalt cobblestones, deep silt loam and sandy loam. The cobbles provide excellent drainage and radiate heat that prolongs ripening during cool evenings. The silt loam allows vines to send roots deep into the soil and tap into native water supplies which reduces the need for irrigation. The sandy loam also offers excellent drainage and reduces pest pressures. This slow-ripening vineyard, sitting at 1000 feet above sea level, is also one of the last to be picked in the region.

French Style Syrah

Waters is making syrah unlike many producers in Washington, working along the lines of Cayuse much more than the dense and heavily extracted syrahs gaining praise with critics. Waters are purists, looking to the old world for inspiration. I think this translates extremely effectively in their wines, which focus on aromatics and freshness.

This wine had lovely brightly toned fruit with menthol, chocolate, brine and smoke. The palate is higher acid than most WA syrahs with lots of olive, brine, herbs and spice along with classic blackberry and raspberry fruit. The structure and length were extremely effective, but the high tones of the fruit draw the wine a bit out of balance right now. This will mellow and integrate with either bottle age or the right food pairing.

Without doubt, Waters is a syrah producer to watch in Washington.

Very Good+ (Excellent with age)
$40 at Esquin in Seattle

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