Moody Vineyard near the confluence of the Deschutes and Columbia rivers provides Cathedral Ridge Winery in Hood River, Ore., with Cabernet Franc, Syrah and Zinfandel. (Photo courtesy of Cathedral Ridge Winery)

Moody Vineyard near the confluence of the Deschutes and Columbia rivers provides Cathedral Ridge Winery in Hood River, Ore., with Cabernet Franc, Syrah and Zinfandel. (Photo courtesy of Cathedral Ridge Winery)

Syrah plays key role in Northwest red blends

After Australia flooded the U.S. market with inexpensive and uninteresting shiraz, syrah has been a tough sell with consumers.

Yet acreage and tonnage of syrah continues to increase year after year. Last year, Washington winemakers harvested more than 20,000 tons of the red wine grape for the first time in state history.

There are two main reasons for this.

First of all, syrah is an early ripening grape. Winemakers can bring it in before Labor Day, have it crushed and begin turning it into wine in their fermentation rooms while other varieties such as cabernet sauvignon and mourvèdre are still hanging on the vine.

Second of all, it’s a delicious blending grape often able to add midpalate heft and weight to a wine without adding to its tannin levels. Winemakers can often bevel out the harsh edges of cabernet sauvignon and merlot with just a bit of syrah in the blend.

Here are a few delicious Washington red blends that include syrah. Ask for them to your favorite wine merchant or contact wineries directly.

Abacela NV Estate Vintner’s Blend #16, Umpqua Valley, $18: The robust Spanish grape tempranillo is the historic headliner at storied Abacela in southern Oregon, and it makes up nearly half of this Mediterranean-style blend that calls upon 11 varieties. Syrah is the next grape up for winemaker Andrew Wenzl, who used it to create remarkable balance while toning down the tannins. Aromas of black currant, cherry and lingonberry include hints of oregano and a caramel corn shop. Inside, blackberry jam and bittersweet chocolate flavors are joined by tannins reminiscent of espresso grounds, which are led out by a raspberry cream finish. (13.7 percent alcohol)

Buty Winery 2013 Phinny Hill Vineyard Columbia Rediviva Red Wine, Horse Heaven Hills, $50: Buty claims to be the first in Washington state to blend cabernet sauvignon and syrah into high-end reds, and this Walla Walla Valley winery continues to use a bit of syrah to flesh out the cabernet sauvignon in this bottling. There’s a theme of cherry jam and dark plum with chocolate-covered blueberries, while the influence of the syrah shows by softening the tannin structure that’s accompanied raspberry acidity. (14.7%)

Cairdeas Winery 2014 Consonance Red Wine Blend, Yakima Valley, $42: Charlie Lybecker, the Rhône Ranger of Lake Chelan, blends petite sirah and syrah with counoise and mourvèdre. Think of a basket full of ripe Chelan cherries and plum with dried strawberry, orange sherbet and pomegranate, capped by late arriving tannins and tangy acidity. (14.5%)

Cathedral Ridge Winery 2012 Reserve Rusty Red Wine, Columbia Valley, $44: Sonoma winemaker Michael Sebastiani focuses on two Oregon vineyards sites near the Columbia River for this blend of syrah and zinfandel. Aromas and flavors of Christmas spices, cherries, cassis and orange zest include tannins akin to espresso grounds. Enjoy with molasses marinated flank steak. (14.2%)

Owen Roe 2015 Sinister Hand Red Wine, Columbia Valley, $28: This Yakima Valley winemaker references an Irish legend in which a member of the O’Neill clan severs his own hand and tosses it ashore toward the end of a rowing race in order to cleverly be the first to touch — and claim — a prized parcel of land ahead of the rival O’Reillys. This young and vibrant GSM-style blend leads with grenache and follows with syrah. Engaging aromas of plump marionberry, Chukar Cherry, lavender and white pepper are matched on the palate. The structure is velvety yet juicy with a trail of elderberry. (14.1%)

William Church Winery 2014 PJ’s Vintage Bishop’s Blend Red Wine, Columbia Valley, $25: The Balsleys work with Woodinville winemaker Noah Fox Reed for their flagship red bottling of Bordeaux varieties that includes a significant amount of syrah. Dusty aromas of marionberry, plum and mint lead to flavors of blueberry, dark chocolate and tobacco, backed by raspberry acidity and ample tannins. (14.3%)

Ryan Patrick Vineyards 2015 Redhead Red Red Wine, Columbia Valley, $15: A trio of Wahluke Slope vineyards provided WSU grad Jeremy Santo with the material for this fleshy and juicy crowd-pleasing red. Cabernet sauvignon dominates the blend with additives of syrah, merlot and petit verdot to create a super fruity drink of cherry and blueberry engaged by sandy tannins that build slowly and are joined by pomegranate acidity. (13.5%)

Truth Teller Winery 2014 The Madman Red Wine, Columbia Valley, $40: Woodinville vintner Chris Loeliger pushes syrah into the lead with this blend that opens up with gorgeous aromas of cherry juice, plum and mocha. Delicious acidity arrives early and leads to a blossoming of tannins among long flavors of black currant and president plum. (14.8%)

Eric Degerman and Andy Perdue run Great Northwest Wine, an award-winning media company. Learn more about wine at www.greatnorthwestwine.com.

Talk to us

More in Life

Darlene Love, Steven Van Zandt and Paul Shaffer  performed in concert at the Paramount Theater in Asbury Park on Sept. 12, 2015.
Pandemic’s not stopping Christmas Queen Darlene Love

The singer best known for “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” will perform her annual holiday concert online this year.

roses
A gardener’s to-do list for winterizing the yard — Part 2

Try to accomplish most of these chores, but don’t beat yourself up if you can’t get them all done.

Caleb Sanders and Ashley Dougherty help decorate for the Trees of Christmas event at the Everett Bible Baptist Church. (Maria Lara)
Church keeps Christmas tradition alive with drive-thru event

Everett Bible Baptist Church hosts Trees of Christmas, with music, narration and special treats for the family.

Mexican sedum is an excellent groundcover plant, forming a dense carpet of glossy chartreuse leaves. (Richie Steffen)
Great Plant Pick: Sedum kimnachii aka Mexican sedum

An excellent groundcover plant, this variety forms a flat, dense carpet of glossy chartreuse leaves.

Make holidays brighter with energy saving tips and gifts

Snohomish County PUD shares five smart ways to find joy in the season that use less electricity.

John Spadam owner, at Spada Farmhouse Brewery in Snohomish. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
Spada ready to show off new bar and restaurant in Snohomish

During the pandemic, the Spada family has been busy renovating an old building on First Street.

Precept Wine, the largest privately-owned wine company in Washington, recruited Seattle native Sarah Cabot to take over its pinot noir production in Oregon’s Willamette Valley in 2014. (Precept Wine)
Six examples of award-winning pinot noir in the Northwest

The Willamette Valley of Oregon has a reputation for the red wine, but there are other success stories in the area.

To deposit a coin in the Bonzo bank, you had to push his tummy. His tongue would come out of his mouth to deposit the coin inside. Many similar banks were made picturing other comic characters. (Cowles Syndicate Inc.)
Mechanical bank of the first famous Bonzo sells for $1,800

The dog decorating the front of the tin bank was a comic cartoon star from the 1920s to the 1940s.

Design elements of the M235i Gran Coupe include angled headlights, four-eyed halo daytime running lights, and BMW’s traditional kidney grille. (Manufacturer photo)
BMW’s compact 2 Series Gran Coupe is all new to the 2020 lineup

A turbocharged engine, all-wheel drive, and 8-speed automatic transmission are standard on both versions.

Most Read