The Tasting Panel magazine

August 2014

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40  /  the tasting panel  /  august 2014 EVENT WRAP-UP "S yrah is not a 'pinkies out' wine." Patrick Comiskey, wine writer and critic, proved this point before the Celebrate Walla Walla Valley attendees with a poetic recital of Syrah's aromas, ranging from blue flowers to burnt rubber. In Comiskey's view, the defining attribute of Syrah is "wildness." More than 500 attendees from 17 states spent three days at Celebrate Walla Walla Valley: "The World of Syrah" uncovering the secrets of this enigmatic varietal. Terroir is no longer a concept reserved for winemakers and sommeliers. At 8:30 a.m., after a night of wine tasting, the Gesa Power House Theatre was filled with 250+ people interested in dirt. Dr. Kevin Pogue, of the Department of Geology at Whitman College in Walla Walla, introduced Syrah as "the most terroir-driven grape." Pogue explained variations within the Walla Walla Valley that contribute to Syrah's diverse characteristics. Soils can consist of windblown silt so deep that vines never encounter anything else, or rocks that break vineyard equipment. Pogue excitedly spoke of the proposed new AVA, the Rocks District of Milton-Freewater. Later in the day, attendees experienced regional commonalities and differences in Syrah at a panel discussion and tasting with six winemakers from Walla Walla, California and Australia. Pax Mahle of Wind Gap Wines in Sonoma noted the distinctions among the three Walla Walla Valley Syrahs from Anna Schafer of àMaurice Cellars, Greg Harrington of Gramercy Cellars and Matt Reynvaan of Reynvaan Family Vineyards. Echoing Pogue, Schafer noted the influence of differ- ent soils and slopes. The commonality in Walla Walla Valley Syrah was the wildness of which Comiskey spoke. Attendees also tasted the winemaker's influence. With the exception of Kevin Sass of Halter Ranch Vineyard from Paso Robles, all the winemakers used whole-cluster fermentation, adding herbal notes to the wines. All were intrigued to learn that Gary Mills, of Jamsheed Wines in Australia's Yarra Valley, uses carbonic maceration. Mills called the Walla Walla wines "electrically exciting" and an "absolute revelation." The ability of Washington Syrah to age was also a revelation. Vintage Pour, held at Garrison Creek Cellars, featured 36 Walla Walla wineries pouring 2007 and earlier vintages. The three oldest vintages of Syrah were Seven Hills Winery 1999 Walla Walla Valley, L'Ecole No. 41 2001 Estate Walla Walla Valley, and Dunham Cellars 2002 Lewis Vineyard Columbia Valley. Celebrate Walla Walla Valley both entertained and educated, giving attendees a few more pieces to the puzzle that is Syrah. No one held out their pinkies. Celebrate Walla Walla Valley 2015 will focus on Merlot; see Wild at Heart "THE WORLD OF SYRAH" AT TASTE WALLA WALLA EXPLORES THIS VARIETY'S FERAL QUALITIES by Jade Helm Vintners chat with and pour for guests across a tasting table. PHOTOS © RICHARD DUVALL IMAGES, COURTESY OF WALLA WALLA VALLEY WINE ALLIANCE Wine writer Patrick Comiskey speaks during the event.

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