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Gramercy Cellars Columbia Valley Syrah 2012
Prior to founding Gramercy Cellars, Greg spent what seemed like a lifetime as a sommelier and wine program director for top chefs such as Joyce Goldstein, Emeril Lagasse and Wolfgang Puck. Since becoming the youngest American to pass the Master Sommelier Exam at the age of 26, Greg has been passionate about someday making his own wine. His Washington odyssey began in the Spring of 2004, at a backyard picnic in Brooklyn, hosted by the Walla Walla Wine Alliance. There, Greg and Pam tasted wines that surprised them. They were very different from what they had come to expect from American wines. These were wines that displayed earthy characteristics and balance. A marathon tasting trip in Walla Walla later that spring (and Pam's discovery of the term "palate fatigue") convinced them that Walla Walla was in their future. First, this meant "when they retire." That quickly became "5 years from now." Meanwhile, Greg worked harvest in 2004 in Walla Walla and was more convinced than ever that Walla Walla was the place in the United States to make the wines he loves. Soon thereafter, Pam gave him the green light to leave his restaurant industry job to seize the opportunity to finally follow his dreams full time, resulting in Gramercy's first harvest in 2005. In 2006, Greg and Pam moved to Washington to establish and build the legacy of great Washington wine at Gramercy Cellars.
2010 was a watershed vintage for Gramercy. Vineyards, vintage and style have all come together as clearly evidenced by wines of amazing personality and quality. Tempranillo and the red Rhone blends - The Third Man and L’Idiot du Village showcase intense, pure fruit with rich textures and fine acid-tannin structure. The bright, intense, blue-black fruited Lagniappe Syrah is co-fermented with a dollop of Viognier and aged 18 months in 85% neutral French oak. In New Orleans, Lagniappe, means, a little something extra. The Walla Walla Valley Syrah is whole cluster fermented, aged in neutral oak and is fatter and meatier. The Cabs have both power and finesse and are built for an extra long haul. Finally, the Rosé is a full-bodied but not heavy Rhone blend that marks a new quality high for WA pink. Walla Walla native, Brandon Moss, worked harvests at King Estate and in New Zealand. Upon returning to Walla Walla be became cellar master at Waters Winery before joining Gramercy as assistant winemaker. In 2011 Brandon became a partner in Gramercy Cellars. This is a very important, world-class producer!
A large and geographically diverse AVA capable of producing a wide variety of wine styles, the Columbia Valley AVA is home to 99% of Washington state’s total vineyard area. A small section of the AVA even extends into northern Oregon!
Because of its size, it is necessarily divided into several distinctive sub-AVAs, including Walla Walla Valley and Yakima Valley—which are both further split into smaller, noteworthy appellations. A region this size will of course have varied microclimates, but on the whole it experiences extreme winters and long, hot, dry summers. Frost is a common risk during winter and spring. The towering Cascade mountain range creates a rain shadow, keeping the valley relatively rain-free throughout the entire year, necessitating irrigation from the Columbia River. The lack of humidity combined with sandy soils allows for vines to be grown on their own rootstock, as phylloxera is not a serious concern.
Red wines make up the majority of production in the Columbia Valley. Cabernet Sauvignon is the dominant variety here, where it produces wines with a pleasant balance of dark fruit and herbs. Wines made from Merlot are typically supple, with sweet red fruit and sometimes a hint of chocolate or mint. Syrah tends to be savory and Old-World-leaning, with a wide range of possible fruit flavors and plenty of spice. The most planted white varieties are Chardonnay and Riesling. These range in style from citrus and green apple dominant in cooler sites, to riper, fleshier wines with stone fruit flavors coming from the warmer vineyards.
Marked by unmistakable deep purple hue and savory aromatics, Syrah accounts for a good deal of some of the most intense, powerful and age-worthy reds in the world. Native to the Northern Rhône, Syrah still achieves some of its maximum potential here, especially from Hermitage and Côte-Rôtie.
Syrah also plays an important component in the canonical Southern Rhône blends based on Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre, adding color, depth, complexity and structure to the mix. Today these blends have become well-appreciated from key appellations of the New World, namely Australia, California and increasingly, with praise, from Washington.
In the Glass
Syrah typically shows aromas and flavors of purple fruits, fragrant violets, baking spice, white pepper and even bacon, smoke or black olive. In Australia, where it goes under the name Shiraz, it produces deep, dark, intense and often, jammy reds. While Northern Rhône examples are typically less fruity and more earthy, California appears increasingly capable of either style.
Flavorful Moroccan-spiced lamb, grilled meats, spareribs and hard, aged cheeses are perfect with Syrah. Blue cheeses are perfect with a dense and fruit-driven Australian Shiraz.
Due to the success of Australian “Shiraz,” winemakers throughout the world have adopted this synonym for Syrah when they have produced a plush and fruit forward wine made in the Australian style. As an aside, Australians are also fond of tempering their fruit-forward Shiraz by blending with Cabernet Sauvignon, which adds depth and structure.