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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 responsible for 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 extends into northern Oregon as well. Because of its vast size, it is necessarily divided into several distinctive sub-AVAs, including Walla Walla Valley and Yakima Valley—which is further split into three more even smaller AVAs. A region this size will of course have varied microclimates, but on the whole it experiences cold winters and long, dry growing seasons. 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 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, the styles of which depend on the warmth of the site. Citrus and green apple are common to both in cooler sites, while warmer vineyards will produce riper, fleshier stone fruit flavors.
Marked by unmistakable aromatics, a savory palate, and an elegant texture, Syrah is capable of producing fascinatingly complex and long-lived wines with a stunning purple hue. Native to the Northern Rhône, Syrah’s best examples are found in Hermitage and Côte-Rôtie. It is also an important component of the GSM blends of the Southern Rhône and beyond, alongside Grenache and Mourvèdre. Both varietal Syrah and GSM blends are common in Australia and California and are gaining popularity in Washington State. In Australia, Syrah is known by the synonym Shiraz, which tends to indicate a bolder, fruit-driven style of wine, and is occasionally blended with Cabernet Sauvignon for added depth and structure.
In the Glass
At its best, Syrah shows aromas and flavors of purple fruits, fragrant violets, baking spice, white pepper, smoke, and even bacon fat. Many examples from California aim to recreate this savory style, while others focus more on concentrated fruit flavors. In Australia, under the name Shiraz, it shines as that country’s unofficial signature red grape, producing deep, dark, intense, and often jammy reds.
Cool-climate Syrah, with its peppery spices, is a natural match with flavorful Moroccan-spiced lamb dishes, where the spice is more about flavor than heat. With Australian Shiraz, grown in warmer regions, heavy meat dishes with abundant protein and fat are a necessity to match the intensity of the wine.
Due to the success of Australian “Shiraz,” this synonym for Syrah has been adopted by winemakers throughout the world. If the label says “Shiraz,” you can typically expect a plush, fruity, and potent wine made in the Australian style. New World "Syrah" will generally more closely resemble the French style.