Washington joined the Rhône Rangers in the mid-1980s, when Mike Sauer of Red Willow Vineyard became the first grape grower in the state to plant Syrah. After the somewhat winter-tender grape came through the 1996 winter freeze pretty well, Syrah planting took off.
Today, more than 10,000 tons of wine grapes are crushed annually in Washington, making the rich, ripe purple grape the No. 3 red variety behind Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.
We adore Washington Syrah because it combines the rich, plush flavors of the New World with the complex, bacon-fat-laden notes of the Old World.
Here are 12 examples of Washington Syrahs we’ve tasted in the past two months (including two that are made by Oregon producers and one whose grapes actually come from a couple of miles into the Oregon side of the Walla Walla Valley).