Two Authentic Oregon Syrahs

The Abacela 2009 Syrah

Ok, this is definitely not a cool-climate wine, any of you who have been to Southern Oregon during the growing season will know that it gets damn hot there.  But on a recent trip to Abacela in Roseburg, I couldn’t help buying a bottle of this Syrah.  It just tastes so varietally correct to me.  It’s got some of those true Syrah aromas of gravel and plum, along with a very faint vegetal character.  There’s very little oak on this version of Abacela’s Syrah, which unfortunately is more than I could say for its higher-priced Reserve Syrah.  On the palate it’s bright with a nice fresh acidity and a finish that’s not too tannic or grating.  It’s just a pretty-drinking wine that’s balanced and fresh and stays true to the varietal.

Abacela has become known for their Spanish varietals and they make a great Albariño and Tempranillo, and most recently a pretty spectacular Grenache.  Their new tasting room is actually a gorgeous spot in the middle of an area that’s mostly a suburban wasteland of Southern Oregon.

The Cristom 2009 Estate Syrah

I’ve written about Cristom before for this humble electronic publication and I’ve really enjoyed their wines.  Cristom is an outstanding Pinot Noir producer on the Southern edge of the Willamette Valley.  Unlike most Willamette Valley wineries, it hasn’t put all its eggs into the Pinot basket and it has a small amount of outstanding Syrah.  This wine had the kind of complex nose that screams cool-climate: olive paste, savory, under-ripe strawberry, and a slight hint of bubble gum, celery salt, kind of a kirsch element, and licorice, with an underlying minerality that’s a tad surprising for a wine with 14.5% alcohol.  Again, just like the ’05 I tried from Cristom this is another textbook example of authentic Syrah.  It’s not over-oaked or manipulated and there’s just a purity of fruit that belies the cool-climate location of the vineyard.

There’s a ton of potential in Oregon for Syrah and I hope to explore more examples of the variety from it’s vast and diverse appellations.


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