Fausse Piste “Garde Manger” 2011 Columbia Valley Syrah

fausse piste

Fausse Piste winery is the brainchild of Jesse Skiles.  Skiles worked in the wine industry in Oregon, most notably at Owen Roe, for a few years and then started his own thing about six years ago in Portland. As is not surprising in Portland’s cutting-edge wine and food environment, Skiles wanted to to do something different.  For him that meant a minimalist, back-to-basics approach to making wine.  He wanted to dial back the oak and lower the alcohol on his wines by picking earlier.  He also wanted to use older approaches to wine making like whole-cluster fermentation and low sulfur additions.  His Syrah is a great example of how this approach can work.  It’s damn good, it’s food-friendly and light on its feet and it’s under $20.

The wine: This is not a savory Syrah, but it has a purity of fruit untouched by the use of any new oak in its aging process.  There’s some earthiness there in the background and mushroom aromas, but really this is a fruit forward Syrah that just screams ripe plum and cherry. It’s a simple, food-friendly wine that’s nicely balanced, very little alcohol comes through and there’s a good amount of acidity. The Fausse Piste put a big smile on my face.

Two Impressive Syrahs from Domaine Faury


The Domaine Faury St. Joseph is one of the best values in Northern Rhone Syrah, a Syrah that tastes and smells like real Syrah. This wine has been one of my favorites through the years and it’s fun for me to get a chance to really get to know it by writing about it for the blog.

A leathery/tobaccoy Syrah with tons of savory elements it’s a great introduction for those of you want to get a sense of a French cool-climate Syrah without breaking the bank. There’s a bit of vegetal aroma too but just in the background.  It’s also an approachable wine because of the lack of overt tannins which is something I’m beginning to notice is a common theme in wines from St. Joseph.  It also has a sweet floral aroma but what most impresses me is its beautifully balanced mid palate. There’s a lift of acidity but there’s also a smoothness to it that must have something to do with those light tannins.  This is a Syrah that is really hard to not drink all of, especially after a decant or a day left out on the counter.

faury L art zele

L’ ArtZelé is another delicious Syrah from Faury made from younger vines in the Côte-Rôtie appellation.  At around $30 it’s also a steal.

It has that same savory nose of tobacco and leather but tends more towards mushrooms and black pepper but with more minerality. The nose has aromas of strawberry too that transition to the midpalate, again this is a wine with good acidity but a lack of harsh tannins.  Wow, this is smooth and light but also serious. It has an elegance that the St. Joseph doesn’t.

I love these types of Syrah because of their savory aromas and smooth mouthfeel and I think I’m really developing an appreciation for Domaine Faury’s interpretation of Syrah.  These are wines that are probably most defined by something that I don’t sense on them and that is new oak.  The wines are aged in large neutral oak barrels that minimize the impact the wood has on the wine and that’s what keeps them so purely delicious.