1. K Vintners Klein Syrah Walla Walla Valley 2012 $70
In southwest Walla Walla Valley’s Klein Vineyard, a thin layer of windblown loess sits atop basalt bedrock: a combination that delivers brooding aromas of dark fruit and olive and a power-packed palate of rich black fruit notes.
2. Saviah Cellars The Funk Estate Syrah Walla Walla Valley 2013 $60
The unusually apt vineyard name represents both owner-winemaker Richard Funk and the notoriously funky wines coming from the Rocks District. Varied aromas of olive brine, gravel, grilled asparagus, and flowers leap out of the glass, while fruit and savory flavors coat the palate. The balance is impeccable.
3. Co Dinn Cellars Syrah Roskamp Vineyard Block Two Snipes Mountain 2013 $50
The inaugural syrah from former Hogue winemaker Co Dinn hails from an appellation most often used in Columbia Valley blends. But wines from this region can clearly stand on their own—the proof is in this wine’s great intensity and exceptional balance.
4. Ardor Cellars Syrah Stoney Vine Vineyard Walla Walla Valley 2014 $50
Ardor Cellars topped our syrah list last year, and the subsequent 2014 vintage (the winery skipped 2013) shows it wasn’t a fluke. Aromas of stems, crushed flowers, and wet rock lead to savory flavors, equal parts grace and power, followed by an unstoppable finish.
5. Lawrelin Wine Cellars Syrah Columbia Valley 2002 $42
That vintage listing is not a typo: Lawrelin gives its wines extended time in bottle. It’s a way to demonstrate that Washington, despite its relative youth, produces the sort of age-worthy bottles that are the hallmark of great winemaking regions.
6. Stolen Horse Syrah Columbia Valley 2014 $48
Stolen Horse is a syrah-focused project from quarterback turned Doubleback owner Drew Bledsoe. The result—a blend of fruit from Loess and Echo Ridge vineyards—is impressive and full of smoked meat, herb, and berry aromas, along with palate-staining fruit flavors.
7. B. Leighton Syrah Olsen Brothers Vineyard Yakima Valley 2013 $45
Sensitive syrah is easily overwhelmed by wood, but in Brennon Leighton’s hands the flavors remain exceptionally pure. This side project from Charles Smith’s winemaker delivers aromas of flowers, plum, and herbs followed by dark fruit flavors.
8. Efeste Jolie Bouche Syrah Boushey Vineyard Yakima Valley 2013 $44
Another example of Boushey Vineyard’s masterful syrah; aromas of iron, smoke, and olive lead up to one big wine, ripe and generous on the palate.
9. Gorman Winery The Pixie Syrah Red Mountain 2013 $45
Made in the winery’s customary hedonistic style, this big, bold, ripe wine is full of jammy, dark fruit aromas and flavors, accented by notes of licorice and spice.
10. Morell-Lawrence Syrah Columbia Valley 2013 $30
Winemaker Aryn Morell (Alleromb, Matthews, Tenor) takes on fruit from Lawrence Vineyards. The result: smoke, olive, blackberry and oak spice aromas; full-bodied blue fruit flavors.
11. Reynvaan In the Hills Estate Syrah Walla Walla Valley 2013 $70
Rocks stalwart Reynvaan has a second vineyard, adjacent to the winery in the foothills of the Blue Mountains. Here, generous aromas of black pepper, herbs, and flowers lead to a palate chock full of citrus and savory flavors.
12. Efeste Eléni Syrah Red Willow Vineyard Yakima Valley 2013 $54
Brooding aromas of black pepper, herb, and smoke are followed by sweet, ripe, full black fruit flavors. The finish feels endless.
13. Long Shadows Sequel Syrah Columbia Valley 2013 $55
Famed Australian winemaker John Duval (formerly of Penfolds) crafts this wine with fruit coming mostly from Boushey and Bacchus vineyards. Baking spice and black fruit aromas lead to smoke and savory flavors.
14. William Church Winery Syrah Red Willow Vineyard Yakima Valley 2013 $40
Initially quiet aromas of blue fruit, orange peel, and smoked meat are contrasted by juicy, dark plum flavors. It needs time in a decanter to come out of its shell.
15. Va Piano Vineyards Syrah Stoney Vine Vineyard Walla Walla Valley 2013 $65
Va Piano’s first foray into the Rocks District truly delivers; green olive, herb, and floral aromas lead to abundant fruit and savory flavors. The sense of balance on this wine is impeccable.