What: Eight Bells 8 Clone Syrah Red Willow Vineyard Yakima Valley 2013 $32
Why: Syrah got its start in Washington at Red Willow Vineyard when longtime Yakima Valley grower Mike Sauer planted the first vines in 1986 at the encouragement of then Columbia Winery winemaker David Lake. The variety has prospered in the state, so much so that syrah is now Washington’s third most planted red grape variety (behind cabernet sauvignon and merlot) and is arguably the state’s most distinctive grape. To wit, syrahs consistently rank high on our annual Top 100 list.
Many years later, Sauer experimented with a number different clones—slight genetic variants—of syrah to explore their differences. His curiosity satisfied, he decided to move on. “He was going to pull out the vines but we convinced him to sell us the fruit instead,” said Frank Michiels, co-owner/winemaker of Eight Bells Winery in the Ravenna neighborhood.
The resulting wine—the only one of its kind I’m aware of in the state to utilize so many different clones of syrah—is a consistent standout for the winery. The Eight Bells 8 Clone Syrah Red Willow Vineyard Yakima Valley 2013 ($32) shows syrah’s complexity, with aromas and flavors of raspberries, smoked meat, flowers and orange peel. It’s a thoroughly dazzling example of the variety at a price that can’t be beat.