I confess. When it comes to where to plant wine grapes, I’m not the visionary that David Lake, MW was. I scoffed at the idea of planting Syrah back in 1989 when Lake produced Washington’s first Syrah. After all, Washington was the land of Cab and Merlot.
At this year’s Taste Washington I found out while sipping Proper Wines’ 2010 Syrah that Syrah has grown from 800 tons in 1999 — the first year it made the stat sheet — to 11,800 tons harvested last year.
After visiting the famed La Chapelle Vineyard in France’s Rhone Valley, Lake had this vision. By 2009, when Lake went to the great vineyard in the sky, Syrah was the third most widely planted red wine varietal.
Syrah is one of the world’s most diverse grape varieties, displaying a myriad of flavors. It can be floral, peppery, barnyardy, leathery, plummy, smoky and/or herbaceous depending on how old it is and terrior.
It grows best in hot, rocky climates such as the Rhone Valley, Sunny Spain, and the desert regions of California, Australia and Eastern Washington.
And that brings me to the wine of the day from Sunny Spain’s Castilla La Mancha wine region located in the southern half of a hot, dry plateau. Famous for Manchego cheese, Don Quixote and very fine wine.
Finca Sandoval Manchuela 2004, a blend of mostly Syrah and a dab of Monastrell and Bobal. It had been relaxing in my cellar, when a special occasion arose suddenly.
We popped it open and immediately the room was filled with aromas of violets, pepper, licorice, and cassis, which was surprising in itself because of the age. This wine has all the marks of a far more expensive Northern Rhone wine. It had intensity, velvety mouthfeel, wonderful balance and a finish of licorice, cassis and Asian spices.