A true sense of discovery is one of the most exciting and, for we jaded drinkers, rarest pleasures in wine, especially when it concerns an object of some familiarity like Shiraz. There are any number of sound, delicious expressions of this variety around the world, some more distinctive than others. But to stumble across a region that seems capable of something truly new is rare. With this Cayuse wine, I feel confident that Walla Walla, in Washington state, is one such region.
This isn’t the first Cayuse wine I’ve tried. Several years ago, Chris shared the Cailloux Syrah with me and, looking back on my notes, I was quite blown away by it. Since being in the States again, I’ve tasted two further Cayuse wines, of which this is the second (and best). They are unified by an entirely peculiar flavour profile, filled with savouriness and angularity, spiced but not warm, full but not plush. Winemaking seems consistently clever, with oak and reduction used delicately to season cores of distinctive fruit flavour.
This particular wine, though showing a consistency of regional and house style, blows the roof off in terms of layered complexity. It’s terrifically vibrant, with aromas of dark berries, meat, spice and reduction, each well balanced with respect to the whole. It’s both sinewy and muscular, bouncing between an almost floral dimension to the depths of savouriness and back again, like a fragrance no-one would dare make. So pure, so elegant.
The palate maintains form, a certain heft being offset by the wine’s fundamentally angular set of flavours. This is a big wine, but it’s not a blockbuster, and this balance between body and delicacy is a key pleasure. There’s real definition here, each group of flavours shooting down the line with clarity and freshness. Palate structure is firm without undue assertiveness; the focus here is very much on a kaleidoscopic flavour profile, moving from sweet to savoury, almost-plush to linear. It’s quite a performance.
Tasting this wine was an invigorating experience, like immersing one’s self in a novel that yields a new pleasure with each page. I will be watching Walla Walla Syrah.