Washington Syrah - Star or FUBAR?

At this year's Washington Association of Wine Grape Growers conference, an interesting and important question was asked: Is Washington Syrah a star or is it FUBAR? Panelists Bob Betz (Betz Family Winery), Marty Clubb (L'Ecole No. 41), Paul Gregutt (Wine Enthusiast, PaulGregutt.com), Brian Carter (Brian Carter Cellars), and Brett Scallan (Ste. Michelle Wine Estates) discussed the history of this grape and its struggles in Washington and elsewhere in an interesting two and a half hour seminar. In the Spring Edition of Wine Press Northwest, I give my own thoughts on the future of this grape in Washington. Read the article here.

Sean P. Sullivan


  1. Hi Sean,

    Good Article!! I think that Washington Syrah does have a place at the table...but I think the majority of the WA winemakers need to understand this grape. Many Washington wine makers need to expand their palette and try syrahs from where it is done to perfection. You mentioned some of the Washington wine makers that are doing Syrah well....but there are plenty that are following along the lines that Jay Miller states are trying to make it like Cab. Sauv (which I agree)...they aren't doing the grape justice. Winemakers need to understand this grapes qualities and understand what the WA vineyards can produce with this varietal and then they need to fiqure out the style they want to emulate. We have the perfect conditions for this grape!
    Within the last week I have tasted at least 2 dozen WA Syrah's and only 4-5 wineries do this varietal justice. You name a couple. Cayuse, Reynvaan, and Betz understand this grape....many other winemakers should follow their styles.

    Keep up the great work...I enjoy your blog!!

  2. Anon, I agree that many winemakers here in Washington need to expand their palate. Paul G wrote an interesting post about this recently. As the saying goes, to make great wine, you have to know what great wine tastes like. Tasting some of the top performers here in Washington as well as France and other areas would be an awfully good start for winemakers looking to wrap their head around Syrah.

    Glad to hear you enjoy the blog!

  3. I think we have a good handful of winemakers(beyond what is mentioned above) that are on the verge of making some great stuff...they just need to put forth the next step.

    I am truly excited to see what the upcoming winemakers like Reynvaan, Rasa, Ross Andrews, Coeur D'Alene Cellars, and several others can do with the vintages that haven't been released yet....09 and especially 10 could be exceptional! It should be fun to watch and taste.

  4. I did a wine-tasting trip to Washington in 2008 and fell in love with Syrah, bought from several different makers and had it shipped home. Went back last year with the specific idea of buying Syrah and came home with a bunch of Cab and Bordeaux blends instead. The Syrah I tasted on that trip mostly was harsh and alcoholic - and it sometimes came from makers who were producing lovely velvety Cabs. I don't know what to attribute the difference to, but it was very, very noticeable.