© 1999 - 2013 Amalie Robert Estate, LLC
2008 Satisfaction Syrah
Satisfaction Syrah is 100% Amalie Robert Estate grown Syrah. Among our 30 acres of Pinot Noir, we have planted 0.80 acres (1,188 vines to be exact) of Syrah. This planting represents 4 clones selected for the cool Northern Rhône area of Côte Rôtie, and now Dallas, Oregon.
We grow Syrah right along side Pinot Noir, and most of the vineyard work is very similar. The primary difference is that we have to wait until November to harvest. We think it is worth the wait.
Syrah is a very adaptive variety, and much like Pinot Noir, reflects its growing conditions. Syrah is grown in the hottest parts of the southern Hemisphere where it is known as “Shiraz” and a bit farther south into the cool climate of New Zealand as well. The entire west coast of the United States grows Syrah from California, to the warm areas of eastern Washington and now very small plantings in Oregon’s Willamette Valley.
However, the birthplace of Syrah seems to be the Northern Rhône valley. Recent DNA research shows Syrah to be a cross between Dureza and Mondeuse Blanche. Both of these varieties are indigenous to France. Syrah is planted from the cool regions of the Northern Rhône where it is bottled as a single varietal, to the tip of the Southern Rhône where it is often blended with other varietals.
The Vintage: The 2008 vintage is another example of “patience pays” in the vineyard. The growing season was an extended and cool vintage accumulating only 1,930 degree days, but with one of the best September ripening periods on record. September is the key month for developing flavors and aromatics in the berries.
Rainfall was typical with just a little shot of rain at the first of October. This is Mother Nature’s way of extending the growing season and to put her finishing touches on our vines. We began harvest on October 11th and concluded on October 30th with the Syrah and Viognier.
Tasting Notes: Intense and deep ruby red. Smoky grilled meat on the bone, black olive, coriander and fennel exude from the glass. Layers of flavors and textures relentlessly struggle for control of the palate while obeying firm acidity. Black raspberry, Asian spices and underbrush give a moment of pause before a taught and commanding finish. Unfined and unfiltered. 50 cases produced.
Note: this wine was fermented with indigenous yeast, 33% whole clusters, and a very small portion of Viognier, then barrel aged in 50% new oak for 22 months. This wine should continue to develop in bottle for 10+ years.
Suggested food pairings: Pairings for this Syrah are large game, braised lamb shanks, tenderloin of beef with a blue cheese crust, and overly fragrant blue cheeses.
Wine & Spirits, June 2011 - Year's Best American Syrah
The aromas are exotic and pulse-quickening, exhibiting a Northern Rhone palette of smoke, tapenade and a hint of menthol. The palate is light and lean, as dry as a cool wind and racy - maybe a bit too racy, in fact, as it more or less finishes before any of the cool lavender and menthol can really register. But give it time: there's an exciting wine here needing bottle age to knit. 92 points.
2007 Syrah Accolades
Wine & Spirits, February 2011 – Year’s Best American Syrah
The intoxicating scent of this wine reveals classic aromas of peppercorn, olive, smoke and tree bark. Those savory scents lead into flavors of firm black plum. The cool-weather quality of the wine pinches the texture slightly, but that is likely to resolve in time; then serve with a wild mushroom risotto. 93 points.
History of Syrah at Amalie Robert Estate: Now, let’s talk about cool climate Syrah. Ernie was confident that he wanted to grow Syrah and Viognier. Dena said OK, but you can only have 1 acre – no more. Establishing an acre of vines is not the most difficult thing Ernie has ever done, by far.
But establishing the right clones of Syrah in that 1,488 vine planting took some research. All of the local growers thought Ernie was daft. “Yeah, sure, go ahead. Let us know how that works out for you! Ha!” If you have met Ernie, you know he doesn’t really run with the traffic. He was simply more “encouraged.”
His research started as a consumer of some very fine wines. Specifically wines from the cool growing regions of Côte Rôtie in France, the Clare Valley in Australia and Martinborough, New Zealand. Of course, you never really know until you go, so it was off to Europe, down under and beyond. He learned about Syrah trellis systems, rootstock choices, reflective mulch, tons per acre, but most importantly the different clones of Syrah.
The defining moment came after tasting the “La La’s” in barrel at the cellar of Guigal in Ampuis. Ernie asked if he could speak with someone regarding Syrah clones, as he was getting ready to plant a vineyard in Oregon’s cool North Willamette Valley. After a few minutes, Marcel Guigal entered the room and Ernie had his opportunity to talk with the man who manages their vineyard holdings. Note: This is a review of the 2005 La Landonne from Guigal.
When asked about the proper clones for cool climate Syrah, Marcel said “Well, we mostly take cuttings from our own vineyards.” Ernie was devastated. A well is a hole in the ground with water in it. Not much use to him. Also, he could not take cuttings from their vineyard and bring them back to Oregon.
But necessity is the Mother of invention, so Ernie countered with “Well, if you had to plant new clones of Syrah, which clones would you choose?” The pregnant pause ensued. “Of course,” Marcel replied, and left the room.
After what seemed like 3 days, he reappeared with a single page. “This page is what we know about the best clones for cool climate Syrah.” Ernie’s eyes glazed over, as the page was in FRENCH! Marcel kept on, “I would recommend this clone and that clone, but avoid this one. Also, we have some experimental clones and you should try one or two of these.” “Merci, Bonjour” was the best Ernie could muster and the session was over.
Back in the car, Ernie took another look at this page. Among all the gibberish were a few numbers. Yes, now we are getting somewhere, the clones are all numbered! His analytical mind was now engaged, and so the quest began. It took about 5 years, but Ernie finally planted the 4 select clones of Syrah that were indicated to him by Marcel Guigal. Note: That is 297 vines per Syrah clone plus 297 Viognier vines. That makes an acre, and that’s all there is.
We now return to the 2007 vintage. The last fruit we bring into the winery is the Syrah and Viognier the birds leave for us. In 2007, we had a beautiful window of weather in late October and early November. We chose November 7th to harvest the Syrah and Viognier. (Lucky 7, no?)
The 2007 Amalie Robert Syrah is included in the upcoming feature article “The Year’s Best American Syrahs” by Wine and Spirits Magazine with a 93 point rating.
We have just released our 2008 Syrah and it has a new name: “Satisfaction.” And that’s how it worked out for Ernie.
So, go ahead and toast your latest achievement with a glass of Satisfaction!