2009 Cayuse Vineyards, Syrah, En Cerise Vineyard, Walla Wally Valley.
The dark, meaty and hedonistic 2009 Syrah En Cerise Vineyard , which was fermented in concrete, with loads of stems and then aged in large French oak demi-muids, with close to 20% new is pure Cayuse with a raw intensity, slightly funky savory crunch and opulent textural quality with mature fruit fully developed with its tertiary elements on display. Maybe on the edge of its peak, I wouldn’t wait any longer here with this 2009, though the chocolatey dark fruit still dominates the palate with macerated blackberries, stewed plums, brandied cherries, sweet currant and blueberry coulis, along with sous bois beefiness, bay leaf, dried potpourri (floral) notes, pipe tobacco, cedar, mocha, leathery loamy earth, tapenade and anise. Ripely lush as it opens, this vintage of Christophe Baron’s En Cerise reveals classic Cayuse distinction, these wines are unlike anything else, no mater the varietal either, they are completely unique, not tributes to their old world cousins, but completely their own animals. Cayuse, is located in the Southwest of the Walla Walla Valley and owner/winemaker, Christophe Baron, a French import, is a legendary figure in the world of American wine, who over the last two decades has made it his mission to put out handmade, small lot single vineyard wines of incredible depth, individuality and rustic charm, which comes from fruit grown entirely using biodynamic farming methods. The En Cerise Vineyard, as the winery notes,literally translated, means “cherry,” which is appropriate, since this 10-acre vineyard was a former cherry orchard before it was planted to grapes by Baron in 1998. Though known mainly for Syrah, the En Cerise Vineyard has an interesting mix of grapes, including Bordeaux varietals, with Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot, which go into Cayuse’s Flying Pig and Camaspelo blends.

Originally from the Champagne region, Christophe Baron thought he was coming to America to make Pinot Noir, but as noted by many, his attention and imagination was drawn totThis rocky terroir and rugged terrain with its large Châteauneuf like galets (river stones) that dominate the area. It was these rocks that drew him here back in 1996 and led him away from making his home in the Willamette Valley and he chose this area to make wine, a hugely difficult task. This part of the Walla Walla straddles Washington and Oregon, and is prime for his focus on Rhone varietals, especially Syrah, rather than his first love Pinot Noir. The conditions here are tough and the vines are highly stressed, meaning that vineyards average a low yield, of about only two tons per acre, helping explain the deep flavors and concentration in these wines. This area was the key in the creation of Cayuse, more than twenty years ago now, as well reported and told by the winery, is an almost mythical story, about how a brash, young French vigneron who fell in love with a few acres of seemingly useless, stone-covered ex-farmland. This district, the Rocks, as it is called has become one of the most iconic sites in the new world. Christophe Baron, who helped pioneer biodynamics here, almost single handedly, and deftly turned a field of stones into this remarkable terroir, one of the most coveted in the world and borrowing again from the winery, the rest, as they say, is history. Cayuse Vineyards, almost solely available by mailing list, is the Pacific Northwest’s top cult wine. I got to taste a more recent set of Cayuse at the Slow Wine tasting in San Francisco, all of which were stunning, I only wish I could afford these bottles! In recent years I’ve managed to score some of Baron’s other label bottlings under his Horsepower and No Girls labels. They are tasty in their own right, but the Cayuse still take it to the next level, they are, as I’ve said before, bucket list wines.
($149 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

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