2018 Horsepower by Cayuse, Syrah, Tribe Vineyard, Walla Walla Valley, Oregon.
Some of the sleepers in Christophe Baron’s lineup is his No Girls Grenache and his brilliant Horsepower Tribe Vineyard Syrah, which I was thrilled to taste at this year’s Slow Wine event in San Francisco and is the last of the set to be reviewed, but by no means the least, this 2018 vintage is as good as it gets for new world Syrah and a very distinctive one to be admired for its complexity and depth. This deeply purple/garnet Horsepower Syrah is taut and tannic with loads of earthy intensity, it delivers an old school Hermitage like performance with a meaty full bodied palate with plenty of umami, wild mushroom and camphor notes to go along with a classic core of boysenberry, damson plum, blueberry coulis and creme de cassis. Once this tightly wound and vibrant Syrah opens up it turns on the charm with violets and a luxurious mouth feel and allows for some delicacy to show through with transparent clarity along with spicy peppercorns, cedar, anise and coco powder. The vintage has tons of energy and this wine has fabulous cellar potential, I can only imagine this Horsepower getting even better with time and its drinking window should last easily more than a decade, probably closer to two, look for its best to shine in another 5 to 7 years, or else be sure to decant so you don’t miss out on all there is to experience here. While Baron is coy about his winemaking, there is every reason to believe these wines are made with lots of whole bunches and fermented with native yeast with some cement and mainly aged in used French oak.
Christophe Baron’s farming philosophy has been holistic and organic ever since he first pioneered biodynamic farming methods in the Rocks Distinct of the Oregon side in Walla Walla Valley in 2002. Like as done at Baron’s Cayuse Vineyards, the Horsepower vineyards, like this 3 acre Tribe Vineyard, are farmed according to an astrological sowing and planting calendar, and entirely without the use of herbicides, synthetic fertilizers, chemical insecticides or fungicides. The winery uses six hard working draft horses to help cultivate these vineyards, hence the name here and they play a big role in the quality of these amazing wines. The Tribe Vineyard is planted one vine per stake, which is more common to the northern Rhone, like the mentioned Hermitage and or Cornas and the vine density and small yields make for some of the greatest American Syrahs, with this one joining an elite set of examples and a unique expression of the grape. Baron’s Syrahs are very nuanced wines with an individual nature that highlight the terroir and embrace their leathery and savory elements, while displaying impressive fruit density with black olive, iron ore, minty herbs and having a firm backbone, as this 2018 proudly reveals. Baron, the French founder of Cayuse, who’s family has been making Champagne for centuries, has been making the Tribe Syrah since 2011, and with every vintage it gets more and more intriguing, as do all of his wines. These iconic, minimalist and low intervention Cayuse/Horsepower wines are not cheap and extremely hard to get, but they are worth it and I am always grateful to try them.
($149 Est.) 96 Points, grapelive