2020 Hundred Suns, Syrah, River Rock Vineyard, The Rocks District AVA, Milton-Freewater, Oregon.
The open knit and pure Hundred Suns Syrah comes from The Rocks District, a sub appellation of the Walla Walla Valley, with intense stony soils, just on the Oregon side of the border with Washington State and made famous by Christophe Barron of Cayuse, and it shows both the terroir and the unique winemaking employed by Grant Coulter, who is mostly known for his amazing set of Willamette Valley Pinots, who used a whole-cluster fermentation in terra-cotta amphora here. This wine has come into being due the fires that made sourcing Pinot grapes in the Willamette a tricky proposition with many of Grant’s favorite sites being affected by smoke, so he went looking for grapes that were a safer bet and we are very lucky he did, as this wine is absolutely gorgeous with expressive layers of fresh crushed blackberries, plum, kirsch and blueberry compote, along with the whole-cluster crunch, spice and carbonic like roundness. The tannins are ripe, sweet and smooth, allowing youthful enjoyment already, while subtle earthiness, floral perfume and mineral notes adding to the pleasure here, reminding me quite a bit of Maxime Graillot’s Domaine des Lises Crozes-Hermitage. There’s a lot to like here and after a swirl or two you get even more dimension from this Syrah and it lingers on and on with hints of creme de cassis, anise and bitter dark chocolate.

I’ve become a huge fan of Hundred Suns, since Grant Coulter, the ex Beaux Freres man, and his wife Renée Saint-Amour started this label in the 2016 vintage, these are unique and wonderful wines that thrill the senses and are unlike most Oregon efforts, plus they are exceptional values, like this Syrah, which explodes with flavor on the full bodied palate. Over the last four years Hundred Suns has created their own identity and style, using modern and ancient methods to craft a wondrous collection of offerings, focused on Pinot Noir, but also including one of the best new world Gamays and a cool Grenache too. Fermenting only with native yeasts, mostly with the whole bunches with stem inclusion and employing various fermenting and aging vessels, including the amphora as used here, and neutral French oak to promote transparency. All of which has proved successful in these Hundred Suns wines, this is a mailing list to join if you want quality and cutting edge Oregon wines, like this one and their single vineyard Pinot Noir bottlings. As the deep purple/garnet colored and violet scented 2020 Rocks District Syrah opens in the glass it reveals more complexity, gaining a savory edge as well, making it a thoughtful companion with a hearty meal, going well with grilled meats and or woodsy wild mushroom dishes. Even with the difficulties of the 2019 and 2020 vintages, these Hundred guns wines are sensational and I’m super excited about the new 2021 releases that are just coming out now, as they look to be on the next level!
($45 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

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