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Soulful Syrah
By Mary Ewing-Mulligan
Aug 28, 2012
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Hestia Cellars, Columbia Valley (Washington State) Syrah 2008 ($30):  My recent blind-tasting of Washington State red wines was small but exciting.  The samples had been sent to me by the Washington Wine Commission, and several of them were from small wineries that I didn’t know personally.  My favorite was this 425-case-production wine from Hestia Cellars, and predictably for my taste, it was a Syrah.

Washington State is young enough in its wine development that the definitive word on its top red varietal wines is still a matter of opinion, and it changes over time.  Merlot was once considered to be Washington’s true calling, but the Cabernet Sauvignon grape now occupies 20 percent more vineyard land in the state than Merlot does.  Syrah ranks third, with acreage that’s about 30 percent less than that of Cab, but its growth is strong: acreage of Syrah has tripled since 1999.  Syrah also seems to have captured the hearts of a few wine critics -- present company definitely included -- more than Cab or Merlot.

This 2008 Syrah has many of the characteristics that appeal to me in the best Washington Syrahs:  Dark, brooding fruit character coupled with a lively spiciness, nuanced aromas and flavors that transcend simple fruitiness, and richness combined with freshness.

Hestia is a small family-owned winery founded by Shannon and Angela Jones in 2004.  (The name is that of the Greek goddess of the hearth and home.)  Hestia specializes in small-lot wines made from the fruit of several respected grapegrowers.  Total production is 5000 cases.  In addition to Syrah, Hestia makes a Chenin Blanc, Cabernet, Merlot and Malbec.

Here’s what to expect in the 2008 Hestia Syrah.  The wine is saturated in color, opaque purple with a slim, paler rim that hugs the glass.  The wine’s aroma is not especially pronounced but it is complex; dark fruit notes of blackberry and blueberry combine with black pepper spice, dried herbs and a delicate floral note.  In your mouth the wine is dry, full-bodied, velvety and flavorful.  The flavors are fruity and also savory, the dark fruit of the aroma now complemented by meaty notes, spiciness, minerality and herbal accents.  Neither the wine’s fine-grained tannin nor its alcohol (14.3 percent) overpower its fruit character.  And ripe as it is, this wine is not the least bit jammy or sweet.  In fact, a juicy, sappy freshness runs through the wine, complementing and balancing its brooding dark fruit.

What impressed me most about this wine on first taste was the richness and resonance of its fruit, which brings a soulful tone to this clean, fresh, modern wine.

This wine contains 3 percent Viognier, which ferments together with the Syrah to enhance the wine’s aromas and stabilize its color.  It is a blend of Syrah from two sources: 70 percent of the grapes come from the Wahluke Slope AVA, from StoneTree Vineyard, giving red fruit and spice notes, and 30 percent comes from Andrews Ranch, in the Horse Heaven Hills AVA, which tends to make a bigger, darker-fruit wine.

I can foresee this wine aging well for five-plus years, but its complex flavor is compelling now.  I’d serve it with dishes that are savory and meaty, such as roasts or grilled vegetables and meats.

91 Points