My fellow wine writers and I have teamed up with Yakima Valley in Washington state to taste and explore the wines of the region. You can imagine how thrilled I was when the focus would be on two wineries that produce exceptional Syrahs from Red Willow Vineyards in the Yakima Valley.
As you know, I adore Syrah and Washington produces many of my favorites. While Cabernet Sauvignon is Washingtons’ star grape, Syrah is a close champion. The popularity of Washington Syrah is on the rise and for good reason. Washington Syrahs have new world characteristics with their bold fruit profile, but you also have finesse and elegance that you find with Syrahs from the Northern Rhone. I tasted two Syrahs from Yakima Valley, they were a beautiful medley of Old World and New World styles.
The Mark Ryan Lost Soul Syrah and Owen Roe Chapel Block Syrah are a must-try for all Syrah lovers. One sniff of the Mark Ryan Lost Soul Syrah and you will immediately sense that there is something exceptional about this wine and the Owen Roe Chapel Block will convince you that it is one of the finest Syrahs in Washington state.
Red Willow Vineyards
What makes these two wines an exceptional comparison is that they are both the same vintage, from the same Red Willow Vineyards, which is the oldest Syrah vineyards in the state of Washington. Red Willow Vineyard has garnered immense respect and is often referred to as the “Grand Cru” of Washington state.
Syrah has been a big success for the state of Washington and especially for Red Willow Vineyards. Mike Sauer, the owner of Red Willow Vineyard planted the first Syrah in Washington in 1986. The identity of Red Willow Vineyards is with Syrah, as it is incredibly well suited for their site.
Mike Sauer is one of the early pioneers of Yakima Valley. His highly sought-after fruit has made Red Willow Vineyards one of the most historic and prominent vineyards in Washington state. Red Willow started in 1971 as a division of the Stephenson family farm. Its name comes from a Sumac-filled canyon on Ahtanum Ridge. Over the next few decades, Mike remained committed to planting new varieties and passionately focused on improving his vineyards. His hard work, commitment, and inspiring work ethic for grape growing lead to some of the most exciting wines to be produced in Washington.
In 1978 Red Willow Vineyards started a fruitful(no pun intended) relationship with Associated Vineyards(later called Columbia Winery). At the time Master of Wine, David Lake was the winemaker. David was captivated by the site and he played an influential role in the development of Red Willow VIneyards. In 1981, David Lake chose to vineyard-designate the Cabernet Sauvignon from Red Willow and that pattern has continued to the present date. More importantly, David Lake was instrumental in influencing Mike Sauer to plant Syrah on their site.
The most distinguishing hallmark of Red Willow is the diversity and complexity of its soil, which allows for many grape varieties to thrive. Mike and Jonathan(Mike’s son) continue to believe that Syrah has its home at Red Willow. The first Syrah vines were planted in 1986, marking it the first Syrah planted in the entire state of Washinton.
One of the distinguishing blocks of Syrah is Chapel Block. As a homage to Mike Sauer’s dear friend, a Chapel was built by the Sauer family using materials from their property. This picture has become an iconic image of Washington State viticulture. The chapel sits high atop the hillside, reminiscent of the chapel on the hills of Hermitage in Northern Rhone.
David & Angelica O’Reilly founded Owen Roe in 1999. Their passion is to showcase the unique terroirs of the Northwest. Together, David & Angelica craft highly acclaimed fine wines from the Yakima and Willamette Valleys. As the winemaker, David is committed to sourcing only the highest quality fruit. The goal is for the fruit and site to purely express itself. Owen Roe winery was sold to Vintage Wine Estates in 2019, but David is still involved and continues to direct the winemaking and operations at Owen Roe.
Owen Roe Chapel Block Syrah Yakima Valley 2016 ($55.00)
The Owen Roe Chapel Block from the Red Willow Vineyards is sublime. The wine is aged in 43% new French oak for 12 months. This Syrah makes you stop and think with its blend of power and elegance. The wine is elegant, meaty, and peppery; all the qualities I look for in a great Syrah. There is an explosive bouquet of blueberries, blackberries, and earthy notes. The blue fruit is expressive on the palate. Velvety silky tannins coat the mouth and leave a long and impressive finish.
Mark Ryan McNeilly founded Mark Ryan Winery in 1999 with the goal of making the best wines in Washington State. Mark is a self-taught winemaker, who has learned through self-studies and experimentation, He started making wine in garages before settling in Woodinville in 2003. Today his wines are immensely popular and have caught the attention of wine lovers and critics alike. Mark has been a champion of Washington wines from the beginning. His goal is to make wines that represent the vineyards from which they come from, making authentic wines that represent the fruit and terroir of Washington state.
Mark Ryan Lost Soul Syrah Yakima Valley 2016
I have had Mark Ryan’s Lost Soul in the past and have been a huge fan, but I was not aware of the history and relationship with Red Willow Vineyards. The wine had more meaning this time, as I was able to appreciate the history and significance of Red Willow Vineyards. The Lost Soul is a single vineyard representation of Red Willow Syrah. The grapes were destemmed and age in 20% new oak. The wine is rich and concentrated. The fruit is expressive with notes of blackberries and blueberries that are followed by notes of cocoa and cracked pepper. The wine is beautifully textured with silky tannins. An outstanding Syrah that is a must-try for all wine lovers.
If you want to learn more about Yakima Valley Wines and food pairing inspirations, please click on the links below. My fellow wine writers have put together an incredible range of wines from the Yakima Valley with food pairings.
- Camilla of Culinary Adventures with Cam shares “Yakima Valley’s Sin Banderas Rhone Roses Compliment Dishes with Asian Flair” and “Mediterranean-Inspired Dishes Paired with Yakima Valley Wines from Dineen Vineyards”
- Linda at My Full Wine Glass invites us to “Meet Kerry Shiels: A Yakima Valley winemaker with Vision”
- Terri of Our Good Life shares 2 posts “Fortuity…Taking Advantage of Life’s Great Wines!”, and “Two Mountain Rose and Fennel Wild Mushroom Tarts”
- Payal at Keep The Peas shares “Yakima Valley Wines FTW!”
- Wendy of A Day in the Life on the Farm is cooking up “Smoked Beef Brisket with Canvasback Cabernet”
- Rupal the Syrah Queen gives us “Yakima Valley – Red Willow Vineyards Producing Some of Washington’s Finest Syrahs”
- Jane of Always Ravenous makes our mouths water with “Filet Mignon paired with Washington Yakima Valley Cabernet Sauvignon”
- Martin with ENOFYLZ Wine Blog is giving us “a Taste of Washington State’s Yakima Valley”
- David at Cooking Chat has 2 posts for us also “Lamb Ragu Pasta with Red Wine from Dineen Vineyards” and “Sin Banderas Rosé with Corned Beef & More Yakima Valley Wine Pairings”
- Nicole of Somm’s Table shares “Big, Beautiful Reds from Yakima Valley and Tasty, Meaty Fare”
- Jennifer at Vino Travels tells us about “Italian Grapes of the Yakima Valley with Sleeping Dog Wines”
- Gwendolyn the Wine Predator explores “Washington Syrah: Hedges, L’Ecole, VanArnam with Lamb Stew”
- Susannah at Avvinare gives us “Malbec from VanArnam Vineyard in Yakima Valley”
- Lori at Exploring the Wine Glass shares “Tasting the Soul of Wine in the Heart of Yakima Valley”
- Our host Robin at Crushed Grape Chronicles adds “Yakima Valley AVA – Blends of friendship and history with wines from Eight Bells and Pearl and Stone Co.”
Please join us for a Twitter conversation on Saturday, March 13th to discuss the wines of Yakima Valley. Follow the hashtag #WinePW at 11 am EST.