Wine Review: 2005 Amavi Cellars Syrah

17 03 2011

You had me at "Syrah".

This.  Wine.  Is.  AWESOME.

I promised a winner from Washington in my next review, and I have delivered and then some.  There are lots of good wines out there, but to me a great wine is one that keeps you coming back to the glass for each new sip or sniff wondering what you’re going to find next.  Great wines have depth, complexity and an interest factor, something compelling that latches onto you and won’t let go.  This wine is great.

Amavi Cellars is a Washington State Syrah house.  It produces wines from other varietals too (including some Cabernet Sauvignon and white Semillon), but its focus is Syrah, and it shows.  It was formed a decade ago as a sister label to Pepper Bridge Winery, one of Washington’s most distinctive (and pricy) producers, and as a result of this affiliation has access to grapes from top notch vineyards and a winemaker, Jean-Francois Pellet, who knows what to do with them.  The resulting wines are of superior quality but are priced at half of what Pepper Bridge’s selection goes for, making them great buys.  Wine geeks (and I use that term lovingly) exalt the QPR (Quality Price Ratio) of Amavi’s wines…I’ll just say they’re fantastic value for money.

I’ve had this wine once before, and it sparked my current love affair with Washington State Syrah.  I got it from the Ferocious Grape, but have since gotten newer vintages from the brand new Marda Loop location of Highlander Wine & Spirits (21 St & 33 Ave SW), which is energetically staking its claim in Calgary’s wine market under the direction of enthusiastic new blood on its management team.  It’s sort of shocking that an area as trendy and affluent as Marda Loop didn’t have a legit fine wine store in the neighbourhood, but it does now.

I completely filled up a notepad trying to keep track of all the various shifting flavours emanating from this Syrah.  It has a bright, clear, almost blood-red colour and an avalanche of mainly savoury notes on the nose:  first something briny, like ocean breeze, then game, smoked meat, tomato, leather, soy sauce, some kind of medicinal/iodine aroma, earth and even sweat.  There are hints of red fruit on the nose too, but they are hidden under layer after layer of meaty, almost feral, savouriness.  That may not sound immediately appealing, but it’s a fascinating thing to smell coming out of a wine glass.  There is more fruit on the palate, but it’s less bold and more delicate than I expected:  dried strawberry and raspberry mixed with some darker fruit notes.  There is immense flavour in the wine, but it’s not overwrought or heavy, with a medium body, textured tannins and a smooth mouthfeel, all leading up to a long, lingering, smoky finish.  This is what Washington Syrah is capable of.

Cork Rating: 7/10 (Pictures! Progress!)

I will get away from Washington/US reds for my next review (they’re not all I drink, I swear…they’re just all I’ve drank lately), but I would certainly urge anyone reading this not only to grab a bottle of any Amavi red you may come across, but to take your time when drinking it, because these wines have quite a story to tell.  This 2005 Syrah marks this blog’s first foray into 90 point territory, which hopefully proves that I’m not as crusty and miserable as previous entries might suggest!

93 points

[Wine Jargon Notes:
varietals = the different grape varieties:  Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, etc.
mouthfeel = as the word suggests, the feel of a wine in your mouth, which is the result of its body, tannin levels, acidity, and more]
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20 03 2011
Wine Review: 2008 Juan Gil Monastrell…and Is Kraft Dinner the Perfect Wine Food? « pop & pour

[…] to $30 CDN [Wine Jargon Notes: varietals = see this previous post structure = the sum total of all of the compounds/components that form the framework or […]

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