Wine Review: 2007 Amavi Cellars Syrah

17 06 2011

Yes, I drank the whole bottle before remembering to take a picture. Shoot me.

This is a Pop & Pour first:  a review of a wine that has been previously featured on this site, just in a different vintage.  I have very fond memories of the 2005 Amavi Syrah from Walla Walla Valley in Washington State, which bears the eternal distinction of being PnP’s first 90+ point wine (92 points) and which delivered layer after layer of complex, savoury, intriguing goodness when I had it back in March.  Skip forward two harvests and you get to tonight’s wine, Amavi’s 2007 rendition of the same Syrah from the same region, which I’ve been eagerly awaiting to compare to its predecessor ever since I bought the bottle.  The ’07 had big shoes to fill (I still vividly remember the ’05 three months later), but it definitely delivered, albeit in a very different way than I expected.

To see what I mean, go back and glance over my previous review of the 2005 Amavi:  that wine featured gamey, briny, animalistic notes that you don’t often see in New World wines, mixed with surprisingly delicate red fruit flavours in a silky medium-bodied style.  The 2007 Amavi had the same finesse and quality of production and the same velvety mouthfeel, but the similarities ended there…almost every other feature of the wine was different.  First, it was a deep, thick, but bright purple colour, MUCH darker than its older cousin.  The nose was dense, intense and creamy, but instead of strawberries and raspberries, this wine had an unmistakable core of dark fruit, mainly blackberry and blueberry.  The numerous secondary aromas wafting out of the glass were just as intriguing as the 2005’s, but the meatiness that dominated the elder Amavi’s nose was totally absent here; instead, there was a gorgeous mix of maple, cloves, caramel, leather, earth and charcoal backing up the powerful fruit.  It was considerably less feral and rugged than the 2005, but considerably more instantly appealing…honestly, can you read over that list of smells and conceive of any way the resulting wine won’t be delicious?  On the palate, the ’07 Amavi was much more assertive than the 2005, but in a plush, velvety, light-on-its-feet sort of way, with an amazing concentration of molten black fruit (cassis and black cherry) supported by milk chocolate, creme brulee, licorice and smoky undertones.  The wine’s quiet structure — medium-high acidity and supple tannins — carried it to a monster finish where the fruit flavours continued to ripple through long after I had swallowed.  As I said before, totally different from the older Amavi, but equally awesome, and insanely tasty.

Cork Rating: 7/10 (A little Laura Secord-y, but still cool in a Roman sort of way.)

Now here’s the big question.  Same producer, same grape, same region and subregion, likely (at least mostly) the same vineyard(s), likely the same (or similar) winemaking processes, but completely different wines from 2005 to 2007.  How come?  The two likeliest reasons seem to be (1) the difference in weather/growing conditions/harvest timing/etc. between the 2005 and the 2007 vintages, and/or (2) the difference in bottle age, since the 2005 had nearly 6 years in barrel and bottle before I opened it, whereas the 2007 only had nearly 4 years.  Reason #2 intrigues me more than reason #1, because if #2 is the culprit, it means that this 2007 Amavi (powerful, fruity, creamy) may well taste a whole lot like the 2005 Amavi does now (delicate, gamey, complex) in 2013.  Both 2005 and 2007 were considered very good vintages in Washington State, but that doesn’t mean reason #1 isn’t true.  I don’t know which reason had more of an impact on the incredible taste difference between these two wines, so I’m going to go right to the source — I’m going to ask Amavi on Twitter.  If they get back to me, I’ll let you know what they say!

In the meantime, try to find and buy their wines, which are available in multiple wine shops in Calgary.  If I could buy shares in Amavi, I would; they’re fast becoming one of my all-time favourite US producers.  Crazy quality at a reasonable price, paying for good juice instead of a brand name, and a consistently pure expression of the grape in every bottle — that’s what I’m talking about.  Totally divergent wines right now, but the 2005 and 2007 get the same excellent score.

92 points

$35 to $45 CDN

UPDATE:  Check out the Comments section below for a response to my 2005 vs. 2007 Syrah questions from Amavi Cellars!

[Wine Jargon Notes:
New World Old World wines are those that come from Europe; New World wines are those from non-European locations like the US, Australia, South America]



3 responses

20 06 2011
Amavi Cellars

Hey Peter (and all you PnP readers!),

I’m Chris, a Tasting Room Associate here at Amavi Cellars. I just spoke with our winemaker, Jean-Francois Pellet, with regards to your question about the differences between the two Syrahs you’ve tasted, and here is an answer that combines some of what JF said, and what I know about the two vintages:

The differences you tasted between the ’05 and ’07 are a combination of both bottle age and vintage variation, but in this case are probably more strongly affected by the difference in bottle age. Here at Amavi we strive to make wines that reflect their vintage year and let our estate vineyards speak through the wines. That said, both the ’05 and ’07 growing seasons followed a similar pattern: hot sunny, summers ensured consistently ripened grapes, and were followed by a cooler period leading into harvest that preserved natural acidity and allowed for excellent flavor development. These years mirrored classic, ideal arc of a growing season.

Of course, there were differences between those years — for instance, ’05 followed the freeze year of 2004 in which everyone in the Walla Walla Valley lost a lot of fruit, so many of our efforts in the vineyards in ’05 were to rehabilitate those vines back to producing quality fruit. Even so, the weather patterns were fairly similar between the two vintages, and you’re right that many of the other variables are pretty similar (vineyard blend is quite close), and as JF said, “those two years in the bottle are going to make a big difference.”

This is why I encourage anyone that finds a wine they really like to get it in some quantity and enjoy the bottles spaced over several years — when it’s “peaking” may depend on personal tastes, but I have personally found that I often enjoy drinking the same wine at different ages, each time I revisit it reveals more nuance to its complexity. Both these wines will continue to change, so I encourage you to revisit them again (especially the ’07 Syrah, as you suggested you might in 2013). Reading your review certainly is making me want to crack open a bottle of or two from the library! 🙂

As a side note, Peter, I will also add that if you like the gamey, earthy, savory qualities you found in our ’05 Syrah, you should definitely try our Les Collines Vineyard Syrah if you can get a hold of it. This might prove difficult: it is a limited release exclusive to our wine club and we are currently sold out of the latest vintage (until releasing the ’09 this Fall), but I think you’d like it if you do somehow come across it. Les Collines Vineyard is one of our estate vineyards contributing to the Walla Walla Valley Syrah, and this is a vineyard-designate wine from there. This might be especially hard to come across in Canada, so sorry for the teaser if that’s what this ends up being 😉

I hope that answers your question and makes an interesting read for your readers!



20 06 2011
Amavi Cellars

Just wanted to add: any who’s interested can check out our tasting notes for these wines (which also give some technical info: vineyard blend, harvest dates, vintage notes, etc.) on our website:

Thanks again for reviewing our wines!


20 06 2011

Thanks so much for the detailed response! I’m a huge fan of Amavi and JF’s wines (I’ll make sure to review a Pepper Bridge too one of these days), so I’ll keep seeking them out — I have one more bottle of 2007 Syrah which I’m now going to save for at least a year and then see how the bottle age affects its flavours.

I haven’t seen the Les Collines here in Calgary, but I’ll definitely be keeping my eye out. If your mailing list ships to Canada, make sure I’m the first to know! 🙂 If I ever make it out to Walla Walla, I’ll be sure to swing by. Thanks again!


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