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Cayuse, Armada Vineyard Syrah 2006
Raspberry and strawberry aromas complemented by smoke and crushed rock. Tightly wound and rocky on the palate, with terrific energy to the youthfully tight flavors of raspberry and stone. Finishes with a firm tannic spine and complex notes of violet and pepper. Southern Rhone-like on the nose, but more north on the palate and aftertaste.
While visiting the Walla Walla Valley in 1996, Christophe Baron spotted a plot of land that had been plowed up to reveal acres of softball-sized stones. He became ridiculously excited. This stony soil, this terroir, reminded him of vineyards he had visited in France and Spain. The difficult ground would stress the grapevines, making them produce more mature, concentrated fruit. Christophe Baron had found a new home. He named his vineyard after the Cayuse, a Native American tribe whose name was taken from the French cailloux which means, of course, rocks. Hours of back-breaking work later, Cayuse Vineyards has become five vineyards encompassing 50 acres: Armada, Cailloux, Coccinelle [Ladybug], En Cerise [Cherry], and En Chamberlin. The majority of the vineyards are planted with Syrah, and the rest dedicated to Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Grenache, Merlot, Tempranillo and Viognier. All of the vineyards are planted in rocky earth within the Walla Walla Valley appellation. Cayuse was also the first winery in Walla Walla to farm using biodynamic methods. These highly stressed vineyards average a yield of only two tons or less per acre (30 hectolitres per hectare), resulting in wines true to each vineyard's unique terroir. Cayuse specializes in four estate-vineyard Syrahs, along with Bionic Frog Syrah, Impulsivo Tempranillo, Widowmaker Cabernet-Sauvignon, two Bordeaux blends named Camaspelo & Flying Pig and Viognier.
Wine Advocate 96pts (2006) - In its youth, says Christophe Baron, the 2006 Syrah Armada Vineyard was "in your face" with chewy structuring tannins, but time has been kind to it; while it's still a powerful, boisterous wine, it's drinking very well today. Wafting from the glass with rich aromas of black truffle, ripe cassis and cracked pepper, this is a very full-bodied, ample Syrah that's still richly tannic, with structure to burn. While it's more super-ripe and fruit-forward than the Cayuse wines of today, its fruit is complemented by plenty of savory nuance. The finish is long and sapid.