Terroir in Walla Walla?

Man, what a thorough post about the eastern Washington wine region of Walla Walla.

I recently had a chance to taste a wine from Cayuse.  This was a little bit of a “holy grail” moment for me, not just with Washington wine, but with all wine.  And, I can truly say that the wine did not disappoint.  (Cayuse is a highly sought-after wine from Walla Walla)

There were two things that made me really happy about this tasting.  First, was just what I said above: the wine did not disappoint.  I remember from when I had just turned 21 years old, I ended up at one of those “wine pot luck” parties where everyone brings a bottle of wine to share.  We all know the gamut of good and bad wines that end up at parties like that.  I was a young wine professional and wine enthusiast, and I noticed that one party-goer had slyly brought in a bottle of 1992 Penfolds Grange (this was in 2004, I believe).  I immediately keyed in on that gentleman and started talking about wine with him.  Long story short was that he graciously opened the bottle with me and we tasted it.  I remember it being the best Syrah and the best red wine I had tasted in my life, up until that point.  And of course, Grange has that reputation, so it delivered.  No one, even myself, will ever know whether that wine really was that good, or maybe I was biased in that I had not tasted as many wines at that point in my life.

In any case, that epiphany moment happens for me less and less, and it seems I can always find something wrong with a wine, no matter how famous it is, or how much I want to like it.  The Cayuse blew me away.  In Washington, the Cayuse mailing list takes about 4 years to wait out.  It has replaced Leonetti as the “ghost” wine that everyone wants to get their hands on.  I felt lucky that I got to try it, and honestly, that tasting reminded me that I need to update my info on their wait list, because I am already 2.5 years in.

The second revelation was that, for the first time, I felt like I tasted a true “terroir” from Walla Walla.  Everyone that knows me knows I am a big fan of WW.  That said, I think the majority of my obsession came from the reality that the varietal wines from most of the wineries in that area are consistent in terms of varietal character, and they deliver very high quality for the price.  Terroir was never really part of it, for me.

But on this day, I tasted the Cayuse blind.  I didn’t know what country, varietal, or anything I was tasting.  I only knew that it was red wine.  When I put my nose in the glass, my first thought was, “This smells like Walla Walla Vintners.”  (A WW winery that I have had many times over the years)  I was able to pinpoint not only the country and state that the wine was from, but I felt like I knew exactly what AVA.  Sure enough, I was correct.  Don’t ask my significant other, but if you did, she would inform you that although I picked the AVA correctly blind, I thought I was drinking a Cabernet Sauvignon instead of a Syrah.  Mere details.

These two revelations make me ever more excited about the potential for WW in the future.

I wanted to sing to it.

(This posting is not to be construed as legal advice.  If any of the information in this posting relates to legal issues that you are facing, you should contact an attorney.)

© All rights reserved Kevin Guidry 2013.

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