This Walla Walla wine will have you saying, "(Get a) Case of Syrah, syrah..."
Story and photo by Randy Sanders
With an abundance of important wineries in Walla Walla, Washington, it’s always a tough choice as to what I shall write about. This time around, I decided on an old favorite, Reininger’s Helix Syrah, 2007.
Different varieties of grapes do better in certain areas of the world. For instance, in Oregon’s Columbia Valley, Pinot is king; this is due to its ability to withstand the rainy days and short summer season. In the Napa Valley region of California, the Italians have sewn seeds back before World War ll — knowing well that the region was incredibly similar to the treasure of Europe, Tuscano (Tuscany) — and so Cabernet has done extremely well. The Napa Cabs are some of the finest wines in the world. Due to the dry, hot days and cool evenings, the Syrah grape has come into its own in Walla Walla and certainly the most serious wineries here rely on this variety as their premium wine.
Before I go on, I would like to clarify this whole “is it Syrah or is it Shiraz?” controversy. The truth is simple. They are pretty much both the same grape; the only difference is in Australia or South Africa (two regions where this grape also does well) it’s referred to as Shiraz.
When vintners in an area are purchasing the same grape, they’ll come out of the gate on an even playing field. What will set them apart and what separates good wine apart from great wine, is the process.
Reininger 2007 Helix Syrah is indeed all about the process of world class wine making. For starters, they use European neutral French oak barrels. The wine is aged in the barrel for at least two years before bottling. This is not a blended wine, it’s 100 percent, pure Syrah grapes and with an eye on quality — as opposed to quantity — less than 900 cases are produced.
This Syrah has all the things Syrah lovers seek: huge, bold, almost blackish-red color with that smokey, stout quality. This wine is great when paired with steak and seafood and, surprisingly, priced at just $29 a bottle. Sure, it’s a bit too expensive to drink as an every night wine, but as a weekend wine or for special guests, you’re getting a flavor that’s easily in the neighborhood of wines that sell for $50 to $60 a bottle.
The 2007 vintage has been awarded 92 points by the much-coveted “Wine Spectator” (remember, almost no wine will ever get 100 points; anything 96 or higher will cost you a small fortune and anything 90 and above is great wine). It’s also received 91 points by “Wine and Spirits” and 90 points by “Wine Advocate.”
Justin Vajgert is the man who represents Reininger wines and is responsible for introducing this line into the finest restaurants from Seattle to San Francisco. Often a customer in my former restaurant, he turned me on to this jewel about four years ago. I thanked him for that taste test many times and thank him once again here in print.
I will leave you with the tasting notes in his own words: “This fresh, juicy red is a carnival for your senses with a veritable menagerie of delicious flavors! On the nose you will experience more berries than a midsummer farmers market, a hint of freshly spun cotton candy, orange peal and lavender. Enjoy the jammy and perfectly ripe flavors of blackberry and white pepper accompanied by a thick round mouthfeel and a loooong dark chocolate finish.”
~ Justin Vajgert
If you go -
5858 W Highway 12
Walla Walla, Washington 99362
Directions: Six miles west of Walla Walla on Highway 12. Exit onto Spalding Road; turn right onto the Old Highway 12. Reininger’s is the first building on the right.
Open daily 10-5 (winter hours).
For more info: reiningerwinery.com/
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Randy Sanders is the founder and original publisher of Columbia River Reader. He operated Wayne’s Chicago Red Hots in St. Helens and until recently in Portland. A drummer by profession, he loves music, photography, travel and, of course, wine. You can email Randy at RandySanders@Live.com