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Paul Zitarelli ~ “This vintage of Delmas Syrah is the best yet!”

Longtime fan of Delmas Syrah, Paul Zitarelli, has an excellent write up of the latest vintage. "This is an extremely exciting project coming out of the Walla Walla rocks, and I fully expect them to wind up selling most or all of their wine through their list".

Hello friends. I was already a little nervous about allocations for this one.

Buzz has been building for this project, as last year’s vintage secured strong reviews from Stephen Tanzer (93pts; great for the exacting Mr. T.) and Jeb Dunnuck (95pts). And then I found out that our allocation this year, out of necessity, has been cut down by a few cases compared to last year. Gulp.

2014 Delmas Syrah

Before going any further, I’ll say what I said last year: give serious consideration to heading over to the Delmas website and joining their mailing/waiting list. This is an extremely exciting project coming out of the Walla Walla rocks, and I fully expect them to wind up selling most or all of their wine through their list.

We’re fortunate to be receiving any allocation of this wine at all. Outside of us and our colleagues at McCarthy & Schiering (consider contacting Dan and Jay if we under-allocate you), pretty much the only place to source this wine is at the winery door. Few restaurant sales. No other retail sales. It’s an extremely limited wine.

What makes Delmas so exciting is that this is the estate winery for SJR Vineyard. You can always judge the quality of a vineyard by who is working with the fruit, and in SJR’s early years, owner Steve Robertson sold fruit to exactly three wineries: Rotie, Rasa, and Gramercy. That is a murderer’s row of Syrah producers.

Delmas made 45 cases of 2010 vintage, 45 cases of 2011. I inquired after both, and in both cases, there was only enough wine to sell to friends, family, and mailing list members. Then, in summer 2013, I got the chance to meet Steve in person and walk the rows at SJR. Unfortunately, my best picture from that trip has my fat fingers all over it, but you still get the idea: this is squarely in the rocks. And on that front, it’s also worth noting that Steve was one of the real champions of applying to the TTB for approval of a new sub-AVA within the Walla Walla Valley: The Rocks District of Milton-Freewater (I wrote about this development under my Seattle Magazine guise). That meeting led to more conversations and eventually an agreement that Full Pull would receive a small allocation of the 2012 vintage. And the rest is history.

On the viticulture front, Steve’s daughter Brooke is getting more and more involved. She has been cutting her viticulture teeth in a small California region called the Napa Valley (working at The Reserve) after her viticulture master’s studies at Cal Poly. Right now, she’s winging back and forth between Northern Cali and the Walla Walla Valley.

For winemaking, Steve has chosen Billo Naravane from Rasa Vineyards as Delmas’ consulting winemaker, and what a joy it is to see Billo – who is a Rhone savant – working with rocks fruit. Here’s what the always-eloquent Billo has to say about the site:SJR Vineyard produces Syrah with an amazing sense of terroir; there is a haunting earthiness and minerality that is present in all of the wines from this vineyard. The resulting wines have that rare combination of elegance, finesse, and power without heaviness. SJR Vineyard is a site that truly has something spectacular to say.”

The vineyard (located at the far southwestern edge of the rocks) is 9.6 acres, of which 7.9 are planted, mostly to Syrah (5.9 acres) and then an acre each of Grenache and Viognier. That Viognier is a full 8% of this 2014 Syrah, cofermented, and the whole thing is aged for 14 months in French oak, about 50% new. To me, this is the most successful vintage of Delmas Syrah to date, and certainly the most aromatically arresting. Charcoal and smoked ham hock. Castelvetrano olive and violet, all swirling around a core of huckleberry fruit. Glorious. Billo is a master of texture, and that is on fine display here with this supple, pillowy beauty. It rides a seamless glide path from front of palate to finish, awash in a swirling pastiche of fruit and meat and brine. For those of us who love our Syrahs with a healthy dose of umami, this is seductive as can be.

Washington Wine Blog (Owen Bargreen): “Following up the gorgeous 2013 bottling [Ed note: that 2013 received 95pts Bargreen], the 2014 Delmas Syrah is cut from a similar thread. The new release Delmas wine is a blend of 91.7% Syrah and 8.3% Viognier that was sourced from the esteemed SJR Vineyard. Having visited the SJR Vineyard on several occasions, I have witnessed firsthand the incredible attention to detail that goes into creating this exceptional wine. Proprietor Steve Robertson is constantly in the vineyard, as the highly specialized vineyard management clearly translates to the novel, Walla Walla Rocks expression in the bottle. The Syrah wine is made by superstar winemaker Billo Naravane and sat 14 months in 60% new French oak prior to bottling. The aromatics of this wine are entirely intoxicating as you are constantly drawn back to the glass for more. There is a bouquet of black truffle oil, cran-orange, forest floor, red cherry, Umami and red raspberry. The wine has deep flavors of black cherry, black truffle, cherry pie, Umami, and tamarind. Similar to his Rasa bottlings, you can truly feel Billo Naravane's skill in crafting his signature texture, viscosity and mouthfeel to this wine. The intensity of this wine is tremendous, and while this wine can be cellared for a decade or more, the Rocks District Syrah is absolutely impossible to resist right now. Only 150 cases made of this special Syrah bottling. Drink 2016-2027. 96pts.”