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Cayuse Armada Vineyard Syrah 2020

Cayuse Armada Vineyard Syrah 2020

$393.55 In any mixed 6
$463.00 per single bottle
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Tasting Notes

The much-respected Harvey Steiman, editor at large at The Wine Spectator between 1984 and 2019, once wrote: “If you want to experience a dramatic example of terroir in the new world, get your hands on a Cayuse Syrah.” Here’s your opportunity. The Armada Syrah is one of a trio of wines from the Armada vineyard (discussed above), alongside the God Only Knows Grenache and Edith Grenache Rosé. Like those wines, the winemaking is archly traditional, with wild fermentation in large upright concrete, a sizable portion of whole bunches, and long maturation—21 months in this case—in large French foudres. New oak has never been a significant part of Christophe Baron’s toolkit; this cuvée sees around 15-20%.  - Importer Note 

Christophe Baron’s nickname when he worked vintage in Australia was Bionic Frog. It hints at the Frenchman’s superhuman energy levels, if not his vision for producing extraordinary wines from unlikely places. The eldest son of an established Champagne producer, Baron arrived in Oregon via Australia and New Zealand and, like a number of his fellow countrymen, found himself caught up in the Willamette gold rush of the late 1990s.

Baron was a hair’s breadth from planting his flag in the soils of the Willamette Valley. Then fate stepped in. While visiting a friend in Walla Walla Valley—an AVA that straddles Oregon and Washington State—Baron heard about a parcel of land west of Milton-Freewater where the soils, if you can call them that, looked just like the emblematic galets roulés of Châteauneuf’s Crau plateau. So, he drove there and, seeing the expanse of softball-sized stones, didn’t hesitate.

Baron purchased the Cailloux vineyard in 1997. The deal was easy to make. No one wanted to buy it because the land was too difficult to farm. It was about now that Baron earned his second nickname—the Crazy Frenchman. Baron describes 12 to 20 inches of pebbles and cobblestones on the surface and hundreds of feet of more densely packed cobblestones below that, all sitting on a layer of pure basalt.

The flagship Cailloux site was soon followed by the Coccinelle and En Cerise vineyards, then by En Chamberlin and Armada in 2000 and 2001, all lying within three kilometres. More recently, he has gone even further, planting five single-stake vineyards using Champagne’s pre-phylloxera spacing. Grouped under the Horsepower label, the soils are worked by a team of five draught horses and, like all Cayuse’s vineyards, farmed according to an astrological sowing and planting calendar, and entirely without the use of herbicides, synthetic fertilisers, chemical insecticides or fungicides.

Mirroring the great growers worldwide, the practice here is meticulous and uncompromising. Baron works with a team of 45, meaning no stone is left unturned (excuse the pun). Biodynamic since 2002, yields across the Cayuse and Horsepower vineyards are tiny and rarely exceed 30hl/ha. Not surprisingly, the Rhône varieties like Grenache and Syrah thrive in these familiar soils and the Mediterranean-esque climate. If Baron’s practice is deeply inspired by old-school European tradition, so, too, is winemaker Elizabeth Bourcier’s approach in the cellar. Natural whole-bunch fermentation in concrete and extended aging in mostly worn foudres form the barebones of her hands-off approach.

Cayuse and its resolutely terroir-driven wines have risen to become one of the Pacific Northwest’s most celebrated estates. Mainly selling out on release to those lucky enough to be on the mailing list (with a small portion held back for sale to restaurants and wine merchants), Cayuse’s wines are unlike any others we ship. Despite their celebrity, don’t come here looking for instant gratification, ‘gobs of fruit’ or an easy ride. They are deep, savoury and thought-provoking—not to mention confoundingly complex—wines from a unique terroir and uncompromising grower.

Product Type Wine Red Shiraz
Volume 750ml
Country USA
Region Washington State
Sub Region Walla Walla Valley
Winemaking Practices Minimal Intervention
Vineyard Practices Organic/Biodynamic

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