Charles Smith Wines 2006 Royal City syrah

Another WAwineman classic, 1st posted on October 9, 2009:

Is the economy going bad? My mutual funds gained 9.4% for the week, yet I see these issues: (1) Irish students have to bring their own toilet paper to school, in addition to their own lunches; (2) NC authorities have arrested a  63 year-old for hiding 929 gallons of mooshine in the mountains; and (3) for the busy Japanese executive, there’s an anti-H1N1 suit coated in titanium to kill the virus.

Okay, let’s get to the main event. My first wine rated 100 points by a respectable reviewer; in this case, it is the venerable Paul Gregutt of The Seattle Times newspaper and northwest region reviewer for the Wine Enthusiast magazine. This is Paul’s first 100-pointer in all his tasting experiences so this is obviously a big, big deal. Even an uneducated wine drinker like me can appreciate the significance in that statement. When Paul’s review of this wine was first published back in April, I immediately went to the winery website and ordered a set for delivery in September. For those snoozers, sometime during the summer, the price went up from $80 to $100. That’s why I ordered early (point).

My assumption with the folks in WA State is that most of us have never wrapped our lips around any wine respectably rated 100 points. When I hear of a 100-point wine, I think of some buku-bucks wine that I could never justify buying. Chateau Margeaux. Screaming Eagle. Mouton-Rothschild. Wines for people with too much money and not enough common sense. Yeah, I know, wish I was one of them, too. That said, when I hear a 100-point wine being on sale for $80 and from Washington State, I jumped through the ceiling to procure this beast.

Was it hype? Well, what did the others say? Food & Wine just named Charles Smith 2009 Winemaker of the Year. This is the man who made “House Wine” from originally his Magnificent Wine Company a staple in dive restaurants around here. His K Vintners produces a crazy variety of syrahs. Other bloggers have done an exhaustive bio on Charles, of which I do not need to restate here. Suffice it to say, he has a rockstar ‘do and is no ‘flash in the pan’ when it comes to winemaking. Why would a world traveler like him plant roots in Walla Walla? Ask Christophe Baron. Ask Marie Eve-Gilla. Ask Kendall Mix. There’s something in the dirt there and it’s making a lot of money for these aspiring winemakers.

I paired tonight’s wine with…tuh-duh, Papa Murphy’s take-out pizza. Any excuse worked. I mean, who really cares about the food? Well, I did. I wanted to see if this wine would annihilate a lesser food. Answer: no. Did it obliterate my nose and palate? No. Did it grow knuckles and knock me out? No. Fruit bomb? No. Barrel bomb? No. Out of respect for my contemporary, Sean Sullivan of Washington Wine Report, I measured the temperature of the wine in glass…55-60 degrees. Was I missing something? The answer was…no. It was staring right at me and it’s called “balance.” The only difference is that the “balance” is at a very high level. In other words, there are no weaknesses that could even be called above-average. From the smooth cork opening to an initial in-the-glass bouquet to the translucent bullseye-purple color and extra long tail trail without the *boom* in alcohol heat. This is not a wine that screams “attention,” but rather a statement that makes you take notice when you’ve completed your sentence. Very classy and well worthy of 100-points. My decision to rate this 98 is out of respect to Betz’s ‘La Cote Patriarche’ syrah. A different style but producing the same amount of happiness and enjoyment that I am the master of! If I absolutely had to critique this wine, I could only say that I was expecting a bouquet of emphasis like that of Betz’s wines. It was just a micro-notch below.

Color: gorgeous royal purple with classic “legs” on the glass. Nose: plumalicious, grape gum, Oberto beef jerky, pencil shavings. Mouthfeel: full, almost thick. Tail trail: 10+ seconds with evolution (wow!). Flavors: blackberries, black plum, black pepper, black currant, anise, Cuban cigar box, burnt forest, fresh morning toast. Ahhh.

Alcohol: 15.5% (but not noticeable). Stoneridge Vineyard. Columbia Valley AVA. Rated: 98. Value: $90. Paid: $80. This is WAwineman…uncorked, uneducated but not uncouth.

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