BoomBoom! 2011 Syrah


Something I need to do is not walk into a bottle shop until I’ve actually made a decision about what I’m going to buy. Almost without fail, I will stand slack jawed, looking at the wines, unable to choose. Mostly, this is because I want to choose something interesting and different and new and exciting and with those kinds of criteria it’s too easy to dismiss almost everything on the shelves as not quite up to standard.

I was having one of those days on Wednesday, when I wandered into East End Cellars. Normally I am quite on the ball but other than knowing that I wanted a red, I was dismissing a lot of wines out of hand and getting grumpier by the minute.

Then my eyes alighted on the Boom Boom!. Had this wine been from the Barossa or McLaren Vale I’d probably still be sitting here, thirsty and grumpy. But this is a Syrah from Washington (state, in the north west corner of the US). I’m pretty sure I haven’t had a WA Shiraz/Syrah before (I’m actually pretty sure I haven’t had a WA anything before) but I do know I have two pretty special bottles from that region in the cellar awaiting a ‘special occasion’. This wine would be a figurative dipping of the toes in the water.

The wine is made by Charles Smith Wines, a producer about whom I know nothing. So do I tell you about shiraz, the producer, the region? That’s a good question. I think the region is worth a mention because many people seem unaware that places in the US outside California produce wine. I guess if you mention Washington to an Australian they’ll think of either Starbucks or Microsoft or both. And maybe Frasier, if they’re old enough.

I’m not going to claim to be familiar with wines of the Pacific North-West but I have had a couple of Pinot Noirs from Oregon – both pretty classy wines at their respective price points. Washington is further north again than Oregon and borders Canada, so this is not hot climate wine making. The state’s first vines were planted in 1825 and the first winery appeared at Walla Walla in the 1860s, although vitis vinifera grapes (the ones we typically associate with winemaking) weren’t planted until 1871. Today there are over 700 wineries, with red wines dominating production.

In the glass, this wine looks young. It’s quite deep and intense and very purple/ruby in colour.

The nose is quite pronounced, with forest fruits, undergrowth and a pleasing earthiness to it. There’s a layer of vanilla over the top and some licorice and aniseed notes.

On the palate, there was some really tart, almost crunchy, red and black fruits at the start which are rounded out by some bitter chocolate. The tannins are soft but there’s good acidity and quite a good mouthfeel. The wine does finish slightly hot (it’s only 13.5% abv) but I think that’s a case of there not being quite enough fresh fruit going on. While the length was not bad the fresh fruit really dropped away quickly and I’d describe this as quite a lean wine.

If you’re after a big bold Australian style fruit bomb, then this wine is not for you, but I actually quite enjoyed it.

What I didn’t enjoy was that I paid $32 for it. At that price, it’s underperforming. However, if you’re lucky enough to live in America, the current release (the ’12) retails for $US15 (which translates as $AU16 and frankly, if I’d paid that for it, I’d be a LOT more enthusiastic).

This wine was purchased from East End Cellars for $32.
13.5% abv.