Wallah Wallah Special Series
Professional reviews and tasting notes from prior vintages added as published (Scores within parentheses indicate barrel samples):
2018 Wallah Wallah Special Syrah Series #12
97 Points. Dried blackcurrant, smoked meat, rosemary, peppercorn, moss, oyster shell and tangerine peel on the nose. It’s full-bodied with firm, creamy tannins. Rich, savory and spiced with lasting intensity. Chewy, lingering herb notes. Try from 2022.
—James Suckling, jamessuckling.com
Earth, funk, smoked meat, ash, black olive, peat and medicinal aromas lead to a tour de force of fruit and savory flavors that are flat-out intense. It's the finish of this wine, however, that most impresses. It grabs you and shakes you and refuses to let go. It's shockingly good. —Sean Sullivan, Wine Enthusiast
96 Points. Christophe often releases a special blend in magnum (he never says which vineyards it’s from), and the 2018 Syrah Special #12 is another gorgeous wine. Revealing a deep ruby/plum hue as well as classic Rocks notes of blue fruits, ground pepper, bacon fat, lavender, and violets, it hits the palate with medium to full-bodied richness, a seamless, elegant texture, ripe yet certainly present tannins, and a great finish. It needs 4-5 years of bottle age and will cruise for two decades.
—Jeb Dunnuck, jebdunnuck.com
95+ Points. Christophe often releases a special blend in magnum (he never says which vineyards it’s from), and the 2018 Syrah Special #12 is another gorgeous wine. Revealing a deep ruby/plum hue as well as classic Rocks notes of blue fruits, ground pepper, bacon fat, lavender, and violets, it hits the palate with medium to full-bodied richness, a seamless, elegant texture, ripe yet certainly present tannins, and a great finish. It needs 4-5 years of bottle age and will cruise for two decades. Marked as #12 in the sequence of releases, the 2018 Wallah Wallah Syrah Special displays a dark ruby core and seductive dark fruit tones that sway with spiced potpourri, dried flowers, blackberry essence and spiced cherry compote. Medium to full-bodied, the wine offers a delicious array of fresh, ripe fruits that oscillate between an elegant and spicy nature, with flavors of dusty, worn leather, red and black peppercorns, umami and baked earth. The wine somersaults to an elongated, juicy and mineral-laced finish and will undoubtedly bring pleasure for the next few decades. It rested for 19 months in approximately 15% new French oak barrels. Christophe Baron certainly loves magnums, and this should age beautifully. The only challenge will be trying to keep your hands off the bottle while it's resting in the cellar since it's both age-worthy and crushable.
—Anthony Mueller, The Wine Advocate
2017 Wallah Wallah Special Syrah Series #11
Soft and luxurious with plums, smoke, spice and hints of earth. Some chocolate, too. Full body, round and caressing tannins and a seductive finish. It’s a wine that develops beautifully on your palate. —James Suckling, jamessuckling.com
96 Points. Made only in magnum, the 2017 Syrah Wallah Wallah Special #11 comes from some of the exceptional vineyards that go into making some of the bottlings for Cayuse and Horsepower. Displaying with a pale ruby-colored edge, the wine unfolds its wings in the glass showing the elegance of Pinot Noir but with the savoriness of Syrah. Elements of crushed violets, sweet raspberry, lavender and rose petal all capture the attention first before showing subtle savory notions of black pepper, crushed rock and worn leather. Medium to full-bodied, the wine is framed by a well-balanced structure, with energetic acidity and mouthwatering tannins, before ending with a long, lingering finish. A brilliant idea to only bottle in magnum, which forces you to select the appropriate time to open and consume the bottle. Regardless, this is a winner. —Anthony Mueller, The Wine Advocate
96 Points. …Meat and bacon fat galore as well as a beautiful core of blackberry fruits, leafy herbs, woodsmoke, and ground pepper. Rich, medium to full-bodied, and impressively textured on the palate, it has the fruit and purity to shine today as well as the balance and structure to evolve for 15+ years or more. —Jeb Dunnuck, jebdunnuck.com
2016 Wallah Wallah Special Syrah Series #10
97 Points. Always from a mix of vineyards and made with the idea of a great Côte Rôtie, the 2016 Syrah Walla Walla #10 offers a huge nose of raspberries, violets, crushed rocks, smoked earth, and salted meats. It’s another seamless, gorgeously balanced, elegant wine that has an awesome character and length. —Jeb Dunnuck, jebdunnuck.com
96 Points. Made in magnum, this is the only wine in the portfolio to blend across vineyards. The aromas are arresting, with notes of firepit, funk, green herb, potpourri, chimney and black and green olive. Rich, intense but still lithe savory flavors follow. The intensity and length of the finish is captivating. Best after 2026. —Sean Sullivan, Wine Enthusiast
95 Points. It has a fresh core of strawberries on the nose, with a dusty minerality and hints of wild sage over soft, smoky and charcuterie aromas. The wine has a focused and balanced core of fruit and florals on the palate, with violets, dried herbs, black pepper and a taut minerality that is thoughtful and elegant, concluding with attentive tannins on the elongated finish. Magnums age well, so this can be forgotten in your cellar with little to no repercussions to the quality of the wine. This bottling is Washington State's smart wine buy of the year.... Grab some for your cellar! —Anthony Mueller, The Wine Advocate
94 Points. A blend of vineyards that changes each year, this has a sense of elegance with a distinctly spicy and quite floral edge (there is some viognier) and a lithe, juicy and very drinkable feel. This is more immediate, a wine to celebrate with and only bottled in magnum. Drink or hold. —James Suckling, jamessuckling.com
93 Points. Svelte and luscious, with effortlessly complex raspberry and blueberry flavors accented by garrigue, smoky beef and cracked pepper notes. The finish is long and elegant, with refined tannins. Drink now through 2026. —Tim Fish, Wine Spectator
2015 Wallah Wallah Syrah Special #8
(96-98) Points. Made from 100% Syrah, from a mix of vineyards, the 2015 Syrah Wallah Wallah Special #8 is a dead ringer for a traditionally made Côte Rôtie. Pepper, blackberries, bacon fat and assorted floral and violet notes all flow to a rich, full-bodied Syrah that has nothing out of place, with ripe, sweet tannin and a great finish. —Jeb Dunnuck, The Wine Advocate
2014 Wallah Wallah Syrah Special #6
97 Points. Christophe’s homage to one of his favorite northern Rhone producers, Jamet, the 2014 Syrah Walla Walla Special #6 comes from two of his estate vineyards (he wouldn't say which) and is released only in magnum. Giving up lots of blue fruits, salted meats, violets and underbrush, it has a decidedly sexy, full-bodied, textured profile that still shows restraint, purity and finesse. I never find the Special bottling to be the richest in the lineup, yet it has incredible complexity and purity; and given the magnum format, it should benefit from a decade of cellaring and have two to three decades of overall longevity. —Jeb Dunnuck, The Wine Advocate
2013 Wallah Wallah Syrah Special #5
96 Points. One of the most complete, layered and elegant 2013s from Cayuse is the 2013 Syrah Walla Walla Special #5, which is made from two separate parcels that remind Christophe of the northern Rhone’s Jamet brother’s Cote Rotie. He also keeps the price low as a thank you to his customers. Giving up classic cool climate notes of green olives, black cherries, scorched earth, ash and ripe herbs, this beauty hits the palate with full-bodied richness, no hard edges, incredibly fine tannin and a finish that just keeps going. I thoroughly enjoyed drinking it today, but it will be better with 4-5 years of cellaring and have two decades or more of overall longevity. —Jeb Dunnuck, The Wine Advocate
2012 Wallah Wallah Syrah Special #4
96+ Points. Made by Christophe as a tribute to Cote Rotie and coming from a blend of estate vineyards, the 2012 Syrah Wallah Wallah #4 Special spent 22 months in older puncheons and neutral smaller barrels before being bottled only in Magnum, of which there’s only 2,500 to go around. Hitting 13.6% natural alcohol, its deep ruby, semi-opaque color is followed by fabulous notes of rose petals, incense, violets, leather and sweet raspberry. These flow seamlessly to a full-bodied, supple and elegant Syrah that has no hard edges, integrated acidity and thrilling purity of fruit. Showing more and more tannin with time in the glass, it needs to be forgotten for 4-5 years and will have an easy two decades or more of longevity. —Jeb Dunnuck, The Wine Advocate
2012 Wallah Wallah Grenache Special #2
94 Points. The Cayuse 2009 Grenache Wallah Wallah #2 represents a 181-magnum lot from especially tightly-spaced rows in the Armada, including a few vines of Syrah and Tempranillo. (The name is a 19th century spelling of Walla Walla; while “#2” refers back to the first wine —a 2005 vintage Syrah also reviewed in this report —that Baron was inspired to bottle as a magnum-only “Wallah Wallah” reserve, and calls “#1.”) “We didn’t intend originally to bottle this separately,” explains Bourcier, “and it would have gone into the G(od) O(nly) K(nows), but we just kept going back to the contents of this one puncheon, and it showed so well.” Sandalwood, resin, lightly-cooked strawberry, and hints of game put me in mind of Chateauneuf-du-Pape. This is less polished, buoyant, or fine-fruited on the palate than the corresponding God Only Knows bottling, with more evident albeit fine-grained tannins. It’s the depth of carnal—game, red meat, and marrow—savor, and its sheer persistence, that render this jaw-dropping. I would look for at least a dozen years of rivetingly fascinating evolution. —Jay Miller, The Wine Advocate
94 Points. (there are just 181 magnums of this juice): Bright medium red. Musky aromas of moss, peat and spices. Juicy and light on its feet, offering a lovely pliant texture and solid underlying structure. More about subtle pie spices and pepper now than primary cherry/berry fruit, but there's little evidence of new oak here. Thoroughly ripe and very long. Wonderfully soil-driven Grenache. —Stephen Tanzer, International Wine Cellar
2005 Wallah Wallah Syrah Special #1
98 Points. The Syrahs start with the 2005 Syrah Cailloux Vineyard Neutral Barrel. This cuvee (25 cases), bottled only in magnum, was co-fermented with some Viognier and aged in neutral oak. The Syrah was a vineyard selection that ripened later. The aromatics receive a floral lift from the Viognier along with mineral, spice notes, meat, game, and blue berry. Layered, succulent, and elegant, the wine has exceptional length and purity. Baron is unsure if and when this wine might be sold. —Jay Miller, The Wine Advocate
97 Points. Representing the first such reserve bottling for Cayuse; filled in magnum only (like its more recent Grenache counterpart); and destined to be released soon, Baron’s 2005 Syrah Wallah Wallah #1 (that’s no misprint: two thousand and five; and two “h”s) was vinified with 8% Viognier. An improbably-haunting bouquet of freesia, mint, bergamot, black truffle, kirsch, and confitured cherry rises mesmerizingly from the glass. Polished, glycerin-rich and liqueur-like not only in its texture but also its expression of ripe red fruits, it offers multi-boned, marrow-rich beef stock and black truffle broth, all laced with saliva-liberating salinity. The finish comes in generous, endlessly-undulating waves of flavor that will practically knock you over with their sheer buoyancy. I’d predict at least 15 years of blissful cohabitation any magnums of this you manage to score; nor will I be surprised if it achieves yet greater beauty. —David Schildknecht, The Wine Advocate
96 Points. (there was just one barrel of this juice, bottled entirely in magnums; co-fermented with a bit of viognier) Good deep red-ruby. Knockout nose combines dark fruits, pineapple, peach, violet, woodsmoke, pepper and a saline nuance. Conveys an impression of great density without any excess weight, offering a texture of liquid silk and incredible perfume to its dark berry, pineapple (from the viognier?) and pepper flavors. Finishes with perfectly ripe tannins and outstanding aromatic persistence. This barrel stood out for its "overt aromatic character," noted Baron. —Stephen Tanzer, International Wine Cellar
93 Points. Bright and jazzy, with a distinctively red cast to the color and a flavor profile of raspberry and rose petal. Powdery tannins and stony notes add to the complexity and harmony. Finishes with snap. Drink now through 2022. —Harvey Steiman, Wine Spectator
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