However, the birthplace of Syrah seems to be the Northern Rhône Valley. Recent DNA research shows Syrah to be a cross between Dureza and Mondeuse Blanche.  Both of these varieties are indigenous to France. Syrah is planted from the cool regions of the Northern Rhône where it is bottled as a single varietal, to the tip of the Southern Rhône where it is often blended with other varietals.

The Vintage: The 2014 vintage will be remembered as the (lucky) 13th harvest at Amalie Robert Estate. The controlled chaos known as “The Great Cluster Pluck” began, as it always does, in “Earnest,” on Monday, September 29, 2014. Harvest operations continued through October 19th when we brought in the buxom berries of block 13 (Syrah.) Home at last.

The 2014 vintage caps the run of three warm vintages in the Willamette Valley. Once again this year we were faced with the dilemma of when to harvest. The growing season was warm and the vines built sugars quickly in response to the heat. However, flavor development is more a function of time on the vine and was lagging.

While harvesting on flavor is the ideal situation, once sugar development reaches a certain concentration, you have to bring them in. Or, you can wait for the pre-harvest rains to replenish the soil moisture and rehydrate the berries, thus lowering the concentration of sugar.

And for the third year in a row, that was our decision. We waited for Mother Nature to give us a little shower to rehydrate the berries and lower the alcohol potential of our wines. Another overlooked benefit of waiting for a little rain, was the increased hang time. A few more days on the vine helped to further develop our aromas and flavors. Who’s your farmer?

You can read the full Harvest After Action Report (AAR) at:

Tasting Notes: Vehemently Violet. Garrigue, smoke, minerals, tar, dried cherries and black olive permeate like Texas Barbeque on a hot August night as Neil Diamond takes the stage and May West appears in a corset serving up a plate of fire roasted Serrano peppers. More righteous than wholesome on the voluptuous palate as the breadth and depth of cool climate estate grown Syrah makes its presence felt. With a half-life that rivals Uranium-238, the gratuitous finish exposes silky stem tannins juxtaposed with strapping acidity. By the way, what is that in your pocket?

Culinary Inclinations: Thick cut pepper bacon wrapped fillet of Elk grilled over high heat for a short period of time topped with smoky blue cheese. Don’t be shy with the cheese. Sauté of garlic, red potatoes, cubed polenta and wild mushrooms provide the perfect foil. Allocate any remaining cheese to the remaining wine, even if you must open a second bottle to do so.

Top Barrel Syrah Accolades:

2014 Top Barrel

Deep, brilliant violet. Highly perfumed aromas of black and blue fruit preserves, incense and peony are complemented by smoky mineral and exotic spice flourishes. Sweet and seamless in texture, offering densely packed blackberry, blueberry and cherry compote flavors and suggestions of candied flowers, star anise and cola. The floral and mineral notes resonate emphatically on an impressively long, expansive finish gently firmed by discreet tannins.

          - Josh Raynolds, Vinous, September 2020 - 94 points

2013 Top Barrel

Arousal red. Hugely pungent aromas of olive tapenade, spice cake, savory, smoke, cured meat and tar pervade your personal space in toto. Focused, motivated and assertive, intense cool climate Syrah vanquishes the palate. Tannins and acidity combine, enforcing discipline and exacting a long, deep and continuous dalliance. Unfined and unfiltered.

          - Amalie Robert Estate Tasting Notes

Lurid ruby. Pungent, spice-tinged boysenberry, cherry pit and licorice scents are complemented by suggestions of cracked pepper, violet and woodsmoke. Juicy and focused on the palate, offering bitter cherry and dark berry flavors that unfold slowly on the back half. Decidedly lithe, even Pinot-esque compared to its 2012 sibling, featuring good tension and spicy cut on the very long, gently tannic finish.

          - Josh Raynolds, Vinous, February 2018 - 92 points

2012 Top Barrel

Permanent stain dried Ox blood. Pungent black olive tapenade, smoked meat, minerals, tar and garrigue emulate the release of pheromones. Agile on the palate, the intense flavors and textures of dark fruit, stem tannins and cool climate acidity consummate energetically. Long and lingering, the focused and delineated finish leaves behind an indelible memento. Unfined and unfiltered.

          - Amalie Robert Estate Tasting Notes

Brilliant violet. A complex, expansive bouquet evokes ripe black and blue fruits, smoky Indian spices and potpourri, backed by subtle olive and cola nuances. Sweet, sappy and penetrating on the palate, offering intense blueberry, cassis, bitter chocolate and spicecake flavors and a strong suggestion of candied violet. Strongly channels the savory qualities of the northern Rhône and finishes extremely long, smooth and spicy, with subtle tannins building slowly.

          - Josh Raynolds, Vinous, February 2018 - 94 points. The highest rated Syrah from the Willamette Valley and the first to earn a 94 point review from Vinous.

2011 Top Barrel

​Redacted red. Black olive tapenade, tar, blackberries and black tea leaf entertain a ribbon of smoked meat. Precise and unambiguous Syrah characteristics are firmly supported by trenchant acidity. Stem tannins grip and assert structure that will evolve into spice and mouth coating texture. Deftly balanced to conquer the razors edge, this is Syrah made in Pinot Noir’s idiom. Unfined and unfiltered.

          - Amalie Robert Estate Tasting Notes

In a thrilling cool-climate experiment, the team at Amalie Robert planted syrah and viognier on a single acre in a cool vineyard west of Salem, drawing from the four clones that Marcel Guigal recommended on a visit to Oregon. This wine barely crosses the threshold of 12 per cent alcohol, and in most respects would be thought of as backward. But the aromas - carob, smoke and olive - are resolved and mature, the flavors composed and quiet, dark red fruits marked by charry, mature tannins. Decant it to serve with lamb.

          - Patrick J. Comiskey, Wine & Spirits Magazine, February 2018 - 91 points, Year's Best US Syrahs

Limpid ruby. Fresh red berries cherry pit Asian spices and olive paste on the highly perfumed and incisive nose. Juicy focused and light on its feet offering bitter cherry raspberry and spicecake flavors that pick up a smoky nuance as the wine opens up. Concentrated yet lively as well finishing on a gently sweet red fruit note delivering rounded tannins and strong persistence.

          - Josh Raynolds, Vinous, January 2017 - 91 points

2010 Top Barrel

Romulan red taunts smoked duck bacon, black olive, Cuban tobacco, minerals, tar, incense and freshly tilled earth. Palate staining dark fruits permeate the ever changing and remarkably suave weight and texture. The palate is then subjugated to the kaleidoscope finish of deeply intentioned cool climate Syrah, racing acidity, evolved stem tannin and a lot more than a little attitude. Unfined and unfiltered. 24 cases produced.

          - Amalie Robert Estate Tasting Notes

The 2010 Top Barrel Syrah is Ernie Pink’s interpretation of a top-level Côte-Rôtie and is a single-barrel that includes 50% whole-cluster fruit. The oak percolates through on the nose and slightly deviates the fruit from their cause. The palate is medium-bodied with supple dark cherry, red plum and brown spice flavors, impressive depth and freshness with a nicely poised finish.

          - Neal Martin, The Wine Advocate, March 2015 – 90 points

Top Barrel Syrah

Top Barrel Syrah is 100% Amalie Robert Estate grown Syrah. Among our 30 acres of Pinot Noir, we have planted 0.80 acres (1,188 vines to be exact) of Syrah. This bottling is from the single best barrel of Syrah from the vintage – The Top Barrel.

We grow Syrah right along side Pinot Noir, and most of the vineyard work is very similar. The primary difference is that we have to wait until November to harvest. We think it is worth the wait.

Syrah is a very adaptive variety, and much like Pinot Noir, reflects its growing conditions. Syrah is grown in the hottest parts of the southern Hemisphere where it is known as “Shiraz” and a bit farther south into the cool climate of New Zealand as well. The entire west coast of the United States grows Syrah from California, to the warm areas of eastern Washington and now very small plantings in Oregon’s Willamette Valley.