Saturday, February 27, 2010

Fortified (Port-Style) Wine of the Yakima Valley: Episode 2; Syrah


When a wine is referred to as 'fortified,' it means it's been made stronger (or 'fortified') by adding a distilled beverage, traditionally brandy. The brandy is added before the fermentation process is complete, which kills the yeast, leaving behind more sugar, which results in a stronger, sweeter beverage. As I mentioned here, to properly be called Port, the wine must hail from the Duoro Valley in Portugal. Since the wines I received were grown and bottled in Washington, they are more properly 'port-style' or 'fortified wines.'

The first stop in our Yakima Valley fortified wines was Cabernet Sauvignon. Today's post will focus on Yakima Valley fortified wine made from the Syrah grape.

I received Syrah based fortified wines from Daven Lore, Tucker Cellars and Kestrel Vintners.

The fortified Syrah wines has much more variance in style than did the Cabernets. Tucker Cellars sent two port style wines; one of which was done in a Tawny style. A Tawny style port is technically one that is barrel-aged for a long period of time so that the wine oxidizes and turns to a brownish gold color. The Tucker Tawny style was definitely lighter in color than it's Ruby counterpart but not the brownish gold of some tawny Port that you'll find out of the Duoro Valley. The Tawny Black Rock Creek port had an obvious presence of oak in the bouquet that came out in vanilla and smoky notes. The oak gave the wine a nuttier caramel flavor and was a welcome change of pace from the ruby ports we were drinking.

The Tucker Cellars Ruby Port was also quite good in a more typical style. This port was more fruit forward than the Tawny, with pomegranate and blackberries on the pallet. Both are fortified using grape spirits.

The Daven Lore Syrah Forte was a chocolate pairing delight. The grapes for this port-style wine are harvested from the Snipes Mountain AVA. The Forte is also fortified with grape spirits. This Syrah port-style wine aged 525 days in the barrel. The Daven Lore Forte has dark, dark cherries and rich red raspberries on the pallet. We had the Forte again recently at dinner at Picazo 7Seventeen in Prosser, and Chef Frank Magana paired it with his Strawberry creme brulee with chocolate ganache. It was an incredible pairing. The Daven Lore Forte was definitely the smoothest of the three Syrah port style wines that we sampled.

The Kestrel 2005 Syrah fortified wine is a very well balanced and interesting wine. Unlike many of the Washington wineries using grape spirits to fortify the wine Kestrel is using the more traditional Brandy. This creates a old world smoothness and the use of Brandy pulls out blackberry and dried fig aromas, as well as a deep dark smooth fortified wine.

Our final installment to come will cover two kinds of ports, a traditional Portugese style blend, that includes Souzao, Touriga Nacional and Tinta Cao in the blend. These ports are made by Hedges Family Estate and Thurston Wolfe. There will also be one outlier, a Sangiovese port style wine by Lopez Island Vineyards.


  1. The Forte is liquid gold when matched with chocolate.

  2. The DavenLore Syrah Forte is amazing even if you don't eat chocolate.

    psst: plz correct the winery spelling by capitalizing the L

  3. The spelling has been corrected. Thanks for reading.