Last month Paul Gregutt wrote about why Washington Syrah doesn’t sell particularly well. One of the hypotheses is that there are price issues. The issues are that 1) there are few quality Washington Syrah less than $15 and 2) many Washington Syrah are somewhat expensive. I will take a look at the first issue in this post and the second in a subsequent post.

The importance of the under $15 price point is that 1) wines in this category constitute the bulk of sales and 2) these wines can be considered a gateway to higher priced offerings. I have frequently looked for Washington Syrah in this price point and have by and large been disappointed. So last month I decided to solicit opinions from the blogosphere about Washington Syrah $15 to see other people’s perceptions on what is out there. I also asked about the next category up – $16-$30 to see how Washington fares. I have summarized the responses I received below.

Overall, my impression from an obviously qualitative perspective is that there is a limited amount of decent Washington Syrah under $15. The list readers generated includes 8 wines. Personally, I don’t find the three high production wines (Columbia Crest’s Two Vines, CC Grand Estates and Covey Run) particularly compelling, although they are decent wines for the money. The other wines listed I believe are more so. These wines range from moderate production and distribution (Charles Smith Boom Boom! 5,000 cases) to reasonably limited (Substance Sy, 940 cases).

Due to these production levels, most of these wines most likely have a modest impact on the market outside of Washington. This is significant as two of the main drivers of wine sales are high scores in trade publications and high availability/low cost/good value. In terms of high scores, Washington Syrah is doing quite well (more on this in an upcoming post). In terms of high availability/low cost/good value, Washington does not seem to do as well at least at a qualitative level. Most of the state’s winemakers are small producers (this is one of both the strengths and weaknesses of Washington wine) and therefore are not producing high quantities of wine that receives wide distribution outside of the state and generate additional interest.

Despite this, I believe as Washington Syrahs continue to rack up high scores and garner attention, the sales will follow. Additional moderate production offerings of sufficient quality should also help grease the skids. That said, I expect most of the high scoring offerings from Washington to remain fairly limited in their production and distribution for the foreseeable future.

Next up on this, a look at Washington Syrah in terms of price and quality . Thanks to all who sent in their thoughts on Syrahs in these price categories.

NB: In terms of Syrah in the $30 and under category, Washington seems to do quite well. See the list of reader generated wines below.

Question #1: Tell me what you think are good Washington syrahs that are $15 and under:

  • Barnard Griffin Syrah $13, 3,000 cases produced
  • Charles Smith Boom Boom! Syrah 2007 $15, 5,000 cases produced
  • Columbia Crest Grand Estates Syrah $12, 30,500 cases produced
  • Columbia Crest Two Vines Shiraz $8, 135,000 cases produced
  • Covey Run Syrah $9, 23,000 cases produced
  • Dusted Valley Vintners Boomtown Syrah $15
  • Giant Wine Co. Sinner’s Punch 2006 $14
  • Wines of Substance Syrah $14 2007, 940 cases produced

Question #2: Tell me what you think are good Washington syrahs that are $30 and under:

  • Amavi Cellars Syrah $28
  • Amavi Syrah Walla Walla Valley 2006
  • Arbor Crest Syrah $22
  • Barrister Winery Syrah Morrison Lane Vineyard $28
  • Basel Cellars Syrah 2005 $28
  • Chateau Ste Michelle Ethos Syrah 2004 $26
  • Columbia Crest Reserve Syrah 2006 $20
  • Darby The Dark Side Syrah Walla Walla Valley 2006 $25
  • Dusted Valley Stained Tooth $26
  • Dusted Valley Stained Tooth Syrah 2006 $24
  • Dusted Valley Walla Walla Valley $28
  • Five Star Cellars Syrah Walla Walla Valley $30
  • Gamache Vintners Syrah $30
  • Gilbert Cellars Syrah 2005 and 2006 $25
  • Isenhower Cellars River Beauty Syrah 2006 $24
  • Isenhower Cellars Wild Alfalfa Syrah 2007 Columbia Valley $24
  • K Vintners Syrah Milbrandt Vineyard 2006 $30
  • K Vintners Syrah Motor City Kitty 2006 $25
  • Lantz Cellars Syrah Rattlesnake Hills 2007 $27
  • Lantz Cellars Syrah Yakima Valley $28
  • McCrea Columbia Valley $25
  • Owen Roe Ex Umbris $24
  • Ross Andrew Boushey Vineyard $28
  • Rulo Winery Syrah $20
  • Rulo Winery Syrca $18
  • Snoqualmie Reserve Syrah 2004 $17
  • Stephenson Syrah 2005 and 2006 $28
  • Syncline Columbia Valley Syrah 2006 $22
  • Terra Blanca Syrah $20
  • Trust Cellars Syrah Columbia Valley $28
  • Trust Cellars Syrah Walla Walla Valley 2007 $28
  • Walter Dacon Syrah Columbia Valley C’est Syrah Belle 2006 $30
  • Watermill Reserve Syrah Walla Walla Valley 2005 $28
  • Waters Columbia Valley Minick Vineyard $30
  • William Church Yakima Valley Syrah 2006 $25