Cayuse Vineyards gets its name from the Cayuse tribe who live in the Walla Walla Valley. French-Canadian fur traders who came to the area in the 1800’s called the Native Americans the ‘Cailloux’, plural for ‘stone’ in French. The traders referred to the tribesman as ‘People of the Stone’ as they lived along ancient cobblestone riverbeds.

Cayuse makes a series of vineyard-designated Syrah from “The Rocks” area of the Walla Walla Valley AVA. This region gets its unofficial name from the same rocky riverbeds the Cayuse Tribe once inhabited. Christophe Baron serves as Cayuse’s winemaker.

Whenever sampling wines from Cayuse, I am always struck by how distinct they are from other Syrah being produced in Washington. The wines can literally be smelled a foot or more from the glass with earth aromas and a strange medley of vegetables and fruits. While a number of other producers have vineyards planted in The Rocks area and many are making excellent wine, no one seems to be making wine stylistically similar to Baron.

Cayuse wines have received widespread critical acclaim over the last five years. Despite being heaped with high scores (the wine below received a 97 point score from Wine Advocate, 94 points from Wine Spectator) and a years-long wait to get on their mailing list, Cayuse has increased their prices by a modest five dollars per bottle each vintage (2002 price $45, 2006 price $65). By comparison, top-rated Quilceda Creek has increased their prices ten to fifteen dollars each year for their Cabernet (2002 price $85, 2006 price $125).

While Cabernet and Syrah obviously command different prices, Cayuse’s slow step up in price makes the wine a relative “bargain”. While this may seem absurd to say for a $55 wine, for what it’s worth, similarly scored wines in Spectator for the 2004 vintage ranged from $1,100 to $23 with Cayuse in the bottom third. Now if you can only find a bottle!







Cayuse Syrah En Chamberlain Vineyard Walla Walla Valley 2004

An outrageous nose that you can smell from more than a foot away marked by earth, mushroom, tar, and bacon fat. A rich, polished, succulent taste. Alcohol occasionally comes through. The taste backs off a bit about two-thirds of the way through and then carries into the distance. 14.7% alcohol. 372 cases produced.