Washington Syrah: Hedges, L’Ecole, VanArnam with Lamb #WinePW

In last night’s dream, I’m caught in the Missoula Flood. In my dream, I’m a rock tumbling when the ice that dams ancient Lake Missoula breaks. At the peak, the flow rate is almost 108 million gallons per day or 13 times the Amazon River and up to 80 mph. These cataclysmic floods occurred several times during a 2,000-year period between 15,000 and 13,000 years ago.

With March being Washington Wine Month, and with two ZOOMs scheduled with L’Ecole and with Wine Pairing Weekend focusing on Yakima Valley AVA this month, I’ve been reading and researching the floods and the Columbia AVA which contains 99% of all of the wine grapes grown in Washington.

No wonder I dreamed I was awash in the Missoula Flood!

When most people think of Washington, I am sure they imagine the region West of the Cascades– temperate rain forests with big trees like in the Olympic peninsula, Seattle, Tacoma. 

But east of the Cascades the landscape is entirely different: it’s dry and that Missoula Flood left behind rich farmland.

Within the Columbia Valley AVA, there are many smaller AVAs, including Yakima Valley on the eastern edge, which is further divided: 

But no matter where you go in the Columbia Valley AVA, that Missoula Flood will have left its influence.

As the VanArnam website says, 

“Our area is known for its long, sunny days and fine, shallow, silt loam soils left over from the ice age.”

For this post for the Wine Pairing Weekend, I received a sample of Syrah from VanArnam in the Yakima Valley. As I’d recently purchased a bottle of 2005 Hedges Syrah from the Red Mountain AVA in Yakima Valley, and I was sent Syrah from L’Ecole elsewhere in the Columbia Valley closer to Walla Walla, we thought it would be fun to compare them.

Sue and I love Syrah, and we both drink it regularly– from California or France, but not Washington. What makes Syrah from Washington unique? Can we taste the flood?  We set out to find out.


2018  L’Ecole  No 41 Syrah Seven Hills Vineyard, Walla Walla Valley
ABV 15.0% 
sample for my review and ZOOM participation 

Read more about L’Ecole merlot and meatloaf here.

Read more about L’Ecole as a Top 100 Winery fo the Year here.

Color: So dense you cannot see through it. Very inky and opaque. Theater curtin red. Dracula’s blood. Crimson rim.

Nose: Sage, oak, forrest, pine, loamy soil, subtle hints of carnation and cinnamon, there is a bit of black pepper and blue fruit, but it is very subtle. A little bit of garigue but subtle, leather and hay barn. Vanilla and cherry .

Palate: For Sue, the oak overwhelmed the wine. It took over the flavors of the fruit. It tasted like a toasted oak barrel to her. When we come across wines like this we always ask the question, What is the winemaker trying to hide? Maybe in a few years time the oak will integrate more.

For people who think that Washington wines are too fruit forward, this wine will change your mind. Leathery, chewy, dry, bold tannins. This wine definitely yearns for food– and for a little more time in the cellar. 

Pairing: With food the wine becomes more engaging; it’s a bit sweeter, less dry and tannic. Loves the grilled flavors of the sweet Italian sausages, and the herbs in the sausage.

Brussels sprouts were so caramel like and creamy, melt in your mouth, just fabulous with the wine. Great with the roasted carrots. The sweet roasted carrots bring out beautiful baking spices in the wine; almost like a carrot cake, so so perfect with roasted veggies.

Great wine for vegetarians! 

With the rack of lamb, the garrigue comes out with the fruit, a bit of rhubarb, cherry, mint and herbs, a bit of hot  pepper. With the roasted potato and prosciutto, Sue felt it took on a maple syrup characteristic almost like breakfast. After this pairing we should just do veggies! Wow! 

Subscribe! Stay tuned for more about L’Ecole’s Cabernet Sauvignon and a Cabernet Franc/Merlot blend during Washington Wine Month.

2005 Hedges Family Estate Syrah Red Mountain AVA, Single Vineyard, Bel Villa Northeast Block
ABV 12.4%
SRP $193
purchased at Grocery Outlet ($15?)

“Hedges Family Estate: WHERE SOIL MEETS SOUL”

This older wine is from a higher elevation Syrah at a warmer Red Mountain site.

They now have organic and biodynamic vineyards on Red Mountain; the 2017 Syrah is $42, and Hedges is considered biodynamic pioneers in Washington:

Back story: Tom Hedges worked in produce, so when a client in Sweden asked for a wine, he decided to make it himself. In 1986, The Hedges planted vines and began their winery. Daughter Sarah Hedges Goedhart joined the family business in 2006 as assistant winemaker, and became head winemaker in 2015. Wines today are organic and certified biodynamic by Demeter.

I’m looking forward to visiting this biodynamic winery (hopefully in person!) and interviewing Sarah about her life in wine and her journey bringing her family’s estate from conventional farming to biodynamic!

Color: Medium plus density, deep maroon, light garnet rim.

Nose: Baking spices, dried roses, carnation, poupori, subtle black pepper, indistinct red and blue fruit. dusty dusky

Palate: Blase on the palate, much more interesting on the nose, austere, the high acidity in the wine creates a dry finish, it does not linger or resonate. This wine was a bit of a disappointment to both of us. There is a bit of unripe tannin on the finish. 

Sometimes there’s a good reason why wines are at Grocery Outlet…

Pairing:  Creamy blue cheese is an acceptable companion to the wine. Great with the salami, give me a pizza with this wine. The salami brings out a nice earthiness in the wine. Uncomplicated wine for an uncomplicated meal. While the rich fatty meats of the lamb and sweet Italian sausage help to tame the tannins in the wine.  It is still to a stellar pairing. For both of us it was a disappointment and we had a great discussion and difficult time putting our finger on exactly what was the problem with this wine we were having. What happened with this wine, this vintage to make it the way it was? Is it just past its prime? 

Not all wines are created equally, Not all Washington Syrahs are the same. Different years, different AVA’s ,different vineyards, will all produce different end results.

In general, we didn’t find these three Syrahs to be “typical” — less blue fruit and black pepper, quite a bit of tannins and acidity.

For this evening, the VanArnam was a great representation of what a Washington Syrah can be, the L’Ecole shows potential once the oak is more integrated and when paired with food, and we want to revisit Hedges with a more recent biodynamic vintage. 

Host Robin offers these sources and resources about Washington wine 

You’ll also discover wineries, wines, and pairings from the Yakima Valley AVA and regions in Washington from my fellow Wine Pairing Weekend bloggers:


  • Camilla of Culinary Adventures with Cam shares “Yakima Valley’s Sin Banderas Rhone Roses Compliment Dishes with Asian Flair” and “Mediterranean-Inspired Dishes Paired with Yakima Valley Wines from Dineen Vineyards”
  • Linda at My Full Wine Glass invites us to “Meet Kerry Shiels: A Yakima Valley winemaker with Vision”
  • Terri of Our Good Life shares 2 posts “Fortuity…Taking Advantage of Life’s Great Wines!”, and “Two Mountain Rose and Fennel Wild Mushroom Tarts”
  • Payal at Keep The Peas shares “Yakima Valley Wines FTW!”
  • Wendy of A Day in the Life on the Farm is cooking up “Smoked Beef Brisket with Canvasback Cabernet”
  • Rupal the Syrah Queen gives us “Yakima Valley – Red Willow Vineyards Producing Some of Washington’s Finest Syrahs”
  • Jane of Always Ravenous makes our mouths water with “Filet Mignon paired with Washington Yakima Valley Cabernet Sauvignon”
  • Martin with ENOFYLZ WineBlog is giving us “a Taste of Washington State’s Yakima Valley”
  • David at Cooking Chat has 2 posts for us also “Lamb Ragu Pasta with Red Wine from Dineen Vineyards” and “Sin Banderas Rosé with Corned Beef & More Yakima Valley Wine Pairings”
  • Nicole of Somm’s Table shares “Big, Beautiful Reds from Yakima Valley and Tasty, Meaty Fare”
  • Jennifer at Vino Travels tells us about “Italian Grapes of the Yakima Valley with Sleeping Dog Wines”
  • Gwendolyn the Wine Predator explores “Washington Syrah: Hedges, L’Ecole, VanArnam with Lamb Stew”
  • Susannah at Avvinare gives us “Malbec from VanArnam Vineyard in Yakima Valley”
  • Lori at Exploring the Wine Glass shares “Tasting the Soul of Wine in the Heart of Yakima Valley”
  • Robin at Crushed Grape Chronicles with “Yakima Valley AVA – Blends of friendship and history with wines from Eight Bells and Pearl and Stone Co.”

You’re invited to join our twitter chat at 8am Pacific by following the hashtag #winepw. Here’s what we’re discussing when:

Exploring Washington Wines in the Yakima Valley

#WinePW March 13th, 2021 – Twitter Questions

All times are listed as Pacific Time Zone

8:00 am

Q1  Good morning!  Welcome to the #WinePW chat on the Wines of Washington’s Yakima Valley!  Writers, visitors, wineries introduce yourself and share a link to your blog or site! Remember to use the #WinePW hashtag during our chat! #YakimaValleyAVA @YakimaAVA

8:05 am

Q2  Writers, how familiar were you with the wines of the Yakima Valley before this virtual visit?  Have you ever visited the region?  If anyone has visited the area share some photos!  #WinePW #YakimaValleyAVA @YakimaAVA

8:10 am

Q3 What did you discover about the Yakima Valley that you did not know before? #WinePW #YakimaValleyAVA @YakimaAVA

8:15 am

Q4 What wines did you taste?  What part of the Valley were the grapes from?  Were any from sub AVAs or did you have a vineyard designate wine? #WinePW #YakimaValleyAVA @YakimaAVA

8:20 am

Q5 Tell us about the wine, share your tasting notes and/or impressions!  #WinePW #YakimaValleyAVA @YakimaAVA

8:25 am

Q6  Perhaps you have had this variety or a similar blend from somewhere else in the world.  Did you notice any differences?  #WinePW #YakimaValleyAVA @YakimaAVA

8:30 am

Q7  Tell us a little of what you learned about the winery(ies) that your wine came from?  Are they an estate?  Do they source grapes?  Where are they located?  #WinePW #YakimaValleyAVA @YakimaAVA

8:35 am

Q8  Did you find out anything about the soils and the climates from the vineyards that the grapes came from?  Was there something interesting that stood out about the place?  #WinePW #YakimaValleyAVA @YakimaAVA

8:40 am

Q9  This IS Wine Pairing Weekend. So what did you pair?  Let’s see some photos of beautiful food!  #WinePW #YakimaValleyAVA @YakimaAVA

8:45 am

Q10 How did your pairings go with the wines?  Anything you would do differently if you paired this wine again? For anyone who didn’t do a pairing, do you have a favorite pairing for a wine from the Yakima Valley?  #WinePW #YakimaValleyAVA @YakimaAVA

8:50 am

Q11 So what do you think?  Are you ready to go explore the Yakima Valley? Will you look for more wines from this region?  What was the coolest thing you learned about these wines & the region?  #WinePW #YakimaValleyAVA @YakimaAVA

8:55 am

Q12  There is never enough time. Who has something else they would like to share about the Yakima Valley?  Guests, winemakers, writers, everyone jump in! #WinePW #YakimaValleyAVA @YakimaAVA

9:00 am 

Thanks so much to everyone who joined us this morning!  Next month #WinePW will be led by @LemieuxAndrea of The Quirky Cork, who will lead us on an exploration of Under the Radar European Wine Regions!  #WinePW #YakimaValleyAVA @YakimaAVA


14 thoughts on “Washington Syrah: Hedges, L’Ecole, VanArnam with Lamb #WinePW

  1. I loved reading about your dream about the Missoula Floods. Very dramatic like your descriptor of ruby red – theater curtain and dracula’s blood. You’ve got a real flair. I also enjoyed the Syrah comparisons. Sounds like you and Sue really had a good time and some great pairings. I am always starving after reading your elaborate posts about these meals you both prepare.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This was such an interesting comparison, from 3 different regions within Washington. The VanArnam sounds delicious all around. I look forward to finding their wines. I do find it interesting that the L’Ecole, while you thought it could be more integrated, went so well with the vegetables? What do you attribute that to? As to the Hedges, Sarah is a joy to speak with and their “Chateau” is stunning. You will definitely enjoy speaking about biodynamic with her!

    Great piece!

    Liked by 1 person

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