As Christophe Baron presented his powerful but graceful Cayuse Syrah Walla Walla Valley Bionic Frog 2007 (95 points, $75), guests were treated to a precise look, both in the glass and in his stories, into a unique stony terroir he discovered on the Oregon side of the Walla Walla AVA. That area now falls within the recently designated Rocks District of Milton-Freewater AVA.
In 1996, Baron, born in the Champagne region, had every intention of settling in Oregon to join the world of Willamette Valley Pinot Noir, until fate stepped in. "When I was visiting some friends in the Walla Walla Valley," Baron recalled, "I discovered an amazing piece of land that would change the path of my life." Today, Cayuse has grown to nearly 45 acres of vines from the original five, encompassing 13 different labels; in addition, Baron makes the No Girls and Horsepower brands, overseeing 62 acres total.
Baron noted how the Cayuse vineyards' basalt cobblestone soil, which reminded him of Châteauneuf-du-Pape in the Rhône, influences the character of his wines, infusing them with qualities of minerality, earthiness and savoriness. The Coccinelle Vineyard, where the grapes for Bionic Frog are grown, contains 100 percent Syrah, and the resulting wine is aged 18 to 20 months in French oak. "To me, the wine shows a lot of black olive, salt, some brine," said Baron, who recommended pairing it with hearty meats such as rack of lamb, duck à l'orange or steak.
Emphasizing the biodynamic farming practices he follows, Baron noted the resulting synergy between the soil and the vines. "Something very unique at Cayuse, it's happening all day long, all night long, throughout the year, is that my vines are making love to my soil," Baron told the crowd. "When I go to my vineyard every day, that's what I see. It's a pretty romantic scene."