Photo: Alan Decker, Orfila Vineyards & Winery
California Syrah is pretty darn complex -- but it's also approachable.
An offshoot of two French grapes, Dureza and Mondeuse Blanc, Syrah is grown from near San Diego on the southern end on up to Mendocino's foggy coastline, and each of those locations and their climate differences plays a huge role in how the wine tastes. In Australia, South Africa and Canada, Syrah is referred to as Shiraz, but it's the exact same grape. While it remains the Rhone's most popular grape, California Syrah should not be ignored. The Golden State may be better known for its Chardonnay and Cabernet, but that's precisely why uncorking a bottle of Syrah is a refreshing change.
Very approachable for a variety of palates, this is an ideal wine to pull out at a dinner party. Splurge a little by springing for one of these four Syrahs and serving them with peppered meats, pizza or lamb.
Here are four of my favorite Syrahs from California producers.
Beckmen Vineyards 2008 Syrah Purisma Mountain Vineyard, Santa Ynez Valley, California ($48)
Syrah grapes from the winery's biodynamic-certified vineyard are used to make this wine, which is packed with concentrated blackberry notes and hints of violet.
Orfila Vineyards & Winery 2006 Ambassador's Reserve Estate Syrah, San Pasqual Valley, California ($32)
This textured Syrah is very lush and complex, with intense peppery notes against a backbone of blackcurrant.
B Cellars 2007 Syrah Caldwell's Kreuzer Canyon, Napa Valley, California ($45)
There's a layer of smoky tobacco underneath this Syrah, which is full of dense blueberry and blackberry notes that effortlessly cascade into a finish punctuated by rich, soft tannins.
Red Car 2008 Boxcar Syrah, Sonoma Coast, California ($20)
An herbaceous bouquet on this Syrah, which is my favorite of these four, is delightful (mint and violets). In addition, sweet blackberries (laced with peppers and spice) drive the palate and mingle with chocolate near the finish.
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