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.