Tom's blog

Not all syrah has to be shiraz

With all the wines from which to choose, I often neglect syrah. Perhaps it’s because I think first of shiraz, those fruit-forward and often insipid knockoffs from Australia. OK, we all know Australia produces some incredibly dense and complicated syrah, but many are way too frivolous and ghastly overripe for me. 

So I happily reunited with the grape variety in a blind tasting among friends. These versions were from California and demonstrated that the grape can lead to some rich and complex wines. 

High on the list was 2014 Ramey Sonoma Coast Syrah ($40). Like its pinot noirs and chardonnays, Ramey’s syrah is made with care and attention to detail. It is balanced and more like a Northern Rhone syrah than an Australian shiraz. More classic in style with earthy, meaty aromas and a flavor profile that strikes the unami element. Dark berry flavors with a dash of olives and pepper. Very supple and long in the finish. 

Two other favorites were the 2014 Dierberg Happy Canyon of Santa Barbara Star Lane Vineyard Syrah ($40) and the 2013 Donelan Sonoma County Cuvee Christine Syrah ($48).  

The Dierberg showed off generous and forward red berry aromas, fresh raspberry and plum flavors with fine tannins. This wine will age but shows well know when paired with barbecued meats. 

The Donelan syrah was more complex with effusive plum and cassis flavors and a hint of dark chocolate. Balanced but with acidity and balances a lush mouthfeel. Made entirely of syrah, it is a bold version that can be enjoyed now or aged.