With the onset of September, we’ve organized a collection of domestic and French Syrah to pair with the waning hours of summer and the welcome depth of autumnal food and temperatures.
Starting with that magnum ($150), the vines of which are grown on a tiny half-hectare parcel on the Cote Brune, in the Northernmost appellation of the Rhone Valley, this example of Syrah shows high tones and bright violet aromas paired with a deliciously long, iron-like finish. Also, from the Cote Brune, we are featuring the 2014 Barruol Lynch Cote Rotie “Neve” ($68) , a lieu-dit vineyard on the exceedingly steep roasted slope that gives the wine an intensity and concentration matched by the traditional focus of fourteenth-generation winemaker, Louis Barruol. Moving South, we’ve selected the 2014 Andre Perret Saint-Joseph ($38) to represent this village known for producing Syrah with a spicy nose and brambled red fruit. Perret’s wine is 100% destemmed before fermentation to ensure a fruit depth and rounder texture. The 2012 Combier Crozes-Hermitage “Clos des Grives” ($48)comes from a 62-year-old enclosed parcel planted on red clay, chalk and alluvial stones which impart a riper, richer, texture and flavor to the wine. This bottling also receives a heartier barrel-treatment than many Syrah in the neighborhood, giving it breadth, width, and density on the palate. Furthest South in the classified region of the Northern Rhone, the village of Cornas produces Syrah based on granitic soils. Vincent Paris, a biodynamically-oriented vigneron offers up a series of wines we carry here at PMW. Specifically the 2013 Paris Cornas “Granit 60” ($53) exudes an animalistic, leathery aroma that couples with a lean, finely-structured tannic finish to show the rustic complexity typical of wines from this region.
Of course, Syrah has spread across the globe, notably to Australia and California, where winemakers have experimented and tinkered with myriad possibilities of terroir and technique. In California, a loosely-organized group called the Rhone Rangers helped to popularize and disseminate Syrah and other Rhone varieties throughout the state in the 1980s which has resulted in several surges of interest in the grape over the past several decades. On our domestic front we’ve included an array of some favorite producers, starting with 2009 Baker Lane Estate Syrah ($30) from Sonoma Coast, a wine from our recent staff blind tasting, which almost universally we agreed was from the Northern Rhone. As well, our friends Jared and Tracey Brandt made a 2013 Donkey & Goat Fenaughty Vineyard Syrah ($37), which they source from the El Dorado Hills and produce in North Berkeley. They came up learning about viticulture in the Rhone Valley and have made “natural wines” since 2004 with particular focus on Syrah. 2010 saw the start of Enfield Wines, a small-production winery in Santa Rosa. Their 2013 Haynes Vineyard Syrah ($48) is grown in the cool-climate area of Coombsville in Napa on a bed of alluvial cobblestone, loam, and volcanic ash, giving the wine a taut vibrance and natural acidity, fine tannin, and high-toned fruit. Planted in 1993, making it the oldest Syrah vineyard on the Sonoma Coast, 2014 Arnot-Roberts “Que Syrah” Syrah ($84) shows what marine influence and sandy loam soil can do for the grape. The wine is bright and aromatic and will undoubtedly cellar for several years as well as perform admirably in youth, whatever it will be. In this series, a return to the north, where first I learned about wine is only appropriate. One of my favorite (and I argue the finest) in Oregon is the 2013 Cristom Estate Syrah Eola-Amity Hills ($50), the only vines planted to this grape in the entire Willamette Valley. This wine smells and feels like a dusky autumnal evening with brilliant fruit and spice qualities that return me to campfires, barbeques, a redwood sauna, raspberry bushes in the backyard, stained hands, and the security of rain.
Syrah is on at PMW. Come get yours because many of these bottlings are very limited won’t last long on our shelves.