THE YEAR'S BEST

Each issue Wine&Spirits focuses on one variety or group of related wines and selects the best wines
in that category for the year.


     June 2006

Over the last twelve months,
Wine & Spirits tasted 323 American syrahs and 299 American zinfandels.

These 16 syrahs and 15 zins received the strongest praise from our critics.


Syrah
94  I  Beauregard $35
2003 Santa Cruz Mountains Zayante Vineyard Syrah
This wine starts with a beautiful scent of cherries and peppercorns. With air it extends into an opulent, lifted play on red fruit, minerals and spice that brings young Cornas to mind. Well worth cellaring for eight to ten years. (W&S 10/05) Beauregard Vineyards, San Jose, CA
 

 
94  I  Beckmen $45
2003 Santa Ynez Valley Block Six Purisima Mountain Syrah
Intensity is there in the violet-fuschia color, the succulence of fruit and the mineral tannins-as if smelling the smoke off of broken rock. This feels fresh, its fleshy cherry flavors tightly layered with rocky earth. Decant it now or cellar it for a decade; either way, it's delicious. (W&S 2/06) Beckmen Vineyards, Los Olivos, CA
 

 
94  I  Cayuse $45
2002 Walla Walla Valley En Cerise Vineyard Syrah
From a rock-strewn vineyard near the Walla Walla Valley floor, this is rich and round, with black fig and blackberry fruit, fine acidity and hints of smoked tomatoes. For skirt steak. (W&S 10/05) Cayuse Vineyards, Walla Walla, WA
 

 
94  I  Neyers $30
2004 Sonoma Coast Old Lakeville Road Syrah
This is deliciously rich yet elegant for its weight, the balance between dark, fresh berry flavors and oak becoming more dynamic with air. It's suited to age, or to roasted pork belly. (W&S 6/06) Neyers Vineyards, St. Helena, CA
 

 
94  I  Renard $35
2002 Sonoma Coast Peay Vineyard Syrah
A perfectly formed '02, this combines potent black cherry, five-spice and mineral flavors in a velvety coolness. It's habit-forming sipped on its own, or with lamb. (W&S 10/05) Renard Wines, St. Helena, CA
 

 
93  I  Baileyana $30
2003 Edna Valley Grand Firepeak Cuvee Firepeak Vineyard Syrah
A subtle interpretation of bright, fresh fruit and stony tannins, this wine is cool, rich and smooth. It will improve over several years, and thrive with a steak. (W&S 4/06) Baileyana Winery, San Luis Obispo, CA
 

 
93  I  Chateau Potelle $75
2002 Napa Valley, Mt. Veeder V.G.S. Syrah
Brawny, mountain-grown intensity translates to juicy roasted fruit flavor, as savory as French roast coffee and dried thyme. Drink 2008 to '12 with grilled baby lamb chops or cabrito. (W&S 10/05) Chateau Potelle, Napa, CA
 

 
93  I Lost Canyon $30
2004 Sonoma Coast Stage Gulch Vineyard Syrah
This syrah's complexity builds in layers, from scents of rose petal and lavender to smoky blue fruit. It's cool and spicy, to decant for roasted eggplant stuffed with spicy lamb. (W&S 6/06) Lost Canyon Winery, Oakland, CA
 

 
93  I McCrea $42
2003 Yakima Valley Amerique Syrah
Rich, smoky blueberry scents are backed up with lavishly oaked black fruit flavors in this seductive syrah, a generous dollop of mourvdre giving it a sauvage character. (W&S 10/05) McCrea Cellars, Rainier, WA
 

 
93  I Melville $36
2003 Santa Rita Hills Small Lot Collection Donna's Syrah
Dense with extract, this potent wine has musky, meaty, blueberry and raisin flavors. It's huge and dynamic, to open and pour with charcuterie. (W&S 10/05) Melville Winery, Lompoc, CA
 

 
93  I  Montemaggiore $32
2002 Dry Creek Valley Paolo's Vineyard Syrah
This wine shows its refinement with a violet perfume, fresh blueberry flavors and tannins as ferrous as an iron skillet. A lovely, expressive syrah, this needs several years in the cellar before serving with roast quail. (W&S 10/05) Montemaggiore Wines, Healdsburg, CA
 

 
93  I Peay $45
2003 Sonoma Coast Syrah
Deep blackberry flavors share equal intensity with the blast of spice in this far-coast syrah. The finish is long and dry, its pepper- and cocoa-scented tannins lasting. It will continue to expand with time. (W&S 6/06) Peay Vineyards, Annapolis, CA
 

 
93  I  Qupé $40
2003 Santa Maria Valley Bien Nacido Hillside Estate Syrah
This packs complex aromatics into a bright, lithe frame. Smoky spice and umami notes of mushrooms last, as do the tannins, all compact for now, set to grow more expansive with age. (W&S 6/06) Qupˇ Wine Cellars, Santa Maria, CA
 

 
93  I  Reininger $32
2003 Walla Walla Valley Syrah
Complex, rich and completely seductive, this supports generous fruit with a beautiful array of scents, from beef to dark blackberries. Its flavors bear out that black fruit, with a dense richness that gathers momentum for a lush, chewy finish. (W&S 6/06) Reininger, Walla Walla, WA/i>
 

 
93  I  Renard $35
2003 Sonoma Coast Peay Vineyard Syrah
This is a sophisticated syrah with tight, tea-scented tannins and an acidity that keeps it as fresh as the winds off the Pacific. For baby lamb chops grilled over grape vines. (W&S 6/06) Renard Wines, St. Helena, CA
 

 
93  I Truchard $28
2002 Carneros Napa Valley Syrah
Brawny, mountain-grown intensity translates to juicy roasted fruit flavor, as savory as French roast coffee and dried thyme. Drink 2008 to '12 with grilled baby lamb chops or cabrito. (W&S 2/06) Truchard Vineyards, Napa, CA
 

 
Zinfandel
95  I Chateau Potelle $53
2002 Napa Valley Mt. Veeder V.G.S. Zinfandel
V.G.S. is a wild zin with delicious mountain-grown berry intensity. And yet it's elegant, with long, earthy flavors of cherries and anise. Give this an hour or two in a decanter to get the full impact, or cellar until 2010. (W&S 10/05) Chateau Potelle, Napa, CA
 

 
95  I  Howell Mountain Vyds. $38
2003 Howell Mountain Black Sears Vineyard Zinfandel
Massive (it's 16 percent alcohol) while completely dry, this zin is exuberant, figgy and black with woodland berry notes and a muscular, tannic structure. Open this six to ten years from the vintage, with roast boar. (W&S 6/06)(W&S 4/06) Howell Mountain Vineyards, Rutherford, CA
 

 
94  I Roshambo $21
2002 Dry Creek Valley The Reverend Zinfandel
Remember Dry Creek Zin before the fashion for superripe wines? This is it: A claret, rather than a Port. It has a beautiful freshness, its delicate, bright red fruits in layers, a little flash in the finish. For osso buco or anything long-cooked, tomato-sauced and Italian. (W&S 10/05) Roshambo Winery, Healdsburg, CA
 

 
94  I  Storybook Mountain $38
2003 Napa Valley Eastern Exposures Zinfandel
Here's what zinfandel and California wine should be: simple, joyous and delicious. This is clean and fresh, savory and spicy, bright as red cherries. Decant it and the flavors become expansive, and great with rack of lamb. (W&S 10/05) (W&S 6/06) Storybook Mountain Vineyards, Calistoga, CA
 

 
93  I Calistoga Cellars $26
2003 Napa Valley Zinfandel
An extraordinarily vibrant purple robes this wine while oak enriches it, turning the plum and strawberry flavors toward a silken elegance. That texture takes the wine beyond what's typical of zin, into the class of a great Napa Valley red. (W&S 6/06) Calistoga Cellars, Calistoga, CA
 

 
93  I  Chateau Potelle $55
2003 Napa Valley Mt. Veeder V.G.S. Zinfandel
Ripe, dark berry mountain fruit meets smoky, rocky mountain tannins, the wine firm, fresh and youthfully tense. The herbal edges of the tannins will work with a mutton stew (give the wine lots of air); the structure is balanced for long-term aging. (W&S 6/06) Chateau Potelle, Napa, CA
 

 
93  I  Howell Mountain Vyds. $26
2005 Dry Creek Valley Sauvignon Blanc
This zin is all animal and huckleberry at first. It gains clarity and richness with air, maintaining that sauvage character with wild berry flavor. Deliciously pure, lovely zin. (W&S 4/06) Howell Mountain Vineyards, Rutherford, CA
 

 
93  I Rancho Zabaco $50
2003 Sonoma Valley Toreador Monte Rosso Vineyard Zinfandel
This classic zin tastes of fresh berries, blueberries, chocolate mint and sassafras. Beautifully formed, it captures the freshness of the variety without any pretensions. Drink it now with a roast chicken, or wait until 2012, when it should be fully mature. (W&S 10/05) Zabaco Vintners, Healdsburg, CA
 

 
92  I D-Cubed $37
2003 Howell Mountain Napa Valley Zinfandel
The voluptuous richness of this zin becomes brighter and more succulent with air. It'd be delicious with marrow bones or a braised pork shoulder. (W&S 6/06) D-Cubed Cellars, St. Helena, CA
 

 
92  I  Dutton Goldfield $40
2004 Russian River Valley Dutton Ranch Morelli Lane Vineyard Zinfandel
Dry-farmed zinfandel vines give this wine a cool coastal character along with ripe red berry flavor. It's sleek and refined. (W&S 6/06) Dutton Goldfield Winery, Sebastopol, CA
 

 
92  I  Green & Red $25
2003 Napa Valley Chiles Mill Vineyard Zinfandel
Here's the kind of red wine Napa grew before cabernet became chic: rustic and austere, with chalky tannins and raisined fruit that grows fresher with air. Decant it for ravioli stuffed with braised beef cheeks. (W&S 6/06) Green & Red Vineyard, St Helena, CA
 

 
92  I  Quivira $30
2003 Dry Creek Valley Anderson Ranch Zinfandel
Sleek and luscious, this layers lasting floral notes over fresh blackberry fruit. A robust black beauty for southern Italian fare, especially bucatini all'amatriciana. (W&S 6/06) Quivira Vineyards, Healdsburg, CA
 

 
92  I  Ridge $33
2004 Dry Creek Valley Lytton Springs Zinfandel
An unusual vintage of Lytton Springs, this has a distinctive coolness to the fruit. Peppery and purely zin, it would be delicious with the teriyaki ribs at Oolah in San Francisco. (W&S 6/06) Ridge Vineyards, Cupertino, CA
 

 
92  I  St. Francis $18
2002 Sonoma County Old Vines Zinfandel
Exuberant ripe raspberry and blueberry flavors last, along with tannins that have a baking spice character. Decant a bottle for grilled portobello mushrooms. (W&S 10/05) St. Francis Winery & Vineyard, Kenwood, CA
 

 
92  I XYZin $30
2004 Alexander Valley 50 Year Old Vines Zinfandel
Wild raspberry flavors leave a cool, lasting freshness after a taste of this old-vine zin. It's presented in an elegant claret style, touching on herbs and game. For flank steak. (W&S 6/06) XYZin Winery, Geyserville, CA