Focus on US Syrah & Rhône Varieties – Wine & Spirits Magazine

Focus on US Syrah & Rhône Varieties


BEST BUYS

94 | Lava Cap | $25

2017 El Dorado Syrah (Best Buy)

Exotic and spicy when first poured, there’s a cardamom, curry, mole savor in its complex aroma, delivered with an inky intensity. The flavors are dark and spicy clove, leather, new suede, even a bit of animal fur, with fine-grained tannins that keep the wine on point and play up all that feral energy. It will take on a range of foods, from squid ink pasta to butter chicken. —P.J.C. (500 cases) 


94 | Balletto | $36

2017 Russian River Valley BCD Syrah (Best Buy)

A floral syrah with the fresh scent of sorrel and dark woodland berries, this wine has an intriguing combination of tension and openness. The power and intensity of its flavors come through with lovely textural grace, sexy and delicious. —J.G. (643 cases) 


93 | Lava Cap | $25

2018 El Dorado Grenache (Best Buy)

Bright, tense and concentrated, this wine reflects the sunny altitudes of the Western Sierra and the devigorating tension of volcanic soils. The flavors are all red cherry and strawberry, concentrated, but lifted by a lively acidity and a powdery, dusty mineral grip that keeps it assertive and forward. —P.J.C. (450 cases) 


93 | J. Lohr | $30

2019 Adelaida District Gesture GSM (Best Buy)

Dusty and red fruited, there’s an exuberant sunniness to this Rhône-variety blend—73 percent grenache, 24 percent syrah and 3 percent mourvedre. The grenache takes it in a bright, delicious direction, as generous as sun-warmed cherries. The flavors are juicy, fleshy cherry and a touch of brambly raspberry—and a lot of wine for $30. —P.J.C. 


93 | Madrona | $30

2019 El Dorado Syrah (Best Buy)

This posh syrah turns dark and savory with air, by turns blackberry and carob. It opens into a dusty, plummy, sleek summation of syrah from a warm place, enveloping and dark. —P.J.C. (108 cases) 


93 | Drew | $32

2018 Mendocino Ridge The Field Blend (Best Buy)

Jason Drew farms two vineyards in the hills above the Pacific, Perli, which makes up 65 percent of this blend, and Valenti Ranch. He focuses it on syrah (85 percent), mostly as whole clusters, spontaneously fermented with mourvedre, grenache and viognier. There’s some initial reduction—combined with its provenance—that brings a low-tide scent when it’s first poured. As the aroma and flavors open with air, that oceanic note adds complexity to rose-scented fruit, thorny with the peppercorn prick of acidity. Cool, tense and lasting, this is a refreshing red for cioppino or the saffron notes of a seafood paella. —J.G. (164 cases) 


93 | Thirty-Seven | $32

2019 Petaluma Gap Grenache (Best Buy)

The last two vintages for Thirty-Seven’s syrah each earned 92 points and this grenache from 2019 bests them on release with its fresh red cherry flavors. Shane Finley makes it from the Paradise Estate Vineyard, at the southeastern edge of the Petaluma Gap, close to the bay and just north of the border with Marin. The grenache block faces west, into the wind, where the fruit develops thick skins, their tannins left to mellow in large-format oak barrels. A zesty red, it carries the coolness of the Pacific breeze in its brisk feel. There’s a light bitterness in the tannins to offset the sweetness of the fruit, lasting on black cherry fragrance and ocean air. —J.G. (80 cases) 


92 | Terre Rouge | $25

2018 California Les Cotes de l'Ouest Syrah (Best Buy)

Les Côtes de l’Ouest gets its name from the origin of its fruit, west of the Sierra Foothills, between Amador County and the Mokulumne River. It’s dark and a little funky when first poured, with tightly packed aromas of bacon fat, blackberry and sweat. The flavors are full-throated but balanced, with clove, mace and olive scents guiding the wine toward an attractive savor. —P.J.C. (4,250 cases) 


92 | Zaca Mesa | $25

2017 Santa Ynez Valley Z Cuvée Rhone Style Red Blend (Best Buy)

Age has mellowed this blend of grenache, syrah, mourvedre and cinsaut into a lush, burnished richness, layering scents of anise, black pepper, root beer and black cherry. Its flavors are generous but dusted with chaparral-scented tannins that gives the wine its grip and its frame. —P.J.C. (3,581 cases) 


92 | Hearst Ranch | $25

2020 Paso Robles Three Sisters Cuvee (Best Buy)

A blend of viognier, grenache blanc and roussanne, this is aged in stainless steel and neutral wood. It leads with scents of apple and grapefruit, with a whiff of pekoe tea, ginger and orange oil, more ethereal than powerful, a wine that smells rich but comes off lean and dry, surprisingly harmonious and very delicious. —P.J.C. (611 cases) 


92 | Tablas Creek | $25

2020 Adelaida District Patelin de Tablas Blanc (Best Buy)

This wine blends grenache blanc (40 percent) with viognier, roussanne, marsanne and clairette; emphasizing scents of white flowers and pulpy white-fleshed fruits like pear and golden apple. The flavors are generous, adding melon, a lemon-cream highlight and tart phenolics that give way to a honeycomb finish. Delicious with miso-glazed cod. —P.J.C. 


91 | Tooth & Nail | $29

2020 Santa Barbara County Destinata Syrah

This wine is bright and high-toned, with mocha, black tea and nutmeg scents overlaying dark olive and blackberry flavors with a whole-cluster grip of tannin. —P.J.C. (240 cases) 


87 | Ryder | $15

2019 Central Coast Syrah (Best Buy)

Plummy and rich, this sappy syrah is full of spicy flavor and firm tannins, for barbecue. —P.J.C. (2,094 cases) 


93 | Quady North | $25

2019 Rogue Valley 4-2,A Syrah (Best Buy)

Generous and warm, this is a wine for those who like their syrah savory. It leads with a wisp of smoke and deeper tones of berries, hints of baking spice and olive, suggesting restraint. Instead, its flavors are lush, round, and pleasingly weighty without being overtly rich, the savory tannins providing counterpoint and structure, in search of something gamey off the grill, like quail. —P.J.C. (800 cases) 


91 | Franchere | $28

2018 Willamette Valley Havlin Vineyard Syrah (Best Buy)

Havlin Vineyard, in the Willamette’s Van Duzer Corridor, would seem too cool for syrah, and this wine reflects that coolness. It smells of a Chinese spice shop, exotic hoisin spices along with anise, forest floor, black vinegar and plum. The flavors are all umami rather than fruit, a dark syrah for squid ink pasta. —P.J.C. (47 cases) 


90 | Quady North | $25

2019 Rogue Valley GSM (Best Buy)

Blending 44 percent grenache with syrah and mourvedre, this is dark and spicy, showing a lot of clove, nutmeg and allspice. It’s got a plump roundness that’s pleasing, with potpourri herbs and plums. For Moroccan kebabs. —P.J.C. (200 cases) 


93 | L'Ecole No 41 | $37

2019 Walla Walla Valley Seven Hills Vineyard Syrah (Best Buy)

Once this syrah sheds its reductive cloak, it shows off the red-fruit warmth and dusty expressiveness of one of Walla Walla’s most esteemed vineyard sites. It’s surprisingly floral, leading with scents of black tea and lavender, giving way to a compact blackberry core of flavor, limned by tobacco and caramelly oak. The wine’s compactness and concentration suggest a long life in the cellar. —P.J.C. (1,030 cases) 


92 | Boomtown | $19

2019 Columbia Valley Syrah (Best Buy)

Dark and plummy, with a youthful vibrancy and modest peppery bite, this wine isn’t so much powerful as focused with deep juicy flavors, good concentration and light tannins. It’s not complex, but it’s thoroughly satisfying—nothing fancy here—well-made, well-priced juice, delicious and straight-ahead for ribs. —P.J.C. (2,397 cases) 


92 | Saviah | $32

2019 Walla Walla Valley Syrah (Best Buy)

A blend of estate-grown and purchased fruit, this is lighter and a bit more attenuated than its big brothers (the Reserve and the Funk). The aromas are herbal, with thyme and rosemary adorning darker carob and mocha. The flavors are dark and milk-chocolate sweet, a bit louche, but with firm herb-tinged tannins to frame those flavors well. —P.J.C. (547 cases) 


91 | Tenet | $25

2018 Columbia Valley The Pundit Syrah (Best Buy)

Tenet is a joint venture between Ste. Michelle Wine Estates and the late Phillippe Cambie, offering a warm red with scents of carob and olive, a dusting of cinnamon and blue, briary fruit. The flavors are as rich as tapenade, with dark figgy fruit and luscious soft tannins. Irresistible, for ribs. —P.J.C. 


90 | Columbia Crest | $12

2018 Columbia Valley Syrah

A steal of a syrah, this doesn’t skimp on dark plummy fruit and oak: The glass seems filled with a smoky savor. Pour early and often for barbecue. —P.J.C. 


90 | L'Ecole No 41 | $22

2019 Columbia Valley Frenchtown (Best Buy)

L’Ecole’s well-priced blend is about half merlot, the remainder a combination of Bordeaux and Rhône varieties. It leads with black-cherry and tar scents, along with a firm note of leather and oak. The flavors are juicy and lively—a lightly structured red for barbecue. —P.J.C. 


90 | Nine Hats | $25

2017 Columbia Valley Syrah (Best Buy)

Floral scents of potpourri and cedar line a dark-cherry core of flavors, the wine focused and lean, with hunger-inducing acidity for skirt steak. —P.J.C. (211 cases) 


88 | Airfield | $18

2019 Yakima Valley Syrah (Best Buy)

Cool and dark, with scents of black fig and mocha, this meaty red has dark berry flavors and olive-scented tannins; well-priced for midweek stews. —P.J.C. (1,326 cases) 


93 | Lava Cap | $25

2018 El Dorado Grenache (Best Buy)

Bright, tense and concentrated, this wine reflects the sunny altitudes of the Western Sierra and the devigorating tension of volcanic soils. The flavors are all red cherry and strawberry, concentrated, but lifted by a lively acidity and a powdery, dusty mineral grip that keeps it assertive and forward. —P.J.C. (450 cases) 

GRENACHE

93 | Le Casque | $30

2019 Sierra Foothills Grenache

This wine’s appealing flavors and alluring, easy texture suggests grenache is a natural in the Sierra Foothills. The scent of cloves, nutmeg and pepper overlays bright red-berry fruit, leading into a juicy and bright, soft and approachable red. In the end, it gathers into floral, rosy tannins, the wine gentle and effortless. —P.J.C. (160 cases) 


93 | Thirty-Seven | $32

2019 Petaluma Gap Grenache (Best Buy)

The last two vintages for Thirty-Seven’s syrah each earned 92 points and this grenache from 2019 bests them on release with its fresh red cherry flavors. Shane Finley makes it from the Paradise Estate Vineyard, at the southeastern edge of the Petaluma Gap, close to the bay and just north of the border with Marin. The grenache block faces west, into the wind, where the fruit develops thick skins, their tannins left to mellow in large-format oak barrels. A zesty red, it carries the coolness of the Pacific breeze in its brisk feel. There’s a light bitterness in the tannins to offset the sweetness of the fruit, lasting on black cherry fragrance and ocean air. —J.G. (80 cases) 


91 | Tablas Creek | $30

2020 Adelaida District Grenache Blanc

Scents of preserved lemon and apple give way to a lemony attack, then the rich apple flavors are broad, reined in by a saline, mineral finish. This would be a fine pairing with scallops seared at high heat. —P.J.C. 


91 | Quady North | $25

2019 Rogue Valley Bomba Grenache (Best Buy)

Herb Quady’s grenache is slow to rouse, but when it does it feels ripe and sumptuous, smoky and large, with scents of blueberry and leather, and fruit flavors that are impressively rich. Well-priced for grilled pork loin. —P.J.C. (200 cases) 


90 | Long Walk | $28

2019 Rogue Valley Grenache

A sweet-and-sour grenache with impressive concentration and weight, this is red fruited and assertive, with an insistent, rustic mouthfeel that’s hunger inducing for something full flavored, like a lamb tagine. —P.J.C. (70 cases) 


92 | Gramercy Cellars | $36

2018 The Third Man Grenache

This is grenache (75 percent), syrah and mourvedre, all from Olsen Vineyard, a high-elevation site with plantings going back to 1980. The wine is bright and brambly, its flavors of wild strawberry and clove last with a comfortable feel and earthy depth. —P.J.C. 


92 | Sleight of Hand | $55

2019 Yakima Valley The Scorceress Grenache

Bright as a cordial when first poured, this leads with a candied fruit core of flavor grounding more baking spice, cinnamon, mace and a whiff of potpourri. A savory whole-cluster spice propels the fruit to bright, lifted heights, while the structure holds a tannic grip for skirt steak. —P.J.C. (200 cases) 


90 | Airfield | $40

2019 Yakima Valley Grenache

This wine leads with a smoky, cool spice note, giving way to a sweet core of red-plum flavors and scents of fresh-cut herbs. It’s forward, but pleasingly light on its feet, for barbecue. —P.J.C. (99 cases) 


90 | Longship | $38

2018 Yakima Valley Pet Cheetah Grenache

Bright and lifted, with scents of cranberry and pomegranate, this is surprisingly plush in its texture, with dark-cherry fruit and earthy acidity. A Thanksgiving wine, or one to pair anytime with turkey. —P.J.C. (124 cases) 

CALIFORNIA: CENTRAL COAST SYRAH

95 | Melville | $40

2019 Sta. Rita Hills Estate Syrah

Chad Melville’s estate-grown syrah leans on the Estrella River clone, a selection that’s late to bloom and late to ripen—it is typically harvested in November, the whole clusters submitted to a cold soak, native fermentation, and aging in neutral barrels. It’s low-intervention winemaking with a stunning result: The wildly exotic aromatics bring lavender, violets, plum, smoked tea, olive and, above all, pepper, like walking under a pepper tree on a warm afternoon as the fruit nears peak ripeness. The flavors are exotic, lush and herbal at once, delivered with a creamy midpalate and fine leafy tannins, elegant and long. It’s drinking beautifully now and would be a wonder to follow as it ages. —P.J.C. (2255 cases) 


93 | Optik | $50

2019 Santa Maria Valley Block No 49A Bien Nacido Vineyard Syrah

This brand is a partnership between Joey Tensley and the Miller family of Bien Nacido Vineyard, their goal to provide perspectives on discreet parts of Santa Maria’s most iconic vineyard. So, here is syrah from Block 49A, a south-facing hillside planted to clone 407 in 2008. The wine is dark and sultry in its scents of clove and olive, caramel, mocha, licorice and plum. For all the sumptuous flavors, there’s an irresistible textural elegance here, the tannins fine and savory, with acidity adding impressive drive. —P.J.C. (144 cases) 


93 | SAMsARA | $52

2019 Sta. Rita Hills Zotovich Vineyards Syrah

While Matt Brady makes a wide range of syrahs, he excels in cooler-site expressions, like this one from Zotovich Vineyard, a sandlot on Highway 146 in direct line to the ocean and its winds. This smells peppery, in the pink peppercorn and Sichuan range. The carob and raspberry-scented fruit is blue-black and a touch sanguine, for something bloody off the grill, like lamb shoulder. —P.J.C. (128 cases) 


92 | Ex Post Facto | $36

2019 Santa Barbara County Syrah

A side project from Greg Brewer of Brewer-Clifton wines, this brings out the funk from Santa Barbara vines. Its dark concentration yields with scents of thyme, ash, olive and cheese rind over blackberries. The brushy herbal notes provide a savory backdrop to a wine that’s packed with flavor, for ribs. —P.J.C. (1,009 cases) 


92 | Optik | $50

2019 Santa Maria Valley Block No 11D1 Bien Nacido Vineyard Syrah

This is a warm section of the vineyard, planted to syrah clones 1 and 2. It is at once richer and less pliant than its counterpart from Block 49A, with a smoky note and cut tobacco scent to accompany crushed plum and mocha flavors. Those flavors are cleanly delivered, with a fine but firm weave of tannin for lamb. —P.J.C. (344 cases) 


92 | SAMsARA | $58

2019 Sta. Rita Hills John Sebastiano Vineyard Syrah

From a vineyard toward the eastern edge of the appellation, this wine has the ripeness of candied berries, fragrant and dark, with blackberry flavor that’s limned by a cardamom-scented edge. It’s ripe but firm, reined in by a sanguine, gamey savor. —P.J.C. (85 cases) 

CALIFORNIA:
MENDOCINO COUNTY SYRAH

96 | Drew | $55

2018 Mendocino Ridge Perli Vineyard Syrah

Currently, both the 2018 and 2019 single-site syrahs from Drew are in the market, and it is fascinating to enjoy them side by side. We tasted the Valenti Ranch and the Perli from both vintages, and they continued to change and develop over the course of a week, each rising to its own cresting wave of flavor at a different point in time. In the end, the Perli 2018 sustained that rise the longest, bringing an edge of refinement to syrah from forested hills above Mendocino’s Pacific coast. What’s exciting about this wine is how it sings so clearly of that place with a voice that could only be syrah, a marriage of variety and site that strikes a joyous chord. And I don’t mean that poetically: The wine vibrates with energy, as if the fruit is vocalized directly out of the acidity, a cool crush of forest berries along with scents of conifer and forest mushrooms. My notes for this wine centered on the plump feel of the fruit in the context of a low pH. The 2019, picked at lower Brix with a lower pH, is more extreme, and, perhaps, this 2018 benefits from an additional year in bottle, calming into subtle complexities. —J.G. (51 cases) 


94 | Copain | $60

2017 Yorkville Highlands Hawks Butte Syrah

Wells Guthrie has been working with Yorkville Highlands fruit sources for more than a decade, and has passed his confident hand onto Ryan Zepaltas, who’s made the wines since 2017. This wine is dark with leathery reduction when first poured, becoming more floral with air. The flavors of plum and carob are dark and brooding, but the texture is impossibly seductive, fine and silky, invigorating in its juicy succulence, the tannins so silky they feel almost cool to the touch. —P.J.C. (200 cases) 


94 | Drew | $55

2019 Mendocino Ridge Valenti Ranch Syrah

Though Jason Drew picked his 2019 nearly two weeks earlier than his ’18s, as they had already achieved phenolic ripeness. Even so, he found the wines from Valenti are closer in alcohol level and pH than at Perli. In 2019, he emphasized the Chave selection of syrah over the Durell, both planted at the site. The early harvest makes this an especially bright Valenti syrah, a little puppy-dog-like in its exuberant energy. If you are sensitive to high acidity, leave this wine for a few years in the cellar to calm down. “It feels like it sparkles on your tongue because of the acidity,” said Berkshire chef Amy Loveless. As it opens, that acid bath gives way to cherry-leaf scents, cracked peppercorn spice and a lovely richness of fruit. Three days later, it has the crunch of a bursting red cherry, the savor of a chanterelle and the fresh oceanic scent as if infused by the Pacific. —J.G. (98 cases) 


94 | Drew | $55

2019 Mendocino Ridge Perli Vineyard Syrah

Jason Drew presents the 2019 Perli with mature phenolics at lower sugar levels and a lower pH than his 2018, the fruit having ripened two weeks earlier. It’s a Wild West wine, the fruit pungent with floral raspberry and cranberry fruit depths under the brisk fragrance of roses and conifers. Drew considers this something of an experiment, and he and I both agree it is a successful one. I want a case of this in my cellar to lift my mood whenever I need a little jolt of enthusiasm. —J.G. (48 cases) 


95 | Terre Rouge | $100

2018 Sierra Foothills Ascent Syrah

If the Sierra Foothills have an icon wine, Bill Easton’s Ascent may be it. The fruit of multiple high-elevation vineyards, this aged for two years in new French oak barrels, offering an assemblage par excellence, as finely crafted and deliberate as any in Easton’s repertoire. The 2018 leads with exotic scents of cedar, pine tips, olive, pepper and smoke, and the scents expand as the wine opens to cardamom, tobacco and mace. It’s fantastically pleasurable on the palate, composed, texturally seamless, relatively quiet, impossibly elegant and balanced. A tour de force, this is ready for something braised, like lamb shoulder. —P.J.C. (200 cases) 


94 | Lava Cap | $25

2017 El Dorado Syrah (Best Buy)

Exotic and spicy when first poured, there’s a cardamom, curry, mole savor in its complex aroma, delivered with an inky intensity. The flavors are dark and spicy clove, leather, new suede, even a bit of animal fur, with fine-grained tannins that keep the wine on point and play up all that feral energy. It will take on a range of foods, from squid ink pasta to butter chicken. —P.J.C. (500 cases) 


94 | Terre Rouge | $45

2018 Sierra Foothills High Slopes Syrah

All of the fruit for this syrah grows above 3,000 feet in elevation, where the cool nights lock in dramatic acidity to point up this wine’s sunny intensity. It leads with scents of smoke and grilled fig, a warm liquid spiciness reminiscent of Italian amaro. The flavors are equally warm and burnished, macerated plum and fig, the wine’s sappy depths give it an easy, sensuous and natural feel, with ferrous tannins that will take on a steak. —P.J.C. (200 cases) 


93 | Madrona | $30

2019 El Dorado Syrah (Best Buy)

This posh syrah turns dark and savory with air, by turns blackberry and carob. It opens into a dusty, plummy, sleek summation of syrah from a warm place, enveloping and dark. —P.J.C. (108 cases) 

CALIFORNIA:
SONOMA COUNTY SYRAH

95 | Dutton-Goldfield | $50

2016 Russian River Valley Dutton Ranch Cherry Ridge Vineyard Syrah

This grows on three acres of syrah at the top of a south-facing ridge, where the vines ripen their fruit in an otherwise cool spot for the variety—in western Green Valley, above the northern reaches of the Petaluma Gap. It was the last fruit Dan Goldfield harvested in 2016, which he then destemmed and left for a five-day cold soak before fermenting it in small open-top vats. Over the course of 23 months in oak barrels (40 percent new), the wine developed layers of darkness and light—the cool feel of a coastal forest (think Armstrong Woods). For now, it has the fragrant restraint and tension of a far-coast pinot noir, with a deeper syrah tone to its damson plum fruit. That inner tension will sustain its freshness as the wine develops with age. —J.G. (599 cases) 


94 | Balletto | $36

2017 Russian River Valley BCD Syrah (Best Buy)

A floral syrah with the fresh scent of sorrel and dark woodland berries, this wine has an intriguing combination of tension and openness. The power and intensity of its flavors come through with lovely textural grace, sexy and delicious. —J.G. (643 cases) 


93 | MacLaren | $52

2018 Russian River Valley Atoosa's Vineyard Syrah

Focused on cool-climate syrah, Steve Law seeks out foggy sites like Atoosa’s, west of Santa Rosa, consistently the last vineyard he harvests. In 2018, it delivered a bright, sunny syrah long on peppercorn spice. The fruit is tart and clean, layering choke cherry and cranberry scents over blackcurrant juiciness. The contrast of bright, airy fruit and darker tones of rosemary leaves a good taste in your mouth, especially if there’s grilled lamb with lentils on the menu. —J.G. (220 cases) 


92 | Covenant | $45

2019 Bennett Valley Landsman Syrah

The Landsman wines are part of a wine club at Covenant, the kosher-wine producer Jeff Morgan and Leslie Rudd founded in 2003. It’s a full and generous syrah that holds to crisp lines, even as the oak and crush of earth create a landslide of flavor. Notes of espresso and sweet orange show its ripeness. For brisket. —J.G. (215 cases) 


92 | MacLaren | $52

2018 Russian River Valley Greywacke Vineyard Syrah

Planted at the top of Black Mountain, facing east, this vineyard is named for its soil, a sedimentary mix of rock and sand more prevalent on the South Island of New Zealand than in California. It’s planted to an Alban field selection of syrah, producing a sleek red that starts out all cracked black pepper, then opens to crunchy pomegranate. With several days of air, it grows plump and suave, suggesting you should decant it several hours before dinner. —J.G. (146 cases) 


92 | MacLaren | $52

2018 Russian River Valley Timbervine Ranch Vineyard Syrah

Timbervine is a steep parcel on the west side of Black Mountain, surrounded by redwood forest. The syrah it grows sustains freshness over the course of several days, combining the wildflower scents of bee pollen with deep black cherry flavors. Oak contributes a dark-roast-coffee note, but it doesn’t get in the way of the fruit clarity, taming the wine’s wildness and making it easy to love. —J.G. (176 cases) 


92 | Radio-Coteau | $68

2018 Sonoma Coast Dusty Lane Syrah

John Dierke farms the property his grandfather purchased in 1947 along Furlong Road on Sonoma’s far coast, where the hills include forests and salmon creeks as well as a south-facing parcel of syrah, certified organic. Eric Sussman captures the floral aspects of that fruit along with the dynamic mineral spice in this tightly focused red. The spice lasts as cracked green peppercorn notes, the texture soft and cushioned, even as the dark, pungent wine needs several years to fully open. —J.G. (150 cases) 

OREGON SYRAH

93 | Quady North | $25

2019 Rogue Valley 4-2,A Syrah (Best Buy)

Generous and warm, this is a wine for those who like their syrah savory. It leads with a wisp of smoke and deeper tones of berries, hints of baking spice and olive, suggesting restraint. Instead, its flavors are lush, round, and pleasingly weighty without being overtly rich, the savory tannins providing counterpoint and structure, in search of something gamey off the grill, like quail. —P.J.C. (800 cases) 


92 | Del Rio | $35

2018 Rogue Valley Syrah

Del Rio Vineyard has a way with syrah, consistently getting the grapes to full ripeness while the wine retains a cool feel in the glass. This one starts out burly and, with air, settles into dark fruits and lean contours, smelling of smoke, fig and carob, with a texture that’s suave, dry and elegant. For lamb. —P.J.C. (475 cases) 


91 | Franchere | $28

2018 Willamette Valley Havlin Vineyard Syrah (Best Buy)

Havlin Vineyard, in the Willamette’s Van Duzer Corridor, would seem too cool for syrah, and this wine reflects that coolness. It smells of a Chinese spice shop, exotic hoisin spices along with anise, forest floor, black vinegar and plum. The flavors are all umami rather than fruit, a dark syrah for squid ink pasta. —P.J.C. (47 cases) 

WASHINGTON SYRAH

95 | Gargantua | $50

2017 Washington Syrah

Gargantua is the syrah project of Josh Bergstrom, offering wines from several locales in California, Oregon, and Washington State, sometimes blending them together. We tasted two vintages of this Washington bottling, all of it from Les Collines Vineyard, channeling the exotic, feral, spicy savor of that place. Gargantua the younger is a bit spicier than the ’16 (below), but the spice is exotic as hell, licorice, olive, espresso, pine—one taster blurted out “Fernet Branca.” Sure, why not? The wine’s texture, its quiet, mulled intensity of flavor and warmth in a cool place brings to mind Côte-Rôtie. —P.J.C. (236 cases) 


94 | Gargantua | $50

2016 Washington Syrah

The ’16 Gargantua, also from Les Collines Vineyard, is less demonstrative in its aromatics than the ’17, its scent tending toward mulled spices, pepper and smoke, slightly gamey, dark and sanguine. With air the wine goes toward cardamom and nutmeg, warm and inviting, with a silky, velvety texture that’s fine, firm and seductive. It’s drinking well now, for lamb. —P.J.C. 


93 | Gargantua | $25

2019 American Pantagruel Syrah

A blend of fruit from vineyards in Washington, Oregon and California, this starts off smoky with reduction, a touch meaty, a touch floral, dark-fruited—many things from many places. It’s remarkable how harmonious it tastes, and feels, the texture seductive and seamless, but with a grainy sweetness that feels velvety and composed. —P.J.C. (288 cases) 


93 | Gramercy Cellars | $65

2018 Columbia Valley Lagniappe Syrah

Lagniappe has been exclusively sourced from Red Willow Vineyard since 2012, where Greg Harrington and Brandon Moss draw from old and young blocks. This vintage really nails the cool savory essence of that site in a wine with scents of Earl Grey tea, Kalamata olives, fig cake and leather. Its texture is quietly composed, giving it a thrilling Old World feel, as if the slopes of Hermitage were warmed by Washington sun. —P.J.C. (593 cases) 


92 | Boomtown | $19

2019 Columbia Valley Syrah (Best Buy)

Dark and plummy, with a youthful vibrancy and modest peppery bite, this wine isn’t so much powerful as focused with deep juicy flavors, good concentration and light tannins. It’s not complex, but it’s thoroughly satisfying—nothing fancy here—well-made, well-priced juice, delicious and straight-ahead for ribs. —P.J.C. (2,397 cases) 


92 | Longship | $36

2019 Horse Heaven Hills Ginger Man Phinny Hill Vineyard Syrah

Phinny Hill lies a stone’s throw from Champoux Vineyard in the Horse Heaven Hills, slightly higher in elevation and a little windier. Both elements seem to favor syrah, as evidenced by this wine, fully ripe and yet full of windswept aromatics—pepper, graphite, a hint of lavender—all in the service of luscious plum fruit. It’s generous and loose limbed, with a hunger- inducing peppery finish. For something smoked, like brisket. —P.J.C. (98 cases) 

WALLA WALLA VALLEY SYRAH

95 | Gramercy Cellars | $60

2018 Walla Walla Valley Les Collines Vineyard Syrah

Greg Harrington has an affinity for the middle blocks at Les Collines and, in 2018, he seems to have reached an extra level of refinement and composure in this wine. Its aromas are haunting, a fine mélange of pine, mint, violets, cocoa and mulled spices with fruit of impressive depth—cassis and blackberry. With exceptional precision and reserve, the tannins are fine and as cool as Cornas. It’s drinking beautifully in its youth, and will age with grace. —P.J.C. 


94 | Amavi | $65

2019 Walla Walla Valley Stone Valley Syrah

From a Rocks District vineyard established in 2002 by a team led by Norm McKibben, this sexy red is exotic, with scents of leather, black plum, olive, smoke, currant and dust. The texture is luxurious, warm and fleshy, with a set of earthy, savory flavors to offset the ripeness, a generous wine revealing complexities within. —P.J.C. (78 cases) 


94 | Gramercy Cellars | $85

2018 Walla Walla Valley John Lewis Syrah

As in most years, John Lewis is built for the future, packed with aromatic and structural elements that take days to unfurl. This 2018 is a brooding wine for now, all clove and sweet cassis, mocha and olive, with flavors moving forward as the wine opens. By day three the wine takes on a polished texture that feels natural and elegant. For the cellar. —P.J.C. (200 cases) 


94 | Saviah | $60

2019 Walla Walla Valley The Stones Speak Estate Syrah

From Rich Funk’s other Rocks District reds vineyard, this feels slightly more reserved and self-contained than its counterparts. Part of that is reduction, making the wine a dark peppery concoction at first pass; after two or three days, it unfurls hauntingly, revealing the exoticism of the Rocks couched in a pronounced mineral tang that organizes all of the woozy flavors. Quite a performance, for barbecue. —P.J.C. (249 cases) 


94 | Saviah | $70

2019 Walla Walla Valley The Funk Syrah

The Funk never fails to deliver. This year’s wine, from an estate vineyard in the Rocks District, is warm and lush, with exotic scents of olive, black plum, carob, mocha, smoke and roasted meat. All of this is delivered on the palate with a sumptuous attack of flavor, luxurious and fleshy, only to shore up with cocoa-scented tannins which are firm and grippy. —P.J.C. (234 cases) 


93 | Gramercy Cellars | $60

2018 Walla Walla Valley Forgotten Hills Vineyard Syrah

In the foothills of the Blue Mountains, Forgotten Hills is a cool site, which Greg Harrington pushes against by harvesting relatively early, producing a syrah with 13 percent alcohol. The wine is light, with a smoky, mildly herbal scent. The flavors are exotic and peppery, with carob and violet scents emerging after a day. Tense and firm, it has the bones to age. —P.J.C. (158 cases) 


93 | L'Ecole No 41 | $37

2019 Walla Walla Valley Seven Hills Vineyard Syrah (Best Buy)

Once this syrah sheds its reductive cloak, it shows off the red-fruit warmth and dusty expressiveness of one of Walla Walla’s most esteemed vineyard sites. It’s surprisingly floral, leading with scents of black tea and lavender, giving way to a compact blackberry core of flavor, limned by tobacco and caramelly oak. The wine’s compactness and concentration suggest a long life in the cellar. —P.J.C. (1,030 cases) 


93 | Maison Bleue | $50

2019 Walla Walla Valley Voyageur Syrah

Smoky and succulent, this is a posh, ripe red from Dwelley and Stone Valley vineyards, the latter planted in 2002 in the Rocks District. Framed by a smoky pine scent, the flavors almost seem over the top. A day later, they organize into a leaner and more contoured wine; what once seemed fleshy now is warm and generous. This suggests a long life; cellar. —P.J.C. (250 cases) 


93 | Prospice | $45

2019 Walla Walla Valley Les Collines Vineyard Syrah

Prospice’s first vintage from Les Collines hits it out of the park, bringing out the feral, funky, stony elegance that the site can provide. It leads with scents of soil and humus, a whiff of dark fruit skin, mildly bitter and mouthwatering, and a savor that lasts. —P.J.C. (98 cases) 


93 | Reininger | $56

2019 Walla Walla Valley Syrah

With scents of mocha and blackberry, black fig and baking spices, this feels as warm and inviting as Mexican chocolate, though its flavors run deeper, toward blackberry and an inky, spicy cassis, with tannins as fine as dust. Put it up against something subtly flavored, like pork tenderloin. —P.J.C. (290 cases) 


93 | Saviah | $50

2019 Walla Walla Valley Reserve Syrah

Rich Funk’s Reserve, from three estate vineyards, is more stylized than the vineyard designates reviewed here. It leads with sanguine scents of mocha and meat, carob and black plum, framed by a lavish complement of oak. The wine is showing plenty of richness and extraction. —P.J.C. (336 cases) 

CALIFORNIA MOURVEDRE

93 | Fine Disregard

2019 Contra Costa County Pato Vineyard Mourvedre

Herbal and red-berry scents emerge as this wine’s initial reduction blows off. It feels cool in aroma, in flavors and mouthfeel; the fruit has a blue tinge, with an herbaceous lavender note lining the flavors. With a day of air, it’s completely focused on freshness, the texture lithe and lean, leaning on the florals into a light tannic finish. —P.J.C. 


92 | Claire Hill

2019 Contra Costa County Del Barba Vineyard Mourvedre

Coming in at 12 percent alcohol, this wine is so briary, savory and red-fruited when first poured that it reminded one taster of a bourbon cocktail—a mourvedre Boulevardier. It opened up over the course of several days, the green notes mellowing into tobacco and sweet cherry, the crushed raspberry flavors lengthening and becoming juicy and lively. This needs cellar time, but is well worth the wait. —P.J.C. 


92 | Dirty & Rowdy

2019 Contra Costa County Evangelho Vineyard Mourvedre

The vibrating energy of this wine—bright strawberry, hints of spice and dried beef—may put you in the mourvedre headspace. It’s formidable and frisky, grippy and lively from the get go. And, in fact, it takes days to evolve, starting off floral, then brushy, then briary, then spicy, all in the service of ripe red strawberry. Delicious. —P.J.C 


91 | Erggelet Brothers

2018 Contra Costa County Del Barba Vineyard Mourvedre

This generous wine emphasizes ripeness its bright red fruit. It’s all cherry and cedar, almost grenache-like in its fruit richness, heady but not over the top, balanced and poised for brisket. —P.J.C. 


91 | Lava Cap | $35

El Dorado Mourvedre

This mourvedre is a multi-vintage wine: that is because, according to proprietor Emmett Jones, a family of bears makes a visit to the vineyard every year and gorges on the mourvedre block. You can see why the bears would like it—it makes a wine of brown sugar sweetness surrounding dark berry flavors, along with scents of anise, pepper and a bit of tobacco. For humans, it’s an ideal red for a cheese course. —P.J.C. (400 cases) 

WASHINGTON MOURVEDRE

91 | Prospice | $45

2019 Horse Heaven Hills Alder Ridge Vineyard Mourvedre

From an early planting of mourvedre on Alder Ridge, this stylish red is aromatic and bright, with scents of pepper, anise, leather and wild strawberries. The flavors are simple and pure, with a welcome tension balancing off the fruit concentration. A good foil for spicy sausages. —P.J.C. (99 cases) 

CALIFORNIA:
CENTRAL COAST RHONE BLENDS

94 | Alma Rosa | $85

2019 Sta. Rita Hills Attente Rhone Style Red Blend

Half grenache, half syrah, this first release from estate-grown fruit presents both varieties at full, luxurious ripeness—achieved in the cool Sta. Rita Hills without sacrificing aromatic complexity. The wine is exotically smoky at the outset, with scents of bacon and gingerbread, clove, mace, black plum and mocha. The flavors live in a parallel savory realm, gingerbread and black plum, their mass and succulence buoyed by vibrant acidities, with enough grip to take on tri-tip. —P.J.C. (60 cases) 


93 | J. Lohr | $30

2019 Adelaida District Gesture GSM (Best Buy)

Dusty and red fruited, there’s an exuberant sunniness to this Rhône-variety blend—73 percent grenache, 24 percent syrah and 3 percent mourvedre. The grenache takes it in a bright, delicious direction, as generous as sun-warmed cherries. The flavors are juicy, fleshy cherry and a touch of brambly raspberry—and a lot of wine for $30. —P.J.C. 


92 | Hearst Ranch | $25

2020 Paso Robles Three Sisters Cuvee (Best Buy)

A blend of viognier, grenache blanc and roussanne, this is aged in stainless steel and neutral wood. It leads with scents of apple and grapefruit, with a whiff of pekoe tea, ginger and orange oil, more ethereal than powerful, a wine that smells rich but comes off lean and dry, surprisingly harmonious and very delicious. —P.J.C. (611 cases) 


92 | Hearst Ranch | $49

2019 Paso Robles GSM

This GSM blend is dark and savory, with scents of Sachertorte and black cherry. A claylike earthiness leavens the richness while caramelly flavors frame a dark raspberry core of flavor. The fine, silky tannins place it with tri-tip. —P.J.C. (500 cases) 


92 | SAMsARA | $48

2019 Santa Barbara County Cuvee d'Inspiration Rhone Style Red Blend

This blend starts off all woozy and purple, stewed plums and sea air. But once its reduction blows off the wine’s aromatics bloom into scents of pepper, olive, kelp and dried herbs—with a brightness that reminded one taster of Campari. The flavors pop as the wine opens toward plum and raspberry, framed by savory, olive-scented tannins. A grand performance for lamb. —P.J.C. (235 cases) 


92 | Tablas Creek | $60

2019 Adelaida District Esprit de Tablas

Esprit de Tablas in 2019 blends about 40 percent mourvedre with grenache, syrah and counoise. It’s plush and lively, plainly in the red spectrum of fruit, with a zin-like directness and an earthy, leathery grip of tannin. Somewhat closed, it feels coiled up, with the stuff to age, or to pour with pork. —P.J.C. 


92 | Zaca Mesa | $25

2017 Santa Ynez Valley Z Cuvée Rhone Style Red Blend (Best Buy)

Age has mellowed this blend of grenache, syrah, mourvedre and cinsaut into a lush, burnished richness, layering scents of anise, black pepper, root beer and black cherry. Its flavors are generous but dusted with chaparral-scented tannins that gives the wine its grip and its frame. —P.J.C. (3,581 cases) 

CALIFORNIA:
NORTH COAST RHONE BLENDS

93 | Drew | $32

2018 Mendocino Ridge The Field Blend (Best Buy)

Jason Drew farms two vineyards in the hills above the Pacific, Perli, which makes up 65 percent of this blend, and Valenti Ranch. He focuses it on syrah (85 percent), mostly as whole clusters, spontaneously fermented with mourvedre, grenache and viognier. There’s some initial reduction—combined with its provenance—that brings a low-tide scent when it’s first poured. As the aroma and flavors open with air, that oceanic note adds complexity to rose-scented fruit, thorny with the peppercorn prick of acidity. Cool, tense and lasting, this is a refreshing red for cioppino or the saffron notes of a seafood paella. —J.G. (164 cases) 


92 | Skylark | $30

2016 North Coast Las Aves

Robert Perkins, a painter, had worked crush at several artisanal wineries before partnering with SF-sommelier John Lancaster on this winemaking project. Half of this blend comes from two carignane parcels in Mendocino, one dating to the 1950s; the balance is cabernet sauvignon, syrah and grenache. This is remarkably bright for a five-year-old wine, with refreshing red fruit at its core. Carignane’s fruit-skin tannins set the boundaries right away, and the flavors ride within them. —J.G. 

CALIFORNIA:
SIERRA FOOTHILLS RHONE BLENDS

92 | Andis | $45

2019 Sierra Foothills Enor Rhone Style

Near equal parts grenache and syrah, with a little mourvedre, this is a wine of grounded exuberance: Its scent of crushed berries has slightly tarry contours, the wine smoky and brambly but not without fruit, generous but not pushed. —P.J.C. (350 cases) 


92 | Terre Rouge | $25

2020 Sierra Foothills Vin Gris d'Amador

This rosé includes 24 percent of white varieties—grenache blanc, roussanne and viognier—that play a forceful role in the wine’s lemon peel and rich apple scents. Its bright cherry flavors give structural solidity, while the wine gains charm and vibrancy from the white fruit. Together, it can hold up to a pastrami sandwich. —P.J.C. (600 cases) 

WASHINGTON RHONE BLENDS

93 | Dama | $40

2019 Columbia Valley GSM

Blending 46 percent grenache with syrah and mourvedre, this leads with forward scents of red cherry and damson plums dusted with loess. The flavors are dark red and concentrated, a dusty spicy intensity that feels almost like Spanish tempranillo in its lively acid-driven rusticity. Chorizo anyone? —P.J.C. (200 cases) 


92 | Avennia | $40

2019 Yakima Valley Justine

Justine is about two-thirds grenache with the balance mourvedre and syrah. It leads with pretty florals—lavender and pink peppercorn—then its cassis and crushed plum flavors are juicy and lean, with glimmers of red fruits that provide a cool lift. —P.J.C. (317 cases) 


92 | DeLille Cellars | $50

2019 Red Mountain Doyenne

A winning blend of syrah and cabernet sauvignon whose savory elements, in this instance, complement each other with aplomb. There’s plenty of dark plum and cassis fruit at its core, the smoke and violet syrah scents punched up by a mild foresty pyrazine of the cabernet. The result is cool and a touch edgy, exotic and idiosyncratic, for lamb or game. —P.J.C. (1,200 cases) 


92 | Longship | $36

2019 Columbia Valley Runestone Rhone Style Red Blend

A blend of 46 percent grenache, 18 percent syrah, then equal parts mourvedre, cinsault, and counoise, this wine starts out dark and tight when first poured, closed and wildly concentrated. But in unfurls nicely, the plum and plum-skin grip loosened by red-raspberry and dark cherry flavors, the work of the counoise and cinsault, which also bring a beguiling spice, almost like herbal tea. Cellar. —P.J.C. (149 cases) 


92 | Saviah | $38

2019 Walla Walla Valley Rhone Style Red Blend

Mostly grenache, with ten percent each of syrah and mourvedre, both of which provide the perfume in this pretty blend, with scents of violets and rose petals, framing a grenache burst of raspberry flavor. Nicely integrated and delicious. —P.J.C. (396 cases) 

This is a W&S web exclusive. Get access to all of our feature stories by signing up today.