On California’s far coast, great syrah can be as bright and lithe as a rich pinot noir, its freshness delivered along with the black-pepper spice the variety can give. Consider the Valenti Vineyard, high on a ridge in coastal Mendocino, where Drew consistently grows one of the most compelling North Coast syrahs, or Eric Sussman’s biodynamically farmed syrah from his low ridge on the far Sonoma Coast in Occidental.
In some of the windy hills of Washington’s eastern desert, syrah comes through in deeper tones, as in the John Lewis selection from Gramercy Cellars.
And from Crozes-Hermitage to Côte-Rôtie, the variety provides a spectrum of expressions that drive Rhône collectors wild.
Then, there are syrah’s talented brothers and sisters, especially grenache and mourvedre, presented on their own and in blends. Here are some of the best we found this year, searched out by Tara Q. Thomas in the Rhône; by Patrick J. Comiskey in California’s Central Coast (particularly the ocean-chilled Sta. Rita Hills), in Oregon’s Willamette and in Washington’s Columbia Valley; and by me in the far-coastal hills of Sonoma and Mendocino.