Five wine writers reconvened for our third annual Judgment of Geyserville, and this year it was all about Syrah. The four geographic areas represented were British Columbia, California, Oregon and Washington. Three wines from the designated areas (each crafted by a different producer) were blind tasted, vying for Gold, Silver or Bronze acclaim. After the blind tasting concluded and prior to the unveiling, a spirited discussion ensued. Each wine clearly displayed good varietal characteristics and skillful use of oak. This year the scoring range was very tight; with high marks awarded to all (Gold or Silver was achieved by each of the twelve wines).
Drew Family Cellars 2013 Valenti Ranch Syrah, Mendocino Ridge: Tightly wound, this wine opens with a minty, raspberry aroma. Bright up front with layers of red cherry, raspberry and juicy plum highlighted by clove notes, pepper spice and a trace of brininess. Supported by fine grained tannins, the wine remains lively as the flavors continue unwinding through the palate. Purity and balance prevail from initial sip to lingering finish. GOLD SRP: $45 www.drewwines.com
Lagier Meredith Vineyard 2013 Syrah, Mount Veeder: Dark berry and floral scents entice the nose. This wine is radiant on entry and gains momentum on the palate with earthy, blackberry and olallieberry flavors melding with grilled meat elements and savory spice. Well placed oak nuances, vivacious acidity and an uplifted finish top off the lovely package. GOLD SRP: $48 www.lagiermeredith.com
Qupé Wines 2011 Sawyer Lindquist Vineyard Syrah, Edna Valley: Spicy berry and earthy aromas win you over at first sniff. Well balanced and irresistible as purple plums, cranberry, cassis, black pepper spice and hints of black tea weave harmoniously on the palate. This Syrah showcases a concentrated flavor profile and firm tannins yet remains elegant, and the finish is everlasting. GOLD SRP: $35 www.qupe.com
Ross Andrew Winery 2010 Boushey Vineyard Syrah, Columbia Valley: Dusty earth and fresh picked ripe berries captivate the senses. The entry is brilliant, and the flavors stay focused through the palate with cranberry, sweet blackberry fruit and mixed peppercorn accents. This smoothly textured wine displays refined tannins, and finishes with impressive depth and persistence. GOLD SRP: $38 www.rossandrewwinery.com
Bunnell Family Cellar 2009 Boushey-McPherson Vineyard Syrah, Yakima Valley: Here is a bold Syrah that opens with earthy, intense dark fruit and tobacco leaf on the nose. Lush and balanced, it coats the mouth with deep flavors of black cherry, blackberry jam, hints of coffee and well integrated oak. Round tannins show nicely through the supple finish. SILVER SRP: $42 www.bunnellfamilycellar.com
Palencia Winery 2012 Syrah, Yakima Valley: This compelling Syrah with gorgeous purity showcases crushed berries and floral, spicy aromas. On the palate it remains spicy and lively with red raspberry, black cherry and wild berry fruit at the core. Juicy and well balanced through the finish, with subtle oak and bright, sweet berries lingering on and on. GOLD SRP: $30 www.palenciawine.com
Abacela Vineyard and Winery 2012 Estate Syrah (Barrel Select), Umpqua Valley: Engaging mint, mixed berry and hints of eucalyptus tantalize the nose. The entry shimmers with boysenberry, huckleberry, cocoa, anise and savory spice, and the well-defined flavors intensify as they flow onto the palate. Firm tannins frame the pretty fruit, and the wine remains expressive and lively through the persistent aftertaste. SILVER SRP: $29 www.abacela.com
Reustle Prayer Rock Vineyards 2013 Winemaker’s Reserve Syrah, Umpqua Valley: Here is a sophisticated, finely textured Syrah. Dark berry and underlying gamey notes intrigue from the first whiff. Layers of roasted meat, blackberry, dark chocolate, licorice and earthiness join splendid acidity, creating a kaleidoscope of flavors on the palate. A precise balance and firm tannins carry this gem to a memorable finish. GOLD SRP: $39 www.reustlevineyards.com
Zerba Cellars 2012 Estate Syrah, Walla Walla Valley: Black fruits and an appealing touch of cured meat greet the nose. Lush and round on the palate, as juicy purple plums, huckleberries, charcuterie and cinnamon spice swirl deliciously in the mouth. Refined tannins and complementary acidity provide excellent structure for the sustaining finish. SILVER SRP: $36 www.zerbacellars.com
Nichol Vineyard 2012 Syrah, Okanagan Valley: Aerate this wine to fully appreciate the dark fruit and savory aromas lifting from the glass. Intensely structured with flavors of black plum, blackberry, wild game, herbs and spice unraveling on the palate. Integrated chalky tannins wrap around the deep fruit, and the wine finishes with vigor. SILVER SRP: $40 www.nicholvineyard.com
Vanessa Vineyard 2012 Syrah, Similkameen Valley: This appealing Syrah was co-fermented with 6% Viognier. Its vibrant fruit shines, from the black cherry aromas through the mouth filling boysenberries, plums and black cherries accented by vanillin and sweet spice. Shades of oak sit neatly in the background, and the finish sings of sugar-dusted berries. SILVER SRP: $39 www.vanessavineyard.com
C.C. Jentsch Cellars 2013 Syrah, Okanagan Valley: Earthy, woodsy aromas excite the senses, paving the way to layers of dense black plums, blackberries, nutmeg, cinnamon, cassis, chopped herbs and roasted meat that entwine delectably on the palate. Displaying beautiful oak management, clear-cut balance, and tannins that thrive; a complex, well-honed wine. GOLD SRP: $30 www.ccjentschcellars.com
In summary, the critics generally agreed these fine examples of Syrah are beautifully nuanced and meticulously balanced, with sound varietal character. Syrah is a nice sipper on its own, and pairs remarkably well with a variety of foods, from vegetarian, to pulled pork, lamb chops, grilled beef, barbecued ribs, and hearty stews. Well-crafted Syrah Rosé and sparkling Rosé wines are also available if you’re in the mood for refreshing and lighter, more delicate style Syrahs. In my opinion, the popularity of Syrah/Shiraz has been trending up recently, and I think it is about time; hurrah for Syrah!