“In a world of recognizable Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, Syrah ends up being a consumer’s third choice,” says Steffanie Anglim. Still a tough sell for wholesalers and restaurants, Syrah tends to sell well in the tasting room, a common observation among wineries. As a former wine bartender, this fact makes sense to me.
I stood 1,200 miles away from home, in a dimly lit ballroom, at a historic hotel in Walla Walla, WA, clutching two bottles of the inaugural vintage of our family’s homemade wine, which until quite recently rested safely in neutral 60-gallon French-oak barrels in my garage. I was about to pour the very first public taste of this wine, for a celebrity Master Sommelier … in front of a crowd.
A pleasant and interesting wine, leading with plum, raspberry, cranberry, and spicy hints of cayenne and thyme. Light tannins and acids are there in good balance. The mid-palate is lacking, dropping from attack to simpler one-dimensional juice, but retaining the peppery pop. It's a good burger and fries wine but a ribeye would knock it out in the first round.
For my 40th birthday I took a much-needed get away to Napa. We visited my friend Jeff Miller and his wife Beryl. Jeff lives in Napa and grows and makes wines in the Suisun Valley AVA under several labels: Seven Artisans, Sly Dog Cellars, and Red Côte.
This is just absurdly good for the price. Blackberry, mulberry, and black cherry all float above a cloud of cigar smoke and tar. There is also a tremendous mineral streak of molten rock. Tannins are taught but smooth. Drink with a pot roast and both will be better for the pairing.
I will confess I am partial to Bonny Doon’s wines, but the 2008 Vin Gris de Cigare is one of the finest rosés I’ve tasted. I keep several bottles well chilled at all times. A blend of grenache, cinsault, roussanne, mourvèdre, syrah and grenache blanc, it is perhaps untypical of a Southern Rhône rosé since two white grapes (roussane and grenache blanc) have found their way into the blend, but to me the 2008 Vin Gris de Cigare is a quintessential rosé. Crisp and light yet round in the mouth, the strawberry and summer fruit notes harmonize with the sweetness of the tomatoes, while the citrus notes and crispness of the wine cut through the richness of the olive oil. You’ll keep sipping this one long after you’ve licked your plate clean.
This intriguing rosé started with three days skin contact, followed by a very slow three-month fermentation. Progression on the palate is fascinating, as if the wine changed from white to red from attack to finish. It opens with a great acid streak and the tiniest fleeting hint of barely ripe peach before immediately switching to the red flavors. It starts lightly with strawberries, faint at first then growing, getting sweeter and darker, evolving into cherries, which linger. I drank this the day after it was bottled, in a courtesy tasting with General Manager, Craig Camp, and the new full-time winemaker, Jeff Keene. Once the wine recovers from the beating it took it will only get better.