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#351207 - 05-06-2009 04:56:07 Syrah in California, boring?
KenMusso Offline
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Registered: 04-12-2009 16:01:09
Posts: 19
Loc: El Dorado County, CA
Trying to be a bit provocative here in that having worked with Syrah in the last couple of years only, I find it boring and rather one dimensional. I also, in my opinion find that it comes alive (at least in Ca anyway) when blended with Petite, Mourvedre, Vio, and Grenache. In many a blending trial I am unimpressed with the Syrah on its own, but blend it, and it shows its stuff. I constantly revel in the fact that 2+2 can =5.
Maybe I am not trying the right wines, but syrah lights up for me when blended with its country brethren and not on its own.

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#351208 - 05-06-2009 05:08:09 Re: Syrah in California, boring? [Re: KenMusso]
Clyde Underwood Offline
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Registered: 09-24-2005 02:49:52
Posts: 49
Loc: CA, Sonoma
Totally agree with you. In fact we were up your way this past weekend (in spite of the weather!) and I was very impressed with the Holly's Hill lineup. The 2006 El Dorado Tranquille was a standout for me.


Edited by Clyde Underwood (05-06-2009 05:15:07)

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#351213 - 05-06-2009 12:12:50 Re: Syrah in California, boring? [Re: KenMusso]
John Tomasso Offline

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Registered: 08-19-2003 07:00:00
Posts: 2814
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California is a big place, and Syrah is made in many different styles.
While I agree that there is an ocean of boring wine out there, there are plenty of compelling ones as well.

I don't think you can dismiss the entire variety - at least not until you've tried as many as TomHill
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#351214 - 05-06-2009 14:11:29 Re: Syrah in California, boring? [Re: John Tomasso]
Casey Hartlip Offline
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Registered: 02-15-2004 19:48:43
Posts: 1172
Loc: Mendocino County
I would ask what wine doesn't improve with a little bit of blending anyway. I like to blend a bit of Grenache and Petite in my Syrah most years. Sometimes a bit of Zin helps the wines complexity
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#351216 - 05-06-2009 16:07:46 Re: Syrah in California, boring? [Re: KenMusso]
Steve Edmunds Offline
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Registered: 02-18-2004 16:44:33
Posts: 631
Loc: Berkeley, CA
I have a pretty strong sense after working with Syrah, both blended and unblended, for 25 years, that it is, like certain other varieties, pretty "transparent," that you can taste the site right through it (assuming it's not insanely over-ripe, and the winemaking hasn't been too heavy-handed). If that taste is going to be compelling, the site needs to be an exceptional one. Since Syrah is being grown everywhere, it makes sense that most of it is not exceptional.
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#351217 - 05-06-2009 16:22:26 Re: Syrah in California, boring? [Re: Clyde Underwood]
KenMusso Offline
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Registered: 04-12-2009 16:01:09
Posts: 19
Loc: El Dorado County, CA
Totally agree.....Carrie and Josh do a great job with that blend.
And they seem to feel that yet another Rhone blender works magic for them, that being Counoise.

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#351218 - 05-06-2009 16:28:02 Re: Syrah in California, boring? [Re: John Tomasso]
KenMusso Offline
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Registered: 04-12-2009 16:01:09
Posts: 19
Loc: El Dorado County, CA
Maybe Tom can recommend a couple of 100% Ca Syrahs that make the mark of interest, complexity, and a standout varietal.

In 07' I helped make a Syrah from the Aiken vineyard up on Gold Hill near Placerville, and for the first 6 months just loved the blueberry essence. While it has faded, it is still a great wine to blend. What a difference a year makes. In 08' he picked from the same spot at nearly the level of ripeness, but what happened to the blueberries?

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#351219 - 05-06-2009 16:36:21 Re: Syrah in California, boring? [Re: John Tomasso]
BEB Online   content
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Completely agree that dismissing the varietal statewide would be a mistake. It would be a mistake with most any varietal produced in California. Just as in the sea of Syrah you can find ample non-compelling wines, the same is true of Chard, Cab. Sauv., Pinot Noir, Sauv. Blanc, etc. But there are compelling single varietal wines out there as well.

For the sake of argument, even if syrah by itself couldn't make a good single varietal wine, then so what? Malbec or Cab Franc from Bordeaux might be uninspiring as 100% single bottlings also, but they sure do make inspired wines when blended with a little Cab. Sauv and Merlot. Even if Syrah couldn't stand alone in California, when blended (as Casey and Steve point out), it can provide some stellar results.
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#351220 - 05-06-2009 16:56:30 Re: Syrah in California, boring? [Re: Steve Edmunds]
KenMusso Offline
Newbie

Registered: 04-12-2009 16:01:09
Posts: 19
Loc: El Dorado County, CA
Steve,
Great "common sense" explanation. My own explanation/frustration with Syrah was rather one dimensional. That is, I only described what I had been tasting, pure and simple without any explanation,rhyme or reason as to why the flavors for me have been mostly uninteresting.
Further, when I have heard or read about someones ecxeptional Syrah, most haave turned out to be freakishly high in alc, super extraction of new oak, or a combination of both.
Bottom line is I cannot recall a single example of California syrah on its own that has wowed me.
I did recently open a Ridge 1987 Devils Hill PETITE SYRAH that was a stunner. But thats another subject.
Ken

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#351221 - 05-06-2009 17:01:45 Re: Syrah in California, boring? [Re: KenMusso]
blil Offline
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Registered: 12-13-2000 08:00:00
Posts: 6251
Loc: Paola, KS
I wouldn't call it "boring." We found a number of nice examples of it standing on its own when we were in Carmel/Paso recently. We probably bought more Rhone blends than anything else. But we were impressed with Syrahs from places like Dunning, Robert Hall, Joullian, Tablas Creek, Terry Hoage, Zenadia, Four Vines, etc.
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#351223 - 05-06-2009 17:24:37 Re: Syrah in California, boring? [Re: KenMusso]
Ken Zinns Online   content
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Registered: 12-15-2000 08:00:00
Posts: 2982
Loc: Oakland, CA
Not sure what it takes to "wow" you, but there were a number of outstanding Syrahs from various places in California at Hospice du Rhone last weekend, and I'm not talking high-alcohol, highly-oaked wines. I do agree with Steve that the site has to be exceptional, and most of the wines that stand out to me are from cooler-climate sites - Clary Ranch in the Petaluma Gap, Peay on the far Sonoma Coast, Las Madres in Carneros, Bassetti near Cambria, Bien Nacido in Santa Maria Valley among others. Also tried some very distinctive Syrahs from Humboldt County (Cabot Vineyards).

I've had many blends that have been excellent as well, but I can't say that I find California Syrah to be boring at all.

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#351224 - 05-06-2009 18:01:29 Re: Syrah in California, boring? [Re: Ken Zinns]
Andrew M c N e e s Offline
Local

Registered: 03-07-2006 06:04:39
Posts: 1392
Loc: CA
Try some

Paul Lato
Stolpman
Piedrasassi
Shane
Herman Story
Ojai
Pax
Alban
Saxum
Lagier Meredith
Beckmen Purisma
Anything from White Hawk Vineyard
Tensley

Then try some 07 Rhone from that regions "greatest ever" vintage and see why it's the greatest ever because they were able to reach the concentration of the wines and vineyards noted above.

I agree that many syrahs in the first year - 3 years can be similar. But as lots of bordeaux or napa cab in it's youth have smimilar profiles. It takes several years for terroir and character to separate the pack. Having "old" Tensley, Pax, Beckmen, Lagier, Ojai, even Piedra and Stolpman syrahs over the past 2 years with 5-8 years of age on them they are very distinct. And Alban going back to 92 or 93? 1st vintage? And have impressed me much more than $30-50 Rhone Syrah based wines. Tardeau Laurent, Jaboulet, Chapoutier, Guigal (all their entry level or priced equivilant CA counterparts. CA has delivered a better product for me.
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#351227 - 05-06-2009 20:27:39 Re: Syrah in California, boring? [Re: KenMusso]
Jeff Cuppett Offline
Member

Registered: 02-20-2004 21:25:58
Posts: 264
Loc: Los Altos, CA
As with all generalizations, there is some truth to what you say. I've found many CA syrahs to be monolithic/one-dimensional, even boring. However, there are many examples where this doesn't ring true. Others have mentioned many of my favorites, including, Lagier-Meredith, Novy, Ojai, Copain, etc.

Personally, I've always liked Rhone-blends too. Some of my favorite wines out of Oz are GSM blends and I'[m glad there seems to be an uptick in blends in CA. Two/three wines blended together is oftentimes better than the sum of their parts grin One of my favorite recent discoveries is a GSM blend from Cline called Cashmere. Very tasty especially considering its ~$15 price tag. Tablas Creek makes some nice blends as does Robert Hall.

Cheers,
JC

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#351229 - 05-06-2009 21:57:48 Re: Syrah in California, boring? [Re: KenMusso]
Jeff Baron Offline
Member

Registered: 09-24-2001 07:00:00
Posts: 367
I personally like a little pinot in my syrah.

Oh, wait, maybe it's the other way around... Never mind.

Jeff

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#351231 - 05-07-2009 00:44:42 Re: Syrah in California, boring? [Re: KenMusso]
Brad Harrington Offline

Owner
Elvis Has Entered the Building!

Registered: 12-12-2000 08:00:00
Posts: 13796
Loc: La Jolla, San Diego, CA
Honestly, I just think that as one matures in their appreciation of wine, they find a lot of what gets put on the shelves to be fairly boring.

I agree that there is a ton of boring Syrah on the market, however, I would say the exact same thing about any grape that is produced in relative abundance.

However, this is the exact reason why so many people like us pursue the information on the web like we do.

As far as Syrah in particular. There is a lot of Syrah that is fairly one dimensional in character, at least while they are young. I do think that some of these will gain complexity with extended cellaring and then there are others that are just plain exceptional to start with. To me, I find some of them to be similar to Petite Sirah, which I would describe more like you have syrah, and might be a problem if it was more prevalent in our markets.

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#351235 - 05-07-2009 02:51:15 Re: Syrah in California, boring? [Re: Brad Harrington]
KenMusso Offline
Newbie

Registered: 04-12-2009 16:01:09
Posts: 19
Loc: El Dorado County, CA
Brad,
Being provacative again with regard to your comments, even though petite syrah is a hybrid of syrah and Peloursin, the difference is too distinct. When I am working with the blends, the petites are totally complimentary of the syrah. You get some interst from the syrah and you get another set of parameters from the petite. To me that means a distinctly different varietel character. And why it work so well.

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#351236 - 05-07-2009 05:51:20 Re: Syrah in California, boring? [Re: KenMusso]
Alan Rath Offline
Obsessed

Registered: 02-15-2004 19:48:18
Posts: 3376
Loc: Fremont, Ca
Man, there's a lot of boring wine out there of all varietals. A boatload of boring Chardonnay, Cabernet, and Pinot, for sure. To me, Syrah is actually one varietal that can withstand a bit more variation in site, and still retain some interest. Having said that, there is a bucketload of boring Syrah as well smirk

After having spent the past 20 years drinking through a lot of Aussie Shiraz, California and French Syrah, I've definitely reached the point of being hyper-critical of the grape done wrong. It's a bit hard to tell for sure, since so many growers have been picking riper over the past decade, but it seems pretty clear that too many places are just too warm to grow great Syrah, with a few exceptions that have some kind of site characteristics that allow a bigger, riper wine to be made and still show uniqueness.

A few places along the central coast manage it, some in core Sonoma County, and more and more on the true Sonoma north coast and up into Mendocino county / Anderson Valley. Farther north seems to be the key, along with basic growing and winemaking choices, of course.

So to answer your question: IMO, it's a sin to spoil a truly great syrah by blending in anything else (including viognier laugh ), but if it's a lesser wine, why not?

Cheers,
Alan
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#351246 - 05-07-2009 14:12:38 Re: Syrah in California, boring? [Re: KenMusso]
Jane C. Offline
Newbie

Registered: 11-09-2004 15:39:05
Posts: 22
Loc: North Carolina
I haven't tasted widely among California Syrahs but I have found a couple that I really like. Babcock Nook and Cranny is one. This is from Santa Barbara County and is produced in limited quantity because, as Brian Babcock explains on his website, there a few special hills (east-facing as I recall where wind conditions are right for the ripening)that produce exceptional Syrah amid mostly Pinot Noir terroir.
I had the Beckmen Pursima Vineyard Syrah (already recommended on this thread)from Santa Ynez Valley for the first time last Saturday at a charity tasting and have ordered a bottle.

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#351251 - 05-07-2009 16:14:34 Re: Syrah in California, boring? [Re: KenMusso]
Eric_Anderson Offline
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Registered: 12-13-2000 08:00:00
Posts: 2441
Loc: Right here
Ken, can you tell us which Syrahs you've tried thus far? Just trying to get a handle on what [styles of] wines you feel are "one dimensional."
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#351263 - 05-07-2009 21:04:04 Re: Syrah in California, boring? [Re: Eric_Anderson]
Jane C. Offline
Newbie

Registered: 11-09-2004 15:39:05
Posts: 22
Loc: North Carolina
Not trying to speak for Ken but I think he said he has been working with Syrah juice alone and in blends so he may be referring to the quality of juice that comes his way.

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#351294 - 05-08-2009 20:36:31 Re: Syrah in California, boring? [Re: Jane C.]
Eric_Anderson Offline
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Registered: 12-13-2000 08:00:00
Posts: 2441
Loc: Right here
D'oh. Had no idea he was a w/m until I looked at his profile. Ooookay. Never mind.
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Homer: And how.

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#351375 - 05-11-2009 19:26:06 You Called?? [Re: KenMusso]
TomHill Online   content
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Registered: 02-15-2004 17:42:19
Posts: 8430
Loc: LosAlamos
Originally Posted By: KenMusso
Maybe Tom can recommend a couple of 100% Ca Syrahs that make the mark of interest, complexity, and a standout varietal.

Ken,
Lots of good recs already.
From right there in the 'hood. Wylie & Fenaughty vnyds. Made by SteveEdmunds, Donkey&Goat, and a few others.
Many of the cold-climate Syrahs are very interesting. TresViti near Cambria. Boheme from QueSyrah vnyd. The two Peay Syrahs. Many from LasMadres vnyd in Carneros (VIE particularly good). Also from LeeHudson's vnyd in Carneros, like the Neyers Cuvee d'Honneur. The Failla from their Estate.
Would these wines be better w/ other varieties blended in?? Could be??
Tom

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#351482 - 05-15-2009 06:52:42 Re: You Called?? [Re: TomHill]
KenMusso Offline
Newbie

Registered: 04-12-2009 16:01:09
Posts: 19
Loc: El Dorado County, CA
Good advice Tom,
Need to continually try new efforts, or if not new, than those that I may have missed.
I made the commitment to bud over our very small Napa syrah vyd to clone 4 cab because I thought the syrah site specific to be fairly dull. And I love that old BV clone that has been the backbone of BV PR since when? The 30's??
And I truly believe that just cuz it is "Napa" does not warrant any varietal to be automatically great. I think we do a as good a job as possible with our Italian varietals in El Dorado.
In the end cab does awfully well in Napa, Zin does really well in dry creek, syrah does really well in Paso......I think you you know where I am going here!
Ken Musso

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#351483 - 05-15-2009 07:20:45 Re: You Called?? [Re: TomHill]
Bob Summers Offline
Donor
Local

Registered: 03-12-2001 08:00:00
Posts: 1815
Loc: 23 ft toy hauler - various loc...
Speaking of Las Madres, our own Eric Lundblad made a terrific Syrah from there in 2005 under his Ladd Cellars label. Opened one two weeks ago and couldn't stop.
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#351485 - 05-15-2009 12:54:11 Re: You Called?? [Re: Bob Summers]
ksyrah Online   content
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Registered: 02-15-2004 17:37:08
Posts: 2448
Loc: SF Bay Area
Yep, the 2005 Ladd Las Madres is quite nice. Kenn Z and I helped rack it and for a couple years I could generally pick it out blind (a tank is even better than a Riedel).

-Al
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