Rich Report Recommends: You Might Just Convert From Cabernet to Syrah With These 7 Bottles

Rich Report Recommends: You Might Just Convert From Cabernet to Syrah With These 7 Bottles
Courtesy of Belden Barns

There ought to be a dedicated following for California's rendition of the Northern Rhône's noble red.

I am curious to know why Syrah, a red variety from the Northern Rhône of France, is not being sold in California despite sommeliers' affection for it. The reason I say this is that, in addition to the wine consumers, wine producers throughout the state have been passionate about Syrah for many years since the unexplained arrival of “Samsonite cuttings” from France in the late 1970s, as well as Syrah is now being grown in the state.

There is a common misconception about wine that it is difficult to understand and confusing. There is no way to predict what you can expect from it without knowing the region and the producer. As it has been proven to be, it is a real chameleon—successful in a wide range of climates - plump and fruity in warmer temperatures, lean and savory in cooler temperatures - so it is impossible to predict what you will receive without knowing the region and the producer.

However, I am not quite convinced by that statement. Other varieties also express vast ranges of character based on the terroir of their source. As a result, they gain nothing by doing so. In order to find their favorite styles and vintners, savvy consumers taste from region to region.

Moreover, it is quite possible that Syrah has its own personality that may be shocking for American wine drinkers who are accustomed to having bushels of fruit in their local, sunny-climate wines. There is something very special about this wine, and that is its wildness. It has an array of scents that tend to be reminiscent of smoked meats or cured meats, even bacon fat, peppers, black olives, savory herbs, tobacco leaf, leather... But, but... It is precisely these descriptions that are typically applied to great collectors' bottles from the Northern Rhine region! There are quite a few wine enthusiasts in the know who seem to have a taste for the wild when it comes to wine!

There is no denying that Syrah's unusual character might be something that splits people apart—a bit of a love-it-or-hate-it situation—but there was also something else going on which sparked suspicions. Due to its ability to grow well in a wide range of climate conditions, Syrah has been widely planted throughout the world, even in areas destined to produce only simple, flabby wines without any acidity.

It is still possible to find bottles in that category with bottom-shelf price tags and they are not made with the interests of smart wine consumers in mind. Nevertheless, there have been many developments concerning vineyard management and farming in order to achieve a more precise balance between ripeness and brightness over the past few decades. As a result, vintners have pushed the envelope in the vineyard, planting Syrah in cooler and cooler places, where it almost channels the Rhône's soul.


It turns out that the wine, in the hands of California's best Syrah growers and makers - and there are many of these people - is exciting and its wildness will have a positive impact on the bottom line of the ledger, as its wildness will have a positive impact on the bottom line. There is no doubt in my mind that this wine is a superb smoked meat wine as well as an excellent food wine. It is the perfect combination of beef and lamb on the grill, pulled pork, and smoked Gouda ... 12 bottles really bring the case to life.

Booker 2018 Fracture Syrah Paso Robles

Courtesy of Booker Wines

With 22 months spent in French oak, Eric Jensen’s 2018 “Fracture” - arguably Booker’s flagship wine - does not hold back. A deep, complex nose gives off layers of blueberries and smoke, white pepper, tobacco, leather and earth. With layers of blueberries and smoke, white pepper, tobacco, leather and earth. The flavor profile is both fruity as well as savory in its minerality with concentrated berry and plum flavors and a hint of spicy chocolate. This red is both generous in its fruit and savory in its tannins.

Caliza 2018 Syrah Willow Creek District, Paso Robles

Courtesy of Winery Reflections

Inky, plush and hedonistic are all descriptions of Carl Bowker’s Caliza Syrah. On the nose you will find intriguing aromas of smoked meat, crushed herbs, tobacco leaf, blueberry fruit and a touch of minerality. Throughout the long, textural finish of this wine, it delivers plenty of plump berries on the palate, namely back raspberry, mulberry. It is also possible to find Bowker's Reserve Syrah (2018, $95), which is a gorgeous wine with beautiful black fruit, warm spices, notes of bacon fat, tobacco smoke, minerality, and notes of blueberry fruit, as well as notes of tobacco smoke and minerality.

Denner Vineyards 2018 Dirt Worshipper Central Coast

Courtesy of Christine Havens

As a result of 1 percent each of Roussanne and Viognier cofermented in this Syrah, Denner produces an irresistible Syrah that is extremely aromatic. With its floral scents and hints of smoked meats, blueberries, black olives, espresso and black pepper, the nose is downright seductive. In this wine, you'll find a lot of hedonism in the juicy blackberry flavors that are layered with crushed herbs and anise. The wine is very textural. It has a long, supple taste.

Lucia 2019 Soberanes Vineyard Syrah Santa Lucia Highlands

Courtesy of Lucia

This vibrant, earthy Lucia Syrah, produced by the pioneering Pisoni family in the Santa Lucia Highlands – with Jeff Pisoni at the winemaking helm now – oozes savoriness and a sense of earthiness due to whole cluster fermentation. A savory note greets you on the nose, combining pepper, exotic spice and minerality. The bright boysenberry flavors are a reflection of the high acidity of this cool Monterey region, along with cured meats and savory herbal qualities.

Mira 2016 Hyde Vineyard Syrah Napa Valley

Courtesy of Mira Winery

A fruity Syrah from a cool region, the Napa Valley side of Carneros, where Hyde Vineyard is located, is a welcome anomaly from Mira cofounder and winemaker Gustavo Gonzalez, formerly the head winemaker at Robert Mondavi Winery. Aromas include white pepper, violets and blueberries. On the palate, the generous, plush berry flavors pop, balanced by just a hint of saltiness, savory sweetness that, if anything, adds to the yum factor.

Talley Vineyards 2018 Rincon Vineyard Syrah Arroyo Grande Valley

Courtesy of Talley Vineyards

While Brian Talley built Talley Vineyards' considerable reputation on Pinot Noir, his 2018 Syrah is a must-try. In addition to blueberry, violet and smoked meat aromas, it has a hint of leather and warm underbrush that brings to mind the northern Rhône as it opens with a swirl of blueberry, violet and smoked meat aromas. A perfect balance of concentration and elegance can be found here with bright, juicy berry fruit layered with savory herbs and pepper.

Belden Barns 2018 Cadabra Syrah Sonoma Mountain

Courtesy of Belden Barns

Belden Barns' Syrah takes full advantage of 100 percent whole-cluster fermentation in its Syrah without hiding anything with new oak (the wine has been aged in neutral barrels for the last ten years). During the course of a decade, you'll be able to enjoy fragrant floral aromas that are mixed together with savory spices, herbs, dried tobacco, and black olives. It features juicy, briary flavors of boysenberries, black raspberries, and exotic spices hanging on a chalky tannin structure before ending with a brooding note.

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