Cali Syrah hits the “sweet spot”!

Now, don’t get me wrong – I love Syrah from the Rhone Valley and Aussie Shiraz. The former – in Hermitage, Crozes Hermitage and Cornas – may well be my favourite red wine (along with Chateauneuf du Pape and Barolo), given the peppery, meaty black fruit, ageability and lack of oak flavours.

And old vine Shiraz isn’t far behind! Yes, it is jammy, but the blackberry fruit is so ripe, and the licorice overtones so amazing, that I can’t help but loving it (and having lots in my cellar).

So what, then, is with the title of this blog?

Well, as I drank both a young and mature Cali Syrah this week, it struck me that this varietal – from first rate producers — really does give you the best of both.

On the one hand, you definitely get the peppery black cherries and lack of wood. But because the best wines are so ripe, you also get a sense of Aus, but without the full jamminess. In fact, the fruit was so pure and concentrated in the wine I had, it was almost like a liqueur!

And ageability? The wine I had was a 2005, and while that certainly doesn’t rival 20 – 30 year old Hermitage, it was nothing to sneeze at either, with classic secondary flavours of earth, meat and herbs.

Finally, there is the price. The reason I have so few Hermitage in my cellar – and, increasingly, the same for Crozes Hermitage and Cornas — is that the prices are very high, $70+ is pretty common for Hermitage, and the other two get over $50 more often than not. Now, these can be all-world wines, so I am not saying they aren’t worth it. But they are often too expensive for me.

The same can be said for the best old vine Syrah from Aus. Most of the best – even with our strong dollar vis a vis the Aussie dollar — are $35 or more (and often lots more). Again. No argument regarding quality, but affordability?

Great Cali Syrah, on the other hand, can come in at < $30 US! Yes, it is more expensive in Canada, but still competitive with Aussie wines (and less than the Rhones).

The only complaint I have with Cali Syrah is we don't see enough of them up here! Maybe 3 or 4 in the government stores, a half dozen more in the private stores (but really marked up most of the time).

So next time you want a treat, see if you can find a Cali Syrah and give it a try. It might just hit the 'sweet spot' for you!



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