Monday, October 10, 2005

Dear Syrah: I Love You.

I'm in the middle of an obsession with syrah. That in itself isn't very weird for me. But check this: me, Little Miss Old World, has fallen for a California syrah. I have already been chided for this by my workmates, who point out past railings against fruit-driven styles of wine. But here's the thing, see: I realize that my personal adventure in vitis vinifera would be rather stifled if I summarily dismissed all fruit-driven wines, or worse, assumed that all California wines are of a style that I will never be able to abide. Plus, I would be exactly the same insuffrable bore I despise, right?

What I've discovered is that I fucking love good syrah like Jesus loves to preach. There have been Cote Rotie that have knocked me right out before I'd even had a taste, but the price tag was way too deep. Later, I found myself fascinated, although ultimately dissatisfied, with Shiraz. Shiraz is a whole-nother bitch---impossibly gooey most of the time, like a volcano brownie smothered in blackberry cream sauce and peppered. Yet I still found myself looking over them, hoping to find one that wasn't so pumped up on chocolate steroids. But even though I found a few that had some semblance of finesse, there was still no soul. Not like the Rhones.

Then one day, I took home a bottle that moved me so deeply, I can still taste it if I close my eyes:

2001 Ojai Bien Nacido Syrah

Oh man. Oh man oh man oh man. Holy Mother of Jehosephat. This bottle did it for me. It had had just enough time to develop a gorgeous range, everything a girl could hope for in a syrah: deep, penetrating silky texture, a gorgeous palate: seared lamb chops seasoned with white pepper sitting in a blackberry/rosemary demi-glace, I shit you not.

Now, before you roll your eyes at my effusive praise, I'll defend myself by admitting that the occassion at which I drank this wine was likewise a lovely evening, and we all know that is definitely a factor in how we assess wine.

But it was fucking good.

I had the 2003 Bien Nacido recently at a tasting, and while it was not quite where the '01 is, it showed the same pretty white pepper and game notes.

When I was in Napa recently, I had a craving for syrah. You just wouldn't believe how annoyingly sparse the syrah supply was in restaurants and wine shops. Cab, cab, cab everywhere (it being Cab Country, and all, but jeez...). I was so thrilled to find a half bottle of syrah at Pinot Blanc restaurant that I overlooked the completely overblown style for at least a glass. It was the 2002 Edna Valley Paragon Syrah, Central Coast, and it was big and luxorious, but had little in the way of harmonizing secondary flavors, so I finally got bored and offered the rest of the bottle to my bartender. I won't say it sucked, just that it was incomplete.
But what was good about it was good, and I wondered if, with more time, if all that phat fruit would mellow and gain complexity.

Tonight, I'm drinking another Cal-Rhone: 2003 Bonny Doon 'Le Posseur' Syrah, Central Coast. It's got the deep blackbery silk, and a touch of menthol on the nose, and a bright lemony acidic backbone. It's very lovely, and it seems obvious to me that it will change and develop with a few year's time. It was clearly made in the traditional French style, and God Bless 'em for it.

For me, even an overblown syrah, if it has that luxorious texture, is better than a swift kick in the ass any day. If, however, it has the texture and the pepper, the meat, the earth, and the supple tannins, it is up there next to sex. So if anyone has a favorite syrah from anywhere that gives them the quivering thighs, please share. Please.



Blogger Mascorrolandia said...

Was that 2001 Ojai Bien Nacido Syrah the same one we drank when I came down last month? 'Cause if so, it was truly out of this world. I'll have another glass of that, please!

11:19 AM  
Blogger Anna said...

I just had the best Syrah (well, probably not "best" but really good) at Wink. It was called Bell Vineyards and it was a California wine. Have you tried that one?

5:59 AM  
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