Tuesday, September 14th was 2nd Annual Syrah Summit at Prima’s in Walnut Creek. Quite a night really. The night included a three course dinner of solid selections that were not particularly memorable. Good, but not food I would run out to tell my friends about. The highlight of the evening was a selection of 7 Syrah’s of an interesting mix. This was easily the best part of the night as tasting Syrahs side-by-side really gives you an opportunity it understand how the differences in regions, growing conditions, wine makers, etc. can make a wine from the same grape taste very different. If you’re looking for basic knowledge of wines this is easily the best way to get into it – take the same wine from many different places and make note of the variations in flavor, body, and nose. Anyway, on to the best part!
First, a little about Syrah. If you live in Australia you drink Shiraz and if you live in other parts of the world you drink Syrah. Same grape, different name. FYI, Petite Sirah is a completely different grape. In California, the grape grows well in most of the popular growing regions, and in the full spectrum of climatic influence. Of all red wines, Syrah has a comparably broad array of aromas, flavors and textures. The tasting night at Prima’s was a prime demonstration of that…
There were seven Syrah’s that were served but my two favorites I thought would be worth sharing because they are most certainly a part of Enjoying the Wine Life!
2001 Hamel Syrah, Sonoma County
Hamel Wines is a small, Syrah-only winery that has been producing wine for the past 9 years. The 2001 vintage is their 8th and a blend of grapes from Dry Creek Valley and Russian River Valley.
This Syrah has a fruity, blackberry aroma. When you first taste it, the black berry flavors hit you followed by a little more pepper and herb taste. No taste in it really overwhelms which makes it a good choice to go with food – something with a bit of fat to tame the tannins (pairing note: Fat contained in food reduces the acid and tannin affects of wine. Hence the reason many people pair wine and cheese) but not necessarily too bold of a Overall a good wine with a balance of fruit and spice that pairs pretty well with red pasta sauces or lighter beef dishes.
2001 Livingston-Moffet Syrah, Mitchell Vineyard, Napa Valley
Livingston-Moffet is a relatively small, family owned and operated winery out of Napa that produces premium wine. The 2001 Livingston-Moffet Syrah comes from the Mitchell Wineyard, a four-acre site located mid-valley on alluvial soil(soil that is deposited by river run-off). This Syrah has a very interesting twist – the wine maker blended 5% Viognier into the wine which is apparently a practice taken from Northern Rhone Syrah wineries in France. This gives it a a very interesting fruit quality – almost like a hint of Lychee. Thats a wierd description and until I lived in CA I didn’t even know what a Lychee was. But I still think this is the best description for it.
This Syrah was definitely one of my favorites of the night, though it didn’t pair particularly well with the what was served, I probably would suggest pair with a flavorful chicken dish because it wouldn’t quite stand up well to the stronger tastes that are associated with red meat.
Enjoy the Wine Life!