Tag Archives: syrah

Expensive wine 133: Eberle Syrah 2018

eberle syrahThe Eberle syrah speaks to the grape and its terroir — and just in time for Father’s Day

Know all the bellyaching the Wine Curmudgeon does about wine samples? Not in this case – it’s a treat every year when the email arrives from California’s Eberle Winery asking if I want to try their new vintage. The Eberle syrah is just one reason why.

That’s because the Eberle syrah ($32, sample, 14.6%) does what so many other wines don’t – it tastes like syrah, which means it’s varietally correct, and it tastes like it was made with grapes from the state’s Paso Robles appellation, so it speaks to terroir. That means a rich and full wine, but one that doesn’t let the winemaker’s or marketer’s pretensions get in the way. And how many times can we say that?

Yes, the alcohol is high, but it’s in balance and the fruit isn’t overripe. The oak is restrained, and the tannins are those that should be in syrah – the back label says chalky, and that’s as good an adjective as I can think of. This is top-notch New World syrah, with smoky and almost fatty aromas, lots and lots of dark berry and plum fruit, a hint of spice, and a long and interesting finish.

How well made is this wine? The bottle was gone almost before dinner was over, and no one felt the effects of the alcohol. Highly recommended, and just the thing for a Father’s Day gift for those fond of red wine. Pair this with red meat, barbecue, or grilled sausages.

Expensive wine 129: Bonny Doon X-Block Syrah 2013

x-block syrahThe Bonny Doon X-Block syrah is magnificent California red wine, combining the Old World with the New World

Those of us who love savory syrah – that is, where the wine is earthy and funky instead of being stuffed with sweet fruit, like the Australians do it – were especially sad when Boony Doon’s Randall Grahm sold his legendary winery at the beginning of the year. Grahm was famous (or infamous, depending on your point of view) for many things, but I don’t think he ever got enough credit for wines like the Bonny Doon X-Block syrah.

Grahm was able to combine an Old World approach to syrah with California’s riper and richer fruit. In this, the Bonny Doon X-Block syrah ($48, purchased, 13.5%) is an amazing wine – funky enough for those of us who want that, but fruity enough so as not to turn off people who think funky is a slang term 50 years out of date.

The X-Block is a step up from Grahm’s Le Pousseur syrah, which costs about half the price. But it’s more than worth the added expense: There’s the smoked meat, bacon-y aroma, a bit of pepper and spice, soft tannins, and full, rich black fruit. Open the wine about an hour before you drink it, and serve it with anything beefy or smoky or both. In addition, it’s still young and should age for at least a couple of more years.

Highly recommended, and just the gift for someone who likes savory syrah, what with the Holiday that Must not be Named coming up later this week. So long, Randall. It was a hell of a ride.

Thanksgiving wine 2015

thanksgiving wineThis year’s “Why did they bother?” Thanksgiving wine press release offered two roses, costing $65 and $100, as the perfect holiday wines. We’ll ignore for the moment that the point of rose is to cost much less than that; rather, why would anyone need or want to pay that much money for wine for Thanksgiving?

Thanksgiving is the greatest wine holiday in the world because it isn’t about money or showing off, but because it’s about being thankful that we can be together to enjoy the food and the wine.

Needless to say, my suggestions for Thanksgiving wine cost much less and almost certainly offer more value. Guidelines for holiday wine buying are here.

King Estate Pinot Noir 2013 ($26, sample, 13.5%): I tasted this Oregon red at an American Wine Society dinner, where we also had a $160 California red. Guess which one I liked best? This is is not to take anything away from the California red, but to note the King Estate’s quality and value, and especially for pinot noir — lighter but with a touch of earthiness, cherry and raspberry fruit, and a wonderful food wine. Highly recommended.

Pierre Sparr Cremant d’Alsace Brut R serve NV ($18, sample, 12.5%): Sophisticated sparkling wine from France’s Alsace that got better the longer it sat in the glass, and which surprised me with its terroir and sophistication. Look for stoniness and minerality with ripe white fruit.

Bonny Doon Le Pousseur 2013 ($26, sample, 13,5%): This California red is my favorite Randall Grahm wine, not necessarily because it’s better than any of the others, but because of what it is — syrah that somehow combines New World terroir with old world style. Lots of black fruit, soft tannins, and that wonderful bacon fat and earthy aroma that makes syrah so enjoyable.

Domaine Fazi le De Beaut 2014 ($10, purchased, 11.5%): A Corsican rose made with a grape blend that includes sciaccarellu, the best known red on the French island. Maybe a touch thin on the back, but an otherwise more than acceptable rose with a little tart red fruit and that Mediterranean herbal aroma known as garrigue. And yes, I’d take 10 bottles of this over any $100 rose.

Muga Rioja Blanco 2014 ($13, sample, 13%): Spanish white made with mostly viura has some oak, tropical fruit, and refreshing acidity, and why the Spanish don’t bother with chardonnay. Muga is one of my favorite Spanish producers, and almost everything it makes is affordable, well-done, and worth drinking.

More about Thanksgiving wine:
Thanksgiving wine 2014

Thanksgiving wine 2013
Thanksgiving wine 2012

Winebits 387: Syrah, canned wine, Chablis

canned wine ? So long to syrah? Talk to retailers, and they’ll tell you they can’t give away syrah. Now there are Nielsen figures to back that up. Syrah’s sales in grocery stores are down 16 percent over the past year, the worst performance of the nine wines surveyed and three times as bad as the second worst, merlot (also interesting, and probably worth a post on its own). How did this happen? Chalk it up to the usual short-sightedness from the wine business and its allies in the Winestream Media, which kept telling consumers they should drink wine that was undrinkable. And when consumers said they’d had enough, which they’ve done, there was no Plan B.

? Can I have that in a can? What do you do if you’re a Big Wine company and sales tank? Put your wine in a can. That’s what FlipFlop, the Barefoot knockoff from The Wine Group, is doing. The producer will do a four-pack of 250-milliliter cans (about 1 1/3 bottles) for $12. Canned wine, other than as a novelty, has never been popular in the U.S., and this may be an attempt to breathe life in a brand that hasn’t done as well as The Wine Group hoped.

? Fake Chablis: A French wine producer has been accused of using grapes from other parts of the country to make Chablis, chardonnay from the Burgundy region of France. All of which is bad enough, but he has apparently been doing it for a decade without anyone noticing. Wine-Searcher.com reports that the Maison Fromont winery put grapes from Provence and the Rh ne Valley, where there is very little chardonnay, in the company’s Chablis. How they got away with this for 10 years, until tax records tripped them up, is stunning. Did no one taste the wine? Chablis’ taste is unique, even for white Burgundy. One clue: The company exports 95 percent of its wine.

Wine of the week: Feudo Zirtari Nero d’Avola-Syrah 2011

Feudo Zirtari Nero d'Avola-Syrah One more reason that Sicilian wine deserves to enter the mainstream — the Zirtari ($12, purchased, 14%), a funky wine that is delicious yet does not seem especially Sicilian. One knows a wine region has found its niche when you can write that about one of its wines.

First, the Zirtari is almost one-half syrah, hardly a grape indigenous to the island. Second, the syrah gives it an almost Rhone-like character, richer (almost fatty) than similarly-priced Sicilian reds. Plus, there isn’t much earthiness, but there is well-balanced black fruit and the particular character that the Sicilian nero d’avola grape adds to a well-made wine.

In all, a wine that is enjoyable, dark, and almost brooding. It’s intense enough for summer barbecue and red meat, but not so heavy, with its 14 percent alcohol, to be be off-putting in hot weather. It was a most pleasant surprise to find when I was looking for something else.

Wine of the week: Saint-Cosme Cotes du Rhone Rouge 2012

rhone_sud_saint_cosme_cotes_du_rhone_rouge_2012The Wine Curmudgeon has long been a fan of Saint-Cosme’s cheapest wines, the wonderfully-named Little James Basket Press red and white (and I can’t believe I haven’t done the white as a wine of the week yet). So I had high expectations when I stepped up a notch to the winery’s basic Cotes du Rhone red ($13, purchased, 14.5%).

These hopes were not disappointed. The rouge, made of syrah, was full of dark fruit (currants?), some earthiness and even a touch of licorice, which seemed like a lot to get from something at this price. Best yet, the high alcohol — about a point more than I expected — doesn’t get in the way of the wine. The higher alcohol seems natural, and not forced on it to get more fruit flavor and higher scores, as often happens in California. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the tasting notes are almost apologetic about alcohol level.

Highly recommended, and another example of what a French wine can be that hasn’t sold its birthright to the International Style of Winemaking. This is a winter wine for stews and soups and strong cheeses after tramping snow and ice off at the front door.

 

Expensive wine 45: Terlato Vineyards Syrah Block #9 2007

block9Shortly after I started the blog, I was invited to attend a huge, big-deal wine event featuring five of California ?s best-known expensive red blends, including Dominus and Opus One. The wines were all terrific, if terribly expensive and kind of same-tasting, and I had a surprisingly good time.

The irony in this ? because, given that it involves the Wine Curmudgeon, there is always irony ? is that none of the five were my favorite that day. The wine I liked the best was a $30 syrah from Terlato Family Vineyards, which sponsored the event. It was very little like the red blends, earthy and distinctive.

Since then, I have always appreciated Terlato ?s syrah, and the Block #9 ($48, sample) did nothing to change my mind. It combines a New World focus on fruit with the Terlato earthiness that takes syrah in a direction it doesn ?t go often enough.

Look for beautiful fruit, with a peppery aroma and blueberry notes that last through the entire wine. The finish isn't quite as long or what one would expect from a wine at this price; in this, it ?s still young and the finish should flesh out over time.

This is Christmas beef wine, ready to drink now, or a gift for someone who wants to put it down for another couple of years. Availability may be limited, which is about the only bad thing I can say about it.