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WINE

Syrah in Santa Barbara
updated: Apr 02, 2011, 8:30 AM

Marc Liberts

On Wednesday March 23, I attended one of Spiritland Bistro's BYOB Wine & Dine events, featuring Andrew Murray of Andrew Murray Vineyards. The featured wine was Syrah, and I had the opportunity to try about 30 Syrah wines, mostly from California. I was particularly interested in this event because I was interested in meeting Andrew Murray. Andrew is the winemaker at Andrew Murray Vineyards, which has a tasting room in Los Olivos. Guest chef and noted author, Pascale Beale prepared a very nice three-course meal to pair with the wines.

A little history gleaned from the article, Central Coast winemaking whiz kid Andrew Murray splits from his parents and strikes out on his own - San Francisco Chronicle - Olivia Wu.

Syrah is an important and significant grape grown in Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo Counties. Some of the finest Syrah wines in the world are currently being grown here. Most often, the Syrahs from our area are compared to French Syrah from the Northern Rhône wine region in Southern France.

A little knowledge can be gleaned from Wikipedia about the Rhône wine region in Southern France.

Some producers in Santa Barbara and Paso Robles blend Viognier into their Syrah, similar to the northern Rhône AOC of Côte-Rôtie. However, most of the producers in Santa Barbara and Paso Robles produce 100% Syrah, which would emulate the Cornas AOC in the northern Rhône. I will try and obtain a good Cornas Syrah to taste and review next time, if possible.

Below is a brief description and ratings for the wines I was able to taste at the event:

1. RGB - 2009 Camp 4 Vineyard, Santa Ynez Valley Andrew Murray Vineyards - (Roussanne/Grenache Blanc) - dry and crisp with a tinge of spice. 87 points.

2. Zaca Mesa 2006 Santa Ynez Valley Syrah - nice berry nose, soft and pleasant wine. 89 points.

3. Bridlewood Central Coast Syrah Reserve 2006 - hard edged and schlumpy on the palate. 85 points.

4. Jaffurs 2009 Santa Barbara County Syrah - dusty nose with a plush and pleasant mouth feel. 90 points.

5. Zaca Mesa 2005 Santa Ynez Valley Syrah - light and a little unpleasant smelling. Fine on the palate. 86 points.

6. Daniel Gehrs 1999 Syrah Santa Ynez Valley - corked and spoiled - no rating.

7. Brander Vineyards 2009 Colson Canyon Syrah - plush and nice and enjoyable. 91 points.

8. Edward Sellers 2007 Paso Robles Syrah - decent but a bit all over the place - 87 points.

9. Terra Bella Vineyards 2005 Syrah Paso Robles - plush and firm wine I enjoyed. 90 points.

10. Lagier Meredith 2006 Syrah Mount Veeder Napa Valley - good structure and balance with pleasant flavor profile. 90 points.

11. Opal Restaurant & Bar Syrah 2007 Santa Barbara County (produced and bottled by Jaffurs Wine Cellars) - fun, sweet and fruity. More like Paso Syrah to me. 88 points.

12. Beckmen Vineyards 2005 Syrah Barrel Select Santa Ynez Valley - strong and serious with good balance and precision. 90 points.

13. Novy 2005 Syrah Judge Family Vineyard Bennett Valley - light and well executed, pleasant but boring. 86 points.

14. Ancient Peaks 2008 Syrah Paso Robles - pruny and strong. A fun wine but a little frumpy. 86 points (but a nice effort for about $15.00!).

15. Tolosa 2007 Syrah Edna Ranch Edna Valley - strong and fruity. Well-made wine, but a bit on the heavy side. 88 points.

16. Consilience Camp 4 Vineyard 2004 Syrah - stinky nose, ok on the palate. Big and strong with high alcohol. Could improve with more time. 88 points.

17. Bridlewood Central Coast 2005 Syrah Reserve - strong and acrid. Decent but not thrilling. 86 points.

18. Rusack 2008 Santa Barbara County Syrah - plush and interesting. Fruit and spice and balance woven nicely together. 91 points.

19. Babcock 2005 Syrah Black Label Cuvee - all over the place with fruit and oak. Out of balance. Not a favorite. 82 points.

20. Hamel 1994 Sonoma County Syrah (One of Bernie's Ringers) - smoky and old. Well balanced. I'm always too smitten by old wines, so after pause for reflection, 90 points.

21. Russian Hill 2001 Syrah, Russian River Valley Ellen's Block - fruity and tart. Somewhat out of balance, but fun. 86 points.

22. Wild Coyote Happy Trail 2008 Syrah Paso Robles - huge prunes and raisins, out of balance but big and fun. 84 points.

23. Tensley 2008 Syrah OGT Santa Barbara County - really pretty nose. Fine-tuned flavors on the palate with a supple finish. 93 points.

24. Jaffurs 2008 Larner Vineyard Syrah - nice nose, big fruit, beautiful on the palate. Exceptionally well balanced and interesting. 94 points.

25. Margerum 2004 Syrah Vogelzang Vineyard - pleasant nose. Big fruit on the palate but nicely balance. Good acid and finish. 92 points.

26. Araujo Estate Wines 1998 Eisele Vineyard Napa Valley Syrah - old nose (another Bernie ringer wine). Elegant on the palate and beautifully balanced. Has benefitted from age, and can still age another 5 or more years! 93 points.

27. Andrew Murray 2009 Syrah Watch Hill Vineyard - nice nose, big fruit and nice acid. The fruit is the main player here. 89 points.

28. Piedrasassi "Mr. Smith" 2007 California Syrah - nice nose, great fruit on the palate with good balance and a soft and supple finish.

Epic wine! 95 points.

29. Andrew Murray 2007 Syrah McGinley Vineyard Santa Ynez Valley - good minerality and nice fruit with decent balance and spice. 90 points.

30. Andrew Murray 2007 Syrah Terra Bella Vineyard Paso Robles - big fruit with a slick fruity mouthfeel and finish. 88 points.

1ST PLACE:

Piedrasassi "Mr. Smith" 2007 California Syrah - nice nose, great fruit on the palate with good balance and a soft and supple finish. Epic wine! 95 points.

2nd PLACE:

Jaffurs 2008 Larner Vineyard Syrah - nice nose, big fruit, beautiful on the palate. Exceptionally well balanced and interesting. 94 points.

3rd PLACE:

Tensley 2008 Syrah OGT Santa Barbara County - really pretty nose. Fine-tuned flavors on the palate with a supple finish. 93 points.

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