In our third installment of Petaluma GAP varietals, it is time to introduce syrah, a beautiful, dark-skinned, red wine grape that is deep with color and tannic structure. It is another of the amazing viticultural productions from our soon-to-be AVA that is nothing short of world-class.
Cote Rotie in France is, undoubtedly, where the finest syrah in the world is produced. In tasting Petaluma GAP syrahs, the term “very Cote Rotie” is often used. That said, it does not get much better than right here in Petaluma.
Syrah is rich in color and juicy. As such, it is the only true red wine on the planet. Yes, it’s true, all you cabernet and zinfandel lovers are, actually, drinking white wine juice. This white wine juice pressed for all of our favorite “red” wines is to left to soak on the red grape skins during the fermentation process. This is how all red wines, except for syrah, get their color, making Syrah the only true red wine.
The flavors found in the syrah varietal can express lovely floral notes in the early stages of maturation and develop a more herbaceous and peppery note as the wine ages. Some can smell just like roasted meat when you put your nose to them. Others offer hints of soft leather and campfire smoke followed by flavors of black cherry, berries and currant, anise and even some licorice.
Whatever we find in this beautiful wine, it pairs most perfectly with a roasted pork dish. Add some fresh sage leaves and cracked pepper, and you have a very happy dinner table. My favorite cheese pairings for syrah are a nice, sharp, aged cheddar and a good, smoky gouda. For vegetarians, grilled and spiced zucchini or asparagus over smoky, fried polenta will make for a fine pairing.
Although debated in some circles, most of the evidence as to syrah’s origins points to France where DNA shows it to be an evolution of two obscure varietals from southeastern France — Dureza and Mondeuse Blanc. One should not confuse syrah with petite sirah which is a cross of syrah and the Peloursin varietal dating back to 1880.
Syrah can pretty much grow in any region that wine can grow. Hot or cold, this varietal excels in varying climates and topography. Some of the best in the world come from France’s Rhone Valley. The Cote Rotie and Chateaunuef Du Pape wines are hard to match. Australia, where they refer to syrah as shiraz, winemakers produce some brilliant vintages.
Locally, Petaluma is stomping its way into history with some of the very best syrah in the world. Paul Clary’s Clary Ranch out near the Two Rock Coast Guard base exhibits black fruit qualities thick with plum and ripe berry ($21).
The 2012 Bedrock “Griffin’s Lair” Sonoma Coast Syrah is another beauty ($42), featuring rose petals and violets with a pitchy black currant and deep berry fruit. WindGap Syrah, which sources its fruit from he very local, Armagh Vineyards, is another delectable libation grown on the Crane farm by two very sweet people out in Chileno Valley just past Helen Putnam Park.
Again, these wines are very different from all the rest of the syrah grown in California. We have a lot of wind that come through our little gap from the ocean, and more days of cooling means longer maturation on the vine. For something very special, right from your backyard, try one of our local syrahs.