Thursday, August 19, 2010

Note to Self: Syrah Can Be Stunning

Because of my special niche in the world of wine reviews, there are times when I have to deliberately uncork a bottle of wine that is MORE than $20. It usually happens when I've sipped 15 terrible/insipid/manufactured iterations of grape X and can no longer remember what the hell it's supposed to taste like.

This recently happened with Syrah. I love Syrah. It is arguably my preferred red grape, and appears in my favorite red blends from the Rhone. Bad Syrah, however, is nasty. As in cough syrup nasty. And after a dozen bottles of nasty, I just swear off the stuff for a while because it hurts my heart to see people treat grapes--especially grapes from the Rhone--badly.

I was touting up what I'd tasted so far this year and realized I'd only found four bottles of Syrah that were remotely drinkable. So I plucked out a bottle I was pretty sure would deliver a reminder of how stunning Syrah can be: the 2006 Zaca Mesa Syrah from the Santa Ynez Valley. (suggested retail $23; available for $15-23) This is not a gentle Syrah, but a big, rich, in-your-face, mouth-coating wine that is a total steal for the price, delivers excellent QPR, and drinks like a wine that costs twice or three times what you will have paid for it. My only caveat about this wine is this: do not even think about having a glass of it and trying to walk in a straight line. The label says 15% alc./vol. and I believe it--and then some.

In the taste department, expect exotic aromas of summery flowers and plums, with a bit of clove around the edges. There are more plum and clove notes in the flavors, along with allspice and mocha. There's a nifty mocha jolt in the aftertaste, too. Very good, nicely made, and a reminder of what Syrah can be all about.

Most people reach for Cabernet when they're making steak, but I love Syrah with cuts like skirt steak that have been marinated for a long time and then popped on the grill. We paired this bottle with a skirt steak marinated in orange and ale and the spicy, coffee, and clove notes in the Syrah were just lovely with the citrus in the marinade. And the robust wine handled the beef nicely.

Full Disclosure: I received this wine as a sample.


Jill Silverman Hough said...

Hi Deb - I thought Syrah was fine before, but I totally fell in love with it when I was writing my cookbook (100 Perfect Pairings). I agree with you 100% about how well it goes with steak. I also particularly love Syrah with salami - a salami pizza, for example - and I've found that for almost any food I pair with Syrah, the pairing is better with at least a little balsamic vinegar!

Scott McReynolds said...

Zaca Mesa Syrah is consistently one of my favorite wines under $20. I'm never without a few bottles.

Very consistent from year to year and bottle to bottle. Never had a bad experience.

Dr. Debs said...

Thanks for the tip about balsamic vinegar, Jill. That sounds right--it would bring out the savoriness of the Syrah. And Scott, good to know. This was my first experience with the wine.

Wayne Turner said...

I had this with steak last night and wished I had made it au poivre with this wine. It overpowered the filet a bit but still was nice. What I did discover though was that it is great with dark chocolate. It seems to complement the mocha on the end.