30 Second Wine Advisor: Syrah mythology

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In This Issue

 Wine Advisor goes weekly For the time being, The 30 Second Wine Advisor will publish once a week, usually on Mondays.
 Syrah mythology Legend tells us that a Crusader brought Syrah grapes back to France from the Middle East. It's a pretty story ... but unlikely.
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 Cline 2004 Sonoma Coast "Cool Climate" Syrah ($15.99) Despite the moniker, it's "New World" in style, but nicely balanced wine, intense but no blockbuster; well paired with appropriate fare.
 A message from Wine Library We're really passionate 2006 Bordeaux. We've been shocked by some of the amazing wines from this vintage. Wine Library is now featuring select 2006 Bordeaux Futures.
 Les Jamelles 2006 Syrah Vin de Pays d'Oc ($10.99) Tart and tannic, plummy fruit laced up with zippy acidity and tannins. Rustic, good food wine and a good value.
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Syrah mythology

One of the prettiest purportedly historic legends in the world of wine details the arrival of Syrah grapes in France's Northern Rhone nearly a thousand years ago.

According to legend, a Crusader named Gaspard de Sterimberg returned from the Holy Land with grapevine cuttings in his saddlebags and a newfound pacifism borne of war's horror. He built a mountaintop chapel on a hill in a broad curve of the Rhone, vowed to study war no more, and declared his new home his Hermitage.

The grapes were Syrah of course, and the wines of Hermitage have become known as some of the world's greatest and most ageworthy.

A pretty legend, but sadly, it's almost certainly not true. I can testify to the little chapel – I've seen it on visits to the region. But tell the story to local wine makers and they'll simply smile indulgently. It's pretty well known, you see, that the local Syrah came in with Roman troops closer to two millennia ago and has been growing in the Rhone Valley ever since.

No legend-debunking can diminish the greatness of Syrah, by the way, which has spread around the world's wine-growing regions (known as Shiraz in Australia and here and there around the Southern Hemisphere, but the same grape nonetheless).

We're studying Syrah in this month's Wine Focus on WineLoversPage.com. You'll find my notes below on two relatively modest but good-value Syrahs, one from California and the other from France.

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Cline 2004 Sonoma Coast "Cool Climate" Syrah ($15.99)


Very dark reddish-purple with a garnet edge. Distinct blueberry aroma with just a whiff of spice. Black and blue fruit flavors and a hint of fragrant black pepper built over mouth-watering acidity. Bold fruit and high 14.5% alcohol make the "cool climate" moniker a bit dubious despite the Sonoma Coast's relatively cool environment; there's not much of a European style here. Still, it's a nicely balanced wine, intense but not such a blockbuster that it can't be paired with appropriate fare. (Feb. 2, 2009)

FOOD MATCH: The back label suggests pairing with robust goodies like barbecued shrimp, spicy chicken sausage or beef "tri-tip" and chanterelle mushrooms. It was fine with my pick, Italian sausage and onions.

VALUE: In an age when top California Syrahs are reaching trophy prices, the middle teens for a balanced Syrah of this quality makes it a no-brainer.

WHEN TO DRINK: Ready to enjoy now, but I don't think a few years in a good cellar would do it any harm.

Here's a winery link with information and a buy button on Cline "Cool Climate" Syrah. The very long link may break in your Email; if so, try copying it to Notepad and pasting it back together into a single line.

Locate vendors and check prices for Cline Cool Climate Syrah on Wine-Searcher.com. Check the results with care, as Wine-Searcher returns some selections that do not appear to be the "Cool Climate" label:

Today's Sponsor: A message from Wine Library


Are you on Wine Library's e-mail service? If not, you are missing out on the hottest new wines at rock bottom prices! Log on to winelibrary.com to sign up for our daily offering or weekly recap today!

Something we're really passionate about at the moment: 2006 Bordeaux. Originally overshadowed by 2005, we've been shocked by some of the amazing wines from this vintage. Our buyers tasted hundreds of wines to separate the wheat from the chaff and Wine Library is now featuring select 2006 Bordeaux Futures.

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Les Jamelles 2006 Syrah Vin de Pays d'Oc ($10.99)

Les Jamelles

Very dark purple with a clear garnet edge. Fruity aroma, plums and berries, just a whiff of black pepper in the background. Tart and tannic, plummy fruit laced up with zippy acidity and considerable tannic astringency. Rustic, good food wine. U.S. importer: Cellar Door Selections LLC, Columbia, Md. (Feb. 10, 2009)

FOOD MATCH: Fine with burgers crafted from local, natural lamb.

VALUE: Nicely balanced, varietally correct> Well above the "plonk" level at a price that pretty much marks the bottom end for quality in today's market. Look for it well under $10 in some markets.

WHEN TO DRINK: Despite the tannins, I'd have reservations about long-term aging, but it's quite enjoyable now.

The Les Jamelles Website is available in English, German and French. Look for the tiny flag icons at upper right, where you can also click the little music icon to silence the chirping cricket background noise.

Here's an article about Les Jamelles on the U.S. importer's site:

Locate vendors and check prices for Les Jamelles Syrah on Wine-Searcher.com:

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