Pourquoi Syrah? Get Ready for International Syrah Day!

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Happy Wine Wednesday! Next Wednesday, February 16th, Hospice du Rhône will be celebrating International Syrah Day in preparation for their 19th Annual Hospice du Rhône celebration in Paso Robles, California USA April 28-30, 2011. HdR wants wine drinkers everywhere to know they are serious about Syrah. So they’ll be celebrating all things Syrah for 24-hours inviting Syrah lovers everywhere to share their thoughts on twitter, Facebook and independent wine blogs as they twirl, sniff and sip wines from this most commonly recognizable Rhône variety.

While Syrah has a long documented history in the Rhône region of Southeastern France, it was not known if it had originated ithere until recently. In 1998, a study conducted by Carole Meredith’s research group in the Department of Viticulture and Enology at University of California, Davis used DNA typing and extensive grape reference material from the viticultural research center in Montpellier to conclude that Syrah was the offspring of the grape varieties Dureza (father) and Mondeuse Blanche (mother).

Restaurants, wineries and wine bars are invited to join in by hosting tastings on tastings and specials that celebrate Syrah.

Due to its popularity, you can find a bottle of Syrah from France, Australia, Spain, Washington State, California, Oregon, Arizona and beyond at your local wine shop or grocer. By picking up a bottle from a few of these regions you will have the opportunity to taste the unique terroir each of these regions possess. When it comes to food, Syrah is your wine. This admired Rhône variety is extremely food friendly and will pair nicely with anything from lamb kabobs to pepperoni pizza, says Faith Wells, Communications Director for Hospice du Rhône.

Here are more Fun Facts about Syrah:

- Pronounced “C-rah” is also known as “She-raz” (not Shi-rahz)
- Syrah is a highly-colored grape with a firm structure
- Common aromas and flavors noted in Syrah include plub, raspberry, blueberry, black currant, violet, smoked or roasted meats, smoke, chocolate, pepper and anise
- Syrah is the prominent grape of Northern Rhône from which the variety originates
- Syrah is a heat-loving grape that has adapted well to California’s Central Coast and Eastern Washington State

We tasted a number of 100% Syrah and Syrah blends during our trip to Montpellier for Millesime Bio. A few of our favorites came, not from the show, but from a family-owned winery in Carcassonne, where the young winemaker has an Irish name, and an American accent more like mine. The O’Connell’s Domaine O’Vineyards is a member of The Languedoc Outsiders, a group of winemakers “who have all fallen head over heels for Languedoc Roussillon wines,” but come from parts afar.

One of my favorites from O’Vineyards was the 2006 O’Syrah. More New World than Old, it’s a burst of dark berry jam, with plenty of black pepper and spice to keep you more than interested. Says Ryan O’Connell of this one;

This wine is a particular point of pride for my dad who created it despite the advice of our wine consultant who thought we were making a wine that was too “American”. One thing that we’re not ashamed of is to be creating wines that we like. New World wines from Old World vines. – Ryan O’Connell, O’Vineyards

Stateside, we’ve lately enjoyed the Syrahs of former Houstonian John Kelly of Westwood Winery. His 2006 redFOUR, blend from Annadel Estate, Sonoma Valley, leads with 38% Syrah and inclydes 26% Mourvedre, 23% Grenache and 12% Counoise, with almost 0.5% of the white Rhône grape Rousanne from field blending, and a hint of Tannat from topping. Priced at just $23.50, its worthwhile to pick up several bottles (or a case!) to have on hand.

We also like the 2006 Westwood Annandel Estate Vineyard Syrah from Sonoma County. Just 151 cases made, this wine is art in the glass, with a dark inky red and aromas that take you to the northern Rhône. Pepper and rich dark forest earth mix with blueberries and herbs. Let is open up, and you’ll enjoy notes of caramel and minerality. Savor it in your mouth, for a nice, long finish. Says the winemaker:

Our Annadel Estate Syrah continues to demonstrate that a big wine can be light on its feet; also that our Syrah does not need a heavy dose of new wood to be interesting and enjoyable. Far from being over-oaked, weighty and fatiguing, this wine is a seriously delicious accompaniment to meats, red pastas and strong cheeses.

We love it with lamb chops. Alcohol by volume is 14.8% Internet-Direct Price: $28.50 for each 750 ml bottle.

And of course we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention the fabulous Syrahs from Bedrock Wine Company and Olson Ogden. Olson Ogden is a small, artisan wine company located in the Russian River Valley of Sonoma County that specializes in small production, handcrafted wines. They focus on Pinot Noir and Rhone varietals, with an emphasis on vineyard designated Syrahs.

Bedrock Wine Company, run by Morgan Twain-Peterson calls itself “an itsy-bitsy winery making wine in a converted chicken coop.” Small on production space, but not on taste. Their Syrahs are huge, big, jammy monsters that soften and gain nuance with age. We can’t seem to keep these in our house long enough, but I manage to hide a few for cellaring with each release.

And then there are those wacky folks from Calaveras County, Twisted Oak Winery. Some of Joe’s favorite Syrahs include those from the Tanner Vineyard. Hook up with El Jefe, and he’ll have you hooked for life! 

For some awesome Washington State Syrahs, check out  one of our posts on Hospice du Rhône, You Had Me at Syrah.

To join in the fun for International Syrah Day, RSVP here (it’s FREE!). Then find yourself some Syrah. Place a quick order to one of the wineries above, or drop by your local wine merchant and pick up a bottle, or two! Or head to your favorite wine bar and order a glass. Then taste and tweet or leave comments on your Facebook page, if you have one. Make sure to let the world know you’re celebrating, by including #SYRAH in your comments.

**UPDATE:
In my congested cold-ridden state, I failed to mention some new favorites that you should check out as well! Red Car Wine has some incredible Syrahs. Check back soon for our reviews of some of these great wines!

Say Syrah next Wednesday, by joining us in celebrating International Syrah Day!

Cheers,

The WineWonkette

About Amy Corron Power

A licensed attorney, Amy is a wine-lover, foodie, photographer, political junkie and award-winning author who writes about Wine, Food, Beer & Spirits. As Managing Editor & Tasting Director for Another Wine Blog, she travels all over the world's wine regions to share her experiences with her readers and nearly 10,000 twitter fans. She holds certifications from International Sommelier Guild, regularly attends Houston Sommelier Association events and is currently studying for her California Wine Appellation Specialist certification through the San Francisco Wine School.