Aaaah...the Rhone Rangers and the exciting and aggressive push to bring Rhone varietals to California in a big way. It’s good stuff.
Roasting meats, good smoked bacon, crackling fires, warm gingerbread, peppermint and baked spices may seem out of season in the spring time but not in the fall…. but they’re basic descriptors for Syrah and other Rhône-style blends.
The best of these wines are instantaneously big and robust with ripe fruit and savory with dark spices. Very few New World wines deliver these elements and that’s the thing. Later, I’ll mention some of the key regions to look at for a reference point.
Coming mostly from California’s Central Coast, with consistency, where a range of climatic conditions allow different traditional Rhône varieties—especially Syrah—to grow and flourish. Grenache, Petite Syrah and Mourvdre are others.
Over the past years, despite the push, Syrah did not become California’s “next big thing,” as was it was widely predicted during the 1990s, and Central Coast.
Syrahs and Rhone blends are still in the from the shadows of more popular red grapes like Cabernet Sauvignon and Zinfandel (predominantly from Paso Robles) and Pinot Noir (from all over). Yet when grown in special spots and treated with care, these wines are arguably the most energetic, hedonistic and delicious wines being made on the West Coast today.
That goes for those being made in a more bombastic baby fantastic GSM blends from Paso Robles, those leaning more toward cool-climate pepperiness, like Big Basin in the Santa Cruz Mountains, and those somewhere in-between, like wines from the Ballard Canyon in the Santa Ynez Valley where the bright acidity shines on the palate….and let’s not forget those rich Petite Syrah up north in Lodi which impress.