Thursday, October 01, 2009

Syrah Blind Tasting

Syrah was the theme of our last blind tasting meeting. The guests brought 6 different wines from various regions, including California, Oregon, Washington State, and the Rhône Valley. As usual, the wines were served blind and in a random order, but oddly this time, we unanimously enjoyed the first three, and found that the last three were fairly flawed.

Our Wine Tasting Setup

The wines we tasted:

• 2003 Drew Syrah Six Sense Santa Barbara County: Drew Wines focuses solely on vineyard and appellation specific Pinot Noir and Syrah. The Six Sense Syrah is a blend of 100% Syrah from six different vineyards located within Santa Barbara County, and from six different grape clones. The different components of the wine were barreled separately and aged for eleven months, in a combination of French and American oak barrels, 1/3 new, 2/3 neutral. Our notes: nose of sweet cherry nectar, ripe and smooth on the palate, spices and herbs on the finish. Well balanced, food friendly. Finished in second position.

• 2005 Ridge Syrah Lytton West: Ridge's Lytton West Vineyard is located in the hills separating the Dry Creek and Alexander Valleys in Sonoma County. The wine is 94% Syrah cofermented with 6% Viognier. According to the winery's website, “Viognier has a beautiful pungency of apricot, peach, and white flower which helps lift the total aroma of syrah which tends to be dark and gamey.” Our notes: nose of cooked fruit with notes of cinnamon and blueberry. Rich, smooth on the palate with flavors of creamy custard. Lengthy finish. Finished in first position.

• 2003 Columbia Crest Reserve Syrah Columbia Valley: founded over 20 years ago, Columbia Crest is one of Washington State's main wine producers. The 2003 Reserve Syrah was co-fermented with 2% of whole berry Viognier whith fruits coming from two vineyard sites—one for Syrah and one for Viognier—in the Horse Heaven Hills appellation. Our notes: fruit forward nose with notes of green pepper and cocoa. On the palate, medium bodied, high in alcohol with a spicy, earthy finish. Finished in third position.

• 2006 Cornas Granit 30 Domaine Vincent Paris: Vincent Paris, co-president of the Cornas appellation, owns 6 hectares of vineyards located along the southeast facing Cornas slope as well as in the nearby St. Joseph appellation. He makes two Cornas designations, the Granit 30 and Granit 60, that differ in terms of soil, age of the vines, and location in the slope. The Granit 30 comes from younger vines at a lower grade slope and is made in a more “consumer friendly” style. Our notes: barnyard aromas on the nose, tannic, acidic on the palate, not consumer friendly. Finished last.

• 2005 Cristom Estate Syrah: Cristom Vineyards cultivates eight distinct vineyards in the Eola Hills area of Oregon's Willamette Valley. Plantings include Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Viognier and Syrah. The vineyards are dry farmed with low yield. Our notes: notes of chemicals on the nose, tight, tannic, acidic on the palate. Finished in fifth position.

• 2002 Pipestone Reserve Syrah Paso Robles: Pipestone Vineyards is a small family winery located in the Paso Robles appellation. It is dedicated to sustainable farming and producing handmade Estate Grown Rhône-style wines from Syrah, Grenache, Mourvèdre, and Viognier and a dry-farmed Zinfandel. The Estate Syrah is grown on a south-facing hillside in the estate vineyard. Hand-harvested, it was aged in French and American oak barrels for 24 months. Our notes: dusty nose of caramel and cocoa. On the palate, high in alcohol, dry, tannic, not so well balanced but drinkable. Finished fourth.

Previous blind wine tastings:
•  Blind Tasting of Cabernet Blends from Washington State
•  Blind Tasting of Pinot Noir from Los Carneros and Anderson Valley
•  Blind Tasting of Grenache-based Wines

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Marcus said...

Hi Catherine,
I'm hosting my Syrah blind tasting tomorrow so I'm stunned to see this on your blog tonight. (There must be something about Syrah and autumn approaching.) I've been prepping all week and deciding which regions I will open up. We will likely have six or seven bottles, like your tasting. Eager to compare. But it's also the first officially blind tasting I've hosted.

Catherine Granger said...

Have fun with your blind tasting! And let me know how it went...

Marcus said...

So there were striking coincidences...
First we did six bottles, dividing them up randomly to taste them blind in groups of three. Like you did, we found unanimous favourites, and the first flight was decidedly better than the second, with the 1st place and 3rd place and 4th place finishers. Our regions were almost different than yours: 2 from France, 2 from South Africa, 1 Chilean and 1 Canadian. What is amazing is that our Rhône bottle also finished last, and it was a Cornas too!

Christopher Watkins said...

Thank you so much for including us in your Syrah tasting! I truly adore the 2005 Lytton West, and it was actually recently the subject of a post on our blog about co-fermenting Syrah with Viognier. Anyhow, thank you again, and of course I'm thrilled that you enjoyed the wine! Pretty nice company for us to be in, I must say ...


Christopher Watkins
Tasting Room Manager
Ridge/Monte Bello
Host of "4488: A Ridge Blog"

Catherine Granger said...


Thanks a lot for your nice comment! Just to let you know, our next tasting (not blind) will be about Zinfandel and we'll taste the 2006 Ridge Zinfandel York Creek.

Kind regards,

Marcus said...

By the way, here's the link to my Syrah tasting roundup:

Weingolb's Photos - Blind tasting: Syrah/Shiraz

Good luck with the Zins.

Catherine Granger said...


Thanks for the pictures! It looked like a great tasting!