Wine Talk

Snooth User: napagirl68

New found love for Syrahs... And Sonoma County in general!

Posted by napagirl68, Jul 15, 2011.

I have had a general dislike for syrahs for several years now... they just seem too BIG for me, and my tastes have changed toward lighter-style wines.  However I have discovered that there are some syrahs that I very much enjoy..  

Recently, I was on my way up to Russian River.  I stopped in at Taft Street Winery in Sebastopol,  and tasted their 2007 Dry Creek Syrah. (An aside, I just want to say that ALL the Taft Street wines I tasted were very good.  The tasting room is NOT fancy, but I would highly recommend a stop here for tasting.) Anyway, after tasting that dry creek syrah,  I discovered I might actually like syrah!  I then visited a cute little wine/cheese shop in Monte Rio called Sophie's Cellars  to pick up some cowgirl creamery Red Hawk (sooo delicious!)  In talking syrah with the gentleman, he said I prolly prefer a cooler climate for syrahs.  I bought this wine-  It's not Dry Creek, but from an area of Sonoma county with ocean influence.  They syrahs I like also tend have a lower ETOH than I was used to seeing... 13-14%. 

Based on those two experiences, I decided to venture out to Dry Creek, and Ya!!!  I LOVE Dry Creek syrahs!  And Sauv blancs too... I can even drink the Zin up there (think Mauritson for zins, actually Rockpile AVA).  I also like Mauritson's sauv blanc a lot.   Most of the SBs I tasted from the Dry Creek area were almost clear in color, but had amazing nose and flavors. 

Some of the other wineries I tasted were, Bella, Quivira, Preston.... I highly recommend a visit to them.

I also found more Sonoma coast pinots I liked as well... Taft Street had one, and I also tasted this one I liked:

The AVAs begin to run together at some point, and can be a bit confusing-   I like this AVA map here:

I'm sure a missed a slew of great wineries, but there were actually other things to do besides drink/taste wine!  Like kayaking down the russian river, tidepooling, hiking... 

I just need to go back soon!


Reply by Richard Foxall, Jul 15, 2011.

Another Syrah worth tasting is MacLaren, which is sold at Talty Winery and through his website, I tasted the inaugural year, and it's sitting in the basement now waiting for our return to the Russian River vacation house.  (We rent, gotta save the money for wine!) It screams Northern Rhone and his new Dry Stack bottling got 91 points from WE, for what that's worth. I trust Steve Mac and my tastebuds more, and I strongly recommend it to folks who have had hot, overly fruited, unsubtle syrahs.  A perfect antidote. Delicate enough that Steve suggests pairing it with white fish.  I think it could go with a meal that opened with white fish and moved on to game or lamb--not many wines I would try that with.

 A friend who owns up there in RRV told me about Sophie's--you can check the site ahead of time and see what sales are going on, too. Plus if you buy wine there, many restaurants in the area waive the corkage.  They have a list, also on the website.

I love Talty and Bella zins, but Mauritson's Cemetary bottling is my absolute favorite.  Preston does really gorgeous white, a Roussane/Marsanne/Viognier that is the best thing with Hog Island Oysters ever. 

I've touted Sonoma over Napa for a while now, esp as a destination, and the variety of climates and soils--heck, just in Rockpile!-- are unparalleled, from almost too cool for grapes coastal areas to hot, exposed areas of DCV.  But just go around a corner of a hill, and it cools off a handful of degrees.  Speaking of Rockpile, I think it's unique because the Army Corps of Engineers created the lake, pretty much right in a cleft made by faulting, and the climate then changed as the lake became a huge heat sink.  Keeps the weather more even from day to night, but also allows enough cooling to preserve acids, because the area is otherwise really dry in the summer, and the heat rises at night off the land.  You can taste Zins made by Clay Mauritson (and others, but his are best for comparison because his family has owned the biggest part of the AVA for about 150 years) made from different blocks just steps apart, and taste the core Zin while getting really different tastes from the terroir.  He also grows Syrah up there, which I haven't purchased yet, and Petite Sirah that is outstanding. Ex-Oregon football player with a light touch with the grapes and roots of both kinds that go way down in the ground up there.

Another winery to try is Scherrer. No actual tasting room, tasting in the winery by appointment only or at the twice yearly open house.  Known for their Old and Mature Vines Zinfandel, but I first came to know them through their basic Sonoma County Pinot, which I had at BayWolf in Oakland.  Spend the $35 or so and just order a bottle, or try it if you see it on the menu somewhere.

Fred Scherrer got his chops at Dehlinger, another Sonoma outfit--Scherrer and Dehlinger are in Sebastopol. They are well known for Pinot, but bottle Syrah--haven't had it, but the process sounds interesting. 

You've inspired me to visit more of the wineries doing business out of Sebastopol next time I visit my sister-in-law and brother-in-law.

Reply by outthere, Jul 15, 2011.

It's about time you crossed over into the wonderful world of Syrah NG. Can you say palate shift?

Big value in cool climate Syrah from Humboldt County from the good folks at Cabot Vineyards. John and Kimberly are great people to boot. Take a leap of faith on this one and get some Humboldt and Arias Syrah from them. Big meaty, smoky, baconfat, in your face Syrahs that are good wioth or without food.

Another to try is Westerhold. They make their wine locally at Vinify where Gracianna makes their wine. Russel Bevan is real good at making cool climte fruit shine and has wne the "Coat du Rhone" at the annual Hospice du Rhone the past two years for having the consensus best Syrah from a blind tasting of entries form over 40 producers in their annual syrah shootout.

Bedrock Wine Co has some killer Syrahs as does Copain. Whjile Bedrock is mainly mailingf list only you can find Copain regularly at retail in better wine shops. They ahe a nice one out now their "Les Voisins" Yorkville Highlands Syrah from Anderson Valley that really rocks for under $35 btl.

Shane make s a nice bennet valley Syrah as does Jemrose (another Vinify label)

Then if you start ventuing south look out... Roar is yummy and...

This could be a fun thread. Gotta get back to work now.


Foxall: +1 on Scherrer and Dehlinger. Our kids went to school with Dehlingers. Actually I enjoyed an outstanding 2005 Dehlinger Cabernet last night that I have been pateintly waiting on for some time now. Luscious wine.

Reply by duncan 906, Jul 15, 2011.

As it happens I have just finished a bottle of Paul Jaboulet Aine Cornas 1997 which of course is 100% syrah or shiraz as they call it in Australia.It is a wine that is about intense,in your face fruit and one that definitely needs to be opened an hour or two before drinking.I enjoyed it 

Reply by Richard Foxall, Jul 15, 2011.

Thanks, outthere.  I really like the Scherrers themselves.  It's pretty much just them--a mom and pop winery.  The story is pretty cool--his family were growers and he just kind of worked his way in.

Of course, Copain!  How could I forget! The Tous Ensemble is a really good value, list of $24 but can be found for under $20 at K&L and other places.  (Their website, on the other hand, is a pain.) When I was off the Qupe (see elsewhere) I enjoyed it for a few bucks more.  Worth $17, and maybe I should just drink that and not bother with the Qupe.  I am worth it, darn it!

ROAR, of course, is Central Coast/SLH.  So that's the thread outthere should start.  I just got the email telling me I could order my 2009s.  Didn't get the Syrah, but might go back.  When I mentioned Qupe's sourcing issues if they want to expand, I was thinking about Franscioni's crop and Chalone's, and cannot see how Qupe can expand if they want to maintain price and quality.

I'm on my way to Big Sur in a couple hours and hope I can stop at ROAR on the way back.  If I stop on the way there, I might get waylaid for quite a while.

Reply by dmcker, Jul 15, 2011.
Edited Jul 16, 2011

NG, happy to have watched the evolution of your palate on these boards. Can remember when you were only Napa reds at one point (speaking of which, would be good to see your reaction to a Neyers syrah). I'll launch into my usual refrain and suggest you also drink several Cornas, St. Joseph, Hermitage and Cote Rotie bottlings from the northern Rhone.

There's a thread entitled Going to Sonoma from a couple of years ago. In it I mention Sophie's. Even living where I do I've been to the place more than a dozen times. Nice to have all those cheeses so handily accessible there. And though outthere has the advantage of living there all the time, I believe, Foxall's approach of renting a place on the Russian River for a summer getaway is quite civilized. Next time I'm in NorCal I'll be doing the same. And if it's in the summertime I'll be revisiting some fond old memories of not only kayaing on it but even innertubing down the river with a six pack between my legs. Allow me to laugh at picturing myself doing that again after a hiatus of decades. It's so far from a Tokyo lifestyle....


Reply by dmcker, Jul 15, 2011.

In another old thread where I was wondering what's wrong with California cabs these days, I offered up a list of wineries that I thought were taking a better approach to transparency and letting the fruit, terroir, etc. speak for themselves rather than amping them (especially the fruit) up. The list actually included a number of places with what I thought were good syrahs. So I'd also be curious how you find the bottlings for that grape from:


Reply by dmcker, Jul 15, 2011.

Bizarre, but no matter how many times I input that NPS/Sunhawk link it won't take...

Reply by JonDerry, Jul 15, 2011.

CA Syrah, one of the better sources for finding value in this state.  Good to see you posting NG, and with a new found interest. I don't have many recs myself, but will try to track down a few of the many recs on this thread.

Reply by outthere, Jul 16, 2011.


  • I haven't had the opportunity to try a Peay Syrah. Most of their tastings/winemaker dinners seem to be in the City. Never see them pouring up this way.


  • Salinia is interesting. Their wine is made to age. I've tasted their Syrah at the winery and it's very old world in style and with that said needs bottle time before it's ready. I thnk their current release is still 03 or 04.

Wind Gap

  • PAX knows Syrah. He made a name for himself doing it for Joe Donelan at PAX Wine Cellars making big in-your-face wines and now is doing an about face with wind Gap making more restrained cold climate wines that are not only delicious but a good value as well. Smart mailing list to be on.


  • Better known for their Chards and Cabs AR released a Hudson Syrah (North Coast) a couple months ago that really shows it's roots ande is going to reward those who are patient. As an aside, Wind Gap and AR share the same facility and they both hold killer open houses and they seem to try to outdo each other. The don't miss events release parties of the year for me.


  • I'm all ears here...

Qupe (not their central coast, and yeah, way down south)

  • I've had limited experience with Qupe but have enjoyed the couple I have tasted

.Natural Process Alliance (Sunhawk)

  • Same winemaker (Kevin Kelly) as Salinia. This one is a cat unto itself. The NPA does it different. No winemaker interference. Total fruit expression. Organically farmed, hand picked, foot pressed, no chemicals other that a touch of sulphur. No water, no sugar, natural airborne yeasts, no filtering, fining, racking or bottling for that matter. The wine is sold in Stainless Steel Canisters that are filled from barrel daily, dated and meant to be drank same day or within 30 at most. They are then returned to the winery and refilled.

 Here's my last note on it:

"Bottled/canteened on 4-21-11. Burnt cranberry color - Very brickish color for a young wine but fades into a dark garnet core. The nose is very earthy with smoky bacon, dried cherries, white pepper and ruby red grapefruit. Very Rhonish in style and extremely appealing to this wine geek. Palate is very astringent but layered with red and blue fruits, big acid and tangy tartness. It finishes with tart red fruit and mouth drying fine grained tannins. Really enjoyable. In this bottling method it will be impossible to gauge over the long haul. Air surely softened the astringency to a degree but this wine would likely flourish in a bottle with extended aging. We may never know. That's one of the appealing facets of TheNPA. You get what you get when you get it and it's ALL natural. Well done!"

 And you should try their Pinot Gris (looks almost like orange juice) and Sauv Blanc. Like nothing you've had before. Not for everyone mind you. Also, since it's bottled daily it is only distributed within a 100 mile radius of the winery in Santa Rosa. So you really need to visit the area and buy from the tasting room to be able to enjoy.  Delivered to restaurants in milk crates.

Can you tell I like this thread?

Reply by dmcker, Jul 16, 2011.

Thanks, outthere, appreciate the notes. I've only had very few bottles from each of them (though they obviously caught my interest) and envy you your easy access....

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