Last week, the RhoneRangers hosted a Zoom meeting all about Syrah. And guess what. They did it by tasting Syrahs from California, Michigan, Virginia and Oregon. OMG, was it fun. I had my own glass of Syrah to help me through the session. But boy, would I have loved to been able to taste the wines they were talking about. In today’s article, I will walk you through the highlights of this great session.
Who Are the RhoneRangers?
The Rhone Rangers is America’s leading non-profit organization dedicated to promoting American Rhone varietal wines. Their mission is to educate the public on Rhone varietal wine grapes grown in America and to promote the production and enjoyment of these wines, with emphasis on integration into our daily lives.
Who Were the Presenters?
Here are the people who spoke, along with the wineries each person represents.
Molly Lonborg from Alta Colina Vineyard & Winery in Paso Robles, California
Jake Nivison from Domaine Berrien Cellars in Berrien Springs, Michigan
Shannon Horton from Horton Vineyards in Gordonsville, Virginia
Nate Wall from Troon Vineyard in Applegate Valley, Oregon
About Alta Colina Vineyard & Winery
This winery only makes Rhone wines and focuses primarily on Syrah. They planted their 30 acres in 2003. They are at a pretty high elevation that experiences crazy diurnal temperature swings. Molly talked about how fun it is to play with Syrah clones. She said they are all very distinct. For example, she said that two of their favorites, Old 900 and Toasted Slope, are very different both because of using different clones and because of location in the vineyard. Old 900 comes from a cooler climate. Molly also said that they are getting ready to make a Sparkling Syrah. Wow! I can’t wait to go to the winery to try all of these wines!
About Domaine Berrien Cellars
Michigan’s average summer daytime temperature of 85° and nighttime temperature of 45° makes for a great growing environment for Syrah. Jake described the wine he was tasting as having notes of charcoal, bacon fat, blue fruit, blackberry, peppercorn and licorice. He also said that the wine had smooth tannins. OMG, do I want to try that!
About Horton Vineyards
Horton Vineyards planted their Syrah in 1990 and 1991. They grow 18 grapes, but they are partial to Rhone varietals. Shannon said that Syrah can be inconsistent in VA due to the heavy rain, heat and humidity during the growing season. Sometimes, when it rains a lot, the acid falls, and they add tartaric to help out. She talked about the wine she was trying having a lot of cherry on the front, with a big mid palette that gives it structure, and pepper on the end. Yum. I can’t wait to try it!
About Troon Vineyard
Nate said that Troon Vineyard is located about 20 miles above the CA border and 60 miles from the ocean. During the growing season, they get 100° days and 50° nights, with no rain. Their winery is organic and is dedicated to regenerative agriculture, practicing Biodynamic agriculture in their “quest to put back more than we take from our plants and soils. We believe the only route to memorable wines, that reflect the terroir of where they were grown, is to be found in the healthy soils and vines that are the foundation of Biodynamic® agriculture. This philosophy continues in the cellar where our winemaking is minimalist and we use only native yeasts with no additives to ferment our wines and eschew the use of new oak barrels to reveal each nuance of wines grown in Oregon’s Applegate Valley.” More wines I’m looking forward to trying!
What Were the Key Takeaways?
Syrah is bit of a chameleon: Syrah has a huge range with many local expressions. It is a very versatile grape.
Syrah and Viognier: I’ve often seen Syrah that has a hint of Viognier in it. I learned on the call that this co-fermentation of Syrah and Viognier was started in Northern Rhone, where winemakers decided that the expressive stone fruit and floral notes of Viognier helps both with the taste and the tannins of the Syrah. Viognier is one of the few whites that has tannins.
As I like to say, “Que Syrah Syrah.” I hope I’ve inspired you to drink a little more Syrah, which by the way is a great barbeque wine. If you have a chance to taste any of these wineries’ wines, please share your notes with me. If you’d like to try our Syrah, you can do that. But please note that our current Syrah is actually a Shiraz, which is the Australianized version of Syrah.
As an independent wine consultant with WineShop At Home, I absolutely enjoy bringing a taste of the Napa wine country home to you one sip at a time. Whether you simply love to drink wine, seek a special personalized wine gift, or are in search of a new wine jobs opportunity as a wine consultant, feel free to contact me for a truly unique wine tasting experience!
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