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Bravely Fighting the Wildfires and a Syrah to Remember

News to Wine About

BY // 08.17.18

Several years ago, I went through a Syrah phase, during which, for a month or two, I made it a point to drink a different Syrah every day. I enlisted a few friends, and we made our purchases and assembled a good lineup. France, Oregon, California, Hungary, Washington State, New York State… we had bottles from those places and many more.

It was an edifying tasting agenda, and I learned a lot about Syrah.

A month or so ago, I realized that I had since then not had a lot of Syrah. It was not a conscious decision; perhaps my palate had told me that variety is the spice of life, or maybe it was just coincidence. By chance, I received a bottle of Syrah from California that week, and decided to add it to my schedule. I am glad I did.

The 2014 Rodgers Creek Vineyard, from Ramey Wine Cellars, is what I tasted. It’s 90 percent Syrah, and 10 percent Viognier, and retails for $65. The grapes were harvested at the same time and co-fermented (including 25 percent whole Syrah clusters), and the wine spent 25 months in new barrels (French).

If you like Syrah, get a bottle of this.

The Rodgers Creek Vineyard, which is situated in the Sonoma Coast AVA, is marked by poor volcanic soils and sits 800 feet up on the southwest slope of Sonoma Mountain. The vines (Syrah 877 clone) were planted in 2002. Cool air (the Petaluma Gap effect) from the Pacific Ocean visits the vineyard at night, and, combined with the sedimentary makeup of the soils, mean lower yields and late harvests.

What’s the import of that? Well, this Syrah is savory and rich, something that would be at home alongside bottles from great Côte-Rôtie producers.

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We poured the Rodgers Creek immediately upon opening it, and the aromas of lavender, sage and blueberry met us. A bit of smoke was also in play. It has the deep color of Syrah, in this case dark purple, and our initial taste was of white pepper and silk (taste and texture).

A few minutes in the glass resulted in the development of smoked-meat flavors — think bacon or saucisson sec — and a hint of licorice. In all, a fine glass from a vintage that is drinking well now but that promises to develop nicely for a few more years (at least).

The case count was 587, so you won’t find this everywhere, but ask for it at your favorite wine merchant. I would pair this happily with a hearty beef stew or a duck breast and fried potatoes.

(Note: David Ramey, whose wines I have written about in the past, wrote on his Facebook page this week that flames from a wildfire were near his home in California, and gave thanks to the men and women who are bravely fighting the catastrophic conflagrations. We wish him, and everyone else out west, the best.)

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