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What to Drink Now: Syrah and Rhone Varieties

Smoky, spicy, fruity wine for your holiday table.
By Hayley Hamilton Cogill |

I love a well made Syrah. It’s smoky, spicy, fresh, and juicy,  Surprisingly, this wine can be difficult to find, as options are overly extracted, highlighting high alcohol and ripe fruitiness, instead of the terroir. Here are full Syrah options, and a few Rhone-style blends, that deliver taste and sense of place. (Some selections were sent for editorial consideration.)

Mistral winds from the Atlantic sweep through the vineyards of France’s Northern Rhone keeping grapes dry and cool, ensuring acidity is kept fresh, and earthiness shines in the Syrah wines of the region. Ferraton Pere & Fils their Crozes-Hermitage “La Martiniere” is a full Syrah wine grown in mineral-rich gravel and stone soils, creating concentrated, leathery, black-fruit filled wine with classic character. ($20 at Pogo’s.)

Donelan Cuvee Christine Syrah is an earthy, meaty Syrah, with bright red fruit, toasted spice, and dried fig notes, making it ideal to pair beautifully with your holiday turkey. If you prefer to fry your Thanksgiving bird, consider the Donelan Cuvee Moriah, a Rhone-style blend leading with Grenache, often adding Mourvedre and/or Syrah, creating a juicy wine with acidity and freshness, helping cut through the richness of the fried turkey. Both available via allocation through their website.

From Willamette Valley’s Penner-Ash Cellars showcasing the warm-weather vineyards of Southern Oregon, delivering ripe red berry, baking spice, and toasted vanilla, enhanced by 17 months of partially new and partially neutral French oak aging. ($40 via their website.)

Dave Ramey celebrates Sonoma Coast vineyards by crafting an unexpected Sonoma Coast Syrah from four vineyards in the region. Balanced and luscious, leading with bright red cherry and berry followed by hints of gravel-filled minerality. ($40, available at Goody-Goody.)

Though the Grenache is noted first in the name for Pedernales GSM Melange, the Mourvedre and Syrah are dominant in this palate-pleasing Texas selection. A medium-bodied, balanced wine from vineyards in both the Texas High Plains and Hill Country AVAs, creating a textured, luscious wine with character. ($22 at Pogo’s.)

Over 55 years ago Columbia Winery was created in Woodinville, WA with the goal to make varietally correct wines that represented Washington, under the initial guidance of Winemaker and Master of Wine, David Lake. His Vision Blend was everything that he wanted Washington wine to be. A blend of predominantly Syrah, with Grenache, Mourvedre, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon, the Columbia Winery Vision Blend creating a wine the French would never make, but is entirely, uniquely Washington. ($50, via their website.)

Similarly, Justin Winery Savant is a blend of 80% Paso Robles Syrah and 20% Paso Cabernet Sauvignon, adding depth and texture to the smoky, black fruit filled wine for a bold, yet lively wine with black licorice and pepper spice. ($50, via their website.)

Cline Cellars highlights dense, dark fruit in their Ancient Vines Mourvedre from historic old vineyards in Contra Costa County, CA. The wine layers dark chocolate, ripe black plum, and star anise. (Roughly $15, at Total Wine.)

Walla Walla Syrah

Walla Walla estate grown, certified sustainable Amavi Cellars Syrah highlights savory olive and herbal notes with black fig and wet stone for a structured, expressive wine. ($30, available at Central Market/HEB stores.)

Walla Walla K Vintners Powerline Syrah transports you to a lodge with wood-burning fireplaces as the smoky, gamey, slightly tannic wine is filled with ripe blackberry and charred oak flavors. ($50 at

From rocky, gravel-filled soils J Lohr Paso Robles South Ridge Syrah creates layers of black tea, black and blueberry, with a touch of red cranberry that is a steal. ($14 a bottle. At Total Wine.)


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