Top 15 Syrahs for Grilling

For spice, smoke, and sympathy for the grill, try these $50-and-under Syrahs



Carnivores and grillers, a few reasons to love Syrah: it’s a fantastic wine for pairing with any roasted meats, especially red meats like beef and lamb, as well as wild game. It is often peppery and sometimes smoky, with a roasted fruit and/or roasted meat flavor profile that makes it a fine accompaniment to anything barbecued or grilled (even, ahem, vegetables of all kinds). It also tends to be a relative value, as high quality bottles can be found for as low as $20 to $35.
 
The following timely list highlights my top choices for Syrahs priced at less than $50, cherry-picked out of several hundred recent vintage Syrahs tasted over the past year. This includes wines primarily from cooler locations in California, like the Sonoma Coast and Santa Barbara County, as well as a South African Syrah and a Syrah-based Côtes-du-Rhône from one of the greatest producers in France’s Rhône region.
 
The rankings below are based first on my score. Then for those wines ranked, for example, at 93 points, I’ve listed the lower priced wines first. As you’ll see, there are a lot of relative bargains on this list: some very tasty, savory Syrahs, as low as $23 for one from Santa Barbara County’s Ballard Canyon area, which is a very up and coming location for distinctive Syrahs that you can expect to be hearing a lot more about in the coming years. And for a 95-point Syrah, the Dierberg at $34 is hard to beat. So find your favorite among my favorites, and get grilling!
 
Tasting Notes
 
1. Dierberg Syrah
Dierberg is a very impressive project founded by Jim and Mary Dierberg with the purchase and planting of their first vineyard in Santa Barbara County in 1997. Andy Alba, who has been on the winemaking team since the first vintage in 2001, is now the lead winemaker. This is simply an awesome wine that represents a terrific value for its quality at $34. You can enjoy it by itself, but it would be a memorable pairing with grilled steak or lamb.
 
Opaque, black-tinged purple red violet color; very appealing, roasted plum, black fruit, black pepper, espresso nose; rich, delicious, roasted black fruit, pepper, violets palate with good acidity; needs two to three years; long finish. 14.5% alcohol. 95 points
 
2. Saxon Brown
Jeff Gaffner is the owner/winemaker of Saxon Brown, which he started in 1997 as a showcase for favorite vineyard sites. He learned winemaking under Richard Arrowood at Chateau St. Jean, and has since gone on to become a sought after consulting winemaker.
Very dark ruby color; appealing, tart blackberry, tart black fruit, tar, black pepper, white pepper nose; tasty, roasted black fruit, black pepper, tar, violets, tart berry palate with depth; long finish. Shiraz clone 1 with 3-4% Viognier and a little Marsanne and Roussanne to help set color. 94 points


 
3. Rusack Syrah Ballard Canyon
Rusack is owned by Geoff and Alison Rusack, who replanted their estate vineyard in Ballard Canyon in 2003. The winemaker is the talented Steven Gerbac, who was recently named head winemaker after working at Rusack since 2003. With its roasted and dried cured meat aromas and flavors, this Syrah is a terrific value at $23.
 
Saturated, very dark ruby color; roasted black fruit, roasted meat, pepper, oregano nose; tight, dense, roasted black fruit, tart black fruit, savory, pepper, dried cured meat palate; medium-plus finish. 9% Petite Sirah; 2% American oak. 93+ points

4. Andrew Murray 
Andrew Murray has been making delicious Syrahs and other Rhône varieties in Santa Barbara County for over 20 years. He is committed to value pricing, offering some of his Rhône blends for as low as $15. This peppery, single-vineyard Syrah would sing with any grilled red meat.
 
Opaque black-tinged purple red violet color; appealing, liquid pepper, roasted plum, roasted meat nose; rich, velvety textured, tart berry, tart black fruit, tar, pepper, black berry palate with medium acidity; medium-plus finish. 14.9% alcohol. 93+ points
 
Opaque purple red violet color; appealing, pepper, tar, charcoal nose; tasty, poised, complex, pepper, roasted black fruit, mineral, tar palate with good acidity; medium-plus finish. With 4% co-fermented Viognier. 93 points
 
5. Halcón Vineyards
Paul and Valerie Gordon own Halcón Vineyard, planted primarily with heritage Syrah clones from Hermitage and Côte-Rôtie and situated at 2500 feet at the top of Hawk’s Butte in Yorkville Highlands, at the eastern edge of Mendocino County’s Anderson Valley. Winemaker Scott Shapley was assistant winemaker for Novy, and then head winemaker at Crushpad. He is currently winemaker for Roessler Cellars as well as Halcón.
 
Opaque purple red violet color; lifted, lavender, violets, tart berry nose; delicious, tart berry, black fruit, tar, mineral palate; needs 3-plus years; medium-plus finish. 93+ points
 
6. Bedrock Wine Co.
Morgan Twain Peterson, son of Ravenswood’s Joel Peterson, founded this label which has rapidly gained renown for making characterful wines primarily from very old vineyards. The Bedrock mailing list quickly closed last year, but this wine has broader availability and would be delightful with a summer barbecue, or any grilled red meat.
 
Dark ruby color; very aromatic, berry, black plum, blackberry, creosote nose; tasty, tight, tart black fruit, pepper, creosote palate; medium-plus finish . Roughly 1/3 whole cluster, 20% new oak; fruit mainly from Wildcat Mountain Vineyard, with a little Griffin's Lair, Hudson and Old Lakeville. 93+ points
 
7. Westerhold Family Vineyards
Westerhold Family is a small producer of terrific, flavorful estate Syrahs made by the talented Russell Bevan. The vineyard, in Sonoma’s Bennett Valley AVA, is planted to the Alban clone 1 of Syrah. For those who like their Syrahs big and flavorful, you can’t go wrong with this one.
 
Opaque purple red violet color; tart black fruit, tar, licorice nose; tasty, intense, tart black fruit, tar, licorice palate; long finish. 22 months in French oak. 93+ points
 
Very dark purple red violet color; tart plum, tart black fruit, smoke, charcoal nose; tasty, plush, ripe berry, black fruit, violets palate; medium-plus finish. 92+ points
 
8. Bien Nacido Vineyards
Bien Nacido Vineyards comprises over 750 acres of vines in a beautiful canyon setting. The first plantings date back to 1973 and the vineyard encompasses everything from valley floor to hillside vineyards, some of which are farmed biodynamically for particular clients. Most of their fruit is sold to other wineries, but the Miller Family that owns Bien Nacido started making a small amount of wine under their own label in 2010. The winemaker is Trey Fletcher, who was previously assistant winemaker at Littorai.
 
Opaque black red violet color; appealing, lifted, roasted black fruit, black and white pepper, charcoal nose; tight, tasty, tart roasted black fruit, black and white pepper, mineral palate with purity and salinity; medium-plus finish. 14.5% alcohol; from Block Z, with about 5% interplanted Viognier, planted in late 1980s. 93+ points


 
9. Sawyer Lindquist Vineyard
Proprietor/winemaker Bob Lindquist started Qupé in 1982 by buying grapes and making his wine at Zaca Mesa. In 1989 Bob joined with Jim Clendenen (who had started Au Bon Climat in 1982) to build a winery facility of their own under a lease agreement with the Bien Nacido Vineyard. In 2005, Bob and his wife Louisa planted 40 acres at their 80-acre ranch in the Edna Valley near San Luis Obispo, which is now the Sawyer Lindquist Vineyard. This is a pepper lover’s Syrah.
 
Medium cherry red color; hibiscus, tart red fruit, pepper nose; very peppery, cigar box, tobacco palate; medium-plus finish 93+ points
 
10. Sawyer Lindquist Vineyard Qupé Syrah
See winery background under #9 above.
 
Medium ruby color; pepper, very savory, charcoal nose; tasty, savory, tart black fruit, tobacco, roasted meat palate; medium-plus finish. 93 points
 
11. Saxon-Brown
See background under wine #2 above.
 
Very dark purple/red violet color; appealing, roasted black fruit, pepper, tar, incipient bacon fat, violets nose; tasty, firm, tart black fruit, roasted black fruit, black pepper, black olive palate with good acidity; needs one to two years; long finish. Durrell selection clone; 14.7% alcohol. 93 points
 
12. Mullineux Family Wines
The Mullineux Family consists of Chris and Andrea, who were previously at Tulbagh Mountain Vineyards (now Fable Wines) until they married in 2007 and decided to launch their own project. Syrah is their focus, and this is a delicious one, especially for those who love ripe black fruit in their Syrah, with touches of herbs.
 
Lavender, tart berry, black fruit nose; tasty, lavender, tart berry, black fruit, herbal palate; medium-plus finish. 20% whole cluster. 93 points
 
13. Domaine Auguste Clape
Auguste Clape has long been one of the most renowned producers in the Northern Rhone, especially for his Cornas from estate vineyards. Due to Clape’s reputation and commitment to traditional winemaking, this Côtes du Rhône is one of that appellation’s highest priced wines, but it’s a delicious offering that would be a superb accompaniment to a summer barbecue.
 
Opaque purple red violet color; nice tart black fruit, tar, licorice, black pepper nose; tight, coiled, concentrated, complex, tarry, tart black fruit, lovely herbs, licorice palate, medium-plus finish 93 points
 
14. Dragonette Cellars
The proprietors/winemakers of Dragonette are John and Steve Dragonette and their friend Brandon Sparks-Gillis. They source this Syrah-based blend, called Seven, from seven different vineyards in Santa Barbara County’s Santa Ynez Valley and York Mountain (west of Paso Robles).
 
Saturated very dark ruby color; roasted black fruit, pepper, charcoal nose; tasty, roasted black fruit, tar, charcoal, pepper palate; needs 4-plus years; medium-plus finish. 22 months in barrel, 45% new; 92% Syrah, 5% Grenache, 2% Mourvedre, 1% Viognier. 93 points
 
15. Zotovich Family
Steve Zotovich is the owner of Zotovich Family Vineyards, which is based on estate fruit grown in the relatively cool Sta. Rita Hills. The consulting winemaker for this vintage was Steve Brewer of Palmina and Brewer-Clifton. The roasted fruit and pepper flavors will make this an enjoyable pairing either for meats or grilled vegetables.
 
Very dark red color; reticent, roasted plum, light pepper nose; pepper, green peppercorn, tart roasted black fruit, mineral palate; medium-plus finish; clone 1. 93 points
 
 


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Comments

  • Snooth User: dpcowboy
    1276710 17

    I like the list, but have to wonder if these wineries all pay for their presence on the list (in one way or another). the reason I say that is that several great California Syrahs under $50, universally recognized, are not on this list....hmmm...

    Apr 26, 2013 at 4:04 PM


  • Snooth User: Ehulani
    1060270 4

    Can anyone tell me about "Signorello Estate Syrah 2010?" I received a bottle as a gift and I usually drink Pinot Grigio, so I have no idea what to expect. Any comments or suggestions? Any idea what this bottle is valued at? Thank you

    Apr 26, 2013 at 4:09 PM


  • Snooth User: EMark
    Hand of Snooth
    847804 5,482

    Again, a very interesting list that includes some favorites and opens my eyes to new possibilities. Also, I am, again, surprised to see many examples from California's Central Coast. Yippee, more wines that I might actually be able to find.

    Dpcowboy, go over to the Snooth Forum and you will find several fans of Syrah (including EMark). Please feel free to start a new thread and let us know what your favorites are. Always looking for something new.

    Ehulani, I went to the Signorello web site (wwwsignorelloestate.com), visited their "Wine Shop" page and found out that they are currently selling their 2010 Syrah for $48. Here are their notes:

    "Our estate Syrah vineyard was planted in 1992 and is located on the Silverado Trail in the Oak Knoll district. Crafted in traditional Northern Rhone style, we add a small amount of Viognier for added complexity.

    "This inky black Syrah opens with notes of white pepper and clove. The palate explides [sic--obviously, the i is much too close to the o on somebody's keyboard] with black fruit, nuances of kahlua, and surprisingly soft tannins".

    Needless to say, this is nothing like Pinot Grigio, However, in my opinion anybody who gifted me with a wine like this would immediatey move up several notches in my list of friends. ;-) Aloha.



    Apr 26, 2013 at 5:53 PM


  • Snooth User: Ehulani
    1060270 4

    Mahalo for your quick and knowledgeable input. Yes, I see I was quite lucky to get this. will enjoy it with the Prime Rib I plan on making very soon. Aloha!

    Apr 26, 2013 at 6:12 PM


  • Snooth User: bopahyland
    222403 17

    Where are the wines with every day prices that we can all afford? Please start including them in your reviews.

    Apr 26, 2013 at 6:46 PM


  • Snooth User: Richard Foxall
    Hand of Snooth
    262583 2,875

    Bopahyland (hope I typed that right), I get your drift. Remember, these are all 90+ wines, really the best things out there. If you order from Halcon by the case, the price goes down to $20. It's tough to get things that are really outstanding much below that. But it is possible. Look for wines that come from places not associated with Syrah, like the Cortona area of Italy. Or, for a different style, there's some reasonable Shiraz from Autralia. Also vin de pays from areas of France outside the usual N. Rhone AOCs., like Collines Rhodaniennes. Finally, a good and widely available Syrah from California under $20 (usually $14 to $15) is the Cline Cool Climate. http://www.clinecellars.com/index.c...
    $18 on their website, but often available elsewhere for less.

    Apr 27, 2013 at 4:11 PM


  • Snooth User: EMark
    Hand of Snooth
    847804 5,482

    Prime Rib!!! Ah, yes. the traditional luau feast. I'm sorry, Ehulani, I just had to pull your leg a bit. That wine should go spectacularly well with prime rib. Enjoy.

    Bopahyland, adding on to Foxall's comments, I am becoming more impressed with Syrah from Edna Valley. In the "low dollar" category, Edna Valley Vineyard's "Paragon" Syrah is farily easy to find for about $10. Make no mistake, it is not a 90-point wine, but it is a decent, everyday kind of wine.

    Apr 27, 2013 at 5:38 PM


  • Snooth User: Richard Foxall
    Hand of Snooth
    262583 2,875

    Couple other good deals: Lafond SRH Syrah can be had from Totalwine for about $18. Invino and LastBottle have two different Maclaren Syrahs for $20 and $14, respectively. (If you go to Invino, it will say the wine has an average rating of 92.5 on CT; one of the two reviews on CT is mine--it's the lower of them. Two reviews is technically enough for an average, but is it meaningful?)

    Apr 29, 2013 at 2:46 PM


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