Top Syrah Wines $25 and Up

Inspiration for solving Syrah's identity crisis


While it would be easy to continue my diatribe of sorts against producers of Syrah, I am willing to make some exceptions. You see to my mind, the responsibility of understanding a product shifts towards the consumer as the price of that product rises. 

When it comes to wine, there is generally a greater body of information and knowledge out there for more expensive wines, rather than for cheaper wines. It just stands to reason since the powers that be, the various parts of the wine mafia, prefer to taste and expound on more expensive wines. 

We are blessed with the product of the work to do with what we please, but that product tends to filter through the system. If you are planning on spending more on a bottle of wine, do yourself a favor and factor in a little research before you buy. This is where a trusted retailer can turn out to save you tons of money and pain by steering you toward wines you might enjoy.

If you take an active role in selecting your wines and responsibility for the choices you make, you are more likely to pay attention to what is out there, what ends up in your glass and what distinguishes one wine from another.  It is not an easy place to be, but consumers have to accept some responsibility if we are to help end Syrah’s identity crisis! Check out these fine wines for some inspiration. 

Photo courtesy Cortes de Cima via Flickr/CC

2008 Donelan Syrah Cuvee Christine North Coast Ca 14.9% $46

There’s a real purity to the nose here showing off white pepper, smoke, a touch of matchstick, gamy fruit, green olive tapenade and some red berry notes. Impressively peppery. Rich and soft, this really flows over the tongue with a noticeable viscosity but no stickiness. The flavors mimic the nose: intense if purely rendered with red plum, green anise seed, a touch of mint and lovely gamy nuances, wrapped up in gently cedary oak. The finish shows off more spicy oak, but the fruit quickly regains the upper hand. A bit short today, this is a fine example of California power and Syrah typicity.  92pts


2007 Cooper-Garrod Finely Vineyard Syrah Santa Cruz Mountains 14.1% $25

Earthy and herbal on the nose with a nice, savory perfume over candied wild berry fruit and notes of mutton and pine sap. This is built an a tight bed of polished ripe tannins. It almost feels like non-slip strip across one’s tongue, with tiny bubbles instead of grit. The fruit is lively and well expressed, and like the nose, it shows a fine herbal edge over crisp red fruits. The acidity is supportive and some nice soil tones pop on the back end. This turns a bit more serious and stern on the finish, with blueberry skin notes and a nice austerity. This is lithe and lively with a soft accent of cocoa on the mid-palate, with slow to emerge layers of fruit and spice. The nose really is gorgeous. 92pts


2008 Chateau Tanunda Noble Baron Shiraz  Barossa 14.5% $44

Lovely on the nose. Intense and detailed with gamy, coconut accents over dried black raspberry, dusted with cracked pepper and a fine violet/licorice edge. This is full-bodied, though is finely balanced with good supporting acids and a fine veil of slightly dusty tannins. The mid-palate shows off blackberry fruit that is clear and bright with a gentle creaminess to the texture. There’s a fine layer of oak that is well integrated with the fruit here, though it does leave one with some powdery tannins on the rather dark and fruit-driven finish. 92pts

2007 Jaboulet Crozes Hermitage Domaine de Thalabert 13% $36

Tight on the nose and not showing much. Vigorous coaxing yields a touch of peppery, gamy fruit with a growing vein of violet. On entry, this shows a rich yet fairly elegant texture. Seamless with lovely ripe fruits, wild berries, earth and some old wood spice that is subtle and layered, leading to a nice blueberry note on the back end. The finish is fairly long and again shows some old wood layered with fine wild blueberry fruit tones and some gentle, nutty and juniper-driven spice notes. The finish begins to show fine complexity with air: sour plums, smoke and cutting acids, all revealing themselves one at a time. A bit more open knit than I would like given the relatively reticent aromatics, but this is showing fine balance and detailed fresh fruit character. 90pts


2008 Transcendence Larmer Vineyard Syrah Santa Ynez Valley 14.9% $28

This is fairly oaky on the nose but also possesses some terrific fruit-driven aromas of olive, briar and sweet dried berry fruit, all with a touch of heat and some wood spice top notes. Rich and chewy on entry, this has a lovely feel that is powerful but well balanced, with good clarity and depth. The oak is obvious, adding sweetness and spice on the finish, but the raw material seems awfully fine with a lovely brightness and freshness. Lots of wild blueberry fruit here. This is pretty fun to drink, I just wish it would have a little less wood tamping everything down. 90pts


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