Syrah is a native French grape most notably associated with the Northern Rhone Valley (as a single red varietal) and the Southern Rhone Valley (as a component in blends). Syrah also does well throughout California, particularly in the Central Coast and across all sub-regions of the Sierra Foothills. The grapes can be highly concentrated and the wines can be very long-lived. The wines tend to be well-structured and gently tannic, and the flavors can range from black pepper, leather, liquorice (in cooler climates) to rich, dark fruit in warmer climates. The best versions from the Sierra Foothills show some of both sides of the spectrum. The grape is known as Shiraz in Australia and other parts of the world.
FOOTHILLS WINO PANEL SELECTION
Ascent is the best Syrah in California and the most decorated wine in the Sierra Foothills, regularly receiving 100 point scores. Bill Easton blends the cream of the crop from several Syrah vineyards across the Foothills and raises it in new French oak for 22 months to create an intense, powerful, and thought-provoking wine that can age for a century. If you have one Foothills wine in your cellar, this is the one. Very limited production. Terre Rouge produces several other Syrahs. All are excellent, especially "High Slopes".
OTHER FAVORITE FOOTHILLS SYRAHS
Intense red berries, black fruit, violets, roses, rosemary, mint, a hint of pepper, sweet spices… so much complexity, so perfectly balanced… simply an amazing wine with a finish that lasts until tomorrow. Sometimes we feel like an ad service for this winery with as many favorites as we have. No, they are just really good at making wine.
Getting to this winery which is way off the beaten path is a bit of a challenge, but it is well worth the effort. Karen Wood has been making natural wine here since before the term was coined. All are great, but we think the Syrah steals the show. Every vintage is meaty and peppery but with abundant fruit, and Karen thoughtfully holds these back long enough before release for everything to integrate.
A perfect expression of the Foothills from this meticulous organic grower. A range of fruit from plum to blueberries, black pepper, and minerality are highlighted by a delicate touch of oak to add some spice. The wine is young and alive, but ready for a long life. Very limited quantities produced, so grab some fast.
David Girard has been making some of the best Rhone-variety wines in California for almost twenty years, organically for the last decade. Beautifully set on a hillside above the site of gold discovery on American River in northern El Dorado County, David Girard has long been the gold standard for Foothills Rhones. This Syrah is savory and floral and will definitely put you in the mind of the Northern Rhone Valley.
A very large and bold Syrah bursting with black fruit from this winery devoted to Rhone varieties. A late release allows the tannins to resolve and the spices to integrate into an intense and complex sip with a lingering finish.
This is an amazingly complex Syrah from one of the most under-the-radar producers in the Foothills. This Syrah is a blend of two different blocks, each with distinct microclimates on their Fiddletown vineyard. Stop into the tasting room in Sutter Creek and taste through the entire selection. If you love Syrah, we bet you walk out with at least one of these.
Mellowood has one of the most famous Syrah vineyards in the Foothills, and the wines are perennially award winners. The winery recently became the first Kenyan-owned winery in the Foothills, and we are excited to see what the new owners start turning out.
Miraflores produces a wide range of wines, each hand crafted by one of the top young winemakers in the region, Fernando Abarca, who apprenticed under Foothills legend Marco Cappelli for years. The wines are across-the-board consistently good, but the Syrah is a standout to us.
Syrah from 50 year old, own-rooted vines at 2800 feet... what more could you ask? How about now being in the hands of one of the Foothills most exciting winemaking teams as new owner Jim Czachorowski and new winemaker Ryan Wright begin their transformation of this historic property while keeping a firm grasp on the past. The Mountain Ridge version from a different block is delicious, too.
Perfectly structured, blackberry, chocolate, herbal and meaty notes… might well turn out to be some of the most age-worthy on the list. When you go, ask if they have any library versions available. The ones from the early teens are in a great spot.
Blackberries, black cherries, violets, herbs, and a dash of pepper comingle in this earthy delight from the immaculate Shake Ridge Ranch Vineyard. We aren't sure it is possible for any wine made from this vineyard's grapes can evade a favorites list.