A group of five Santa Barbara County vintners celebrated Syrah, extolled its virtues to members of the trade and media, and predicted a bright future for the variety during the Syrah Symposium held recently in Santa Ynez, California.
As Wines & Vines reported, Henry Wine Group Master Sommelier Peter Neptune led the seminar and panel discussion with Syrah producers David Hopkins of Bridlewood Estate winery, Steven Beckmen of Beckmen Vineyards, Larry Schaffer of Fess Parker Winery & Vineyards, Kerry Damskey of Palmeri Winery, and Clay Brock of Zaca Mesa Winery & Vineyards.
The panelists suggested that, while many consumers are currently somewhat confused about the Syrah/Shiraz identity, Syrah may well eclipse Pinot Noir within the next decade, citing the explosive growth in the California Syrah crush, up nearly 50 percent to 147,312 tons between 2004 and the record 2005 crop, amounting to 4 percent of the total crush.
Damskey noted that Pinot Noir has benefited from the American love of immediate gratification and easy drinkability. “As we, the winemakers, evolve and elevate Syrah, consumers will be the beneficiaries,” he said.
Beckmen praised the sweetness of fruit and approachability of food-friendly California Syrah, and predicted that the wine would become even more refined over time.
A barrel tasting at Bridlewood Winery demonstrated the versatility of California Syrah. There, attendees tasted 2006 Syrahs from the cool-climate Olson Ranch in Monterey’s Santa Lucia Highlands AVA, a warm-climate barrel from Sunnybrook Ranch in Paso Robles, and a third barrel with a blend of the two.
Hopkins sources grapes from almost 40 Central Coast vineyards, making up to 120 different lots from which he blends. His philosophy, he explained, utilizes a statewide “spice cabinet” of fruit from different soil types, climates and clones to produce a complex, layered and balanced wine.