"This delightful red grape complements holiday meals"

Syrah, or Shiraz, refers to a grape with "wide appeal as a robust red wine, medium to full body."

Wayne on Wine
By Wayne Crawford
wayne crawford
Wayne Crawford
“There’s truth in wine” wrote Pliny the Elder from Pompeii in 1st century AD. Likely, an ancestor of the Syrah grape was actively growing in its home land in the Rhone Valley of France as Vesuvius covered Pompeii. Syrah is still the primary red grape grown in Northern Rhone

Syrah—or Shiraz as Australians, Canadians and South Africans refer to this grape—has wide appeal as a robust red wine, medium to full body.

In the hands of a skilled winemaker this delightful red grape complements all the holiday meals from Halloween through the New Year that showcase grilled or roasted meat, especially steak, venison, spareribs, duck, lamb and most aged hard cheeses.

The Big Canoe Wine Group in a blind tasting selected many of the wines drinking well now. The oldest and best rated wine was a Henschke 2000 at 11 years offering smooth tannins, nice balance with a rich black berry flavor that was soft on the palate and well worth the time the wine spent in the bottle.

Importantly, many moderately priced wines were also well received with several easily identified as repeat “go to” wines.

Wines drinking well now
syrah sierra foothillsd’Arenberg 2008 “The Stump Jump Shiraz”, McLaren Vale in South Australia priced at $11: Alcohol 14.5%z; winemaker Chester Osborn. The nose displays ripe red fruits and plums mixed with dark cherry and hints of spice. The palate is fruit forward with raspberry and blackberry flavors that allow for easy drinking. d’Arenberg is a long standing family owned winery that produces consistently good wines, including seven different wines under their Stump Jump label. All are well worth the moderate price and the winemaker suggests drinking this wine early. Best Buy—They also produce a noteworthy Shiraz “Dead Arm” that are tight young, but improves immensely after the wine ages for five years or longer.

Luchador 2007 Shiraz, Australia priced at $15: The fruit is 60% Barossa and 40% McLaren Vale. The wine expresses flavors of Blackberry, Jam, Kirsch, and dark chocolate. The palate has a rich texture of black fruit and plums finishing with soft tannins. This is a repeat wine and a selection the Big Canoe Wine Group offered in our 2009 tasting. Best Buy

sierra vista vineyardsSierra Vista Vineyards and Winery, LLC, 2007, Sierra Foothills Syrah, Placerville, CA, El Dorado County (pictured at right) priced at $18: A dark red wine with rich hues of garnet and plum. The aromas are spice and leather with hints of black fruits and clove. In the mouth, the soft tannins with rich spice and fruit produce a pleasant and lingering finish. Best Buy

Chateau St Jean 2006 Syrah, Sonoma, California priced at $40: The nose displays ripe blueberries, blackberries, violets, mint and coffee bean aromas. Deep purple in color, with attractive, supple and juicy texture, this wine will benefit from short term cellaring.

Two Hands 2005 Lily’s Garden McLaren Vale Shiraz, Australia priced at $60.00: Dark purple. Fresh red and dark berry aromas are accentuated by floral and mineral touches. This silky mid weight wine features blackberry and black cherry flavors enhanced by minerality and youthful tannins. This is a spectacular wine and while expensive the Two Hands Garden Series of wines are worth including for special events look for this wine on restaurant menus and in boutique wine shops.

Spencer Roloson 2003 Syrah La Herradura Vineyard, Napa Valley, St Helena California priced at $39.00: This wine showed very well in the tasting and is available today in a 2005 vintage.

Betz Family Winery 2004 La Cote Rousse Syrah, Redmond, Washington priced at $48.50. This wine has a dark red color with hints of purple on the rim. The wine was well received during the tasting with dark black fruits and syrupy aromas on the nose. This is a full-bodied wine, well-structured with discernable tannins but balanced. A mature wine with dark fruit flavors on the palate, it has a long finish and reflects the craft of the winemaker Bob Betz, a master of wine.

Henschke 2000 Mount Edelstone, Eden Valley Shiraz, Keyneton, South Australia priced at $70: This deep purple wine has taken on brick tints along the rim which reflects on the wines age. This wonderfully layer Shiraz retained noticeable blackberry aromas that complement a smooth well balanced body that lingers on the palate with a delightful finish. A 2007 vintage Shiraz is the latest release. A great wine to cellar and exceptional example of how good a Shiraz can become with age.

In the next article the writer will focus on wines from Burgundy and Pinot Noir’s. If you have a question or a suggestion please contact Wayne at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 

Although he calls Big Canoe home, Wayne Crawford, is frequently on the road with his consulting practice. Wayne is a member of the Society of Wine Educators.


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