Friday, October 19, 2012

Syrah from Sonoma and Humboldt Counties

Ridge is one of my favorite California producers. Cabot is new to me, but I'm impressed.
Syrah is one of my favorite grapes and, along with pinot noir, it’s my go-to red. While Northern Rhone syrah will always be my zenith, I actually drink more Northern California syrah. Why? Well, there are more of them for one. Sonoma and Mendocino Counties comprise a huge amount of land. The regions within vary drastically, as do the styles of their syrah. Sure, winiemakers produce some good syrah in places like Paso Robles and other Central Coast appellations, but I tend to favor the flavor profiles of wines from Sonoma and Mendocino.

At a recent tasting that including mostly Old World reds, I had the opportunity to taste three wonderful California syrahs that demonstrate the diversity of Northern California. Two were from Sonoma and one was from Northern-Northern California’s Humboldt County. I’ve checked my tasting history and it appears this was the first time I’ve tasted a Humboldt County wine, period. It surely won’t be my last.

2005 Ridge Syrah Lytton West Vineyard - Sonoma County, Dry Creek Valley
I drank this wine four years ago and loved it. Still do, maybe more so. Aromas of plums, smoke and dense underbrush. Dark fruit on the palate, but it remains elegant. I love the rose, violet and mulch flavors that accent the deep fruit. There’s still a long life ahead for this wine. It’s made of 94% syrah and 6% viognier, a white grape, which adds freshness and floral tones to the wine.
(91 points)

2007 Cabot Vineyards Syrah Kimberly's - Humboldt County
This wine is a great ambassador for Humboldt County. It’s aromatically powerful, showing blackberries, plum and cocoa powder. On the palate this wine is somehow pure, silky and dense at the same time. Velvety plums, chocolate shavings, hints of leather, tar and pepper. Long finish. Delicious stuff with years left to go. (89 points)

2009 Bedrock Wine Co. Syrah Sonoma Coast - Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
Whoa! This Sonoma Coast syrah came to fight! I love Bedrock, and this is another reason why. Gorgeous aromas of red plums, olives, juicy steak and potpourri. Plush tannins and medium acid on the palate. This wine pays homage to Northern Rhone with its meat and olive flavors, but the blueberry and raspberry flavors are pure Sonoma. So silky and pure. Undeniably yummy, and the Rhone lovers in the crowd really liked it. This wine shows the promise of Sonoma Coast syrah. (92 points)

So there you have it. I’m sure it won’t be long before I’m drinking some more California syrah. If you’ve got a favorite Northern California syrah, I’d love to hear about it. Cheers!


  1. Give Washington syrah a try, one of my favorite local varietals. Trust Syrah is highly recommended.

    1. I've never tried Trust before, but I'm a big fan of Washington State syrah. As far as producers go, I like Betz, Reynvaan, Fausse Piste and Cayuse, although the later's too 'spensive for my blood. Cheers!