Stephen Tanzer's

Winophilia

It turns out it is easier to get rid of a case of pneumonia than a case of syrah—or at least to prevent it. According to Dr. Orin Levine, Executive Director of the International Vaccine Access Center of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, a mere $10 will vaccinate a child against the main causes of life-threatening pneumonia. And delivering effective antibiotic treatments for cases that do occur is even less expensive. 

The Rhone Rangers had the inspired idea to participate in a new partnership to fight pneumonia: buy a case, stop a case. During the month of November, for every case of syrah they sell direct to consumers, participating wineries will donate $10 to the GAVI Alliance (Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization) to fund pneumonia vaccines for children in the world’s poorest countries. You can enjoy delicious wine and help to fight the leading cause of death worldwide among children under the age of five.

At “Pneumonia’s Last Syrah,” a wine reception and photo exhibition at the New York Times Building in late September organized jointly by the Rhone Rangers, the GAVI Alliance and the International Vaccine Access Center, a dozen Rhone Rangers poured their syrahs for consumers and the press. I tasted all the wines on display and found a number that are particularly worthy of your interest.

The 2007 Novy Family Wines Rosella’s Vineyard Syrah Santa Lucia Highlands displays varietally accurate, inviting aromas of candied raspberry, smoked meat, black pepper and violet. It’s a juicy, smooth midweight—not at all fat or sloppy thanks to bright, harmonious acidity. Qupe’s 2006 Bien Nacido Hillside Estate Syrah Santa Maria Valley shows sexy aromas of dark berries, smoked meat, spices and flowers and has clearly benefited from an extra year of bottle aging. This is definitely syrah in a deep, rich California style, but for all its breadth it also delivers a light touch.

My favorite wine in the room was unfortunately a limited-production item: the Tablas Creek Vineyard 2007 Syrah Paso Robles, a wonderfully complex and elegant wine with a lush texture and complex, palate-saturating flavors of raspberry, smoke, game, roasted herbs and toasty oak. Tablas Creek is best known for their Rhone blends, but also makes small quantities of varietally labeled wines (this superb syrah actually includes 10% grenache).

The Fleming Jenkins Vineyards 2007 Black Ridge Vineyards Syrah Santa Cruz Mountains exudes very ripe aromas of black raspberry, licorice and roasted herbs but a cooler-climate quality on the palate, with very firm acidity giving bite to the pure dark berry flavors. This one calls for a couple years of aging.

Fans of the superripe, take-no-prisoners shiraz style of syrah will enjoy the Austin Hope Winery 2008 Hope Family Vineyard Syrah Paso Robles for its aromas of black cherry jam, smoked meat and licorice pastille and its big, rich, chocolatey mouth feel. It’s not a subtle wine but it offers a wall of fruit, a fine dusting of tannins and very good persistence. The Fess Parker Winery 2006 Rodney’s Vineyard Syrah Santa Barbara County is aromatically expressive, presenting scents of raspberry, game, cocoa powder and nutty oak.  It’s an opulent, seamless, smoky wine that’s kept firm by an edge of acidity. For all its body and sweetness, it avoids coming off as roasted.

And, finally, Bonny Doon Vineyard’s 2007 Bien Nacido Syrah Santa Maria Valley shows exhilarating, almost Côte-Rôtie-like aromas of black raspberry, roasted meat, cocoa powder, violet and black pepper. It’s large-scaled and rich but classically dry, with a solid structure that demands—and should reward—several years of aging.

The list of wineries that will be participating in November’s “Pneumonia’s Last Syrah” campaign now stretches from Southern California to Washington State, and is growing every day. For up-to-the minute information, please go to this special page on the Rhone Rangers’ site. Wineries that would like to be part of the campaign can also go to the same page to register.

More than 1.5 million children die from pneumonia each year. But the good news is that 2.5 million don’t die because they’ve gotten vaccines. You can help improve these statistics by vaccinating yourself against thirst, repeatedly, with a case of syrah.

October 7th, 2010 | one comment

One Response to “Pneumonia’s Last Syrah”

  1. Thanks, Steve, for writing about this! I think it’s an exciting program, both for what it can do for the world and for what it might do for this great grape.

    I’m happy, too, that you liked the Tablas Creek. The 2007 Syrah is limited production, but not tiny. It can be found in distribution in a few states (CA, NY, DC, VA, TX) as well as at the winery.

    All the best,
    -Jason

    President, Board of Directors, Rhone Rangers
    General Manager, Tablas Creek Vineyard

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