Why should you care? Syrah, it turns out, is a remarkably adaptable world traveler. In addition to producing splendidly complex and ageworthy wines in France’s northern Rhône Valley, this variety yields a range of rich and satisfying wines in places as far-flung as Australia (where it’s usually labeled as shiraz) and South Africa. And on our own West Coast, very good syrahs are made from Walla Walla Valley in eastern Washington State clear down to southern California. But only the best of these wines offer the combination of flamboyant perfume and inner-palate energy and grip that call to mind the French archetypes. Thanks to its limestone hillsides in a cool maritime climate just north of Santa Barbara, Stolpman Vineyards is ideally positioned to make wines in this style.
What does it taste like? Stolpman’s 2010 Originals Syrah, from the estate’s oldest syrah vines, is a perfect example. The nose offers complex aromas of blackberry, violet, crushed rock, licorice and wild mint. The first sip practically shocks the palate with its penetrating, sharply defined flavors of strawberry, crushed cranberry and pungent pepper. While this tightly coiled syrah perfumes the mouth already, it’s still a baby. Its long, rising finish, with utterly fine tannins, suggests that it will expand and gain in complexity with several years of bottle age. My score: 93+.
How much does it cost? $38