Carnivores and grillers, a few reasons to love syrah: it’s a fantastic wine for pairing with any roasted meats, especially red meats like beef and lamb, as well as wild game. It is often peppery and sometimes smoky, with a roasted fruit and/or roasted meat flavor profile that makes it a fine accompaniment to anything barbecued or grilled (even, ahem, vegetables of all kinds). It also tends to be a relative value, as high quality bottles can be found for as low as $20 to $35.
The following timely list highlights my top choices for syrahs priced at less than $50, cherry-picked out of several hundred recent vintage syrahs tasted over the past year. This includes wines primarily from cooler locations in California, like the Sonoma Coast and Santa Barbara County, as well as a South African syrah and a syrah-based Côtes-du-Rhône from one of the greatest producers in France’s Rhône region.
The rankings below are based first on my score. Then for those wines ranked, for example, at 93 points, I’ve listed the lower priced wines first. As you’ll see, there are a lot of relative bargains on this list: some very tasty, savory syrahs, as low as $23 for one from Santa Barbara County’s Ballard Canyon area, which is a very up and coming location for distinctive syrahs that you can expect to be hearing a lot more about in the coming years. And for a 95-point syrah, the Dierberg at $34 is hard to beat. So find your favorite among my favorites, and get grilling!
1. Dierberg Syrah
Dierberg is a very impressive project founded by Jim and Mary Dierberg with the purchase and planting of their first vineyard in Santa Barbara County in 1997. Andy Alba, who has been on the winemaking team since the first vintage in 2001, is now the lead winemaker. This is simply an awesome wine that represents a terrific value for its quality at $34. You can enjoy it by itself, but it would be a memorable pairing with grilled steak or lamb.
2009 Santa Ynez Valley Santa Barbara County, $34
Opaque, black-tinged purple red violet color; very appealing, roasted plum, black fruit, black pepper, espresso nose; rich, delicious, roasted black fruit, pepper, violets palate with good acidity; needs two to three years; long finish. 14.5 percent alcohol. 95 points
2. Saxon Brown
Jeff Gaffner is the owner/winemaker of Saxon Brown, which he started in 1997 as a showcase for favorite vineyard sites. He learned winemaking under Richard Arrowood at Chateau St. Jean, and has since gone on to become a sought after consulting winemaker.
2009 Syrah Owl Box Parmelee-Hill Sonoma Valley, $40
Very dark ruby color; appealing, tart blackberry, tart black fruit, tar, black pepper, white pepper nose; tasty, roasted black fruit, black pepper, tar, violets, tart berry palate with depth; long finish. Shiraz clone 1 with 3 to 4 percent viognier and a little marsanne and soussanne to help set color. 94 points
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— Richard Jenning, Snooth