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7 of the Best U.S. Syrahs From the West Coast

If you like big, dense red wines, Syrahs from the West Coast should be on your radar. In contrast to the East Coast Syrahs I covered in my last column, the West Coast wines — many of them from California’s Santa Barbara County and Washington State — tend to be quite a bit higher in alcohol and more tannic, making them natural pairings for grilled and roasted red meats, pork, and other hearty foods.

While the New York State wines I tasted from the Finger Lakes and Long Island are generally light in color with red fruit flavors and robust acidity, West Coast Syrahs are dominated by dark fruit notes with hints of smoke and meat and a good deal of oak. Despite this, some of the coastal and high-elevation sites on the West Coast can bring out the variety’s leaner, cool-climate expressions.

As I was reminded in my tastings, many of the wines need some time in the bottle. When very young, some can taste harsh, with the fruit obscured by oak and aggressive tannins. With some aging, even a couple of years or so, they relax, so to speak, and their generous fruit emerges.

That’s the case, for example, with Foxen’s superbly balanced 2020 Syrah from its Williamson-Doré Vineyard in the Los Olivos District AVA of Santa Barbara County. No hard edges here in one of my favorite wines of the tasting.

In her important reference, “The Wine Bible,” Karen MacNeil notes that these Santa Barbara AVAs (what she calls the South Central Coast) “may well be Syrah’s ultimate California home — that singular place where it consistently makes uncommonly good wine.” You’ll see what she means with some of the wines below.

Here are seven top West Coast Syrahs to try:

Foxen Syrah Williamson-Doré Vineyard 2020

This superb California Syrah is marked by beautiful bright fruit. Tasting it is like biting into a handful of just-picked blackberries in mid-summer. There’s also a hint of pomegranate. The wine is punctuated by stony minerality, fine tannins, and bright acidity. Williamson-Doré is one of Foxen’s estate vineyards; the winery also sources fruit from other well-known vineyards in the region. Foxen’s first vintage was 1985.

Price: $52
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Damsel Cellars Stillwater Creek Vineyard Syrah 2019

From Washington State, specifically the higher-elevation Royal Slope AVA in south-central Washington, this well-priced wine shows excellent balance. It offers dense but bright dark fruit flavors, mainly blackcurrant, along with violets and savory notes. Refreshing acidity keeps it from feeling ponderous despite an ABV of 14.8 percent. Winemaker and owner Mari Womack worked in Seattle restaurants, got hit with the wine bug, learned through experience, and has been making her own wine for a dozen years or so.

Price: $32
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Rusack Vineyards Ballard Canyon Estate Syrah 2019

From the Santa Ynez Valley, this blend of 95 percent Syrah and 5 percent Petite Sirah shows dense black fruit along with touches of leather, graphite, and black licorice. There’s a lot of spice at this point (the wine is still young), and though it’s drinking well now, it should evolve beautifully over the next few years. The suggested price is $36, but one retailer is selling it for $19, making it a phenomenal value.

Price: $19
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Luke Columbia Valley Wahluke Slope Syrah 2020

This big and spicy Washington State wine is an excellent value at $25, serving up concentrated, sweet blueberry and blackberry flavors along with hints of dark chocolate, pepper, and minerals. Luke takes its name from the Wahluke Slope, a sub-appellation of the Columbia Valley. The wine is widely available at stores and from the winery.

Price: $25
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Copain SeaLift Syrah Sonoma Coast Syrah 2019

This cool-climate Sonoma Coast wine shows concentrated blackcurrant and blueberry flavors with hints of tobacco leaf and Mediterranean herbs. It’s relatively soft, with fine tannins that make it effortless to drink. Worth a splurge for a special evening.

Price: $70
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Paradise Springs Sta. Rita Hills Syrah 2021

This is a stellar, cooler-climate Syrah from the Sta. Rita Hills AVA of Santa Barbara, weighing in at a refreshing 13 percent ABV. Red fruit and white pepper aromas lead to raspberry and pomegranate flavors. Its lower ABV and lively acidity make it a perfect accompaniment to a variety of foods, from roasted pork and chicken to grilled salmon. Founder Kirk Wiles is bi-coastal, so to speak, managing a sister Paradise Springs Winery in northern Virginia.

Price: $55
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Rancho Sisquoc Flood Family Vineyard Syrah 2020

The label notes a whopping 15.1 percent ABV, but this well-balanced Syrah from the Santa Maria Valley AVA of Santa Barbara County doesn’t feel it. There’s delicious red and dark berry fruit on the nose and palate and touches of flint, cinnamon, and pencil shavings. It’s also an excellent value at $34.

Price: $34
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Next up: Top wines from Virginia

The article 7 of the Best U.S. Syrahs From the West Coast appeared first on VinePair.

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