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Baker Lane Estate Vineyard Syrah 2009
Nothing then was particularly exotic about planting vines in this part of West Sonoma County, that is planting Pinot Noir. Syrah and Viognier though were something of a different story. But, if there is anything about the unfolding narrative of California viticulture, it’s an ever-evolving picture. There are many sites now planted to grapes that would have been unthinkable 25 years ago. Similarly, as winegrowers seek to cultivate fruit with more precise flavors, acid retention and overall balance, the decision to push the envelope climatically becomes a natural choice.
Just as European winemakers have long championed the distinction of their terroir, we in California are legitimately celebrating their own sense of place. The vivid expression of vineyard character that cooler viticultural sites avails has driven this opportunity more than any other factor. Through 10 harvests we’re gratified to gather the consistent detail and character of their wines. Just as a child has to grow up a bit to reveal its personality, the accumulating collection of flavors presented by our family of wines is helping them know what their working with, and in turn constantly sharpening our approach to the care of the vines. It’s an exciting process to sustainably nurture our grapes and direct them in to the bottle. We hope that the fruit of our efforts is delicious for you as well.
Home to a diverse array of smaller AVAs with varied microclimates and soil types, Sonoma County has something for nearly every wine lover. Physically twice as large as Napa, the region only produces about half the amount of wine, but what it lacks in quantity it makes up for in both quality and variety. With its laid-back atmosphere and down-to-earth attitude, the wineries of Sonoma are appreciated by wine tourists for their friendliness and approachability. The entire county intends to become a 100% sustainable winegrowing region by 2019.
Grape varieties are carefully selected to reflect the best attributes of their sites—Dry Creek Valley’s consistent sunshine is ideal for Zinfandel, while the warm Alexander Valley is responsible for rich, voluptuous Cabernet Sauvignon. Chardonnay and Pinot Noir are important throughout the county, most notably in the cooler AVAs of Russian River and Sonoma Valleys, Carneros, and Fort Ross-Seaview. Sauvignon Blanc, Merlot, and Syrah have also found a firm footing here.
Marked by unmistakable aromatics, a savory palate, and an elegant texture, Syrah is capable of producing fascinatingly complex and long-lived wines with a stunning purple hue. Native to the Northern Rhône, Syrah’s best examples are found in Hermitage and Côte-Rôtie. It is also an important component of the GSM blends of the Southern Rhône and beyond, alongside Grenache and Mourvèdre. Both varietal Syrah and GSM blends are common in Australia and California and are gaining popularity in Washington State. In Australia, Syrah is known by the synonym Shiraz, which tends to indicate a bolder, fruit-driven style of wine, and is occasionally blended with Cabernet Sauvignon for added depth and structure.
In the Glass
At its best, Syrah shows aromas and flavors of purple fruits, fragrant violets, baking spice, white pepper, smoke, and even bacon fat. Many examples from California aim to recreate this savory style, while others focus more on concentrated fruit flavors. In Australia, under the name Shiraz, it shines as that country’s unofficial signature red grape, producing deep, dark, intense, and often jammy reds.
Cool-climate Syrah, with its peppery spices, is a natural match with flavorful Moroccan-spiced lamb dishes, where the spice is more about flavor than heat. With Australian Shiraz, grown in warmer regions, heavy meat dishes with abundant protein and fat are a necessity to match the intensity of the wine.
Due to the success of Australian “Shiraz,” this synonym for Syrah has been adopted by winemakers throughout the world. If the label says “Shiraz,” you can typically expect a plush, fruity, and potent wine made in the Australian style. New World "Syrah" will generally more closely resemble the French style.