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Cain Syrah (Torn Label) 2003
Above the town of St. Helena on the eastern slopes of the Mayacamas Mountains sits the Spring Mountain District.
A dynamic region, its vineyards, cut by numerous springs and streams, vary in elevation, slope and aspect. Soils differ throughout with over 20 distinct types inside of the 8,600 acres that define the appellation. Within that area, only about 1,000 are planted to vineyards. Predominantly farmed by small, independent producers, the region currently has just over 30 wineries.
During the growing season late afternoon Pacific Ocean breezes reach the Spring Mountain vineyards, which sit at between 400 and 1,200 feet. Daytime temperatures during mid summer and early fall remain slightly cooler than those of the valley floor.
Spring Mountain soils—volcanic matter and sedimentary rock—create intense but balanced reds with lush and delicate tannins. The area excels with Bordeaux varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot and in some cooler spots, Chardonnay.
Marked by unmistakable deep purple hue and savory aromatics, Syrah accounts for a good deal of some of the most intense, powerful and age-worthy reds in the world. Native to the Northern Rhône, Syrah still achieves some of its maximum potential here, especially from Hermitage and Côte-Rôtie.
Syrah also plays an important component in the canonical Southern Rhône blends based on Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre, adding color, depth, complexity and structure to the mix. Today these blends have become well-appreciated from key appellations of the New World, namely Australia, California and increasingly, with praise, from Washington.
In the Glass
Syrah typically shows aromas and flavors of purple fruits, fragrant violets, baking spice, white pepper and even bacon, smoke or black olive. In Australia, where it goes under the name Shiraz, it produces deep, dark, intense and often, jammy reds. While Northern Rhône examples are typically less fruity and more earthy, California appears increasingly capable of either style.
Flavorful Moroccan-spiced lamb, grilled meats, spareribs and hard, aged cheeses are perfect with Syrah. Blue cheeses are perfect with a dense and fruit-driven Australian Shiraz.
Due to the success of Australian “Shiraz,” winemakers throughout the world have adopted this synonym for Syrah when they have produced a plush and fruit forward wine made in the Australian style. As an aside, Australians are also fond of tempering their fruit-forward Shiraz by blending with Cabernet Sauvignon, which adds depth and structure.