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Griffin Creek Syrah 1998
As the the largest region in the greater Southern Oregon AVA, bordering California, the Rogue Valley AVA grows the most diverse array of grape varieties compared to any other Oregon appellation.
The Rogue Valley AVA is actually made up of three adjacent river valleys—not just one as its name suggests—Bear Creek, Applegate and Illinois. These valleys extend from the foothills of the Siskiyou Mountains, a coastal sub range of the Klamath Mountains. Most Rogue Valley vineyards are planted on hillsides at elevations of 1,200 to 2,000 feet where soils are metamorphic, sedimentary and volcanic.
On one end Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, Tempranillo, Syrah and Sauvignon Blanc benefit from a warm and dry climate. To the west end of the Rogue Valley, cool-climate grapes like Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Riesling, Muscat and Gewürztraminer do best. Dolcetto, Grenache and Zinfandel also grow in the Rogue Valley AVA.
Early European settlers first started growing grapes here in the 1840s, the most famous of whom was a pioneer named, Peter Britt. He also opened Oregon’s first official winery (which later closed in 1907). Today, besides its great wines, the region is known for the Britt Music & Arts festival, which inhabits Peter Britt’s former hillside estate, and the Ashland, Oregon Shakespeare Festival.
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.