Cellar Notes

The Chameleon of Wine

By Condé Cox April 27, 2012 Published in the May 2012 issue of Portland Monthly

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SOME WINE GRAPES, like pinot noir, are finicky—they demand the perfect growing conditions. Others, like syrah, will take on whatever the weather brings, always capable of producing a friendly, easy-drinking wine. Syrah is now made in the warm and moderate regions of Southern Oregon and Central California, and in the cool Willamette Valley. The warmer regions result in a slightly “hotter” wine (more alcohol), with more ripe fruit flavors, while the cooler regions produce a tart edge, with the ability to age more gracefully over time in the bottle. All are deeply colored, with dark blackberry flavors and a beefy texture defined by mouth-filling, slightly astringent tannins. These four will make fine additions to your cellar:

2008 Cowhorn Vineyards Syrah 74

Applegate Valley $35
Classy, finely grained textures mix with dark cherry and ripe fruit flavors in this biodynamic wine. Pair with braised short ribs.

2008 Abacela Estate Syrah

Umpqua Valley $30
This age-worthy bottle offers polished textures and plush blackberry flavors for a reasonable price. Pair with grilled bone-in pork chop.

2009 Treana Red Syrah–Cabernet Sauvignon Blend

Paso Robles $35
Fleshy, exotic, ripe, and dark fruit flavors are on display in this crowd-pleasing wine from the up-and-coming California wine region. Pair with a gourmet hamburger.

2009 Cristom Vineyards Estate Syrah, Eola

Amity Hills $30
Like all of Cristom’s wines, its syrah has a bit of an “edge”—less muscular than warm-weather syrah but still heavy on the tannins. Pair with a charcuterie plate.

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