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Syrah fans, reach for the Sky

Northside Staff
Tasters: Dave Pohl, ed., Dana Malley, Jason Wentworth, and Mark Britten

In a recent Wine Spectator article, Matt Kramer suggests that in selecting from a restaurant’s wine list it is wise to peruse categories of wine that offer excellent quality for a moderate price (www.winespectator.com, February 18, 2014). One good bet is California Syrah, which he calls “the best quality-wine bargain in a state not exactly known for deals. If you’re getting a steak, you ought to be looking at a California Syrah.”

The staff at Northside Wine & Spirits recently put Kramer’s assertion to the test in a blind tasting of 13 examples of California Syrah, sometimes alternatively called Shiraz. The tasting was a pleasant surprise, as most of the wines were well made and intensely flavorful without being heavy.

The staff’s top pick from this group was the Sky Vineyards 2010 Mt. Veeder Syrah ($27.99 per bottle). This delicious entry exhibits an intensely fruity aroma and flavor packed with black cherry/raspberry fruit. Soft, dusty tannins and good acidity nicely balance its full flavor. A hint of cedar adds interest to the wine’s long finish. Enjoyable now, it should also hold and develop with several years in the bottle.

Sky Vineyards, founded in 1979, is a small operation located at a daunting 2,100 feet above sea level near the top of Napa’s Mt. Veeder located in the southwestern portion of Napa. Owner Lore Olds, son of a well-known Berkeley councilwoman, had previously worked throughout Napa and Sonoma including a stint on a commune at Sonoma’s Old Hill Ranch prior to planting his own vineyard in 1972.

Initially, Olds planted Zinfandel, and for two decades it was the only variety Sky produced. Syrah was added in 2000, because “We… enjoyed a number of locally produced Syrahs so we figured that the unique terrain and climate at Sky might be well-suited to this variety (www.skyvineyards.com).”

Indeed, the coolish, long growing season atop Mt. Veeder undoubtedly contributed to the quality of this intense wine that was produced from dry-farmed grapes. Just the wine for a juicy steak, it’s also perfect for wild mushroom dishes, almost anything grilled, and flavorful hard cheeses. Try it soon, as only 125 cases were produced!


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