Syrah: The New Pinot?

It’s easy to have pinot envy. Pinot noir is everywhere
these days, as the world is discovering the luxurious wines of
Santa Barbara County. But just over the hill from the famed Santa
Rita Hills appellation, another star is emerging: Syrah. If
the Wine Cask Futures Tasting event shows anything, it’s that syrah
is poised to make pinot noir, and other wines, jealous.

Syrah (also called shiraz in other parts of the world) is
hitting its stride here at home. Producers like Beckmen,
Curran, Bedford-Thompson, Koehler, Shoestring, and others are
hitting high notes and high scores. “Syrah is very hip,” said Joey
Tensley, winemaker for both Carina Cellars and his own Tensley
label. “The cool thing about syrah is that it adapts to
various growing conditions very well.” Syrah grapes have thick
skins and it thrives remarkably well in an assortment of different
microclimates, from cool areas like Lompoc all the way to the
oppressively hot Happy Canyon area, resulting in a wide field of
flavors. As one of the best producers of the varietal in Santa
Barbara County, Tensley understands that syrah can make excellent
easy-drinking wines that don’t break the wallet.

Mike Carhartt, Carhartt Vineyards’ owner and winemaker, along
with his wife, Brook, lauds the grape’s ability to thrive in
unusual weather and adverse conditions. “It’s a very forgiving
varietal,” he explained. “Even in difficult vintages, it still
tastes great.” In part, that’s due to the fact that syrah so
uniquely represents the soil which it came from. “What’s in
the bottle is 90 percent of what’s in the vineyard,” Mike noted of
syrah’s inclination to grow well with little oversight. “Will
it replace pinot or cabernet? I don’t think so. Pinot
here in Santa Barbara is king. But syrah definitely has its
place. There’s something for everyone.”

4·1·1   No need to take our word for it. Taste
for yourself at the Wine Cask’s Santa Barbara County Wine Futures
Tasting, this Saturday, April 22 from noon to 3 p.m. For tickets
and more information, visit or call 966-9463.


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