California syrah has had its ups and downs in recent years, with many predicting its demise about a decade ago. There were even jokes ending with the punchline that it was easier to get rid of a case of (fill in the disease) than a case of syrah.
Nevertheless, acreage of syrah in California has been holding steady at about 15,000 for the past decade. Much of it is planted in the Central Valley and is most likely used in inexpensive blends, but the grape has maintained its popularity on the Central Coast, where it’s used in much more serious wines. In the most recent state grape acreage report, San Luis Obispo County has the most syrah planted, about 2,200 acres. (Most of that is in Paso Robles.) Santa Barbara County is a lesser player but still has about 1,200 acres.
So the wine of the week is actually two wines, both syrahs from the Central Coast. Both would be great accompaniments to grilled meats or poultry.
The first is the 2018 Melville Estate Syrah ($38) from the Sta. Rita Hills appellation of Santa Barbara County. The wine is smoky and spicy, with lively berry fruit and a note of bacon fat. It’s robust but light on its feet, with good energy. Sixty percent of the fruit is destemmed, and the sizable portion of whole-cluster fermentation shows in the wine’s savory accents.
Second, we have the 2017 Falcone Family Syrah ($30) from Paso Robles. The blend, which includes 6 percent petite sirah, is lively, spicy and a little smoky, with ripe berry and a hint of dried fruit. The finish is persistent, with approachable tannins. Unlike the Melville, the Falcone syrah is made with all destemmed fruit, although winemaker John Falcone says a few whole clusters always get through.