World Wide Syrah

Washington State Syrah

The bold, luscious red varietal- Syrah- is grown world wide.  Originally from the southeastern part of France, the grape has migrated to several regions with great success!  Tales have been told of it originating from Iran, Sicily and other Mediterranean delights; however, DNA analysis concludes that it is a cross of Dureza and Mondeuse Blanche (both of French origin).

So, where in the world do we find Syrah?

Northern Rhone_Cote Rotie vineyards
Côte Rotie vineyards, Northern Rhône

Classically Rhône- Syrah is found in both the Northern & Southern Rhône, and they are very different. In the Nothern Rhône, it is 100% Syrah with only a touch of Viognier (a white varietal) allowed per AOC laws.  Expect dark, hedonistic, inky fruits mingling with earth, mushrooms and pencil lead.  Southern Rhône is allowed to blend– and they do!  With the availability of several different varietals, Châteauneuf-du-Pape takes the lead as King of Blending.  In addition to Syrah, CNP can use:  Cinsaut, Counoise, Grenache Noir, Mourvèdre, Muscardin, Piquepoul Noir, Syrah, Terret Noir and Vaccarèse (Brun Argenté). Since it is primarily Grenache based, expect bright summer cherries with expressive spice, depth and higher acidity. Killer.

Nalys_vineyards with tree
Domaine de Nalys vineyards, Chateauneuf-du-Pape, Southern Rhône

We recommend:
Vignerones Propriétés Associés- Crozes-Hermitage
Northern Rhône, France — Reg $23.99 | INSIDER $22.99
Domaine de Nalys 2010 Châteauneuf-du-Pape Cuvée Reserve
Southern Rhône, France– Reg $65.99

Not quite the cousin to France, as Spain always has to add a bit of umphf and vigor to their reds.  Found in Catalonia and Jumilla primarily, the heat explodes the juices and spice- plump fruit with baking spices of cinnamon and cardamom. Lower acid, higher alcohol.

Mollydooker_shiraz vineyard
Mollydooker Syrah vineyards, McLaren Vale, Australia

Renamed Shiraz when it migrated, Australian Shiraz is Syrah, just spicier.  Not too dissimilar to Spain where the heat creates an extracted fruit bomb with amazing black peppercorn delights- Australians are very methodical and exacting.  Expect a balanced fruit explosion.

D’Arenberg 2010 The Dead Arm Shiraz
McLaren Vale — Reg $69.99

Syrah_lodiwinecomSyrah vineyards, Lodi, California

North America
The States have several growing regions, but for the acclaim: California and Washington get the ticket.  California is hotter with a maritime influence, whereas Washington is a desert climate- hot with a cold evening.  California provides a fruit bomb experience.  Washington, expect a diverse experience from ripe fruits to stones, granite, olives, and peppercorn spice!

K Vintners 2013 Rock Garden Syrah
Walla Walla Valley, WA — Reg $65.99

South America
Argentina – Known for Malbec, yes… Argentina makes a rock star Syrah.  Extracted yet the mountains cool down and allow for great acidity for food pairing (spicy dishes!!). Chile is similar to Argentina yet cooler.  Experience softer fruit with higher acidity and refinement.

Elqui 2013 Syrah
Elqui Valley, Argentina — Reg $27.99

South Africa
If you haven’t had anything from South Africa, this is where you should start (though there are great several contenders).  Bodacious ripe and often cooked fruits with subtle hints to BBQ smoke and brine. An amazing Syrah for meats and bold flavors (curries and spice). Get it!

Stark-Conde 2013 Syrah
Stellenbosch, South Africa — Reg $22.99

Tuscany, Italy
Not native to Italy… but when times change the Italians embrace it.  Super Tuscans came about in the late 1890’s when Phylloxera hit France.  French winemakers, trying to save their stock, asked to grow in Italy (as well as all over the world).  The end result was a bit of a controversy.  The wines, of course brought Phylloxera , but also introduced non- traditional wines to Italy.  High end producers couldn’t sell the wines, per government regulations. But they were amazing. So- guess what they did? Sold it anyways.  They are Italians! Syrah, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon are some of the heavy hitters to the most renown Super Tuscans.

La Togata Azzummeta Toscana Rosso — Reg $45.99

Mannucci-Droandi (Tuscany)

Hungary, Switzerland, and Eastern Europe

I have personally never tasted these wines, but I have no doubt that the reason they are not imported is because…  they are consumed!

Cheers!  Jaci


Portalis Wine Club – December 2007: The Rhône Valley

dscn0667_blog_21The last wine club of the year features wines from the Rhône Valley in southeastern France. Wines from this area are exceptional food wines and match well with many traditional holiday dishes including duck, turkey, lamb and beef.

The Rhône Valley is one of the oldest wine growing regions in the world and is divided into the Southern and Northern Rhône Valleys. You can find thrilling, world class wines in Cote Rotie, Condrieu, Hermitage and Cornas (Northern Rhône) as well as in Chateauneuf-du-Pape, Gigondas and Vacqueyras (Southern Rhône). Wines from the Northern Rhône appellation are mainly made from the Syrah grape, sometimes blended with Viognier and tend to be drier and more structured, with flavors of minerals & earth, while the Southern Rhône appellation produces an array of red, white and rosé wines, often blends of multiple grape varietals.  The reds from the Southern Rhône are earthy and spicy and tend to be fruitier than those from the north end of the valley.

The 2 bottle wine club features two wines from the Southern Rhône appellation.  The 3 bottle wine club adds in a wine from the Northern Rhône appellation.

Domaine des Espiers was founded in 1989 by Philippe Cartaux and is located in the village of Vacqueyras. This red is a blend of 65% Grenache and 35% Syrah from the Gigondas appellation. This wine is unfiltered and fermented 6 months in French oak. Tasting notes: Very aromatic. Refined fruit and flavors of dark berries, blackberries, with some herbal and spicy components. Elegant, complex and well-balanced. Great acidity. Still a little young. Needs some time. Up to 2 years

This producer is also located in the town of Vacqueyras. The appellation area covers the two communes of Vacqueyras and Sarrians within the “Vaucluse “department”, at the base of the Dentelles de Montmirail hills. The Vacqueyras appellation received Grand Cru status in 1990.  Tasting notes: Well-made Rhône wine with rustic, dark fruit, blackberries, herbal and earthy notes. Shows tar and mineral notes on the dark, long finish. Great acidity and body. A wonderful wine.  Drink now, up to 2 years.

Emmanuel Darnaud is one of the most talented young winemakers in the Northern Rhône Valley. After working for 4 years for Bernard Faurie, he made his first vintage in 2001. The winery is located in La Roche-de-Glum. Tasting notes: Seductive bouquet. Dark and racy, with lots of blueberry, olives, violets, tar and iron notes. Medium-to full-bodied, with a firm structure. Long, smoky finish. Drink now, up to 3 years.

Enjoy & cheers,

Note:  If you are interested in joining our wine club, read more at

A visitor from Bodega Benegas (Argentina)

This tasting was great tasting for several reasons:  1) the wines were phenomenal wines, especially for the money and 2) Berenice Maulhardt, who was visiting Seattle from the winery in Mendoza, was a power-frau to say the least.  A beautiful woman in her high-heeled boots and her long blond hair, excellent English and a lot of information to impart on the subject of Benegas (pronounced BeNEgas she told us) and Argentine wine in general, she dazzled the crowd which was a lot of fun.  Bodegas Benegas ( has a long and interesting history, beginning in the 1880’s with Tiburcio Benegas planting the first French grapevines in the Americas and ending with Federico Benegas Lynch buying back the family winery in the late 1990’s.

Here are the tasting notes:

2006 Luna Benegas Cabernet Sauvignon $11.50 – medium-bodied, good dark fruit, easy to drink, soft tannins on the finish

2005 Don Tiburcio $17.50 – more complx, medium- to full-bodied with dark fruit, a little more tannic on the finish

2005 Benegas Malbec $23 – bigger, dark fruit, more tannic still.  Needs to age a little, but beuatiful dark fruit and lots of it.  Good with steak in year.

2006 Benegas Syrah $23 – a favorite at the tasting.  Need to drink now.  Has good dark fruit, easy, good sipper.

2005 Benegas Sangiovese $23 – a very big sangiovese. Not acidic & not light as you would normally expect from this varietal.  Big, full-bodied.  Needs a steak, too.

2004 Finca Libertad $28.50 – very complex, medium- to full-bodied Bordeaux blend. Fine tannins on the finish, delicate.  Drink now.  Serve with steak, roast, lamb.

2002 Benegas-Lynch Meritage $56 – biggest wine in the line-up.  Decanter gave this vintage 5 starts and named it the Best New World Wine that year.  It almost sold out at the tasting, with only 1 bottle left when we closed.  It’s so delicious, we recommend just sipping this wine.  It’s smooth, medium- to full-bodied; tannins have smoothed out. You have a really delicate wine.  Drink now.

In fact that’s just want some people at the tasting did.  When the tasting was technically over, but people were still hanging around as a film crew was interviewing Ms. Maulhardt for a documentary on Argentine wine, two gentlemen (who each bought a 6-pack of the Meritage amoung other things), just pulled a bottle from their case, popped it and starting sharing it with the people who were still there.  A little unorthodox, but it was generous and festive and was a nice end to the evening.