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With Saxum as the newly-crowned #1 WOTY and with the current Insider awarding so many high (some really high!) scores to lots of $30-$60 wines from the Central Coast, they're gettin' some serious love from WS. What have I been hearing about wines labelled 'Syrah' not selling well? How does that change? Like this, perhaps.

I'm glad to see some very worthy producers get some promotion, but personally I hope that any lingering bias against Syrahs remains intact. I've been somewhat fortunate to be so genuinely in love with wines that are not so en vogue. I fear, however, that that is coming to an end, as 'Syrah' now seems to have all the necessary ingredients for a surge in population:
>promotion of a few marquis leaders: Sine Qua Non and Saxum are receiving more attention from WS than ever before; throw in Alban's high-90s and perfect scores from Parker - check
>promotion of a great vintage: 2007 and 2008 are rapidly becoming banner years for the Central Coast Rhone producers - check
>promotion of a band of representative, high-quality producers: Denner, Booker, Torrin, Herman Story, Favia, etc. fit the bill quite nicely; throw in the sub-Napa prices check

I've heard that it takes two individuals to make greatness: one to be great, and another to recognize it and say it. 'Looks like that's happening, IMHO.
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I would be just as happy if the world continued to ignore the Central Coast. SQN and Alban have already priced themselves higher than I care to go. Saxum is probably headed that way, too. The price of fame means I need to find some other under-appreciated, underpriced region to squirrel into my cellar. If things keep going the way they are, Burgundy might actually be (relatively) "affordable" again.
Originally posted by fcs:
I was just about to mention 2 other brands of syrah from there that I liked a lot, but I stopped myself in order to keep their prices from doubling Wink're declaring that you're a 'taker' here in the forum and not a contributor?

You're not a WS editor, thus I hardly doubt you'll 'move the market' with an opinion expressed here.
But hey, to each their own.
I think it's important to make a few distinctions here.

1) Central Coast is too broad a description for what you're talking about here from my perspective. I really think we need to discuss the 'Paso Region' and the 'Santa Barbara County' regions as separate entities - just as you wouldn't generally lump Sonoma in with Napa . . .

2) Some of this love certainly revolves around syrah, but much of it revolves around rhone blends ta boot.

3) I don't believe these scores 'move the needle' much in terms of consmer acceptance of syrah at this time - though it should help. The variety is still 'suffering' from a lack of identity, from 'baggage' attached to it from the onslaught of inexpensive shiraz that hit the market a few years back, and from a lack of education at the on and off premise levels IMHO.

I continue to be very upbeat not only about syrah (perhaps the best QPR play in the US these days) but also about all other rhone varieties being produced in the US - especially Grenache, my favorite variety to work with.

Winemakers and wineries are now 'dialing in' working with these varieties better now than ever before, and the diversity of styles available is mind-boggling. For those who only think of syrah as being an over-ripe, flabby wine from CA, for instance, try your hand at some newer producers like Arnot-Roberts, newer Copain releases, or 'old school' producers such as Qupe and ESJ. OR buy some of the more highly rated ones here and elsewhere to get a 'full throttle' version of the variety.

And to help support the cause, come out to one of the Rhone Rangers tastings in 2011- SF/LA/SEA/DC . . .

Originally posted by larry schaffer:
For those who only think of syrah as being an over-ripe, flabby wine from CA, for instance, try your hand at some newer producers like Arnot-Roberts, newer Copain releases, or 'old school' producers such as Qupe and ESJ. OR buy some of the more highly rated ones here and elsewhere to get a 'full throttle' version of the variety.

An excellent posting, Larry. Well said.
And the recommends on A-R and Copain are much appreciated. I will seek these out.
Originally posted by larry schaffer:
And to help support the cause, come out to one of the Rhone Rangers tastings in 2011- SF/LA/SEA/DC . . .

What no love to your friends down south? I would love for a Rhone ranger tasting down here in San Diego. Stolpman sold out a couple of nights at Wine vault and Bistro (it was a wonderful event). I am sure that there would be a demand. Not many of us enjoy making the drinking and driving trip to LA (flash back to my concert days when all the big acts bypass San Diego figuring we would make the long trip north Frown ). Please keep us in mind in the future.
Last edited by redguyinabluestate
Stickman - I don't think there's any bias against Syrah - more like indifference. And it's not like the WS is going to create a surge in demand. Nothing against the mag, but its influence in moving wine is pretty much limited to the WOTY and at a local level, shelf-talkers. But shelf-talkers work at the low end - they don't move $40 wine. If you pay that kind of money, you either know what you're getting or want to impress your friends with some "name" wine. WS has written many articles over the years about many places and some of the articles were very well done indeed, but they didn't create any kind of surge in demand for the wines.

This isn't the first time people have claimed that Syrah and the "Rhone" grapes were poised to have their moment. Phelps has made Mistral since the 1970s and it's usually heavy on the Syrah and always been good and it ages very nicely too. I don't see anyone posting about that since it's not the fashion of the moment, but if you had picked any up back about fifteen or twenty years ago, you'd be quite happy.

Qupe has been mentioned and they were acclaimed, by WS no less, but that didn't really change much. ESJ has been making consistently good wine since I started buying it in the early 90s. Parker wrote this in 1995 - "Edmunds St. John can be relied on to turn out gorgeously rich, personality-filled wines that are a treat to taste and drink." Of course 10 years later he was ridiculing the wines, but that's probably done more to help than to hurt sales.

And look at Pax. Completely different wine than ESJ, and he was acclaimed by Parker himself as well as WS and numerous other publications, but there still isn't any overwhelming demand for those wines.

I think that one of the problems is that there are in fact too many different styles and people don't know what they're going to get. Pax made Pax and now he's making Wind Gap. It's from some of the same sources and the wines are wildly different - same vineyard, same winemaker, different aesthetic now.

For people who want to dismiss Australian Shiraz today - they started working on their sales plan in the 1970s and they executed perfectly. In the US they're still number 2 in imports. They may have troubles today at the top end, and I would guess that's in part to the economy and also in part to the crazy scores given to some of the wines that didn't seem to be all that much better than cheaper versions. Not to forget that to some degree they did have an overall identity too - big and fruity, so people walking into a store had some idea of what they were getting.

The point is, it takes a long time and a lot of effort. I don't think the WS list is really going to matter at all. People who don't care for WS are going to dismiss the list as an example of being out of touch with what's happening in the wider world of wine, while people who are fans will cry whoo hoo but they're already following the WS anyway, so there's no net addition to the fans of Syrah.

It's OK. I like Syrah but think CA can find many grape varieties that do well. Even better if people would only stop looking to France.

(BTW - I know it's being a nudge, but I think you meant "marquee". A "marquis" is a nobleman. I don't remember whether he's over or under an earl, perhaps that depends on his preferences in those matters. A marquee is something like an awning or canopy. Sometimes it gets set up over a doorway and if it's a door to a theater, might have the names of the actors and the play painted on the side. In movie theaters, it's usually done in lights.

Yah, I should've written 'marquee'; modern usage is a key player/notable representative (like a 'franchise player' for a pro sports team).

As far as your assertion that WS has no influence beyond shelf-talkers and WOTY, I have to respectfully disagree. I believe the awareness that WS brings to certain subjects is useful and productive. Time alone will tell if this is the case or not. We'll see.

larry schaffer,
Points well-taken. I wonder at what level of specificity the average consumer will engage the wines we're talking about. Will they distinguish Paso or Santa Barbara within the Central Coast, and will they distinguish Syrah, Grenache, and blends, or will they simply lump all 'Cali Rhones'?

Regardless of the finer (or unprovable) points, I truly believe that these wines have such great intrinsic value and appeal that all they need is the right promotion, and it seems that WS is providing that.
Our trip through the Central Coast area in July of last year sold me on the quality of CA syrah and rhone blends. Drank lots of quality syrahs and blends regardless of where we were...some of our favs were Tobin James, Zaca Mesa, and Margerum.

Can't forget the Napa and Sonoma syrahs, though, as JC Cellars really knows how to put together solid, complex wines that I believe show better than most of the cabs from the same area. And, I just received the remainder of my library order from Hanna, and their '97 Bismark Mountain Ranch Syrah is still singing a crazy good tune.

Like stickman, I'm glad to see some noterity, but like the fact that the majority of these wines are still flying below the (price point) radar.

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