wine glassWith the chill of winter upon us, I’m devoting this 1 minute blog to syrah. Cool weather, after all, is the season of syrahs and stews.

A syrah is a cowboy of a wine, bold, racy and wild, one of the few varietals that can stand up to a hearty stew. In fact, the late British wine writer George Saintsbury described syrah as “the manliest wine” he’d ever tasted.

The most dramatic syrahs hail from the northern Rhone Valley in France, where this grape is the only one allowed in Hermitage and Cote-Rotie. In the southern Rhone Valley, the syrah grape is typically included in a blend in Chateauneuf-du-Pape and Gigondas. In the New World, California and Australia in particular, syrah tends to be fruit-forward and more concentrated with intense notes of boysenberry and spice.

Syrah is a great match for stews because of its flavor profile, which includes black pepper and smoke, and because of its tannic structure which matches the texture of braised meats.

Here are a few top-rate, cool weather “cowboy” syrahs:

Peay, 2012 La Bruma Estate Sonoma Coast Syrah, $50. This syrah is striking. It has depth, with notes of blueberry, blackberry, white pepper and roasted meats.

 Red Car, 2010 Sonoma Coast Syrah, $35. A great take on syrah, this one has aromas and flavors of blackberry, pepper and smoke.

 Radio-Coteau Vineyards, Las Colinas, Sonoma Coast Syrah, $48. Meaty, smoky with notes of blueberry and cracked black pepper. Robust.