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Que Syrah, Syrah…Wherefore Art Thou?

John Tilson • 2/2/11        Print This Post Print This PostComment Bookmark and Share

I began talking about the glut of Syrah early last year. And, it seems that glut is continuing unabated as I get regular offers of big discounts on big Syrahs. The forces of supply/demand are clearly at work, but at what appears to be a slow pace. There is a lot of Syrah available, but maybe there would be less of a glut if some of it were used to make a different style of wine.

After all, some 35 years ago, California went through a similar situation with a deluge of Late Harvest Zinfandel. But, leave it to an entrepreneurial Bob Trinchero, with his then small Sutter Home Winery in Napa, to rise to the occasion. A very small amount of Zinfandel did not ferment dry and was set aside. It turned into a sweet, pink wine and Bob decided to bottle it. By doing so, he almost single handedly corrected the supply/demand imbalance by using the glut of Zinfandel grapes to make “White Zinfandel.” This new wine caught a whole new generation of wine drinkers who were looking to move up from Annie Green Springs and other such “wines” which were, in fact, more like alcoholic Kool Aid to a lot of us. No matter. The sweet White Zinfandel rage quickly took hold. Sutter Home’s White Zinfandel production reached 25,000 cases in 1981, 1.3 million cases in 1986, and is nearly five million cases today. With this hockey stick growth, the excess supply of Zinfandel grapes diminished as fast as the cash balance in Mr. Trinchero’s bank account rose. In fact, at one point, some speculated that Sutter Home Winery was the most profitable winery in Napa Valley. And, if so, it was due to the ubiquitous White Zinfandel which today accounts for nearly one half of the winery’s production and has made Sutter Home Winery the sixth largest in the U.S.

For my taste, I still don’t like sweet White Zinfandel, Annie Green Springs, or any other sweet, one dimensional, flat wine. But I do love Rosé (look at the 2009 Rosé reviews last year) that is dry or very slightly off dry and food-friendly. In the intensely fruity style of Rosé, my favorite historically has been the Australian Rosé called Rosé of Virginia from Charles Melton. The blend varies from year to year, but is mostly Grenache, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Shiraz, with small amounts of Pinot Meunier. And, occasionally, other varieties are also blended in. Unfortunately, there is no U.S. importer at the present time so it is not available in the U.S. Should you know of someone who would be interested in importing the wine please let me know. However, I recently encountered a California Syrah Rosé that is in the same lush, fruit forward style. Might this be the beginning of a Tsunami that will soak up the excess supply of Syrah and turn it into a refreshing, food friendly, and affordable beverage? Is there a Syrah clone of Bob Trinchero out there? Vamos a Ver. But for now, I think many, including yours truly, would gladly consume many bottles of wines like the one reviewed below should they become more widely available.

2009 Pink Girl Syrah Rosé Napa Valley.

2009 Pink Girl Syrah Rosé Napa ValleyThis is a Syrah that assumedly is meant to address the feminine side of Syrah. In that regard it is also like the Charles Melton Rosé of Virginia which was named for his wife. But there is no reason to be gender specific in drinking either one. On the other hand, in the case of Pink Girl, maybe Marilyn Monroe? After all, each label is hand-applied with a real Swarovski crystal (think diamond and diamonds are a girl’s best friend!) Seriously, I believe anyone who likes fruit-forward Rosé will love this wine. Having said that, there are only two things wrong with it. First, the quantity produced is a painfully small 375 cases. Second, the package is “Pretty in Pink” right down to the colored synthetic cork that requires Superwoman (or Superman) to get out. I have written before about how much I dislike these synthetic corks. But, if they must be used, can’t someone come up with a device that will allow them to be removed easily? OK Enough of my ranting. The fact of the matter is that once you get the cork out and pour the wine (be sure it is well chilled, of course) you will be happy, happy. It is delicious and will put a smile on your face. Hey, girls and guys, think Valentine’s Day! It is right around the corner!!!.

2009 Pink Girl Syrah Rosé Napa ValleyThe wine is a bright red color and has a gorgeous floral, cherry, raspberry perfume. It is absolutely brimming with fruit. Cherry and raspberry are accented by watermelon and a kiss of citrus and spice. Lush, and very tasty, it is balanced by a lovely crispness and a very faint sweetness. It is a great match with spicy foods, Chinese and Thai dishes, grilled salmon, chicken, beef, or pork, and almost any type of salad. Despite the limited production, the wine is available at quite a large number of restaurants and retailers, but only in California. However, you can check it out online at http://www.pinkgirlwines.com to also purchase the wine and have it shipped to other states – Outstanding. $18.00  Best Buy  3-yellow-stars

In Vino Veritas,

John Tilson

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