Hail to syrah

Syrah is a noble grape yet it seems to get no respect these days. (Photo by Bob Fila)

From the Edna Valley, this inky, plummy wine has a rich fragrance evoking notes of plums, spice and even a bit of mint. The flavor is smooth but sharp, with the berry fruit supported by plenty of oak and black pepper.


2006 Russian Hill Winery Estate Vineyards

Sonoma's Russian River Valley is the source for this big, mouth-filling wine. The nose is a mix of fruit and chocolate and so is the taste, with touches of black cherry, earth. Lots of black pepper on the finish.


2006 Adelaida Viking Estate Reserve

Another wine from California's Central Coast, this time the Paso Robles region. The nose has plenty of ripe berry fruit while the flavor runs from black pepper through lingonberry and tart plum to tobacco and spice.


2007 Fess Parker

The late actor turned winemaker made California's Santa Barbara County his base. This wine smells and tastes of currants and cherries with a touch of spice. Tannins give structure.


2007 Liberty School

A Central Coast of California wine, less inky than the others tasted, with notes of cherry, blackberry and nutmeg on the nose. The flavor starts out tight but develops body, filling out with notes of cherry, plum and a bit of vanilla.


2007 Beckmen Vineyards Block Six Purisima Vineyard

From Santa Ynez, an inky purple wine with a subtle if a bit stemmy nose of cherry. The flavor is dry but full, with ripe fruit, spice and a touch of chocolate.


2007 Hahn SLH Estate

SLH stands for Santa Lucia Highlands, a wine region in Monterey County along California's Central Coast. The nose is lightly fruity and a bit stemmy. The flavor is soft, think cherries touched with notes of earth, black pepper and leather.


2008 McManis Family Vineyards

A bright, spicy California red with lots of cherry flavor and touches of pepper and licorice.


2007 Frei Brothers Reserve

From Sonoma's Russian River Valley, a wine with a berry nose and berry and cherry flavors. A bit tart, tannic.


You want that wine. But your store or area distributor may not carry it. State law may prohibit you from ordering a wine online. What to do? Ask your wine retailer for a wine similar in flavor, style and price. Remember, too, prices vary.