Tasted more American syrahs tonight. I really want to like these
wines, but at the very best I find them ā€¦. meh. I opened four, then
three more. Some nice herbal aromas from a Sonoma entrant, but it was
still syrupy. A Santa Barbara County wine clocked in at a surprisingly
modest 13% alcohol ā€“ it even had aromas! Its body was lighter, more
balanced, and there was a hint of ā€¦ something positive on the palate.
Nice, not exciting. And still not particularly interesting.
For dinner, we had this simple braised dish my Taiwanese
mother-in-law makes. Itā€™s the cheapest cut of beef ā€“ from the back
of the leg ā€“ and is ribboned with gristle. She braises it for hours in
red wine (a reject from my last column, most likely), ginger, soy sauce
and star anise. The meat ends up succulent and tender, the gristle very
visible but pure gelatin and very easy to eat. It seemed a perfect dish
So I went downstairs and found a Salice Salentino, from Cantele, 2003
(Vias Imports). It was delightful ā€“ bright spicy fruit, light body,
lots of life, unlike those leaden US syrahs.
After dinner we tasted the syrahs again. A few of them were a tad
more aromatic, more balanced, having wakened and stretched their limbs.
Still, it wasnā€™t what we were looking for.
So I went to my cellar and pulled out a bottle of Crozes-Hermitage
Iā€™d purchased for $18 a few years ago from a trusted retailer. I
think he said. ā€œThatā€™s fantastic, and those are my last two
bottles!ā€ It was a 2003, from an importer I know and respect. So I
bought them. We opened it with anticipation, expecting it to blow the
American pretenders out of the competition.
I poured. I swirled. I sniffed, expecting to smell smoked bacon,
earth and leaves, classic aromas of a northern Rhone syrah. The wine
smelled ā€¦. like low tide. Clams. Sea water. Putrid seaweed. I swirled
again, with vigor. Some herbs? A hint of meat? A taste. It was okay, but
nothing to swoon over, nothing to spend $18 on either.
I willed that Crozes to be good. But after a few minutes the marine
qualities were simply overwhelming. Was this a really crappy wine, or is
it just going through its awkward teen years, shedding the adorable
baby fat of its youth, but not yet overcoming its acne to reach its full
potential as an adult?
And if Iā€™m to be that charitable to the Crozes, what of those
American wines? Perhaps I canā€™t recognize potential? Or are they truly
Maybe Iā€™ll never know. But these wines have had an unusual effect on me. I want to go to bed early.