February 8 2007
Quickly on the heels of my tardy, perhaps disqualified effort for Wine Blogging Wednesday (WBW) # 29, comes WBW #30—this time hosted by my frequent collaborator Tim from Winecast.net
The wine of choice for this monthly exercise in drinking and keyboarding is Syrah—no restrictions on place or origin, price, New World vs. Old World, etc.
I was glad to see Syrah and I think it was selected based on its accessibility and variability at price point. You can pretty much find a Syrah at your desired price.
The one thing I admire about Syrah is, unlike a Pinot, Zinfandel, Merlot or a Cabernet, I can pretty much drink any Syrah and be assured that I will be able to find some enjoyment in the glass.
To me, Syrah and Riesling are the only two grapes where I can pick up just about any bottle and have confidence that it’ll be a decent quaff.
Though I’ve been knocking it out of the park with Pinot pick-ups lately, Pinot is usually the last thing I buy because, living in a as yet childless house, the thing I look forward to after kissing my wife and nuzzling the dog is opening up a bottle of wine—the mystery and allure of what’s in the bottle coupled with the cork, the pour, the swirl, the sniff and the taste is where all the pleasure is for me. Actually drinking a glass is a distant secondary pleasure to the build up to the taste. But, it’s a significant buzz kill when the wine ends up being a bummer, as is so often the case with a Pinot, particularly Pinot’s in the everyday drinking price range.
So, I tend to drink a fair amount of Syrah, if only because I don’t like to be disappointed.
The Montes Alpha 2004 Syrah from the Colchagua Valley Apalta Vineyard in Chile was my choice for WBW.
Normally, I might pick up something that would demonstrate a little street credibility, but I got this one at Costco—$14 bucks. No shame, here. I’ve come to appreciate Costco’s wine selection, and they’re the biggest wine retailer in the country with a reputation for bringing to bear high quality despite the quantity of sales.
The Montes Alpha doesn’t disappoint. I drank the ’04, a wine still getting some tailwind from the ’03 being named to the Wine Spectator Top 100 list in 2005 with a 91 rating. A rating duplicated for the ’04, as well. It’s a beautiful wine and a bargain at $14—easily a $25 dollar wine value with more Old World nuance than New World bombast.
Well balanced overall with nice acid, integrated tannins, ample dark cherry fruit, vanilla, spice and some earth all melded seamlessly to provide a glass of joy. This is pretty close to what I would drink everyday if I weren’t ‘wine promiscuous.’ It’s a great wine. It does need a little bit of air, opening up in the glass after ½ hr. to an hour. So, don’t feel bad for pouring and revisiting the glass later on in the evening.
Chilean wines are going through something of a renaissance with a significant upgrade in winemaking quality—according to Wine News (full article found here):
Ancient redwood aging vats are being chopped into kindling, replaced by smaller, top-quality French and American oak barrels. Computerized stainless steel fermenting tanks are providing the temperature control to preserve the intense, natural fruitiness of Chile’s grapes. And when Casa Lapostolle began shipping its wines in refrigerated containers for the long trip across the equator to the United States, it prompted other Chilean wineries to start following suit.
Those vintners who mounted the offensive have been rewarded with an impressive series of small victories, prompting them to declare that Chile can produce wines as good as any in the world. And that, yes, indeed, they are capable of turning out a Chilean version of a grand cru.
I don’t know about a grand cru, but they sure can turn out a second label. Pick up a Syrah, for my money, always a good bang for the buck and pick up the Montes Alpha 2004 Syrah from Colchagua Valley—an extreme value and a delightful wine.