Taking a Ride in the Dark–Syrah/Shiraz

Over the weekend, I did a little Spring cleaning here at the Drunken Cyclist. I was going through all of my drafts and deciding whether or not to finally finish some of them and hit “Publish”. I ran across this article, which was practically done, just needing a couple of edits. Since it was about some samples I received, I felt compelled to get it up on the blog.

I thought for sure that I had published it, but after searching for it repeatedly, I came to the conclusion that I had not. I am sure some out there will let me know if I had….

Over the winter, I published a couple of articles called “Taking a Ride in the Dark” in which I wrote about the joys of riding a bike after the sun sets. The piece was also about how I normally stay away from bigger fruitier wines–dark wines, if you will.

I so enjoyed my foray to the dark side, that I decided to go there yet again this past month, but this time with another variety with which I do not have a ton of experience: Syrah.

The beginnings of my wine education are firmly rooted in the vineyards of Champagne, Burgundy, the Loire, Alsace, the Jura, and tiny portions of Switzerland and Germany. These were the main areas where I led bike trips during the summer and part of the job was learning about the local wines.

None of those regions (with the possible exception of the Western Loire) are known for having anything that approaches a big, juicy, dark red, which is at least part of the reason that my taste for these wines is not as developed (at least that sounds like a reasonable explanation to me—I ran it by a psychologist friend of mine and he nodded as he poured himself some more wine, which I took as a “yes” in his expert opinion).

Syrah is grown in France (mostly in the Northern Rhône), but similarly, I never led any trips there. (While I was not allowed to lead trips through Bordeaux and the Dordogne—a post for another time, the company I worked for did not offer any trips in the Rhône, which is the main reason I have never been). Regardless, I have had a bit of French Syrah, as well as many from California and Washington, but it has not really registered on my radar (Syrah represents less than 5% of my cellar). And when it comes to “Shiraz” (Syrah made more in the Australian or New World style), I have even less exposure.

Thus, when a few samples showed up, I was excited to give them a bit of a spin. To help me out, I called up a few of my wine drinking buddies and suggested a night of poker and Syrah. Being the freeloaders that they are, they eagerly agreed to “help me out.”

(They are actually not a bunch of freeloaders, but the story is much more interesting if you think they were.)20131227-084903.jpg

2009 Waterstone Syrah: Retail $22. Upon pouring, this was dark and brooding in the glass with a great nose of black cherry and vanilla. On the palate, the wine was rich and full with a hint of earth. Finish a bit short but very nice. Very Good. 88-90 Points.

2009 Penley Estate Shiraz Special Select: Retail $50. Not quite as dark as the previous, and supplied more raspberry than cherry, but still plenty of vanilla. Big fruit with some complexity and a finish that endures. Really good. Outstanding. 91-93 Points.

2009 Plantagenet Shiraz Omrah: Retail $20. A bit of funk on the nose which blows off to some nice fruit and a bit of heat. Tarter than the others, a ton of acidity, but great fruit flavor and a nice finish. Very Good. 87-89 Points.

2010 Brokenwood Shiraz Hunter Valley: Retail $35. Fruitier nose with all kinds of red berries. On the palate the fruit is sitting up front and frantically raising its hand. Even though this is a little thin on the midpalate, it is a big fun wine–what one might think of when they think of an Aussie Shiraz. Very Good. 87-89 Points.

2005 Kilikanoon The Medley: Retail $30. Not a Syrah, but a GSM (50% Grenache, 40% Syrah, 10% Mourvèdre). Really good fruit but this is a blend and a couple of the guys at the table were up in arms over it (crying some sort of Syrah foul) while the more sedate in the crowd were calling it a nice break from the Shiraz. Rich cherry fruit and a bit of bite on the back end, I have a bit of experience with Kilikanoon and I have always been happy. Outstanding. 90-92 Points.

2011 Gary Farrell Syrah Russian River Valley: (Retail $48). I am a big fan of Gary Farrell, and this wine did nothing to change that. It had great cherry flavors and a hint of heat on the nose, but was quite tart bright on the palate, with little sign of the heat. Like many wines from this producer, this wine really needs a bit of food to balance out all that acidity. Still, Very Good to Outstanding. 89-91 Points.


Near the end of the night, I had a pretty good stack that I elected to hide with a few of the bottles.


This was a big pot–I won it with a full house–any idea what the name of the game is (and how I have a full house)?

As for the cards, I hasten to admit that I cleaned up a bit by the end of the night. We do not play for big stakes: I think I had the unofficial biggest haul of all time—$19.75. The key to my strategy is to give the guys a bunch of free booze and then play pretty obscure versions of poker so that they are utterly confused. It seemed to work for me on this night!


About the drunken cyclist

I have been an occasional cycling tour guide in Europe for the past 20 years, visiting most of the wine regions of France. Through this "job" I developed a love for wine and the stories that often accompany the pulling of a cork. I live in Houston with my lovely wife and two wonderful sons.
This entry was posted in Grenache, Mourvèdre, Syrah, Wine, Wine Tasting. Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to Taking a Ride in the Dark–Syrah/Shiraz

  1. chef mimi says:

    I love Mourvedre, so I’m especially interested in the GMS varietals. Thanks for the info!!!


  2. Amanda says:

    Excited to find you! I have to thank Mimi. I actually finally bought myself a road bike yesterday. I’m so excited about it. I can’t stop looking at it (her). http://www.winstanleysbikes.co.uk/product/57238/Bianchi_C2C_Via_Nirone_Sora_Compact_2013_Bike

    I got it from an actual shop and mine is grey with black forks, but you get the idea. I can’t wait to ride at sunset and drink shiraz (possibly at the same time). Have you ever been to Long Island wineries in NY?


    • Very Cool! I love hearing about when people get their first “serious” bike–it is not a cliché to say that it will change your life!

      I have been to a few of the wineries a few years ago, and while I was impressed with the quality of some of the wines, I was not all that impressed with the prices they were charging! I will have to give them another try one of these days. What are your favorites?


      • Amanda says:

        I’m so excited about this bike! I can’t wait to take it everywhere!

        I agree about the prices in Long Island. My favorite was a way too expensive petite verdot. It was so dry and so flavorful at the same time. Perfect.

        Liked by 1 person

      • It seems as thought they realize that a large portion of their business arrives by the party bus from NYC and many of those people have more $$ than sense. Just a guess.

        Why would someone pay $60 for a Merlot from Long Island instead of $40 for a (better) St. Emillion Grand Cru? Dunno.

        Can’t wait to hear more about the bike! Did you go “Full Monty” and get clipless pedals?


  3. linnetmoss says:

    If I’m going to drink a red, this is the kind I like best. Thanks for the post–the game looks like good fun!


  4. Give them free booze and confuse them? Sounds like perfect poker tactics to me! And the wine line up sounds pretty good too 🙂


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