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Why Syrah?

Stepping Stone by Cornerstone Napa Valley Syrah 

Your distributor looks the other way and changes the subject. Retailers look upon you with pity. Such is the conventional wisdom in the wine trade when it comes to syrah: it doesn't sell. 

So why are we not only making one syrah, but two? The answer is simple, we love it.

Syrah is one of the world's noble red varieties. It suffers the curse of some other great varieties like riesling, nebbiolo and chenin blanc, none of them come from Bordeaux or Burgundy. These two regions have put their heavy footprint across the world's vineyards and the resulting ocean of wine from cabernet, merlot, pinot noir and chardonnay have engulfed the planet's wine markets and consumer's minds to the exclusion of so many other wonderful varieties.

Not only are we committed to syrah because we love it, we also believe we have found one of the world's best places to grow it, the southern Napa Valley's cooler Oak Knoll and Carneros districts. In my mind, most of the so called pinot noir regions of California are perfect for syrah.

Poor Syrah has also been battered by the market and some self-inflected wounds on top of that. The flood of cheap Aussie Shiraz (the same variety) damaged its reputation among consumers. Then the American wine industry itself scared people away with monster wines pushing or even exceeding 16% alcohol levels. To many Syrah was either plonk or Port.

Those of us who love the elegant Syrah of the northern Rhone Valley know that syrah deserves as much respect as any of the world's finest varieties. The fact of the matter is that the finest wines from this variety come from cooler sites. The image of syrah as a vine for hot climates is just plain wrong. I believe this misconception comes from writers comparing Burgundy to the Rhone. Indeed the Rhone Valley is warmer than Burgundy, but it's not as hot as California.

So we know that syrah can be a hard road to follow, but we could not help our selves. The variety is just too unique and compelling when grown on a cooler site. Our syrah, true to the style of all of our wines, is crisp and lifted with that classic syrah varietal character of butcher shop and dark fruits. On the palate it is substantial, but never heavy. 

It is a simple fact that the best value in California wine is syrah. Why aren't you taking advantage of it?