According to an old California wine adage, "Great grapes rise to the top." This explains why Zinfandel emerged from a thicket of anonymous vine cuttings, why Merlot slipped out of Cabernet Sauvignon's shadow and why Syrah now seems poised to take its place in the spotlight.
Syrah, the noble red grape of the northern Rhône region of France, is the grape of the moment in California. This isn't altogether surprising, for Syrah is one grape that can out-Merlot Merlot (America's favorite red varietal). It's just as smooth-drinking, but even juicier, fruitier, spicier, more luscious. In fact, as Next Big Things go, Syrah has a lot going for it.
Syrah lovers are convinced that California's early fixation with Bordeaux grape varieties like Cabernet and Merlot was a case of winemakers getting off on the wrong viticultural foot. It's their contention that California's warm wine-growing valleys have always had more in common with the northern Rhône than with cool, maritime Bordeaux.