I'm not one to rush out and man the barricades of an unpopular position just for the heck of it, but I love Syrah. Maybe that's because one of the first bottles that lured me into the wine world was a Syrah (a 1995 Ojai Roll Ranch Vineyard, purchased at a wine shop in Palo Alto, California, for a whopping $22). Maybe it's because Syrah is a great vehicle for both the fruity and the savory characteristics in red wineit leads with flavors of ripe blackberries and raspberries, and follows up with all those other notes: smoke, black pepper, violets and so on. And Syrah pairs beautifully with the Thanksgiving meal. Here, five great bottles:
2009 Smoking Loon Syrah ($8)
Smoking Loon makes a broad range of wines, but the best is this brightly fruity, easygoing Syrah.
2008 Boomtown Syrah ($15)
For this cherry-inflected red, Corey Braunel and Chad Johnson of Washington's Dusted Valley Vintners blend in Mourvèdre and Barbera to add complexity.
2009 Bonterra Mendocino County Syrah ($16)
Dark and fragrant, this red from the cool hillsides of California's Mendocino County is made solely with organically grown grapes.
2009 Substance Sy Syrah ($20)
2008 Bonny Doon Le Pousseur Syrah ($20)
For this red, Randall Grahm of Bonny Doon takes inspiration from the great Syrahs of France's northern Rhône Valley. What that means is a streamlined California Syrah with an abundance of savory and peppery notes.
Article updated November 2011.