Memorial Day marks the official beginning of barbecue season, and while the holiday has come and gone, the grills (like the weather) remain hot. Whether you prefer tofu burgers, ground cow or pork ribs, it takes a big, fruity red wine to hold up to typical barbecue fare. The ever-popular Syrah (or Shiraz if you prefer) is just the ticket. Seems like everybody is making good Syrah these days. Our lineup included examples from South America, Australia, California and the Northwest with no single region dominating the tasting. Here are the top picks:
2005 Barossa Jack Shiraz, $13.99
Sporting a stylish screw cap closure, this entry from South Australia is named for one of the four terriers that roam the winery. It's big and bold on the nose with milk chocolate mingling with sweet cherry fruit and a nice hit of cappuccino. Bright blueberry and cherry fruit flavors dominate along with red licorice and mocha, all in a supple, well-structured wine. Shows nice acid balance and smooth tannins that are most noticeable on the rich and creamy finish.
2004 Korta Barrel Selection Syrah, $14.99
A Chilean charmer with earthy oak aromas that blend nicely with dark cherry, mocha and a light, floral touch of orange blossoms and clover. Smooth red berry, currant and cherry fruit flavors are laced with subtle oak and licorice, all backed by very soft tannins. There's a nice persistence to the fruit on the velvety finish. Begs to be paired with red meat.
2003 Sawtooth Syrah, $12.99
This Idaho entry opens with rich aromas of ripe berry and sweet plum with spicy hints of rose hip and caramel. Offers a silky mouthful of chocolate and creamy berry fruit, showing impeccable balance and a cleansing hit of acidity on the long, silky finish. Nice to see an Idaho red that makes the grade when stacked up against top quality Syrahs from around the world.
This week's panel: David Kirkpatrick, Boise Co-op; Cindy Limber, Bardenay; Karen McMillin, Idaho Wine Merchant; Kevin Settles, Bardenay; and Leslie Young, Spirit Distributing.