MCF Rare Wine Ltd.

Syrah Two Ways

What's the best wine to go with fire-cooked meat?  

Of course that depends on a number of things - the type of meat, the type of fire, the type of wine drinker - but I say that, from an all-around perspective, classic Syrah makes a pretty strong argument.  

So, being that we're in the season for fire cooking (I say 'fire cooking' because there's a big difference between, say, grilling, roasting, smoking, spitting, etc.), I thought I'd offer a nice comparison of two different expressions of this most noble of varietals.  

So, what we have here are two really fantastic Syrahs from two different parts of the world - the Northern Rhone (Syrah's spiritual home) and Santa Barbara (one of its adopted ones).


Maxime Graillot is the son of the famous Crozes-Hermitage producer Alain Graillot and he's been making the wines for the Alain estate for a number of years now.

But, since 2004, under his 'Equis' label, he's been producing his own wines from top sites in Crozes-Hermitage, Saint Joseph and Cornas.

While his wines retain the classic, perfumed style of his father's, they are slightly more generous up front, due mainly to the fact that he de-stems.  He farms organically and all of the wines are aged in used barrels from DRC.

Today we're talking about his wonderful Cornas 2014.  This is very classic Northern Rhone Syrah, where the emphasis is on the dark, smokey, savory fruit, but with a lifted, aromatic style.  While it's not as aggressively tannic as some higher-end Cornas, this will still age quite nicely in the near-term (say 5-7 years).

Fantastic stuff!


Heading to the West Coast of the USA for Syrah #2 takes us to Santa Barbara and the 'Lompoc Wine Ghetto' facility, a collection of winemaking facilities and tasting rooms, where Sashi Moorman, one of the star winemakers in the USA right now produces (among his many other projects) the Syrahs of Piedrasassi.

Focusing on cool-climate sites from around Santa Barbara, they produce a range of single-vineyard Syrahs, but this 2011 Blue Label is a one-off special of their lineup and these represent the last few cases of it on the East Coast.

The 2011 vintage posed various challenges that ultimately led to very low yields of very concentrated fruit of great quality.  Rather than bottle each of the sites individually in minuscule quantities, Sashi made one cuvée of incredible depth and concentration.  So dense was the wine, in fact, that he gave it an extra year in barrel and released it late.

We offered this wine a couple of years ago, and at the time is was so fantastically dense and concentrated that I recommended giving it a few years of cellar time.

Here we are, a couple of years later, and that advice has turned out quite well.  The wine has emerged with a lot more balance and finesse, as you would expect from a Piedrasassi, but still shows that extra level of deeply gamey, spicy intensity.  There's still plenty of time ahead for this cool-climate monster, but it's in a pretty fantastic spot right now, especially if you're heading to a barbecue or goat roast or steak night (or what have you).

Both of these wines are proper expressions of Syrah, that offer all the flowery, savory, funky essence you can ask for, but each one speaks eloquently of its home and offers a slightly different perspective. 

Matt Franco


MCF Rare Wine, Ltd
249 West 13th Street
NYC 10011