Raising the bar for Sonoma Syrah

on 21/11/11 at 7:14 am


A former business partner of Kermit Lynch and ex-husband of chef Alice Waters has set his sights on realising Sonoma’s potential for top quality Syrah.

Having produced the first harvest from his Sebastopol-based Baker Lane Vineyards back in 2004, winemaker and owner Stephen Singer now makes just 2,000 cases a year, split evenly between Syrah from his own property and Pinot Noir bought in from a neighbour so close “I can throw a stone into their vineyards.”

Although the Pinot Noir is a concession to Sonoma’s most prestigious grape variety, Singer remarked: “It was always my mission to make Syrah,” clarifying: “I have affection for Pinot Noir; I have passion for Syrah.”

While the concept of planting Syrah in Sonoma is hardly a new idea – as Singer remarked, “It’s not a niche variety; there are 1000s of acres planted in California” – he believes that the variety’s image still needs a boost.

“Syrah is such a charming grape that it was too readily over-planted in California,” he observed. “A proliferation of that and cheap, imported Syrah really cut the legs off high end Syrah.”

Part of the problem, Singer believes, stems from a misunderstanding of where the variety performs best. He explained: “Because Syrah is grown in Provence, people exported it to warmer parts of other regions, but warm in California is not the same as warm in France.”


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