The SOMM Journal

April / May 2018

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Page 22 of 108

22 { THE SOMM JOURNAL } APRIL/MAY 2018 { bottom line } AT THE INAUGURAL Wine Speak Paso Robles summit in January, organizer Chuck Furuya, MS, chose New World Syrah as the focal point of not one but two in- depth seminars—which makes him either crazy-as-a-fox or just plain crazy. Then again, Furuya did gather crazy- good speakers and wines for his panels: Bruce Neyers of Napa Valley's Neyers Vineyards; Justin Smith of Paso Robles' Saxum Vineyards; Matt Dees from Bal - lard Canyon's Jonata; The Ojai Vineyard's Adam Tolmach; Peay Vineyards' Andy Peay from the "true" Sonoma Coast; Greg Harrington, MS, from Walla Walla Valley's Gramercy Cellars; and Carlei Wines' Sergio Carlei of Victoria, Australia. Despite the varietal' s status as persona non grata on many sommeliers' wine lists even today, how can a lineup like this not proffer a persuasive reason to embrace Syrah? "I drink more Syrah than Pinot Noir, even though we [Peay Vineyards] are 75 percent Pinot Noir," Peay confessed, add - ing that the key to successful Syrah sales is "keeping supply just ahead of demand" (in other words, not making much). Neyers' history of working with the grape goes back to the '70s during his tenure as President of Joseph Phelps Vineyards, where the first American Syrah was bottled in 1974. He told a rapt audi - ence of mostly wine professionals at Wine Speak that in his role as National Sales Manager of Kermit Lynch Wine Merchant, he sell Syrahs from 22 producers, "21 of them allocated." "Selling Syrah is not an issue," he said. The Kermit Lynch imports, of course, are primarily from Rhône Valley and produced by star vignerons like Jean-Louis Chave and Thierry Allemand. This seems to serve as confirmation that under the right circum - stances, Syrah can sell like crazy. And if you can get your hands on a Bien Nacido Syrah crafted by a Tolmach at Ojai, a Vanessa Peay, or Justin Smith at Saxum, doing so can seem akin to shooting fish in a barrel. But absent the stellar producers, rare bottlings, and storied appellations, how is Syrah successfully sold? In my experience, it's best to create your own "circum - stances"—which, in a restaurant setting, is done by presenting the wine in ideal food contexts. I have a friend in San Francisco, for instance, who has traveled back and forth between China and the U.S. for well over 40 years. He swears Syrah is the best wine for the country's complex cuisines precisely because it produces one of the few wines that, like the food sensations in Chinese cooking, is delineated enough to touch every part of the tongue and olfac - tory system. Perhaps this is why Furuya, who works in Hawaii—where the regional cooking is strongly influenced by Chinese and other Asian traditions—has always been almost blissfully oblivious to the difficulties of selling Syrah in most American markets. Then again, that's also my point: Under the right culinary circumstances, Syrah is the persuasive choice. If the variety can match hot, sour, salty, sweet, bitter, umami, or any other taste categories like few wines can, what's keeping you from turning your guests on to Syrah by employing the very same reasons? For more coverage of Wine Speak Paso Robles, see page 68. PASSING ON A LESSON LEARNED FROM WINE SPEAK PASO ROBLES by Randy Caparoso Anyone Can Sell Syrah PHOTO COURTESY OF ACACIA PRODUCTIONS Matt Dees of Jonata, Master Sommelier Chuck Furuya, Justin Smith of Saxum Vineyards, and Adam Tolmach of The Ojai Vineyard clearly enjoyed each other's company at Wine Speak Paso Robles.

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