Minnesota is blessed with a lot of syrah weather, so it’s not a challenge to find fun people who like that grape as much as I do.
So a couple of times every winter, several of us gather and turn the Ward house into Chez Syrah/Shiraz, most recently on Saturday night. Here is what it looks like:
Yes, we have that much fun. And why not, with great people, fabulous food (Joe’s ridiculously swell cheese platter, my Pretty Damn Good Chili, Mark’s crab rangoon, baked goods from Dale & Reid and Brian’s Salty Tart treats), some serious ribbing of one another — and of course the wines.
We’ve done this enough that we’ve sorta kinda figured out a few things. We used to just open a buttload of bottles and go at them voraciously. This time, we did really smart flights, none better than the first one: Beaucastel Chateauneuf-du-Pape 1990 and J.L. Chave Hermitage 2002. Sometimes old wines are just … old. Not these vibrant, balanced beauties.
We followed with a pair of 2005 Saxums (James Berry and Heart Stone, the latter, alas, slightly corked); a Pax-Carlisle throwdown (yum!) and a Down Under double-dip (Torbreck “The Struie” and Kaesler “Old Bastard,” both 2005) and sundry others, including a very nice Matello “Fool’s Journey” from, of all places, Willamette Valley.
At a certain point, my weary palate needed something bright and spritely, so I grabbed a Two Hands Moscato 2011 from the fridge, and we finished with another palate-cleanser, the Nicolas Joly Savennières “Les Vieux Clos” 2009, and a Noval Late Bottle Vintage Port 1997.
It’s highly unusual on a night such as this to have almost universally great wines (even the slightly corked Saxum was tasty). But what I took away more than anything — besides the fact that I’m blessed with wonderful friends — was that Australian wines are way better than they currently get credit for.
Another pal had recently shared a splendid Two Hands “Bella’s Garden” Shiraz, and I’ve been coming across some under-$20 Aussie reds that rock, most notably the Oscar’s Estate Shiraz. So I wasn’t surprised that’s Two Hands’ sweet white also filled the room with joy.
Last month I put in a plug for the Old Bastard, and I still have never had a bottle of that wine that didn’t make me giddy. I might not be able to afford much of that, but I am for sure going to be buying more Aussie wines in the next little while.
And hosting another syrah night in the very near future.