I was thrilled to lead a masterclass on Syrah for a group of Colorado winemakers, and the event was supported by the Colorado Department of Agriculture. The tasting was arranged by www.coloradowinepress.com author Kyle Schlachter and I was able to select the wines. My goal was to keep the vintages as close as possible while showing as many different styles of Syrah as possible.

I ordered the tasting from the more finesse, elegant wines to the richer, riper styles, and by and large, the order worked well.

We started with a flight from France, starting in Côte Rôtie and moving south through Hermitage to Cornas.

The 2013 Jamet Cote Rotie showed on point, with lots of beautiful dark berry fruit, pepper and olive nuances. It has the 2013 vintage style in its more medium-bodied frame, yet has beautiful concentration and depth on the palate, with fine tannin. I doubt it will be the longest lived in the Jamet lineup, but it should evolve nice on its balance and purity. The 2012 Hermitage from Jean-Louis Chave was the wine of the evening for the audience and it showed the charming nature of the 2012 vintage. It’s a ripe, forward Hermitage that has beautiful fruit, lots of pepper, burning embers and saddle leather aromatics, full-bodied richness and a great finish. My money is on it drinking nicely for all its life. I loved Voge’s 2012 Cornas Vieilles Vignes and it has classic black and blue fruits, ground herbs, licorice and white chocolate aromas and flavors. It’s a big, sexy, layered Syrah that has a stacked mid-palate and a great finish. It’s up with some of the wine of the vintage.

From there we moved roughly 5,000 miles to the west, to Washington State, for another flight of three wines. In my view, these all showed how impressive Syrah is from this too often under the radar region.

The 2013 Syrah Cailloux Vineyard from Cayuse show its expected exotic style. I remain convinced this terroir is one of the most singular in the world, and there’s nothing like the olive, peat, and salted meat goodness that comes from these wines. This cuvee sees roughly 5% cofermented Viognier and has terrific depth of fruit and a seamless, elegant style that plays nicely in the 2013 vintage. From the Wahluke slope, the 2013 Syrah The Hidden for K Vintners is a total bomb and was one of my favorites in the lineup. Just loaded with notions of kirsch, dried herbs and sandy/loamy nuances, this beauty gained depth and length over the tasting and has serious underlying structure. Great, great wine. Coming all from the Red Willow Vineyard and Syrah vines planted in 1986 – which is the oldest in the State – the 2014 Syrah La Cote Patriarche was pen ink purple in color (Bob loves color in his wines!) and offers a decadent, ripe, yet backward profile that just begs to be left alone for another 3-4 years. It’s loaded with potential though.

We tasted two wines from California. From one of the best producers out there, the 2011 Syrah Bone Rock showed a cooler, peppery, almost northern Rhône style, yet packed an incredible amount of fruit on the palate. Silky, seamless and still young, I’d happily drink bottles over the coming decade or more. This truly is a grand cru site of California. The largest, deepest and most concentrated wine in the lineup was unquestionably John Alban’s 2012 Syrah Reva, and this beauty has put on weight since I tasted in on release. Thick, unctuous and decadent, yet still fresh and lively, it’s a huge wine that’s going to just about age forever. Truthfully, I don’t think I’ve had a wine from John that was tired or anywhere close to over the hill.

Lastly, we finished up with a benchmark wine from the Barossa Valley. The 2012 Syrah The Command from Elderton was a sexy, voluptuous Shiraz that had that classic Aussie mint and bay leaf slant, as well as beautifully ripe tannin. There’s lots of vanilla oak showing, so give this puppy a few years.

Many thanks to Kyle, and the Department of Agriculture, for putting on such a great tasting.