"Que sera, sera, whatever will be, will be," sang Doris Day in "The Man Who Knew Too Much." That was in 1956, when hardly anyone knew about "sera," or "Syrah," pronounced similarly but approached differently. The former is a form of the Spanish verb, "to be," and adding "que," makes it work as the line says.
Syrah, on the other hand, is a dark red grape from France's Rhone Valley, and what it will be, in proper hands, is a dark, full-bodied, hearty red wine. Yes, it's a stretch, but those who remember the Alfred Hitchcock movie starring Jimmy Stewart and Day may get a smile out of it. The song did win an Academy Award.
Syrah, known as Shiraz in Australia and parts of South America, is not related, however, to Petite Sirah, also known as Dourif. I know there are many different names for the same grape, but in the days before instantaneous communication, nomenclature was handled differently.
Anyway, I'm a fan of Syrah, as I am of most rich and hearty reds, and I came across some interesting samples recently, one from Randall Grahm, who owns Bonny Doon. He's an old friend who is one of the great wine-makers and wine-namers. He's the guy that named a Rhone-style red "Le Cigare Volant," which roughly translates into "space ship," after a small town in the Hermitage passed a law so bizarre I thought it came from the Missouri Legislature or the St. Louis Board of Aldermen. It forbade space ships from way out there somewhere from landing in the particular commune.
And it's worked. No space ships have landed there.
Now he's added a rose, or Vin Gris de Cigare, and it's a delight and a bargain at $15. It's a blend of Grenache Rouge (71 percent), Roussanne (16), Grenache Blanc (11) and Mourvedre (2), and it's crisp, light and dry, with hints of strawberry and cherry. It's a perfect aperitif or an accompaniment to a light, not-too-spicy lunch. It makes Ann and me think we're in Provence, sitting on the patio of a seaside restaurant.
And now back to Syrah. Grahm's new one, a 2008, is 100 percent Syrah from the Central Coast of California. Big and rich, with hints of leather in the aroma and dark berries on the palate, it's a splendid wine that has delightful flavors and a long finish that brings them all together.
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SYRAH, SYRAH, OR MORE SYRAH: Zaca Mesa, in Los Olivos, also makes Syrah from Central Coast grapes, and a pair of delicious 2007s are in the market now. Both are from vineyards in Santa Barbara County; the "ordinary" Syrah is at $25, the Mesa Reserve at $42.
To my mind (and palate), the reserve is worth the extra money. It's a truly elegant wine, smooth as silk. There are cassis flavor overtones and big, sweet blackberries, he kind that exlode with flavor in the mouth. It's a special wine, still showing some tannin, and it should improve for another dozen years.
The less expensive version is not much lesser in the glass or on the mouth. It spent a little less time in the barrel, and there are a few rough edges here and there. Pouring it about 40 minutes before dinner smooths many of them. There's still plenty of fruit and a feel of solidity. Try it with a steak.
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ZOUNDS! IT'S A ZORK! The Sebastiani family has been in the California wine industry for generations, with lots of Sonoma Valley production. Through various changes, marriages, births, sales, purchases, reorganizations and other situations common to winemaking families, Don Sebastiani, son of August and grandson of founder Samuele, now has Don Sebastiani and Sons, and a project in Paso Robles, called Project Paso.
And, of course, one of the Merry Pranksters who make me so happy to be writing about wine, already has a slogan, Consider the Paso-billities.
And furthermore, instead of using an ordinary cork, or a crown cap, or a screw cap, the Sebastianis are using a Zork. It's an Australian development to seal bottles, and I think it's terrific. It's a plastic cover and seal that peels easily off the bottle to show a plastic cork that has a handle (more like a head) to pull the cork, or zork, or whatever it is. It comes out of the bottle with no trouble, can provide more flair for a sommelier than a screw cap, and since it fits a standard bottle, it can be used to close another bottle of wine, or vinegar, or whatever else you may have hanging around the house. It's not a perfect seal, but it's a lot better than trying to put a cork back into a bottle or to use a screw cap on an ordinary bottle.
I sampled the reds, all of which need to be opened at least an hour before drinking. Otherwise they are simply too tannic, almost bitter. The Red Blend, which includes eight different wines, finally calms down, and shows some interesting flavor combinations as grapes not tasted too often show their style. The blend is Grenache (17 percent), Zinfandel (16), Petite Sirah (14), Mourvedre (11), Barbera (9), Lagrein (8), Tempranillo (3) and Sangiovese (2). Barbera and Sangiovese are primarily Italian grapes, and Tempranillo is the heart of many Spanish reds. Lagrein, new to me, also is an Italian grape, similar to a Petite Sirah. The Zinfandel adds only 7 percent Lagrein and after lots of air it showed some good savory notes and plenty of the familiar Zinfandel flavor. The Cab, which didn't offer much at all, starts with 89 percent Cabernet Sauvignon, adds Petite Sirah (5), Alicante Bouchet, Grenache and Merlot (2 each).
The Zin and the Red Blend would be satisfactory with pizza or a simple pasta preparation.