- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Beaulieu, Syrah, Napa Valley, 2003, $18

Syrah or shiraz (two names for the same grape variety) is hot these days. Everyone seems to want it, and everyone seems to be making it.

The problem is that an awful lot of the wines taste, well, hot. They have lots of alcohol but little finesse and are not all that much fun to drink.

This syrah, from a venerable Napa Valley producer, is a delicious exception. While it offers plenty of rich, ripe fruit flavor, it also manages to stay harmonious and balanced. It succeeds where so many other wines fail because it displays grace as well as brawn.

Lots of California wineries are selling syrah these days, but few of the wines taste compelling. This grape is a relative newcomer to California, and vintners are still trying to figure out how best to handle it. In 2003, the folks at Beaulieu clearly mastered it.

Drink this full-flavored, rich and spicy red with hearty winter fare. It should go especially well with braised or roasted meats.

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