- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Zaca Mesa, Syrah, Santa Ynez Valley, 2002, $20

Mesa is on a roll, especially with wines made from Rhone — grape varieties viognier, rousanne, grenache, mourvedre, and especially syrah. The good Zaca Mesa wines display plenty of ripe, sun-drenched California fruit flavor, but they never seem excessive. Instead, with spicy, often earthy undertones, they taste elegant and refined.

This recently released syrah tastes of ripe plums and dark berries, with a peppery accent and hints of leather and spice. Those secondary characteristics give it complexity, making the wine interesting to contemplate as well as delicious to sip. Most impressive is its sumptuous texture, the result of fine-grain tannins that contribute structure put never feel pasty or astringent.

A young wine, this syrah provides plenty of pleasure now, but should age gracefully for a good five to seven years. Drink it with cool-weather foods such as hearty stews or long-roasted meat dishes. Lamb shanks would be ideal.

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