The way I see it, my love affair with the Syrahs of Santa Barbara County is a logical progression of my love affair with the voluptuous, steely, determined brunettes of the silver screen. Ava Gardner broke the mold for this Hollywood archetype. There’s also Susan Hayward, Natalie Wood and, of course, Elizabeth Taylor. Sophia Loren was there in the mix too. As far as more recent times, only Salma Hayek comes close to carrying the torch. What does any of this have to do with wine? The 2014 CORDANT Presqu’ile Vineyard Syrah is very much a dark and voluptuous wine. It’s a stunningly sensuous Syrah—deep, wild, rich, bold and expressive, with a strong backbone. From Santa Maria Valley, the northwestern-most part of Santa Barbara wine country, where some of the classiest red-wine grapes on California’s central coast are grown, the wine’s pedigree is one of high stature. Its mouthfeel smacks of luxury, wallowing in notes of blueberry, black cherry, blackberry and violets, with a dash of black pepper on top. Everything is in exquisite balance—while always displaying feminine power, this Syrah is never too much and always graceful, blessed with very fine tannins and vibrant acidity on the attractive finish. The love affair continues. This is definitely the kind of Syrah that could turn into an obsession. –J.M.
Great Wine: Yangarra PF Shiraz