Candlelight photograph of wine bottle, carafe, glass, and cork.

Cline Cool Climate Syrah 2012

Cline Cellars’ Cool Climate Syrah was my first taste of the other side — the dark side — of syrah. For twenty bucks or so, you see a whole different world, darker and wilder than the Australian shiraz on the shelves of your grocery store.


At 14% alcohol it passes our first test: lush feeling in the mouth. The acidity is noticeable as a bright feeling, in this case offsetting some of that ferocious darkness. Unlike a Crozes-Hermitage weighing in at 13% alcohol, the acidity doesn’t make this wine seem thin. The tannin comes on strong — stronger than I usually like. BUT: Right where the tannin comes on the strongest — that’s where the darkness hits. And they work together, make me want more.


Maybe it’s just that you never forget your first carnal syrah. …Or maybe it’s just me. Usually I think wines are an acquired taste, but I acquired this in one sip on a dark, cold winter evening in northern California in a big tent outdoors at the otherwise bright, shiny, family-friendly Cline winery. As much as I love my Australian favorites, this is a different experience. No, it’s not up to the best of Cote-Rotie, but: good enough for a Sunday evening before another hard, hard week at work? Oh, man, yes! That and way, way more.


Cline says: rich blueberry, cracked black pepper, and cedar-like finish.

I get all of that, lots of it. If they also said ‘olive’, I wouldn’t argue. Sometimes, I swear I taste Kreuz mesquite-smoked bbq beef sausage.

I sit here with my nose in the glass wondering what word describes the primal, earthy intensity.

Perhaps words fail if you insist that descriptions should be acceptable in polite company.

Me? I might order a case of the next vintage, and try to keep some of the 2012 for a few years… see what happens as the tannin mellows.