I dedicate this post to my partner in wine crime, without whom this site and my very career as a wine writer wouldn’t exist. I wasn’t always a writer — believe it or not, I wasn’t always a wine lover. But one thing he and I had in common right from the beginning of our relationship was the joy we both found in the kitchen. That joy increased exponentially when we started cooking together. I may have been the first in the relationship to ask, “What wine would pair with this?” but it’s only through both our inquisitive minds and insatiable curiosity about all things cuisine, that I’ve gotten as far as I have.

Scroll back through this website for long enough, and you’ll find where I began my wine writing career. It was here on this website, as a girl who didn’t know what to write about so decided to write about wine and the food she paired it with. I’ve hear people say they “cut their teeth” on this region or that. I cut my wine-appreciating teeth at CVS, TJ’s, and those beloved 6-pack promos from Safeway. And while I may spend less dollars on wine at those convenient stores (notice I said less not none), sometimes there’s no substitute for a wine you know, love, and don’t have to think (or write) about.

My partner in wine crime and I have always had a casual love affair with Chateau St Jean. Their Pinot Noir and Chardonnay are bottles we still keep stocked in the cellar to this day. So during our last Sonoma visit, when we drove past the gloriously bucolic mansion of the Chateau St. Jean estate, well, we copped a u-turn and pulled right in.

And little did we know that our old-time fav Pinot Noir and Chardonnay producer crafted an exquisite Syrah…

About the Wine: After primary fermentation, the free-run juices of the Chateau St. Jean 2013 Durell Vineyard Syrah settled in barrel to complete secondary, malolactic fermentation. The wine aged in French oak barrels (35% new) for 24 months and aged in bottle for 6 months prior to release.

14.8% ABV

Flavor Profile: Open the bottle and release the dark scents of blackberry compote, damp soil, and wet wood. The Chateau St. Jean 2013 Durett Vineyard Syrah pours like a liquid red jewel with an almost sanguine quality about it, settling into the glass with the darkness of the blood from a vampiric Old One. Only the very outskirts of the perimeter maintain that light, bright red color, while the rest quickly descends into a pit of near-black.

Initial aromas consist of blackberry, blueberry, brambly bushes, and a solid acidity that hints at something deeper. Swirl, and awaken the fruits — they are plump, alive, hanging on their bush in this night time garden. Add to the bouquet sweet tobacco and black cherry.

The palate of the Chateau St. Jean 2013 Durell Vineyard Syrah is full and plush with suede-like tannins. The acidity is solid from start to finish, while the tannins give off the grit of the earth on the tongue straight-away, but slowly melt into oblivion. Primary flavors include black cherry, blackberry, marion berry, dates, sweet tobacco or cigar, a slight bit of smoke, and wet wood. The finish is a lingering one, as the Syrah leaves a heat on the tongue, complete with a black pepper-like spice, and a berry compote or berry jam aftertaste in the lungs.

Food Pairing: I paired the Chateau St. Jean 2013 Durell Vineyard Syrah with grilled veal and parsnip purée, drizzled with a blackberry jus and garnished with crispy kale chips. What I loved about this pairing was that the earthy, savoriness of the wine, along with the smoke and ash flavors, balanced out the sweetness found in the blackberry jus. Meanwhile, those earthy flavors and the spice-filled aftertaste in the wine played quite nicely with the (also slightly sweet) earthiness of the parsnip. I wouldn’t pair this Syrah with a protein any heavier than a veal. For me, this was the perfect balance, as the lean cut of meat didn’t overpower the wine and, likewise, this Syrah — though bold — was not so bold as to overpower the natural juices surging from this medium-rare tenderloin.

More Info: I purchased the Chateau St. Jean 2013 Durell Vineyard Syrah at the Chateau St. Jean estate in Sonoma, California. Retail Price: $50. For more information and to purchase wines directly, please visit the Chateau St. Jean website.

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