Syrah is synonymous with the northern Rhone, though it has exploded the world over. But Syrah has gotten confused. Vintners and consumers alike are under the impression that Syrah is a hot climate grape. Often, they call the Northern Rhone a hot climate region. We too were under this misconception for a long time. This could not be farther from the truth. The best part (Cote Rotie) of the northern Rhone is warmish, but cooled by the constant cold Mistral blowing south from Switzerland, and as California producers are now focusing more and more on their own cool climates. Some of California’s great examples of Syrah are being grown in areas directly in the cooling influence of the Pacific.
So, we thought, why not in New York? We found an acre of Syrah that was about ten years old, and immediately snapped it up. While still controversial here in the Finger Lakes, Syrah ripens beautifully here, and its thick skins allow it to hang late into the fall for flavor development. The one downside is it’s sensitivity to extreme cold, meaning that Syrah, like Chardonnay and Pinot, require protected microclimates. Our Syrah is a bit of a rarity, but truly shows the potential of cool climate Syrah production, and it has been very exciting to see more and more interest in the grape here in the Finger Lakes.