2013 Radio-Coteau Harrison Grade Sonoma Coast Syrah

talkin syrah with Eric

Syrah is serious business. Talking wine with Radio Coteau’s winemaker and owner Eric Sussman. 

I had a 2005 Las Colinas Radio-Coteau Syrah blend a couple of months ago that I wrote about here. It was a beautiful wine with lots of cool-climate character and a surprisingly high alcohol content (14.7%). A recent trip to Bodega Bay coincided perfectly with Radio-Coteau’s fall pick up open house day so I was able to make a stop in to taste. The wines were very high quality across the board, including a stand-out Riesling and an elegant old-school Zinfandel.

But, of course, I was there for the Syrah. Radio-Coteau makes five Syrahs, all of which accent cool-climate Syrah vineyards of the Sonoma Coast. All had classic cool-climate character and were balanced and age worthy but it was the estate Harrison Grade Syrah that piqued my interest the most and it was the wine I walked away with.

harrison grade syrah

Harrison Grade Estate Syrah

Day 1: High toned aromas of gravel and savory aromas accented with flowers and a somewhat pervasive aroma that reminds one of blood and white pepper. Yes, don’t be scared that’s something cool-climate Syrah sometimes has. There’s a little plum there on the nose too. It’s very reminiscent of the Northern Rhone. On the palate the wine has a pretty sweetness that belies its savory nose. The finish is rather tannic and has a lift of acidity that begs for rich food. I’d love to see how this wine tastes in a few years. But I have to say it’s beautiful now and tops my list for the best Syrah I’ve tasted this year. And, that’s saying a lot. There’s a balance to this wine that only comes along every once in a while.

Day 2: The wine was a tad fruitier with some more blackberry aromas and flavors replacing the blood and plum, but there’s still a hint of meatiness there in the background. It’s even more balanced and complete after some air which may be an indication of things to come.

Eric Sussman and crew have gone through somewhat of a transition in recent years. The wines were never overly rich but most come in at lower alcohol levels now, are fermented with native yeasts, and are treated in a mostly hands off manner. The wines see various degrees of stem inclusion depending on the vintage and quality of the stems. The Harrison Grade has 45% stem inclusion for the 2013. All the Syrahs are aged in puncheons (larger oak barrels) which lessens the impact of oak flavor on the wine. The Harrison Grade comes from Radio-Coteau’s Estate Vineyard.

These are Syrahs made in a style that I’ve found matches well with my preferences and the cool-climate vineyard sites pushes it right over the edge for me. I’ll be seeking out these Syrahs for years to come.

Thank you Eric Sussman for your time.  Thank you Rick LaRocca for your photographs.