Friday, May 4, 2012

Black Ankle Vineyards Syrah (2008)

The year is 77 AD.  Pliny the Elder (that is Gaius Plinius Secundus, not the beer from North Coast Brewing) was writing his Naturalis Historica.  The particular topic at that moment was the wines of Vienne, which is in the present day Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée (AOC) of Côte-Rôtie northern Rhône wine region of France.  The local peoples, the Allobroges, made a prized wine from a dark-skinned grape. As he described the grapes and the wine, Pliny called it "Allobrogica," and, some people today think that Pliny the Elder was referring to what is known today as the Syrah grape. 

The foregoing story, which is recounted in Wikipedia, is disputed by historians.  What cannot be debated is that the Syrah grape, whether grown in Côte-Rôtie or anywhere else, produces some very good wines.  Recently, I saw a bottle of a Syrah from Black Ankle Vineyards at a local grocery store.  Black Ankle is the realization of a dream for two people -- Sarah O'Herron and Ed Boyce -- who left their jobs as consultants, traveled the world to learn about wine and food, and, ultimately, choose a spot in Maryland where they would make Old World-style wines in the New World.  They purchased a working farm, planted a variety of grapes, and waited.  And waited.  After all, it takes a few years before vines will produce grapes for wines.  The wait was well worth it.  Black Ankle now produces a wide range of wines from blends like the Slate to single grape varietals like the Viognier and the Syrah. 

The Black Ankle Syrah pours a nice ruby red color, with crimson tones.  The winemaker suggests there are "smokey aromas of coffee, dark chocolate, cinnamon and spice are finished with hints of savory maple and bacon."  I have to admit that my palette is still developing, and I was not able to sense all of those flavors.  However, for me, I could smell flavors of coffee, spice and a little earth or leather, wrapped around deep, ripe cherries. 

As for the taste, the winemaker describes the wine as having "rich tannins support flavors of cranberry and tapenade, followed by espresso bean and vanilla."  I definitely could taste cranberries, along with those ripe cherries that I sensed in the aroma, with some vanilla undertones and spices.  The wine had a nice dry finish, which also had some of the tannins that one would typically expect in a syrah wine.

Wines such as Black Ankle's Syrah can be paired with food in the same manner as a French Syrah from the Rhône valley.  The earthy quality of the wine, with its spice, would pair well with just about any red meat dishes, whether beef or bison.  Grilled ribeyes or strip steaks would work well with this wine.  Some cuts, such as flank steaks or iron steaks, could also be paired with this wine, provided that the marinade used does not contain a lot of heat from peppers or chiles .  The tannins in the wine will emphasize the spice in the marinade.  There are many other possible pairings, such as with lamb or pork, but that discussion could continue for quite a while.

I found the Black Ankle Syrah at a local grocery store in Olney, Maryland.  This particular vintage is sold out, as is the 2009 vintage, but there may still be some on store shelves.  I am looking forward to seeing the 2010 vintages on the shelves at some point.  It would be particularly interesting to compare the vintages.  However, that is for another post....



Melissa Schulte said...

Good read =) Thank you!

Keith Bolek said...

Thanks for visiting and reading my blog.

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