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Forkmedia LLC


by Fred McMillin
for August 29, 2000


My First Syrah


It was the winery's first Syrah. It was the winemaker's first Syrah. Going to use expensive French oak. Very tricky picking...the Syrah grapes LOOK ripe, but they aren't. Winemaker Larry Brooks is sweating bullets! He's making over 17,000 cases. Yikes!

The Rest of the Story

That was in late October 1998. How did it all turn out?

Echelon Syrah

We did not give it a soft spot in the blind tasting. The average price of the bottles from 19 competing wineries was $10 more than Larry's first Syrah. The 15 tasters sniffed and sipped...and voted.

The Results

The Syrab came in...fourth! The average price of the three wines that topped it was $60. The Syrah was thirteen dollars. That's value. Sales Vice President Robert Farver prophetically had sent me a note saying, I truly believe there is simply no one else right now who is producing Syrah of this quality at this price." It is our...

Wine of the Day

1988 Echelon Syrah, California, $13 range
Style—Larry Brooks says he made it spicy and sassy, ready to drink now. His model was the Rhone style, rather than the heavier versions produced in Australia.
Composition—Contains 20% Grenache, that added a lot of perfume and pepper.
Descriptors—Bright strawberry with cinnamon and black peppper in the background.
Contact—Liz Dueland, (707)254-4264,(FAX) (707)254-4201.

Postscript—Other Larry Brooks' Firsts

OK, this was Larry's first Syrah, but he's broken plenty of new ground in the past. For example:

Some twenty five years ago he startled the wine world by making four excellent Chardonnays and six Pinot Noirs from a little-known region which today we know as...Carneros.

About that time he also did some pioneering work searching for wine descriptors that were typical of major California wine districts. Example of Chardonnay aromas: Napa Valley—apple, Carneros—citrus, Central Coast—honey/caramel.

  • For more about Larry and the new Echelon Winery see the Jan. 1, 1999 WineDay titled, "A New Label For A New Year".

    Stephen Brook's The Wines of California

    About the Writer

    Fred McMillin, a veteran wine writer, has taught wine history for 30 years on three continents. In 1995, the Academy of Wine Communications honored Fred with one of only 22 Certificates of Commendation awarded to American wine writers. For information about the wine courses he teaches every month at either San Francisco State University or San Francisco City College (Fort Mason Division), please fax him at (415) 567-4468.


    This page created August 2000