Andrew Murray

By all accounts, Syrah is the most overplanted grape varietal in SBC, and California for that matter. While many wine industry “experts” have been predicting a surge in the popularity of Syrah, as of yet it just hasn’t materialized. Part of the reason could very well be the abundance of some pretty lackluster Syrah based wines, some from California, but many more flooding the market in the form of Australian Shiraz. But as with any varietal, if you seek out and find the winemakers who are providing high caliber wines, even a skeptic’s faith in a once discounted wine can be born anew. We think Andrew Murray is producing some of the best Syrah in all of SBC. Whether you’re a big Syrah fan, or haven’t had great experiences with the varietal in the past, this is a great place to get exposed to the range and beauty that Syrah and Rhone style wines can possess.

Andrew Murray was touted as one of the top American winemakers of Rhone varietal wines at the age of 25 – pretty heady stuff for such a young winemaker. Over the last dozen or so years since that early burst onto the wine scene, Murray has seen many changes, most notably the sale of the family vineyard with which he got his start, but his focus has remained on producing top quality Rhone style wines, and he continues to deliver excellent results.

Murray produces blended Rhone style reds and whites, single varietal wines from multiple vineyards within Santa Barbara County, and  single vineyard wines from a variety of growers. These are beautifully composed wines that seem to bring out the best in the vineyard site, in a surprisingly wide range of styles and flavors.

At our last visit to the tasting room located in downtown Los Olivos, we were particularly enamored with some wines that no longer appear on the list of current releases, but which we’re confident have been replaced with equally compelling selections.

The one constant has been the issuance of the Tous les Jours Syrah, which, as the name suggests, is meant to be an everyday drinking wine. Priced at just $16, it’s easy to see why. But don’t write this wine off as a wimpy Syrah lacking in character, as we found the 2006 version to be a beautifully balanced wine that brought out the full-bodied fruit that you’d expect in Syrah, but in a light and playful manner that was more reminiscent of a French wine than many of the brasher American styles Syrahs.

If bold Syrahs are what you’re after, however, Murray has you covered as well, as we found out in our tastings of the single vineyard ’05 South Slope and Roasted Slope wines. Both were big and dark wines, with the South Slope offering dark berry fruit with an earthy undertone and a nice balance of spice and tight tannins – a great sampling of some classic SBC Syrah as we’ve come to know it. The Roasted Slope wine was even bolder, with very dark color, rich black cherry and blackberry fruit with pronounced pepper and spice and a big helping of oaky tannin. While it may sound overwhelming, the balance of the elements strikes a nice tone that draws you in to explore the complexities of this wine. This one could definitely use some age, however, so we’re planning on opening our bottle of Roasted Slope a few years from now.

Bottom line – Andrew Murray’s reputation as a top winemaker has not faded since his early burst onto the wine making scene, and for good reason. This is clearly a top destination for an outstanding cast of Rhone style varietal wines, with Syrah playing the starring role.

Andrew Murray Vineyards

2901-A Grand Avenue, Los Olivos CA 93441

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(805) 693-9644

andrewmurrayvineyards.com

Open daily from 11 to 5