The Ballard Canyon area of California’s Santa Ynez Valley is Syrah country. Among the leading properties is Beckmen Vineyards, which has been producing outstanding Syrah, Grenache, and other wines for decades, many of them from Beckmen’s biodynamically farmed Purisima Mountain Vineyard.
One of Beckmen’s newest entries is the 2020 “Own” Syrah, so named for the fact that the vines grow on their own rootstock, as opposed to being grafted like so many vines are to make them more resistant to diseases like phylloxera and better suited to certain climates. Some winemakers maintain that “own-rooted” vines produce more intense, flavorful grapes with higher acidity.
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Beyond those technicalities, Beckmen’s Own Syrah is one of the best Syrahs produced in California, where, in the right hands (and vineyards), the grape can rival some of the storied wines of France’s Northern Rhône, where Syrah is the signature variety.
The Own Syrah weighs in at a hefty 15.2 percent alcohol, which some might take as a sign that this is one more over-the-top California Big Red. But the wine has just the right balancing acidity that gives a refreshing lift to the dense, concentrated dark fruit notes. Aromas and tastes of coffee, chocolate, and a touch of cinnamon round out the picture.
The wine is young but delicious, with a firm tannic structure that suggests potential aging for many years. At this point, decanting it will provide aeration that will soften it some for drinking now.
At $65, this is a memorable wine for a festive occasion with hearty winter fare such as beef or lamb roasted with root vegetables. It would also pair well with a savory leek and potato soup.
Beckmen was a pioneer of biodynamic vineyard farming in Santa Barbara County, starting the conversion of its 125-acre Purisima Vineyard in 2002. The entire vineyard received biodynamic certification six years later. The wines, as you’ll see in the 2020 Own Syrah, are expressive, original, and memorable.