Singing Shirah’s Praises | The Jewish Week | Food & Wine

Singing Shirah’s Praises

(Courtesy Shirah Wines)

A minimalist vineyard that emphasizes the fruit, practice, and terroir

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Shirah Wine is a small but trendy, Santa Maria, CA-based vineyard founded by brothers Gabriel and Shimon Weiss. They began making wines in 2009, and then launched their commercial wine production company together back in 2011. In 2012, the Weiss brothers also began working on a wine that was to become the first in a new brand called Twin Suns, a special value-driven project for The River Wine, a New York-based kosher wine importer, distributor, and producer.

Their goal with Shirah has been to bring, as their website puts it, “a new dimension to the kosher wine experience and a focus on the production of handcrafted Californian Rhone varietals and blends.”

Their winemaking approach overall is “minimalist”— putting the emphasis on “quality fruit, meticulous viticultural practice, and terroir,” allowing the wines to showcase whatever the fruit has to offer, free of unnecessary winemaking techniques.

“We suffered for a bit,” Shimon Weiss explained to me over the phone, “from what I call ‘winemaker’s greed,’ or the insatiable thirst for acquiring interesting grapes to make great wines.”

Brothers Gabriel and Shimon Weiss (Courtesy Shirah Wines)

They “reached a point [with Shirah],” he says, “where we were producing too much too quickly, and we basically plateaued on production for around three years.” They shifted their focus to more small-lot, direct-to-consumer wines, and less on their higher volume, wider distribution wines. They now have twelve offerings including a Malbec, a Petit Verdot, a Syrah blend, a new single varietal Granache, a new single vineyard Syrah, and a port-style wine.

Shirah Wine Co., Bro. Deux, Central Coast, California, 2016 ($45): A blend of 75% Cabernet Sauvignon and 25% Petit Verdot, this offers a lovely nose of rosemary, dark fruits (blue plums stick out nicely), and an initial subtle whiff of saddle-leather. With air, this saddle-leather develops to more of an old baseball glove and a variety of smoked, cured meats, an altogether appealing and wonderfully pleasant complexity. Air also brings out hints of mint and lightly toasted almonds. The palate, which seemed surprisingly lighter than expected, offered additional notes of toasted oak and subtle bell pepper, along with the red and dark fruits. Overall nice balance between the integrated but chalky tannins, the acidity, and the sweet fruits. Very tasty now but will richly reward further cellaring over the next eight-ten years, give or take.

Shirah Wine Co., Alder Springs Vineyard, Syrah, Mendocino, County, California, 2015 ($55): This is singing brilliantly right now with aromas and flavors of black pepper, blackberries, blueberries, tobacco leaf, and a little oak, and all blanketed by tannins—these are already silky rather than firm, but still distinct. This Syrah is already nicely mellow and tasty enough right now to be delicious, though it will improve with age. Intense, but really yummy.

Shirah Wine Co., Murmur Vineyard, Syrah, Santa Maria Valley, California, 2016 ($55): With a tiny 3% of Viognier added in, this Syrah is dazzling. With an enticing, inviting, and altogether intense nose of black pepper, boysenberry, baked blackberries, apricot, fresh flowers, and with a light touch of mocha and vanilla; with a little time, a touch of wintergreen sap emerges too. The palate is full, big, and fat but refreshing rather than heavy, with a nice balance of acidity, fruits, and tannins, floral overall, and with lovely blue fruits, and a smidge of brioche. The finish is long, taking a more herbal and savory turn. Drink slightly chilled, over the next five-six years.

Shirah Wine Co., “The Fortress” (Port Style Wine), Bethel Road Vineyard, Templeton Gap, Paso Robles, California, 2014 (20% abv; $65): This is Shirah’s first fortified, sweet Port-style wine, made from 100% Touriga Nacional—a classic, spicy Portuguese grape variety used in their fortified Port wines. Wow. With a jammy nose of blackberry, blueberry, strawberry, tamarind, subtle rosemary, and bergamot oil, carrying through on the rich, juicy, sweet palate with dark berry fruits, black cherry soda, cocoa powder, and some burnt herbal note. The finish offers more fruit jam and herbs. Spectacular. Drink chilled.


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