For anyone who hasn’t heard or read this from me yet, here’s the deal: I think that Napa Valley Syrah is about the most exciting thing going on in all of the wine world currently. Syrah has long been one of the planet’s most complex varietals, serving as a blending grape in famous Rhone wines such as Cotes-du-Rhone and Chateauneuf-du-Pape before finding additional fame as a stand alone grape in Australia (as “Shiraz”) and, to a lesser extent, in countries such as Spain, Chile and Argentina. To me, the inherent opaque body, balance of dark black and blue fruit flavors, occasional chocolate, leather and tar nuances and of course the all-important black pepper spice notes that can be seen in a well made Syrah are often tough to match by other varietals. Napa Valley, a region that came to fame through its production of world class, unblended Cabernet Sauvignon, has come to realize that its climate is also very well-suited to producing Syrah, a varietal which succeeds in a wide-variety of growing conditions but which almost certainly benefits from warm summers. Some of the top producers in Napa Valley are really knocking the ball out of the park with their attempts at making 100 percent Syrah, but there was one wine in 2007 that literally stopped me in my tracks. Actually, I tasted the previous vintage of this wine last year and had an almost identical reaction, but something about the 2004 vintage that I tasted this year seemed even a step up from the 2003. It isn’t an everyday wine, but it isn’t ridiculously overpriced either for the quality that it delivers, and could be one of the leaders in an exciting new wine-making trend in the Napa Valley. My Wine of the Year for 2007 is the Shiraz Signature Napa Valley 2004 from Darioush.

DARIOUSH SHIRAZ SIGNATURE NAPA VALLEY 2004, 95 Points, $65, 1,750 cases made

Deep blackberry jam aromas with hints of chocolate. Full mouthfeel of blackberry, black licorice and a blast of peppery spice that lingers forever with a firm tannic grip and a leathery chocolate aftertaste. A massive wine, with powerful command of its black fruit, leather and spice nuances. Should age well into the next decade.

2007 Wines of the Month (lots of Syrah!)

January: Falesco Vitiano Umbria 2004 (87 Points)/ Columbia Crest Two Vines Cabernet Sauvignon-Merlot Columbia Valley 2002 (87 Points)/ The Little Penguin Cabernet Sauvignon Southeast Australia 2005 (87 Points)

February: Chateau Meyney St. Estephe 2003 (93 Points)

March: Tapestry Shiraz McLaren Vale 2003 (91 Points)

April: Bodega Catena Zapata Malbec Mendoza 2004 (91 Points)

May: Tenimenti Luigio D’Alessandro Syrah Il Bosco 2003 (94 Points)

June: Thorn-Clarke Shiraz McLaren Vale 2003 (91 Points)

July: Vina Montes Syrah Colchuaga Valley Alpha Apalta Vineyard 2005 (90 Points)

August: Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough 2006 (89 Points)

September: Emilio Moro Ribera del Duero Tinto 2004 (91 Points)

October: Schild Shiraz Barossa Valley 2005 (93 Points)

November: Marchesi de Frescobaldi Chianto Rufina Castello di Nipozzano Riserva 2004 (90 Points)

December: Mollydooker Shiraz The Boxer South Australia 2006, 91 Points

Other Wines Under $100 that I rated 92 or better:

Chateau Leoville Barton St. Julien 2003, 96 Points, $75

Shafer Relentless Napa Valley 2004, 94 Points, $70

Marchesi di Barolo Cannubi Riserva Piedmont 2001, 93 Points, $60

Casa Lapostolle Clos Apalta Colchuaga Valley 2003, 93 Points, $70

Chateau Grand Puy Lacoste Paulliac 2003, 93 Points, $50

Scalette Il Carbonaione Tuscany 2003, 93 Points, $50

Bodegas Catena Zapata Alta Malbec Mendoza 2004, 93 Points, $40

Nicolas Catena Zapata Mendoza 2003, 93 Points, $90

Elderton Command Shiraz Barossa Valley 2002, 93 Points, $70

St. Clement Orropas Napa Valley 2004, 93 Points, $50

Paolo Scavino Barolo Piedmont 2001, 92 Points, $40

Chateau Phelan-Segur St. Estephe 2003, 92 Points, $30

Chateau Pibran Pauillac 2003, 92 Points, $25

Marchesi di Barolo Piedmont 2001, 92 Points, $40

Penfolds RWT Shiraz Barossa Valley 2003, 92 Points, $75

Martinelli Giuseppe & Luisa Zinfandel Russian River Valley 2005, 92 Points, $50

Plumpjack Syrah Napa Valley 2005, 92 Points, $45

Darioush Cabernet Sauvignon Signature Napa Valley 2004, 92 Points, $75

Rubicon RC Reserve Syrah 2004, 92 Points, $60

Numanthia-Termes Numanthia Toro 2004, 92 Points, $55

Spring Valley Uriah Walla Walla Valley 2004, 92 Points, $50

Highest Rated Wines I tasted:

Tenuta dell’Ornellaia Superiore Bolgheri 2003, 96 Points, $120

Chateau Pavie St. Emilion 2003, 96 Points, $215

Chateau Leoville Las Cases St. Julien 2003, 95 Points, $185

Chateau d’Yquem Sauternes 2003, 95 Points, $300

Chateau La Mission Haut-Brion Pessac-Leognan 2003, 95 Points, $140

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