J. Lohr is a mid-size brand, positioned somewhere between the giants like Mondavi and the small prestige wineries. (Yes, there’s a lot of ground between the two.) The brand is fairly easy to find in liquor stores and on wine lists (often appearing as a house or economical option), but it keeps a fairly low profile. It’s a decent vineyard; if you can make this your everyday wine, you’re doing well. (At $15 a bottle, it’s not terribly expensive for the quality, but it’s a bit pricier than the value bottles under $10 we usually try to highlight.)
The syrah we’re tasting today is a 2009, and is a blend of Australian Shiraz grapes and French Champoutier. (The winemaker’s site posts information for the 2010, which was made with 100 percent shiraz. It’s perhaps a good sign that the winemakers alter their recipe from year to year depending on how the grapes turn out.) According to the information on their website, the folks at J. Lohr have hand-picked a stretch of their land in Pasa Robles to grow their best accurate interpretation of this classic French wine (which is what makes this wine part of their Estates series, I suppose.)
How does it look? The shiraz has a deep, fully opaque color, but with more of a red base than the dark indigo we’d expect from a full wine like this, almost like black cherry. The wine has a light body and thin legs; I’m expecting something fruity, but not too sugary.
How does it smell? I’m getting some tart cherry aromas mixed in with light alkaline notes of fresh dirt, and a bit of green pepper.
But how does it taste? The fruit flavors are definitely the most prominent, with just enough sweetness to be balanced. I get cherry, sweet raspberry, and blackberry, mixed with some slight black pepper and woody flavors. It’s a very good shiraz that manages to fill in that sweet spot between too cloying and too dry.