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Horizontal Syrah

I hosted a wine tasting a couple of days ago . . . a horizontal wine tasting. Honestly, I think the International Committee for Naming Wine Stuff could have come up with something catchier than Horizontal and Vertical as names for wine tastings, but that’s what we’ve got.  And I always get them confused, so here’s my cheat-sheet:

Horizontal Tasting – Compares wines of the same vintage year and grape variety, but different wineries.  For example, four Syrahs all from 2008, but from different wineries and/or regions.


Vertical Tasting – Compares wines of the same winery and grape variety, but different vintage years.  For example, five Herman Story Syrahs, one each from 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2010.


The Cast of Characters for my Horizontal Tasting (above, in the first picture):

2008 Herman Story Nuts & Bolts Syrah (Central Coast, California)
2008 McPrice Myers Les Galets Syrah (Central Coast, California)
2008 Owen Roe Syrah (Yakima Valley, Washington)
2008 Reserve des Oliviers Chateauneuf du Pape (France)

Disclaimer:  Yes, I know the Chateauneuf is a Syrah blend, and not a straight-up Syrah, so technically, it dosn’t belong in my horizontal.  But it’s my party . . .

Why only four wines?  Have you ever checked the alcohol content on a bottle of Syrah?  It usually weighs in at 15+% alcohol.  That’s a big-girl wine . . . and, if you’re not careful, a headache waiting to ruin tomorrow.  Four wines was plenty!

Just for fun, here are the alcohol contents for my characters:

    • 2008 Herman Story Nuts & Bolts Syrah = 16.1%
    • 2008 McPrice Myers Les Galets Syrah = 16.2%
    • 2008 Owen Roe Syrah = 14.9%
    • 2008 Reserve des Oliviers Chateauneuf du Pape = 15%

I stole another idea from Pinterest and made wine tasting placemats out of chalkboard Contact paper:


I’m not sure if I’m embarassed or proud that I own this many wine glasses . . .


Everyone brought Hors d’Oeuvres (a word that’s impossible to spell unless French is your first language) to pair with Syrah.  We had some great stuff:

A mini-Charcuterie (a French word meaning, “meat parade”) plate of Virginia country ham, a salami coronet, and Pâté.  (Incidentally, pate is not Pâté.  Pate is the top of your head).  But I digress.  Now I love country ham, but it was a wine killer  with the Syrah.  The salt in the ham made the Syrah taste like fire.  Ditto the salami and pate, just smaller fires.

Smoked Gouda Quesadillas with Caramelized Onion & Prosciutto.  In my book, anything with prosciutto is a winner, but this was off the charts good.  So good they disappeared before I remembered to take a picture.

Shrimp Brochette with Bacon & Jalapeño Slivers.  I know you don’t usually think of shrimp as a partner for Syrah, but the char from the grill, the bacon, and whisper of jalapeño made this one of those “and then magic happened” pairings!
shrimp brochette

The takeaway:  A horizontal wine tasting is a great way to learn about and appreciate the difference a wine growing region or a winemaker’s hand can make in what goes into a bottle of wine.  Was there a winner?  Well, at the end of the day, we all had different favorites . . . because we all have different palettes.  But that’s one of my favorite things about wine:  If you love it . . . it’s a great wine!


Armchair Sommelier Wine Tasting Guide

Spice up your next party with our FREE wine tasting guide! Learn what to look, smell, and taste for while appreciating your favorite bottle. We’ve also included a printable tasting notes template and a tasting wheel.

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